Society for Ethnomusicology (SEM) 55th Annual Meeting: Sound Ecologies

I’m off to the Society for Ethnomusicology (SEM) conference tomorrow in Los Angeles and very excited about what this week will bring.

There are several panels and papers I’m looking forward to, including Amimbola Cole’s “Lessons Learned from Incorporating Ethnomusicological Training in Elementary and Middle School Classrooms”, Thomas Richardson’s “So Old It’s Almost New: The Carolina Chocolate Drops, Ideologies of Tradition, and What It Means to Play Old-Time Music”, Jeffrey Cupchiks’ paper on ethnomusicology and Buddhist studies, papers on queer and gender studies, on the Tongan Brass Band community, and an entire panel devoted to musical ethnographies of New Orleans chaired by Matt Sakakeeny (Tulane).

Before I even get there I have a few small first-impression criticisms based on what I’ve been told by others who’ve attended the conference. I’ve never been to a conference before where you had to pay extra (on top of the registration fee) to see musical performances in the evenings, although I hear that within musicology that’s commonplace. This makes no sense to me. Likewise, I’ve been told that it is convention for every speaker to have their paper in hand and read word-for-word what’s on their paper instead of presenting it. This doesn’t exactly make for an engaging audience experience. Why is this convention?

Regardless of these, I am excited to attend.  Hopefully I’ll be posting updates from it and sharing anything exciting that I learn. I have a good chunk of time to hang out in L.A., also – though I still have no plans on that end.

Is it sad that I’m looking forward to two nine-hour flights to help me get caught up on course readings?


  1. Have fun!

    I completely understand using the nine-hour flights to catch up on work. At my last conference, I did the same exact thing.

    As for criticizing your discipline before you establish yourself, as long as you balance your criticism with positive insight, the criticism can actually be a good thing. It at least shows that you know enough about your field to be able to synthesize the information, trends, etc. to make those comments. Just my two cents 😉

  2. Sounds like SEM is using AMS as a model. Not necessarily a good thing.
    Are the performances by conference attendees or local musicians? I’ve never been to a performance at AMS simply because I’m poor, but paying to see locals seems legit.

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