brief thoughts on application

It feels odd to throw the word “applied” in front of ethnomusicology. That is, it seems natural enough for the implication to exist regardless of the prefix. Why is it that the applied sector needs to be separate from all-things-academic or “intellectual”…? They seem to go hand in hand – one flows out of the other, or so I’ve thought. If I were giving my own elevator speech, you know, the one-minute answer to the question, “What do you do?” I would never insert the word “applied,” even though I would definitely categorize my work that way in my head. There are too many implications to it – or maybe that’s in my head, too. Our work has an impact on the communities we study regardless of the final product. Not sure why this is on my mind today – the whole thing seems as silly as the supposed distinction between musicology and ethnomusicology.


a question for you

“Record companies used to charge a fee for making it possible for people to listen to recorded music. Now their main function is to prohibit people from listening to music unless they pay off these corporations.” – Bob Ostertag (Creative Life, p. 165) 

I propose that we no longer need music production teams. Put the money back into the hands of the artists themselves. Give them autonomy and cut out the non-creative middlemen altogether. Years ago, the production teams were needed to mix and master,  to aid in distribution and marketing, and to produce tangible records. Today, what’s the point? And, if this is the case, how can we change copyright/intellectual property laws to reflect the needs of todays’ artists? Discuss.

(p.s. I’m coming from a place of having worked briefly in a recording studio, and having taken many courses in audio production… as well as being a musician)

A Rebuttal Against NPR: Ethnomusicology Edition

A recent article posted by NPR has disquieted ethnomusicologists across the country on social networking sites, message boards, and mailing lists. The following was stated in an article that discusses college student debt:

“So what are the most worthless degrees or, at least, the hardest to monetize later on in life? Kantrowitz says he often hears from religious studies and theater majors who have a hard time paying back their loans… Ethnomusicology is another example. Kantrowitz describes one student who was thinking of borrowing more than $100,000 to pay for that degree. “There are only two main occupations for a degree in ethnomusicology,” he says. “One is being a music librarian, which doesn’t pay very well. The other is being [on the] university faculty, teaching other students about ethnomusicology.” -NPR Staff

There are several things wrong with this statement, and perhaps Kantrowitz should check his sources before publishing such nonsense. Ethnomusicology doesn’t get nearly enough media as it is, and we certainly don’t need anything negative, nevermind when it’s blatantly incorrect. There certainly are far more than the two above occupations for those with a degree in ethnomusicology. Additionally the last time I checked, a degree in library science is necessary to be a librarian. Many ethnomusicologists do choose to pursue a career in academia as faculty. However, do they only “teach ethnomusicology?” Of course not – they are researchers and performers. They teach music classes that many other faculty are simply not qualified to do – including several genres of popular and roots music. In addition to world music survey courses, these courses tend to fill up with hundreds of students each semester, adding thousands of tuition dollars to the university pocketbook.

What else do ethnomusicologists do? They work at publication firms such as National Geographic, at iTunes, at Pandora Radio and other major music ventures, at Billboard venues and other “top music lists”, at museums, at art institutes, at festivals as directors and coordinators, at the Smithsonian, at record companies including the Recording Academy, at archives, for governments as cultural consultants, as humanitarians, as arts consultants, as primary and secondary teachers, as arts administrators, in applied fields, as healers, as anthropologists and musical historians, as musical archaeologists, as performers, as publication editors, as authors, in studios,as independent researchers, in media studies, as a program director, grant writer, tour publisher/manager, festival publicist, a consultant to film score composers or video game developers, radio DJ, as travel journalists and photographers, or a military consultant… what about working for TV stations like PBS, NG, or Discovery? Eat that, NPR.

At the end of the day, a lot of ethnomusicologists choose a less-than lucrative (usually) career in academia as university faculty, however the possibilities are endless. I don’t know any ethnomusicologists who are “in it for the money”. Ethnomusicologists are a rare breed, and have skills that the rest of the world needs whether they know it or not – we have the skills to discuss increased globalization and acculturation, cultural/spiritual sensitivity, and human diversity. I’m disappointed in NPR, a supposedly conscious public media outlet “on the side of the arts”. Where’s the love?

Monday, Monday: India, Dog Slobber, Booksto’ Spendin’, NOLA

I’m starting this week off exhausted, but completely caught up on things- it’s a good feeling. I can take a deep breath and jump into my work without tripping over myself, finally. Let’s see how long it lasts. The weekend was productive, also.

I transformed my bedroom into a ridiculous exotic essentialization of Indian culture. I spent an absurd amount of money at Borders Booksmy irrational justification being an attempt to keep their doors open. My partner and I took the dogs on a long walk Sunday morning and found our own “secret garden” in our back yard- a high-banked trail that follows a narrow creek for miles.

I’ve decided the happiest moments in my dogs’ lives translate to my own. Zasha (my husky) is happiest traipsing through mud puddles, getting her white paws as dirty as possible. Spud (my pit) is happiest playing “king of the mountain”,  climbing fallen logs as if they’re Vesuvius or walking along them in true gymnast-balance-beam fashion – held held high, smiling… the occasional slobber droplets that irrigate the tributary-esque cracks of the log.

My major assignments for the week were passed in early this morning. I have to finish some grading, and read a few books that relate directly to my work. With that, it should be a relatively mild week. I’m hoping to get some time to clean the house and perhaps finish unpacking (from August)… and, keeping my fingers crossed here, I’m hoping to get to New Orleans this weekend.

Going Sane

I’ve decided graduate school is about finding sanity, even if it means going a little nuts in the process. I question whether or not to trust my sanity, whether or not to trust my creativity, and whether or not to trust my intellect (or lack thereof). Identity/autonomy is a revolving door here.  It feels as though almost every week a new boundary is crossed or a new logical stake is claimed. Personal needs and interests announce themselves as marcato accents, and dissolve just as quickly as they arrive – always before they’re seen to.

Trusting in creativity is probably something a lot of people have trouble with. I imagine there are a billion people out there, like me that have ideas up the wazoo. The creative energy that belts out the ideas ends up being spent on “important things” – whatever that might mean. Consequently more than ever I see the connection in every reading assignment and task – everything seems important, something I need to know before I can take another step. No longer are there days when I feel as though a ‘homework’ assignment is mundane or ineffectual. Though I’m sure it won’t last forever, it’s quite refreshing. Creativity though, this is an odd little character in my life.  I have this desk drawer [literally] full of ideas and it makes me feel erratic when I open it to look at them (or to throw another one in); erratic because I’m always feeling stuck or blocked and every idea has this ounce of hope within it as if it’s the key to pulling free from that stuck feeling. Yet generally, for now, they stay there in their comfortable nest-of-a-drawer. I nod my head in acknowledgment toward the stuck feeling, knowing that one day I’ll grant myself some sort of creative license to work with those ideas.

Self-doubt comes into play here. Regardless of the idea that arises, this little voice in my head is always saving it for someone else who will come along to do “it” better than I would, or that I’d do “it” wrong altogether. I’d be much better as a consultant to a company than a CEO, or a songwriter instead of a performer.  I imagine sometimes that there’s this little nova-looking bright spot in my head that would allow me to take on a host of projects and go with it, but I can’t ever seem to find it. I know this probably all sounds a bit angsty, however self-reflection is a big reason why this space exists for me.

One of my biggest issues with academia is the constant barrier we’re all told to hide behind: don’t show your true selves – it won’t get you the job. It will bite you in the ass eventually (think Malinowki’s diary). That’s of course why we’re told not to blog in the first place, or even to have a facebook account. If I’m going to do this – go through with this entire process – it’s going to be on reflective [and reflexive] grounds. I have no intention of dangling the ‘me’ outside of the research box altogether, as so many people do. The various aspects of my identity will have to tag along to everything I do in different shapes and sizes. Knowing the time and place for it to seep through, and other methodological decisions will have to be made as they arise. I’m confident that I’ll know what to do, and that my own ethics will steer. Currently, one of my professors is in China doing fieldwork. He brought his entire family – thus, they become part of the process. Likewise with Rob Baker in West Africa, whose blog I’ve been following for ages. There are a lot of excellent role models out there, and so much has been written. I just have to dig through it all and carve out my own path.

One thing’s for sure – I’m finally in a place where I feel as though I can unleash whatever’s thrown at me. That alone has caused some of the blockage to be chipped away. Instead of being surrounded by skeptical friends and professors, I’m surrounded by like-minded musicologists with their own pool of creativity, and brilliant professors who stretch my synapses with every sentence that comes out of their mouths.  It’s a hell of a lot more painful to be blocked with a drawer full of ideas than to pick one and start chipping away at it. That’s the next step.

Short Videos from Dr. Anthony Seeger [ethnomusicologist, UCLA]

This is a small library of short video clips ranging from 1-8 minutes in length on various ethnomusicological topics.  They were recorded by (a fantastic music career development website), and are archived on their excellent YouTube channel.

Preserving Audio Recordings:

In this video, Dr. Seeger (bio here) talks about the importance and challenges of audio archiving.

Western Classical and Folk Music Traditions Around the World:

In this video, Dr. Seeger talks about Western classical musicians being introduced to folk traditions, and the musical fusions that happen between them.

Why Understand the Music of Other Cultures?

In this short video, Dr. Seeger discusses the benefit of learning new musical concepts from other cultures.

Discussing books on Ethnomusicology:

In this video, Dr. Seeger discusses how to introduce an ethno novice to the field, including helpful books to read.

Recent Changes in the Music Industry and How They Change the Musical Experience:

In this video, Dr. Seeger discusses changes in the music industry,  including dying agencies, self-production, and self-dissemination of music.

The Music of the Suyá Indians of Central Brazil:

In this video, Dr. Seeger discusses the main focus of his career.