Musicology

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.

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Archiving Frustration

A few months ago I started a small archiving project (see my last post about it by clicking here). It’s been a slow process due to procrastination, but I’ve physically gone through each piece of material that needs to be archived (there are hundreds), and I’ve decided to store it digitally. What this means is that instead of just storing everything in a box and having it all sit in an excel file, I want to create a digital online collection or exhibit of the material. I have categorized the materials by format medium and correspondence type, and I’m ready to start inputting. So here’s my problem…

I’ve sat here for three hours today searching online for a free or low-cost exportable software or web-publishing platform that includes the following:

  • ability to import images and scanned files [as images if need be]
  • ability to link these items in order to create categories or collections that are publicly viewable
  • a utility that allows me to create a timeline based on already-uploaded images and their metadata element sets, which brings me to:
  • the ability to create an element set for each uploaded image (i.e. to add a field for dates to create the above timeline, location, contributors, tags, etc)
  • ability to use HTML within those above fields in order to add relevant links and tags OR have a ‘related links’ field or plug-in

I have discovered Omeka, ePrints, ScholarPress, Scribe, and  LifeSnapz.  I want the ease of Omeka mixed with the academic integrity of EPrints, the thoroughness of Scribe, and the aesthetics of LifeSnapz. The ScholarPress site is down so they aren’t even in the running. If I had to narrow it down even farther I’d want an Omeka mixed with LifeSnapz assuming Omeka would allow me to edit the dublin core’s look on the public site (see I’ve learned all kinds of things today)… but I can’t stand any of them enough to warrant the number of hours I’ll have to spend with whichever platform I choose.

I just found something called Memory Miner… and that’s exactly what I’m looking for… except it would do nothing for all of the newspaper clippings I’ve got… and I need to share it publicly (and with a largely academic community).

So – that’s where I am – someone shoot another option at me… please?

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?

You’re an ethno-what?!?

In an article published in the Winter 2009 Ethnomusicology journal, Adelaida Reyes (independent scholar) writes about the typical conversations that happen when a non-ethnomusicologist meets an ethnomusicologist. You’re an ethno-what?!?

Reyes makes a very practical statement: “ Ethnomusicology is not recognizable to many – perhaps to most – non-ethnomusicologists. Is it recognizable to us?”

Countless articles [and whole books] have been written that discuss the historical chronology and definitions of the field, so that’s not necessary. However, as the discipline evolves so does the way of thinking within. It’s unquestionably vital to look back as we move forward, and to be critical of the paths that we take, but at what point is there more written about the subject than the subject matter? Too often it seems that articles are written to justify ethnomusicology as a discipline. Sometimes I’d like to shake people and say “enough already! We’re valid! Go forth in the field and do something productive!”

With that said, Reyes writes an excellent article here about the re-examination of definitions – even if the article’s title question (What do ethnomusicologists do?) isn’t quite answered – perhaps that’s the point. She returns to the “persistent question” of what it is we actually do and we’re reminded that even at conferences today there are ”sounds of unresolved conflict” in an attempt to answer this. As you can see, quite a bit of energy goes into this little question.

I can’t answer the question of what we actually do, because I’m only in the infancy of doing it myself. What I do know is that field methods are a very personal decision and based on context.  

My ethnomusicology is the study of music as culture within social context. In her article, Reyes goes on to discuss music as expressive culture.  I agree wholeheartedly with this statement as it links the term culture to music from its very birth. Then, to add ‘expressive’ to my definition: my ethnomusicology is the study of music as expressive culture within social context.  If I look back at this a year from now or even several months from now, it might change – that’s where I stand today.

 

References:

Reyes, Adelaida. “What Do Ethnomusicologists Do? An Old Question for a New Century”. Ethnomusicology: Vol. 53, No. 1. Winter 2009. Pp. 1-17.