Good morning! This is Liza, your behind-the-scenes contributor to our lovely SEM Student Union blog. Today we’re beginning a new series of posts, called “Photos from the Field.” Here, our contributors will use multimedia from their ethnomusicology fieldwork experiences to begin to answer that elusive question, “what do you DO with a degree in ethnomusicology?” I haven’t yet started my graduate work, but I’ll show you what undergrad fieldwork can look like.
For my senior honors thesis at Franklin and Marshall College, I conducted an ethnography of the Bahá’í Choral Music Festival, held in May, 2013. Conducted by Van Gilmer, the almost 200 person choir rehearsed sacred a cappella music together for two and a half days, culminating in two devotional concerts on Sunday morning. I sat in on all of this process, taking notes, making recordings, and interviewing participants. The choir’s repertoire ranged from gospel pieces composed by Gilmer, using sacred texts from the Bahá’í Faith in its lyrics, to a haunting Arabic chant, to Bach’s Dona Nobis Pacem. Ron Lynch’s photo from the festival, featured above, shows Gilmer conducting the choir on the steps of the Bahá’í House of Worship, in Wilmette, Illinois, for some lively post-concert singing.
Want to hear more about the choir and my ethnography? Stay tuned!