In Discipline: Talks from the European Side

For this week’s In Discipline, we are very happy to introduce Marilou Polymeropoulou. Marilou is currently pursing a PhD in Music from the University of Oxford. Her work focuses on music, technology, and online creative networks. Welcome Marilou!

Marilou Fieldwork 2

Tell us about your academic history. Where have you studied ethnomusicology and what theories or issues are you tackling in your personal research?

I studied for a BA in Music Studies at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens (5 year cycle) majoring in Ethnomusicology and Music Technology. Following this, I studied at University College London, at the Anthropology department for a postgraduate degree in Material and Visual Culture. I continued postgraduate studies at the interdisciplinary programme Music, Culture, and Communication at the Faculties of Media and Music at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens. Then, I moved at the University of Oxford, Music Faculty, for a D.Phil (doctorate) in Music. As a doctoral student, I also attended the University of Gothenburg for a course on digital ethnography.

The undergraduate studies cycle inspired me to do ethnomusicology.

I am working with networks of musicians, and more particularly, with chipmusicians, an online and transnational network. I’m interested in the crossover of humanities, social sciences, and ICTs with a focal interest on creativity issues (and particularly: musical poetics, authenticity, intellectual property, and performance).

Regarding your program of study, what is ethnomusicology like in your part of the world? How is it situated in the university and what are the requirements? What kinds of professional societies or journals exist in the discipline?

Ethnomusicology at Oxford is part of the Music Faculty. My supervisor, Professor Martin Stokes held a position at Oxford, and he was succeeded by Dr. Jason Stanyek. Jason runs the ethnomusicology seminars (twice a term). He offers courses on cultural perspectives of music etc. In addition, Dr. Noel Nobley is the ethnomusicologist in residence at the Pitt-Rivers museum. He also organises a number of events, lectures, etc. A few years ago, Professor Georgina Born also joined the faculty. She is currently working on a large project on music digitisation. There are some students who focus on doing ethnomusicology, but there are also others who adapt ethnographic methods to their research. As far as I am concerned, some students at the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology at Oxford work with music too. Finally, some ethnomusicological interest is located at the Oxford Internet Institute.

Students are encouraged to participate in seminars, practical courses, and lectures across the University of Oxford. Everything is open to all students so one can choose from a variety of offered topics (i.e. fieldwork training, performances, theory and practice, etc.).

The British Forum for Ethnomusicology is the primary ethnomusicological hub in the UK. There is an annual conference and some seminars across the country. In addition, Ethnomusicology Forum is the journal produced by the BFE.


What resources are available to you and what options do students have in the decision-making processes?

Funding is a major issue among UK institutions. In this respect, there are not enough funds available for an ethnomusicologist to cover diverse expenses (such as fieldwork travel expenses etc).

There is no pressure for article production – in fact, this is not encouraged as the doctoral cycle is 3-4 years.

I access ethnomusicological texts online or in the primary library at Oxford, the Bodleian Library. If an article is not available for free, I usually contact the author for a draft version.

Students have the opportunity to be members of the Graduate Joint Consultative Committee and become part of the decision-making process regarding the Faculty. In addition, there is the Student Advisory Group at the University of Oxford, which is part of the larger decision-making process.

As there is diversity among the student body, I personally find that we could do with a little bit extra on the ethnomusicological side. However, this would not represent the majority of the students. In my case, I often have to go elsewhere (other Universities or events) in order to be informed about the latest ethnomusicology news. Luckily, there is an overload of information online, so this helps.

What has been your experience in terms of financing your degree? Is funding available for ethnomusicology students?

I received governmental funding from Greece, from the State Scholarships Foundation. Although it covered University fees and part of College fees, I still had to pay some money on my own. For this reason, I got diverse jobs since my first doctoral year, in order to support myself. In terms of fieldwork expenses, some of it was covered by my scholarship, but the larger part came from awards from the University of Oxford and my College at Oxford, St. Peter’s. Getting fieldwork funding can be difficult in the UK; there seems to be some funding available from the Royal Anthropological Institute, but not everything is open to non-Commonwealth citizens.

How do you feel about the state of communication between European ethnomusicology students? Are there forums that facilitate communication and if so, what are they?

I contact European-based ethnomusicologists through my personal network of contacts or other people’s networks. There are opportunities for meet ups during the BFE conferences, or the IASPM or RMA (Royal Musical Association).

What do you think about the future of ethnomusicology? What are your plans for after graduation?

I wish I knew about the future! There are mostly academic professional opportunities in the UK. I wouldn’t say they are enough for everyone though.


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