In Discipline: Talks from the European Side

We are very pleased to introduce Liam Barnard, a PhD student at the Medway Campus of the University of Kent School of Music and Fine Art. Liam shares some of his experiences in this very young ethnomusicology program.


1. About you:

I was always interested in the exotic side of music life but didn’t actually formally study ethnomusicology until I was 29 years old. I completed a BA at SOAS, University of London in 2006 and then returned to SOAS to complete an MMus in Ethnomusicology from 2010-12.

I decided to do my PhD at the School of Music and Fine Art at the Medway Campus of the University of Kent because it was a young department, the incoming head of school is an ethnomusicologist, it is local, and ethnomusicology is a blank canvas here, especially as this is an art school in terms of concept (pun not intended).

In terms of personal research issues, I have an 8 month old daughter to whom I am a single parent, which makes things interesting, but the flexibility of research life suits me well.

2. About your program of study (graduate):

It’s interesting, because there are only two of us doing ethnomusicology here, and it’s still unclear how ethnomusicology will be taught at the SMFA, UoK, if at all. This is quite exciting though as the department is interested in pursuing an original path which will undoubtedly integrate ethnomusicology into its remit. There is a very eminent anthropology department here but on the larger, Canterbury Campus some distance away. How the interdisciplinary links will be made is still very much open to ideas, although Kent was formed with interdisciplinary studies in mind and still promotes this in its 50th year.

However, the concept of fieldwork as generating hypotheses rather than hypotheses generating fieldwork is a very hard one for some of the academics here to accept. This is a University which is grounded heavily in the Social Sciences after all! The great news is that we are aiming to hold the British Forum for Ethnomusicology Conference here in 2016, which will raise the profile of both ethnomusicology here and of the department internationally

3. Ethnomusicology, power, and production:

At this stage in my research there is not too much pressure on me to publish. I’m deep listening at the moment! Obviously, the BFE is a journal which will be first choice for me to publish in, especially as I may be co-opted to the committee next year. As for articles published by others, the main way of accessing these is through electronic databases. The library is only just beginning to populate itself with ethnomusicological texts, and I must admit I still maintain my alumnus membership of SOAS library, but this lack of resources is changing fast.

4. Ethnomusicology students and finances:

Funding, in the University’s 50th anniversary year, is quite comprehensive. There is a real ‘can do’ attitude to funding here that reflects the fact that the department is barely ten years old. The impact of this is a very forward-looking, hopeful atmosphere that is quite infectious. In particular, fieldwork can be supported through a combination of both internal and external funding, and so far I have found little difficulty obtaining this at PhD level; it could be all downhill from here though!

5. European Ethnomusicology

As far as European ethnomusicology is concerned, both the British and French disciplines have their own bodies independent of the ICTM, so there is less international collaboration between academics than there is between countries more closely associated with the ICTM alone. However, it is important to maintain ICTM membership in order to collaborate with our Eastern European colleagues even though this is somewhat optional in British Ethnomusicology.

6. Ethnomusicology and future times:

The future of ethnomusicology is bright here. Obviously London and Paris will always be the main centres of such work, but we are well situated geographically between them, and there is renewed funding interest in addressing the relative lack of fieldwork performed provincially. Likewise, there are now more opportunities for ethnomusicologists based outside the capital than ever before, although the future of this will depend upon the interest of large funders such as national archives. As for me, I can see myself hanging around locally after gaining my PhD here and hopefully teaching here as an academic.

Anyway, tara for now, and we hope to welcome you to the Historic Dockyard in Chatham, England, soon!


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