From the Field: Fieldwork, Health, and Stress

Maybe I should have expected it. When I get stressed, I tend to get sick, and fieldwork is a stressful time. Don’t get me wrong, fieldwork is awesome! I’m positive it’s one of the strongest reasons why we all got interested in ethnomusicology in the first place. The chance to see how people make and use their music. And we get to talk, play, sing, and dance WITH them! Where is the downside? Despite its awesomeness, however, fieldwork is always stressful for me, both physically and emotionally. I miss my husband and my family. I worry about making cultural faux pas even as I recognize that it is inevitable that I will do so. All my fieldwork has taken place in big cities, and I’m very much a small town girl.

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Ethnomusicology and Parenthood

For our first post of the new year, we are very excited to introduce Dr. Judith Cohen. Dr. Cohen is a Canadian singer and ethnomusicologist specializing in Sephardic, Crypto-Jewish and related music, and the editor-consultant for the Alan Lomax Spain recordings. She did her MA in medieval studies and PhD in ethnomusicology, both at the French-speaking Université de Montréal. Her daughter Tamar Ilana has a biology degree, but works as a professional flamenco singer and dancer, as well as in other music traditions. Dr. Cohen was very gracious in sharing some of her thoughts and experiences of raising her daughter while conducting fieldwork and finishing her PhD. You can learn more about Dr. Cohen’s work on her website and Facebook page.

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At SEM Austin 2015

I’m sure other disciplines feel the same, but for me, there’s nothing quite like an SEM conference. I saw so many wonderful, thought-provoking papers, got to meet and talk with so many new people, and bought so many half-priced books the last day, that I came home thoroughly inspired. For this week’s blog post, I thought I would share my reactions to my favorite paper presentation.

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What would you do?

“What would you do,” a professor once asked, “if you’ve only got three weeks left of your fieldwork and your interlocutors aren’t responding to you?” She asked this of me and a fellow student several years ago when we were taking one of her classes. I think she was a bit frustrated at our frustration. One of the requirements for the class was a paper that added new research to and knowledge about an area of the world that has been under-studied by ethnomusicologists. For this paper, she wanted us to go as far as we could in conducting fieldwork without actually traveling anywhere. We were to use email, Facebook, Skype, phone calls, anything that would put us in direct contact with actual people. And my people weren’t picking up the phone. Or answering emails. Or responding to Facebook messages. In desperation, I turned to my professor, and she asked me the above question.

Sunrise in Hawaii

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Choosing a Recording Device

Ethnomusicologists have come a very long way from Frances Densmore’s iconic photograph, but the judicious use of recording devices is just as important. Today, Alice Rogers shares her experience and expertise regarding useful questions to ask and things to consider when buying recording devices and making recordings. Thank you, Alice, for your contribution and insights!

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In Discipline: Talks from the European Side

This week, In Discipline welcomes Andreja Vrekalić, a graduate student from the Academy of Music at the University of Zagreb, Croatia. We invite you read her thoughtful reflections; many thanks to Andreja for offering these insights!

Also, a small matter of housekeeping: we have slowed our posting schedule a bit, as our contributors are finishing their semesters and conducting fieldwork abroad – but never fear, we have lots of exciting content ready in the wings. Stay tuned.

Liza

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What does this button do?

**This post is the first in an on-going series on technological tools for ethnomusicology students**

I know next to nothing about technology. I probably know barely enough to get by in this day and age. This is something that concerns me because there doesn’t seem to be a lot written or even discussed concerning contemporary tools for ethnomusicologists. The SEM Student Newsletter available in the spring/summer of 2013 did dive into the moral and ethical issues of internet use and theory, online education, social media, etc. We all know about the internet, YouTube, Skype, Facebook, MOOCs, etc. But these seem to be seen as large, ponderous entities that are mentioned by name without any specificity, except to warn against misuse. Richard Daja’s piece “Digital Technologies and Music: Hardware and Habits” was the only article that addressed specific tools (specifically cell phones and smartphones), but he focused more on how people and musicians in South Africa were using them, not how he, as an ethnomusicologist, used them.

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Reading and Panicking

The time of year has come for comprehensive exams and thesis/dissertation defenses. It’s also that time of year when time itself seems to be leaking away for papers to be researched and performances to be rehearsed. Many of my friends are in this process, as I will be shortly, and so I find myself turning to things that ethnomusicologists have written about themselves and their experiences. As I mentioned in a previous post, it is heartening to know that even established scholars aren’t necessarily the untouchable pillars they can appear to be. It is comforting to know that they, too, went through processes like this and that they came out the other side, changed, different, but whole.

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