BFE/RMA Research Students’ Conference 2017

Conference dates: 
5 Jan 2017 to 7 Jan 2017
Canterbury Christ Church University

Report compiled by Christina Homer and Hannah Marsden

The second joint Research Students’ Conference continued in the spirit of last year’s collaboration between the British Forum for Ethnomusicology and the Royal Musical Association. The sessions were grouped by theme, thereby encouraging discussion and sharing commonalities between our various subjects. The conference theme, “exploring musical practice”, threaded its way through many of the sessions, with lecture-recitals being a particular feature.

Two plenary training sessions offered advice from senior academics about archival sources and working with communities. Additionally, a plenary round table focussed on “practice and your PhD”, with expert practice-based academics offering valuable insights into their experiences.

Our two keynote speakers were Dr Kate Guthrie (University of Bristol), recipient of the 2015 Jerome Roche prize, and Prof. Anna Morcom, winner of the 2014 Alan Merriam Prize. Kate gave a fascinating historical paper about music education in boys’ grammar schools in 1950s’ England, with emphasis on the educational work of Sir Peter Maxwell Davis. She played a few examples of Maxwell Davis’s avant-garde pieces for the boys in his charge, which were very interesting to hear. This was a very accomplished paper with lots of well researched historical references; it was impressive especially in the light of how recently she qualified as an academic. An inspiration for all students!

Anna’s paper explored the performance of gender in Bollywood musicals and face-to-face dance contexts, drawing on ethnographic research conducted in India. As well as framing her research in gender and performance theory, Anna gave honest accounts of her own fieldwork experiences. It was clear she had thought about her audience of students, and it was appreciated. This was a thoughtful and fascinating keynote, with a seemingly effortless balance between theory and ethnographic experience.

The extra-special performance events provided by Canterbury Christchurch were particular highlights, and they couldn’t have been more different. An evening of installations and wine was provided by the Canterbury Christ Church University centre for practice-based research, and featured student work based around music and visual art. This was much appreciated and gave us a chance to visit the Sidney Cooper Gallery in the city centre. The following day, the Cantuar quartet gave a fun lunchtime concert full of quaffing and conviviality. Their repertoire comes from the historic Canterbury Catch Club, which was active in the 18th and 19th centuries. Both events emphasised the scope for practice-based research across disciplines.

Congratulations are due to Vanessa Hawes and the rest of the committee, and we look forward to next year’s conference in Huddersfield.