Conference reports

British Forum for Ethnomusicology 2017 Annual Conference

Department of Music, University of Sheffield

The Diamond, 20–23 April 2017

Report by Evanthia Patsiaoura

The BFE’s 2017 Annual Conference, hosted by the University of Sheffield, had as its theme ‘Tradition Today’. The theme was addressed in an array of presentations, with further reflection on it provoked by informal discussions inside and outside the university’s striking Diamond building, by fascinating musical and gastronomic experiences, and by the university area’s ethnically diverse locals and locales.

The conference highlighted the interdisciplinarity of ethnomusicology even as it revisited longstanding disciplinary preoccupations – for example, the importance of understanding not only musics, but the people who make them. Thought-provoking papers, drawing on research conducted around the globe, discussed music and tradition in relation to religion, identity, politics, popular music, composition, recording, minorities, migration, diasporas, ecoactivism, environmental performance, collaborative research, and education, among others.

Highlights included a special roundtable on ‘The Ethics and Aesthetics of Studying Music in Situations of Conflict and Violence’, at which some attendees found themselves holding their breath as accounts of risks encountered during fieldwork were related. Keynote speaker Michael B. Bakan presented a multi-dimensional exploration of ‘tradition today’, suggesting moral and ethical ways our field might respond to an era of crisis and uncertainty. The customary open mike event following the conference dinner allowed scholars to share their knowledge of musical traditions through performance. During the concert, two Greek colleagues and I sat with a table of academics from China, Kazakhstan and Australia, an arrangement that granted us some truly constructive and engaging moments of mutual learning. The closing plenary session, entitled ‘Ethnomusicological Traditions Today?’ addressed vital issues including the development of new pathways in education and ethnomusicology. Invited speakers and audience members reflected on how the teaching of ethnomusicology informs the tradition of the field and its future directions.

Abigail Wood presenting at the panel on ‘The Ethics and Aesthetics of Studying Music in Situations of Conflict and Violence’

(Photo by Helen Gubbins)

Once again, the annual BFE conference was a reminder of the importance of community as an integral part of tradition. The members of our scholarly community cultivate our disciplinary tradition and influence society at times of intense instability. Thanks to all of the participants who contributed to this work at the event. And special thanks to the Local Arrangements Committee – Simon Keegan-Phipps, Helen Gubbins, Timothy Knowles, Kate Walker, Michael Walsh, and above all, the tireless chair of the committee, Andrew Killick – for the immense effort they put into this highly successful conference.

Andrew Killick, chair of the Local Arrangements Committee, with some notices to help keep presenters to time

(Photo by Helen Gubbins)


 

Conference dates:
5 Jan 2017 to 7 Jan 2017

Venue: 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.


 

Conference dates: 22 Oct 2016
Venue: Museum of Communication, Burntisland, Scotland

 

 BFE One-Day Conference

Researching Music: Radio and Ethnomusicology: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives

22 October 2016

Report by Lawrence Davies

Regular passengers on the 08:41 train leaving Edinburgh Waverley on Saturday 22nd October may have noticed that their service was busier than usual, as ethnomusicologists from around the UK and abroad made their way across the Firth of Forth to attend the BFE's latest one-day conference. Although the conference was organised by the Reid School of Music at the University of Edinburgh, the event itself was held outside the city at the Museum of Communication in Burntisland, a small Fife coastal town in the shadow of Craigkelly Transmitting Station, which transmits commercial and Gaelic-language radio across central Scotland.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Radio has been one of the twentieth century's most important technological innovations. It has frequently shaped not only the production and consumption of music, but also music's capacity to underpin notions of community, nationhood, and many aspects of individual and group identity. Yet as a medium of musical and intellectual communication it remains under-researched compared to other technologies, such as sound recording.

The conference began with a panel entitled 'Broadcasting Beyond Borders', which showcased recent research on diaspora music-making and transnational musical revivals. Focusing on the performance and broadcasting of Cornish Christmas carols by Cornish mining communities in Grass Valley, California, Elizabeth Neale (Cardiff University) showed how 1940s radio programming consolidated key elements in narratives surrounding Cornish choral traditions, while also helping members of diaspora communities reposition their identities within broader notions of Californian and American identity. The transatlantic flow of music was reversed in the next paper, in which Lawrence Davies (King's College London) examined how early 1950s BBC radio broadcasts by the American folklorist Alan Lomax introduced new ideas about the history and development of jazz and blues to British audiences. Yet, Davies argued, Lomax's reliance on extant patterns of transatlantic musical and intellectual exchange when writing and recording these programmes suggests the need to understand the specific appeal of radio's sonic and dramatic potential for Lomax's research activities. The final paper in this panel returned to Cornwall, as Lea Hagmann (Universität Bern) examined how the recording of a 2013 episode of Music Matters at Perranporth for BBC Radio 3 became a flashpoint for Cornish music revivalists' competing claims of authority over the tradition. Hagmann showed how debates around the relationship between 'Cornish' and 'Celtic' musical identities map to the now multigenerational Cornish music revival, raising the need to consider the existence of multiple and competing 'revivalist' impulses that often lie beneath claims of a tradition's coherence.

The next panel, 'Selecting Music for Radio' focused on industry approaches to music production and dissemination. Katrine Wallevik (University of Copenhagen) discussed her recent ethnographic research into pop music programming at Danish Broadcasting Corporation, explaining how decision-making processes used by prominent broadcasters at the station, while often mystified in public debate, rely on a number of cultural models mediated through the station's production software and digital music library. The changing role of radio in light of recent developments in digital music services was the subject of Mark Percival's (Queen Margaret University) paper. Revisiting earlier doctoral research conducted before the advent of digital music streaming, Percival examined how networks of industry 'song pluggers' have needed to adapt radio's role in the dissemination of new music in order to weather changing patterns of music production and consumption in the digital age. The final paper in this panel, by Kristine Ringsager (University of Copenhagen), discussed the production of 'world music' programming on Danish Broadcasting Corporation radio. Rather than examining broadcast music, however, Ringsager interrogated more complex issues surrounding radio presenters' voices and their role in representing cosmopolitanism and 'Otherness'.

During a well-provisioned lunch, conference attendees took advantage of the break in proceedings to look round the Museum of Communication's extensive collection of historical radio technology, much of which is maintained in full working order. Many sets in the collection demonstrated radio's unique facility to cross national borders by indicating broadcast frequencies for stations as diverse as Scandinavia, the Mediterranean, and North America. In stark contrast to these devices was the austere 'people's radio', produced in Nazi Germany. Modified to restrict listening to German stations only, this device offered a sobering reminder of how radio has also been used to coerce and control.

The afternoon session began with the conference keynote. Prof. Timothy Taylor (University of California Los Angeles) examined the need for a more nuanced consideration of the circulation, value, and exchange of music in the context of radio broadcasting and consumption. Taylor warned against the uncritical usage of common metaphors like 'flows' and 'circulation', recommending instead that we examine the specific dynamics of movement in the areas we are researching, and in particular their relationship to notions of value. Revisiting not only hallowed theorists like Marx and Gabriel Tarde, but also contemporary economic thinkers such as Anna Tsing, Taylor explained how cultural goods and forms of capital move through a system of constant exchange. Through fieldwork conducted on the indie rock scene in southern California, Taylor traced the role of radio as a site of such exchanges between musicians and audiences, and reflected on broadcasting's continued relevance in structuring cultural workers' ideas about exchange and value in the digital age.

In our afternoon panel, 'Mediating Place', we returned once more to radio's power to construct national and regional identity in music. Helen Gubbins (University of Sheffield) drew on recent archival research to examine how 1930s broadcasts from Renfro Valley, Kentucky helped to build notions of Appalachian regional identity. As with Neale's paper earlier in the conference, Gubbin's research explained how the production of musical identities on radio relied on techniques intrinsic to the medium such as location recording, as well as the assertion of particular narrative tropes regarding everyday life and music-making amongst the inhabitants of early twentieth-century Appalachia. Lonán Ó Briain's (University of Nottingham) paper reported on a recently commenced project investigating the role of Voice of Vietnam Radio in the formation and maintenance of the nation state. Drawing on interviews with some of the station's early employees, Ó Briain traced how the station's musical activities have underpinned the dissemination of political narratives and public culture in Vietnam since independence and through the country's recent economic liberalisation.

Theodore Konkouris (Queen's University Belfast) provided conference attendees with a though-provoking reflexive narrative of his research amongst hunter-musicians in Bamako, Mali. Konkouris showed how radio programming has facilitated the national transmission of otherwise localised musical and social rituals, intersecting with broader issues of morality and identity in contemporary Malian life.

The final speaker of the day was Rebecca Draisey-Collishaw (Memorial University of Newfoundland), who addressed the performance of multiculturalism in the Canadian music series Fuse between 2005-8. While the series ostensibly offered a site for reconfiguring existing cultural and social divides through musical interaction, Draisey-Collishaw demonstrated how the program could also unwittingly reinscribe these divisions through its musical categorisations, production decisions, and through failing to contest common tropes in guest musicians' own mythologies of music and identity.

This one-day conference brought together a broad range of research from ethnomusicologists at different levels of their careers, demonstrating the conference theme to be a fruitful area for research. The emphasis on music and identity found in this year's papers will hopefully be balanced by further ethnomusicological scholarship on the act of radio listening itself, as well as the explicitly technological aspects of broadcasting.

Thanks to organisers Dr. Annette Davison, Prof. Simon Frith, Dr. J Mark Percival, Dr. Tom Wagner, and Dr. Tom Western at the University of Edinburgh; and to the staff and volunteers of the Museum of Communication, Burntisland, for a successful and thought-provoking conference in an ideal setting.


 

Conference dates: 6 Jun 2016
Venue: Senate House, University of London

Joint IMR/BFE/IASPM (UK & Ireland) Study Day: Researching Music: Interviewing, Ethnography, and Oral History, 6 June 2016

Report compiled by Yuiko Asaba 

 

The joint IMR/BFE/IASPM (UK & Ireland) Study Day, “Researching Music: Interviewing, Ethnography, and Oral History” held at the Senate House, provided a convivial and stimulating opportunity for students and experts in ethnomusicology and related fields, to share the often ‘hidden’, yet profoundly rich methodological stories behind the weaving of ethnography and oral history. Delegates were fortunate to engage with a wide range of topics enabled by the ten-minute presentation format given to each speaker. This was followed by four keynote speakers whose expert knowledge and experiences led to deeply thought-provoking discussions. This conference included perspectives and reflections on the issues surrounding ethnographic methodologies and oral history.

Organised by Dr Byron Dueck (Open University), Professor Geoff Baker (Royal Holloway University of London) and Sam Murray (Cardiff University) supported by the IMR, BFE, IASPM (UK & Ireland) and HARC (Royal Holloway), the day got off to an inspiring start with a packed audience. The first panel “Ethnography and access,” wonderfully introduced by the panel chair Professor Ruth Finnegan, included themes on reflexivity in research on reputation building and prestige in orchestras (Francesca Carpos), hierarchy in the uses of language and its positive complexity in the study of amateur community gamelan groups in Indonesia (Dr Jonathan Roberts), ethnographic tensions in ‘accessing’ Julio Iglesias (Dr Katia Chornik), and the impact of the researcher’s life changes upon the outsider/insider binaries in studying choirs of post-conflict Northern Ireland (Sarah-Jane Gibson). The panel opened up fantastic opportunities to acknowledge and to discuss similarities and differences in ethnographic methodologies in a vibrant and inspiring debate. This gave a wonderful lead into the next session “Ethnography and voice” chaired by Dr Sarah Hill. This session included issues of vagueness when discussing music that lead to marking of important areas in Drone Metal reception (Dr Owen Coggins), insider identification in multi-cited fields of international jew’s harp revival (Deirdre Morgan), and organisation of ethnography that “emerges from unfinished world” in a participant study of the British Northern Soul scene (Sarah Raine). Marion Wasserbauer who was also scheduled to talk unfortunately could not attend this conference. A question from the audience surrounding authenticity of questionnaire further invigorated the debate on negotiating “voice” (or indeed “voices”) within ethnography.      

The lunch break provided great opportunities for further discussions on topics deriving from the morning panels, and to share commonality in our approaches to researching music. The vibrant conversations were once again the evidence of the wonderfully diverse topics and approaches that exist in our field today. The superb quality of the catering later on in the day must also be noted. There was no shortage in the choices of cookies and tea flavours, which accompanied the lively discussions throughout the afternoon coffee break.

The afternoon sessions began with “Ethnography, performance and art” introduced by the panel chair, Dr Byron Dueck. Dr Lucy Wright discussed ethnographic perspectives of an artist’s residency in light of ethnomusicological study of the troupe dancing from the North of England and Wales. Louise Marshall’s presentation suggested the sonic artefact and its performativity as analytical ways to unpick levels and layers of interview data. Dr Sara McGuinness then discussed the overarching roles as performer, researcher, and collaborator with other musicians. The vibrant processes of gigging/recording and making sense of similarities/differences between Congolese and Cuban music through performance were highlighted. Dr Joseph Toltz’s paper moved on to discuss ethical dynamics surrounding staging memories of the Holocaust by means of oral history. Discourse of fearlessness as well as ethical concerns within an applied ethnomusicological inquiry were addressed. The next session “Ethics; researching networks” was led by Professor Sara Cohen. Dr Terence Curran raised ethical as well as broader issues concerning collecting interviews, influences of memory, and presenting data within the methodologies of oral history. Dr Fiorella Montero-Diaz discussed “studying up” at home, access, and ethics. Applicability, adaptability and boundaries of fieldwork rules were questioned. Dr Andrew Bowsher challenged the concept of multi-citedness in ethnography based on his research on the flow of music media. Dr Marilou Polymeropoulou presented her visualisation method of the chipscene based on ethnography and social network analysis. 

Following the coffee break, delegates were fortunate to have four wonderful invited speakers. Dr Sue Onslow’s presentation focused on interviewing Commonwealth politicians and those in related professions for the AHRC-funded Commonwealth Oral History Project. Multiple perspectives on techniques of interviewing in a web of gender and power dynamics were debated. Dr Jaime Jones discussed issues and challenges surrounding self-curating in ethnography. Dr Laura Leante revealed pre-fieldwork naïvity that transforms interdisciplinary (teamwork) approaches to ethnography, providing opportunities for collective ownership. The last invited speaker was Dr Lucy Durán, who shared her experiences of interviewing a Malian singer, Fanta Sacko. Dr Durán’s first encounter with Sacko was met with delicate issues of gender, while recent reencounter has further enriched the ethnography.

Delegates engaged in further lively discussions with all the panel chairs, beautifully summing up shared issues that emerged from the day. Congratulations to Professor Geoff Baker, Dr Byron Dueck, and Sam Murray for this very enjoyable, beautifully organised and successful Study Day. The opportunity to indulge in discussions about commonality and diversity in our ethnographic methodologies in a conference context was one of the most valued contributions of the day.  


 

Conference dates: 30 Apr 2016
Venue: Department of Music, University of Nottingham

 

BFE Study Day: Sounding Ethnicity, 30 April 2016

Report compiled by Stephanie Ford and Christina Homer
 

The BFE Sounding Ethnicity Study Day was a wonderfully stimulating and diverse event for students and experts alike of ethnomusicology and other related disciplines. Showcasing the interdisciplinarity of the field and its wide variety of approaches, papers presented by the eight invited speakers and a keynote address delivered by Professor Martin Stokes provided a myriad of new perspectives and considerations on the topic of music and ethnicity.

Organised by Dr Lonán Ó Briain, Assistant Professor at the Department of Music at the University of Nottingham and supported by both the BFE and the British Academy, the day got off to a promising start. Topics covered in the first session included concepts of resistance and resilience in Hmong musical and cultural identity in Vietnam (Dr Lonán Ó Briain), the representation of song and dance in Uyghur and Muslim transnational identity in China (Dr Rachel Harris) and the emergence of ‘sonic icons’ and the charting of soundworlds in Korea (Professor Keith Howard).

There were abundant opportunities for participants to learn from one another and find points of commonality, as well as the opportunity for lively and intelligent debate. This was the case in the following session on Laz musical culture and ethnicity in Turkey, with speakers Professor Thomas Solomon and Dr Eliot Bates engaging with various opinions and questions from the floor after their illuminating presentations on different aspects of Laz musical ethnicity.

A break for lunch offered the chance to chat about the day’s presentations and hear about the interests and research of other participants. The variety and liveliness of these conversations once again demonstrated the wonderful diversity that currently exists within the field.  It must also be noted that the quality of the catering and the service provided by staff at the University of Nottingham was exemplary. There was no shortage of choice nor any need left unattended throughout the course of the day.  

After lunch, the fascinating keynote speech delivered by Professor Martin Stokes (King’s College London) neatly summed up the reflective and discursive nature of the whole day. Acknowledging the changing and evolving nature of the discipline itself, Martin expounded on the necessity to revise and update considerations of ethnicity, identity and music, with reference to his own work on the subject and in light of more recent theorizations of affect, materiality and voice. Personal insights into the origins of his 1997 text, including the influence of Oxford anthropologist Edwin Ardener, gave new perspectives on this seminal work.

Following this, a session featuring Professor Jason Stanyek and Professor Henry Spiller offered illuminating insights into the relationship between iterations of musical identity and the place in which they are situated. In the first case, Brasiliadade/Brazilianess as expressed by idiosyncratic and entrained metrical fluctuations, particularly among diasporic and non-Brazilian sambaistas; in the second, the Sundanese gamelan musicians of Java and the links to their environment via bamboo anklung instruments. The relative proliferation of players of Sundanese gamelan in the audience made for a lively ensuing discussion.

The last paper of the day - delivered via Skype by Dr Nomi Dave from her office at the University of Virginia - demonstrated the influence (and wonders!) of modern technology, and tied in nicely with some of the other presentations of the day which addressed the influence of technology and media in sounding ethnicity. Nomi's exploration of the fluctuating nature of power relations, resistance and the state neatly referred back to the first paper of the day.

Indeed, several themes wound their way through the various sessions, regardless of methodology or geographical region: the multiplicity of musical expressions of ethnicity; the dichotomy of defining oneself against others and promoting continuity and connectedness; protest and resistance in parallel with sustainability and resilience. The recurrence of these themes exemplifies the common ground that we find in these disparate iterations of musical identity.

Delegates took advantage of the opportunities to socialise at the wine reception and conference dinner, both of which were again extremely well organised. Congratulations to Dr Lonán Ó Briain and his colleagues for a thoroughly enjoyable and well-run event are very much deserved. The collegiality and openness of the event and the diversity of approaches to the area were some of the many highlights of this successful study day.

 


 

Conference dates:
14 Apr 2016 to 17 Apr 2016

 

Report from the 2016 BFE Annual Conference: New Currents in Ethnomusicology.

School of Music and Fine Art, University of Kent, Chatham Dockyard Campus, 14th-17th April 2016

Report compiled by Liam Barnard

 

The sun shone on at least the first and final days of this four-day gathering, the weather being typically British for the Friday and Saturday! Of course this made no difference to the fun and relaxed atmosphere that presided over this year’s annual conference. The quality of the papers was more than consistently excellent, and some unexpectedly deep conversations were initiated in question times, enabled somewhat by experimenting with maintaining a degree of anonymity beyond the review process, even through the process of grouping successful papers into sessions based upon themes. 

Despite the minor hiccough of lunch arriving half an hour late on Friday, the quality of the catering and the service provided by their team was exemplary, including organising the inaugural Society for Ethnomusicology Ice Cream Social, so successful an idea developed by Stephen Stuempfle of the SEM that Kent Hospitality have decided to offer this as a catering option for other conferences in the future! The evening wine receptions, one sponsored by T & F publishers and the other, in honour of the great Prof. David Hughes, added to the smiles and happiness that was a feature of our annual gathering this year. A favourite Facebook quote of mine regarding the conference read “It feels like I’ve just been on a holiday with all my friends!”. And smiles there were a-plenty during and after Prof. Jonathan Stock’s excellent and hugely entertaining keynote speech - “Sounding the Bromance”. After a long but rewarding three days of papers, Saturday night was party night in Coopers Bar, across the road from the Dockyard Campus, where the musical collaborations and the display of talents stretched on until closing time at midnight. Who could forget David Hughes’ performance of his JapRap, or the surprising versatility of Ruard Absaroka’s beatboxing! From Ceilidh Folk to Argentine Tango to Chicago Blues, the musical globe kept spinning throughout the evening.

      

                                        

 

             

          Keynote: Prof. Jonathan Stock                                               Wine reception in honour of Prof. David Hughes

 

By the time the plenary session commenced late on Sunday morning, with Tim Cooley’s take on the Shipping Forecast, accompanied by strains of the classic Radio 4 callsign, “Sailing By”, the sun was shining again, bathing our dockyard in golden morning light. This was a conference which took over a year to organise, and I must please extend my thanks to Byron Dueck, Barley Norton, Kevin Dawe, Jonathan Stock, Richard Lightman, Ruth Herbert, Alan Payne, Tom, Philippa, the BFE volunteers, Sam Cunningham, Jacky Olsen and everybody else who made this joyous celebration of ethnomusicology happen, and that includes everybody who came down to Chatham and shared our dockyard with us! 

Now it’s all over until Sheffield in 2017 it seems like a bit of an anticlimax for us to return to our daily academic lives. We hope you have as many happy memories to take with you as we have of hosting our four days in April, and that you take the Sunday sunshine with you wherever you go over the next year!

Some pictures of our BFE AGM at Kent University. Including some wonderful music provided by Liam Barnard and ShzrEe Tan. Thank you to all our membership for being there! See you next year in Sheffield!

 

                             

                                 All that jazz!                                                                    BFE AGM is about to start


 

Conference dates:
6 Jan 2016 to 8 Jan 2016

Venue: University of Bangor

 

Report from the Joint BFE/RMA Research Students’ Conference, University of Bangor, 6-8 January 2016

Report compiled by Liam Barnard and Byron Dueck

10 January 2016 

 

2016 got off to an auspicious start with the first Research Students’ Conference to be jointly convened by the British Forum for Ethnomusicology and the Royal Musical Association. As a vision of future conferences – the collaboration is set to be repeated annually – it shone.

Sessions were organised by theme, rather than geographical area or historical period, and this enabled interdisciplinary discussions of issues of interest to ethnomusicologists and musicologists alike, including diaspora, gender, and identity. There were accordingly abundant opportunities for attendees to learn from one other and find points of commonality (as one of us found while discussing polyrhythmic traditional styles from the African continent with a scholar of Beethoven). At the same time, there were occasions to focus on more discipline-specific issues, for instance in the panel on fieldwork methods, featuring input from the BFE’s Laura Leante and Stephen Wilford.

The keynotes by Nanette Nielsen (University of Oslo) and the BFE’s own Keith Howard (SOAS, University of London, pictured) were not only of exceptionally high quality, but acknowledged the interdisciplinary character of the conference. The student presentations were also excellent, as the conference chair, Chris Collins, acknowledged in his closing words. Collins himself deserves congratulation for a thoroughly enjoyable and well-run event.

All in all, the Bangor gathering bodes well for the future of joint RMA/BFE events. Next year, Canterbury Christ Church University will host the conference. Be sure to seize the opportunity to present your research!

 

 

 


 

 “Christian Congregational Music: Local and Global Perspectives”

Ripon College Cuddesdon, Oxford, 4-7 August 2015

 

Report compiled by Laryssa Whittaker (Royal Holloway, University of London)

 

The third biennial Christian Congregational Music Conference was held again at Ripon College Cuddesdon, a location that previous and new attendees cite as instrumental in creating a stimulating sense of community among participants. The organising committee, Martyn Percy (Dean, Christ Church, Oxford), Monique Ingalls (Baylor University), Mark Porter (Max-Weber-Kolleg Universität Erfurt), Tom Wagner (University of Edinburgh), and Laryssa Whittaker (Royal Holloway, University of London), were pleased to welcome 90 participants from 20 different countries.

New this year was the addition of a study day, held the first day of the conference, with seminars led by invited speakers creating opportunities for in-depth, small group discussion. Participant feedback indicated that the readings selected by speakers and the opportunity for discussion was invaluable and rewarding. Participants also enjoyed the addition of organised music workshops this year – a Sacred Harp and Convention Gospel workshop run by Joshua Busman, Deborah Justice, Stephen Shearon, and Sue Gray, and a Gospel choir workshop led by Donna Cox.

Ethnomusicologists again represented a large proportion of participants and special guest speakers, but the growing interdisciplinarity of the field was also evident by a healthy representation of theologians, historians, and anthropologists, in particular. This interdisciplinarity provoked new perspectives, suggesting that the musicological and ethnomusicological fields that have been key contributors to Christian congregational music scholarship may fruitfully gain new insights about both their research subject and their disciplines.

In addition to the rich seminars they led on the first day, the seven invited speakers focused on the conference theme of theoretical perspectives and methodological approaches for the study congregational music, contributing a wide historical, geographical, and disciplinary range of perspectives. These included singing as a bodily discipline in charismatic Nigerian churches (Vicki Brennan, University of Vermont); the potential of Christian music to promote wellbeing amongst Yolngu people in Australia (Fiona Magowan, Queen’s University, Belfast); the perceptibility of ‘a common faith’ through the theoretical juxtaposition of religious conviction and ‘the ethics of style’ in Trinidadian musical practices (Timothy Rommen, University of Pennsylvania); the methodological approaches of liturgical scholars studying Christian hymns as historical texts (Lester Ruth, Duke Divinity School); theoretical intersections of gender, musical practice, and liturgy (Teresa Berger, Yale Divinity School); affect and the ineffable in early church music traditions (Carol Harrison, Oxford); and a film screening on the documentation of Aramaic (Syriac)-language Christian liturgical traditions in India (Joseph Palackal, Christian Musicological Society of India).

Another new and very welcome feature this year was an outing to Oxford. Participants had the opportunity to take a guided tour of Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford, or a walking tour of the city, and to participate in an intimate choral eucharist held at the cathedral in the evening. The service was followed by a reception generously hosted by Martyn Percy in the gardens of his residence, the Deanery of Christ Church Cathedral. Participants soaked in the history of the college and the deanery, from its establishment by Cardinal Wolsey and King Henry VIII to its history as the home of Dean Henry Liddell, father of the real-life Alice of Lewis Carroll fame.

The reception also celebrated the launch of the Ashgate Congregational Music Studies Series, noting the volumes previously published and announcing the addition of new projects in development. Following in November, conference participants received a complimentary copy of Congregational Music-Making and Community in a Mediated Age, an edited volume of papers focused on three themes of the 2013 conference. Also launched at the conference was The Spirit of Praise, edited by Monique Ingalls and Amos Yong, and the forthcoming Oxford Handbook of Music & World Christianities, edited by Jonathan Dueck and Suzel Ana Reily, was previewed.

Participants once again enjoyed the opportunities to socialise on the beautiful campus grounds or in the village, and cited the community and collegiality of the event and the interdisciplinarity of the themes and the new perspectives yielded as highlights. The next conference, already in planning, will be held 18-21 July 2017 in the same location.

View conference details at: http://congregationalmusic.org.

View information about the Ashgate Congregational Music Studies Series at https://shar.es/16pFMG.

To join the conference listserv, visit https://groups.google.com/group/christian-congregational-music.

Any additional questions can be directed to conferenceatcongregationalmusic.org.