News archive

Dear BFE members, 

The British Forum for Ethnomusicology is delighted to welcome Barley Norton (Goldsmiths College) as our new Chair. Barley was co-opted on 30 June 2014 in the role of BFE Chair Elect and will take on his new role from April 2015. 

Our sincere thanks go to Amanda Villepastour, who has led the BFE for the last three years with great enthusiasm. Thank you for all your hard work, Amanda!

Laudan Nooshin  explores the ways in which musicians talk about creativity and the practices by which new music comes into being in Iranian Classical Music: The Discourses and Practice of Creativity. The book seeks to understand musical creativity as a meaningful social practice and examines how ideas about tradition, authenticity, innovation and modernity in Iranian classical music form part of a wider social discourse on creativity and national and cultural identity.


On behalf of the BFE committee, I extend my warm congratulations to Jennifer McCallum (PhD candidate, King's College, London), winner of the BFE Student Paper Prize for our 2014 annual conference at SOAS (held jointly with AAWM).

The prize committee stated:

This year there were several outstanding papers by BFE student members. For the first time, therefore, we are giving two honourable mentions in addition to the winning paper. All three papers draw on a good range of theoretical and background sources, often a challenge in short conference papers.

Here are our comments:

BFE Student Paper Prize:

Jenny McCallum (King’s College London), “Beguiling voices: rediscovering the sound of 19th-century Malay literature”

In her nicely crafted and maturely focused paper, Jenny explores the affective impact of voice-as-sound – ‘speaking, cajoling, reciting and singing’ – in 19th-century Malay literary and poetic sources. She proposes a move from orality to vocality, considering sound and embodiment in ‘noisy’ texts.

Her paper is very clear, thoughtful and well grounded in relevant theory. The discussion of metaphors and local concepts of aesthetics is particularly strong, helping us understand Jenny’s points despite having no way to hear the actual voices of the period.

This paper can clearly be worked up to publication, with some expansion and perhaps some comparative consideration of other cultures. The referees will send Jenny a few suggestions toward that end.


Honourable Mentions:

Julia Ulehla (University of British Columbia), “Musical traces of the Holy Spirit: identifying linear progression within cyclic form in an African American folk spiritual”

Julia deploys close visual analysis of an Alan Lomax-filmed performance of a Methodist church service, which includes significant bodily movements, in the South Carolina Sea Islands. Her transcriptions include novel notations of physical action in order to consider some of the mechanisms that propel linear progression within cyclical song performance. The paper is very well grounded in wider theoretical literature.

Daniel Goldberg (Yale University), “Diversity of performance timing in Balkan folk music”

Examining the so-called aksak rhythm (3+2+2/8), Daniel draws on various methods (statistical, analytical, computational) to consider the different durations of notes in a sequence of beats and their overall relation to metre in recordings by four musicians – two Balkan, two American. He considers some possible reasons for the musicians’ choices and their variations in timing. The paper's close and detailed precision and clear use and definition of terms is particularly strong.

Many thanks to the other students who submitted papers for the prize competition. The number and standard of student papers at the conference and in the competition is indicative of the strong student contingent of the BFE and, this year, of AAWM.


On behalf of the membership, I would also like to thank the Student Paper Prize Committee members, who volunteered their time over the summer months.

To all of our members and our AAWM partners this year, enjoy your vacation or fieldwork.

Amanda Villepastour

Chair, British Forum for Ethnomusicology (BFE)




The Société Française d’Ethnomusicologie (SFE) and the British Forum for Ethnomusicology (BFE) invite abstracts for our joint conference in Paris, 2-5 July 2015.

In recognition that this will be the first joint meeting of the two institutions (and the first time the BFE will be holding its annual meeting outside the United Kingdom) we have chosen the theme

Border Crossings/Boundary Maintenance


The theme identifies several areas of scholarly reflection and inquiry to be undertaken. For contemporary ethnomusicologists, ‘boundaries’ invoke a myriad of solid, porous and imagined lines to be negotiated, crossed, or dissolved. On the one hand, they suggest the national, legal and political borders – and the cultural and linguistic differences – that once largely determined our notions of Self and Other. On the other hand, they bring to mind the abstract binaries that shaped comparative musicology and early ethnomusicology, such as Western/non-Western, past/present, sacred/secular, rural/urban, traditional/modern, oral/written, and female/male.

Within the overarching theme of ‘boundaries’, we welcome abstracts that address some of the following sub-topics:

1) Music crossing boundaries

In the first place, the conference will explore how music crosses boundaries, and is inhibited from doing so: how practices, genres, instruments, ideas, and musicians themselves move between contexts, as well as how they are resisted and shut out.

2) The bounds of tradition in music

Another privileged site of investigation will be musical tradition. The very idea of tradition has typically suggested boundaries, and possibilities that lie ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ them. What is held to be outside any given tradition is not always foreign to it, of course, for it often forms the context to which the tradition responds and sets itself in distinction. And, of course, elements from outside are often welcomed.

This theme also offers opportunities to think about the impact that ever quicker global circulation has had on music, about how traditions are patrolled and defended in this context, and about the ways traditions draw (or do not) upon a seemingly overwhelming array of new possibilities. At the same time, the conference offers chances to consider how traditions have always had insides and outsides, and how, in many times and places, boundaries have been subject to negotiation.

3) Crossing categories

The theme of boundary crossing and maintenance presents an opportunity to contemplate ideological boundaries: categories that exist in the musical practices we study and in the way we as scholars have framed these practices: sacred/secular, urban/rural, and so on. How are these categories asserted and challenged? What moves across these lines, and what does not? Are there moments when these borders become more or less significant?

4) Intellectual territories

Last, but not least, the theme of boundary crossing/maintenance also provides an opportunity to contemplate the distinctiveness of French and British (and francophone and anglophone) traditions of ethnomusicology. It allows us to ask whether, just as musical traditions have their insides and outsides, their borrowings and barriers, so too do traditions of scholarly endeavour. One goal of the conference is that it not simply be a place where scholarly boundaries are crossed and defended, but where the dynamics of this border-work are examined critically and reflexively.

The conference will take place 2–5 July 2015 at the Musée du quai Branly in Paris; it will be a bilingual event. We welcome proposals for 20-minute papers and for panels comprising three 20-minute papers. Please submit abstracts in French or English (maximum 250 words), complete with names of authors and titles, to by 31 October 2014.



Publication of CFP: 31 August 2014

Submission deadline: 31 October 2014

Inform successful applicants: 15 November 2014

Registration open: TBA


Joint BFE-SFE Program Committee:
Amanda Villepastour and Byron Dueck (BFE), Susanne Fürniss and Fabrice Contri (SFE).


Link to SFE CFP



14 Jul 2014

The British Forum for Ethnomusicology is delighted to announce that Barley Norton (Goldsmiths College) has agreed to be the next BFE Chair. The committee co-opted Barley on 30 June 2014 in the new role of BFE Chair Elect to ensure a smooth transition in 2015 when Amanda Villepastour’s term draws to a close.

Our sincere thanks goes to Suzel Reily and Henry Stobart, who will be stepping down this year as their terms conclude. Thank you for all your hard work and support.

We are also pleased to announce that Lyndsey Hoh (DPhil candidate, Oxford) has been elected as our incoming Student Liaison. On behalf of our membership, we offer warm congratulations to Lyndsey.

We thank James Butterworth for his service as Student Liaison on the BFE committee. James has been a proactive and creative committee member. We wish him the very best for his future professional ethnomusicological ventures.


It gives us great pleasure to announce the winner of the 2014 British Forum for Ethnomusicology Book Prize:

Novak, David. Japanoise: Music at the Edge of Circulation, Sign, Storage, Transmission. Durham: Duke University Press, 2013.

Novak, David. Japanoise: Music at the Edge of Circulation. Durham: Duke University Press, 2013.

The BFE Book Prize recognizes outstanding scholarship in ethnomusicology written in English. This prestigious award was presented at the BFE Annual General Meeting during the BFE annual conference at SOAS (July 2014). We hope that you can join us to congratulate the prize recipient again at the BFE High Tea Party at the SEM conference in Pittsburgh in November.
The BFE book committee (Martin Stokes, Simon Mills, and Hettie Malcomson) worked long and hard during the selection process, and were impressed by the extremely high quality of many of the books. In total, 17 monographs and 9 edited volumes were received, totalling 26 books, published in 2012 or 2013. The books were written by authors from diverse institutional backgrounds on subjects spanning the breadth of the current ethnomusicological field. Over half of these books were published by UK presses, with entries also with Chinese, German and US publishers.

The BFE is grateful to all those who submitted books to this competition and looks forward to future contributions.  It especially wishes to thank the three judges who reviewed the submissions:

Martin Stokes (Kings College London)
Simon Mills (Durham University)
Hettie Malcomson, chair (Southampton University)


David Novak
Japanoise: Music at the Edge of Circulation
Duke University Press, 2013

Noise, an underground music made through an amalgam of feedback, distortion, and electronic effects, first emerged as a genre in the 1980s, circulating on cassette tapes traded between fans in Japan, Europe, and North America. With its cultivated obscurity, ear-shattering sound, and over-the-top performances, Noise has captured the imagination of a small but passionate transnational audience. For its scattered listeners, Noise always seems to be new and to come from somewhere else: in North America, it was called "Japanoise." But does Noise really belong to Japan? Is it even music at all? And why has Noise become such a compelling metaphor for the complexities of globalization and participatory media at the turn of the millennium?

In Japanoise, David Novak draws on more than a decade of research in Japan and the United States to trace the "cultural feedback" that generates and sustains Noise. He provides a rich ethnographic account of live performances, the circulation of recordings, and the lives and creative practices of musicians and listeners. He explores the technologies of Noise and the productive distortions of its networks. Capturing the textures of feedback—its sonic and cultural layers and vibrations—Novak describes musical circulation through sound and listening, recording and performance, international exchange, and the social interpretations of media.

Link to book page

Acceptance speech (mp3)



The British Forum for Ethnomusicology is seeking nominations for the position of ‘Student Liaison’ on the BFE committee. This is an important position in the organisation, providing a valuable link to our student membership while offering significant professional experience to the successful candidate.

It is expected that you are a current BFE member, a graduate student resident in the U.K. (preferably undertaking a PhD), and that your term will last from the upcoming Annual General Meeting (4 July) until the AGM in April 2016.

In order to stand for election you must be nominated by a BFE member (other than yourself) and your nomination must also be seconded by another BFE member.

Responsibilities include:

  • attending 2-3 BFE committee meetings each year;
  • staying in email contact with the committee;
  • liaising between the student membership and the BFE committee;
  • organising student conferences and other events;
  • liaising with student representatives from other learned societies (e.g. the Royal Musical Association);
  • sourcing and updating information on the BFE website about ethnomusicology provision in UK higher education.

The role averages approximately two hours per week, though some times are substantially busier than others. All positions on the BFE committee are on a voluntary basis but related expenses such as travel are paid by the BFE.

If you wish to stand for election you must send a proposal of no more than a single side of A4, which will be forwarded to the BFE membership prior to online voting. The proposal should include:

  • your name;
  • your institution;
  • the names of two BFE members, one who has agreed to nominate you and one who has agreed to second the nomination;
  • a statement outlining why you think you are the right person for the position of ‘Student Liaison.’

Nominations must be emailed to the Chair ( by midnight, 15 June 2014.

Online voting will take place from 19-27 June and results will be announced at the BFE Annual General Meeting (July 4 at 13.30pm) during the joint BFE/AAWM conference in London, July 1-4, 2014.

Should you have any enquiries, please email the current Student Liaison, James Butterworth ( about the role, or our administrator Fiorella Montero Diaz ( regarding the application process.


Dear BFE members (and friends),

Please save the following dates in your diary!

* The BFE committee is excited to announce that our annual conference will be hosted jointly with Société française d'ethnomusicologie in Paris, 2-5 July, 2015.

* Our next one-day conference will be hosted by City University, London, 29 November, 2014. The theme will be ‘ethnomusicology in the urban environment.’

* I look forward to seeing many of you at our joint conference with AAWM at SOAS, July 1-4, by which time, I will be able to share more details of both the 2015 Paris annual and November 2014 London one-day conferences.

Best wishes,
Amanda Villepastour


The British Forum for Ethnomusicology invites submissions for the new annual BFE Book Prize to recognize outstanding scholarship in ethnomusicology written in English. Both monographs and edited volumes published in 2012 or 2013 will be eligible for the 2014 prize. (Co)authors and (co)editors must all be BFE members at the time of submission, while contributors to edited collections are welcome to join. No book may be entered more than once for this prize. This prestigious award will be presented at the BFE annual conference at SOAS in July 2014 and carries a prize of £100.

To enter, please send one copy of the nominated book, together with a brief biography of the author(s)/editor(s), email address, details of the book, and confirmation of BFE membership, by post to:

Dr Hettie Malcomson
Committee Chair, British Forum for Ethnomusicology Book Prize Music, Faculty of Humanities University of Southampton Southampton SO17 1BJ

Deadline: all submissions should be post-marked Monday 3 March 2014 at the latest.

The 2014 book prize committee consists of Martin Stokes, Simon Mills, and Hettie Malcomson (Chair).


The Study Group for Mediterranean Music Studies of the
International Council for Traditional Music (ICTM)
will hold its 10th Symposium at St John’s College, Cambridge
June 27–29, 2014


on the theme


Mysticism, Magic, and the Supernatural in Mediterranean Music


Because of its highly abstract nature,
its almost complete lack of explicit verbal or representational content,
music is perhaps the most sensitive indicator of the culture,
and of all the arts it is the most closely tied to the subconscious attitudes and assumptions
on which we build our lives within a society – which must be why,
in all cultures, music is the art most closely associated with the practice of magic.
(Christopher Small, Music, Society, Education, 1977)

In 1909, Jules Combarieu published La musique et la magie, the first extended study devoted to the relation between organized/meaningful sound and activities/rituals meant to give human beings power over nature or over realities thought to exist above or beyond nature itself.

The Mediterranean area is one where such relation has been frequently observed and investigated. What makes the Mediterranean especially fascinating from this angle is that its ethnographic present is frequently examined in historical perspective. In this respect, Ernesto De Martino’s The Land of Remorse: A Study of Southern Italian Tarantism (1961, English translation 2005), Gary Tomlinson’s Music in Renaissance Magic (1993) and Joscelyn Godwin’s Music and the Occult, French Musical Philosophies, 1750-1950 (1995) are landmark studies, but the topic still deserves more comprehensive attention. That is why in proposing the theme “Mysticism, Magic, and the Supernatural in Mediterranean Music” the ICTM study group Mediterranean Music Studies is seeking contributions from ethnomusicology, music history, and other related fields that will highlight significant aspects of this fascinating, and in some respects universal, relation between music-making and esoteric practices.

The programme committee for this Symposium consists of Stefano Castelvecchi (St John’s College, Cambridge), Ruth F. Davis (Corpus Christi’s College, Cambridge), Michael A.  Figueroa (University of Chicago), Goffredo Plastino (Newcastle University), and Marcello Sorce Keller (MMS Chair). All wishing further information, and interested in submitting a paper proposal (one page at the most), are cordially invited to contact me at this address: The submission deadline is January 15, 2014.

Marcello Sorce Keller
Chair, Mediterranean Music Studies