BFE Fieldwork Award Winners 2021

We are thrilled to announce that three fieldwork grants have been awarded for the 2021 BFE Fieldwork Grants scheme. Hearty congratulations are due to Meg Hyland, Rim Jasmin Irscheid and and Natalie Mason, our 2021 award recipients. The winners introduce their exciting research projects below, and we look forward to hearing more about their work when they return from the field.

Meg Hyland (University of Edinburgh)

Between the mid-19th and mid-20th centuries, thousands of women worked each year as itinerant herring gutters in Britain and Ireland. Travelling from sometimes remote islands and coming from diverse linguistic backgrounds, they congregated in major fishing ports and worked side-by-side gutting, salting and packing the herring into barrels. My research looks at the role music played in their working lives, including work songs as well as songs sung during the dances they hosted on the weekends in their temporary lodgings. While my previous research has established that Gaelic-speaking women sang semi-improvised dance songs (puirt-à-beul) while gutting, I am next looking to research the musical cultures of women from Shetland who worked in the industry. I plan to travel to the Shetland Museum and Archives to research their oral history material, which includes dozens of interviews of people connected to the industry. I will be particularly interested to determine to what extent women in Shetland sang sacred versus secular songs while working, and what level of interaction they had with women from Gaelic-speaking backgrounds, since the multi-cultural nature of the industry often led to musical cross-fertilization.

Rim Jasmin Irscheid (King’s College London)

My project is concerned with representations of hybridity, difference and movement in collaborative music projects across Lebanon, Jordan and the Arab diaspora in Germany. I aim to find out how first and second generation Arab migrants network, produce and showcase experimental music arising from collaborations within and across these three countries. During field work in Beirut, Amman, Mannheim and Berlin, I will spend time in places of great sociability between artists of different backgrounds, in particular recording studios, green rooms, festival sites and rehearsal spaces. I will look not only into the collaborative compositional process among musicians, but the social and political environment of their sound experiments. I also plan to examine images and video material used in the marketing of these projects with regard to cultural representations of Arab musicianship in German media texts. My focus lies specifically on the rhetoric of cultural institutions and experimenting artists that vehemently oppose affiliations with the European ‘world music’ market and instead, offer musical self-representations that distort or even disguise imagined markers of Arab identity and citizenship altogether.

Natalie Mason (University of Birmingham)

My PhD focuses on the international musicking of children and families in community and education settings in the West Midlands. Following a decade of community music work in the UK and South Africa, my research is informed by participant-led practice. I aim to expand an interdisciplinary understanding of the role children play in the creation and continuation of diverse musical cultures whilst extending practical and academic connections between ethnomusicology, community music and music education. In response to the current pandemic situation, I have updated and transformed my methodology. Informed by recent scholarship on participatory fieldwork methods and hybrid ethnography, I am drawing on new technological approaches to support the child-centred narrative within my dissertation, whilst remaining adaptable to remote or in-person activity. My research will allow me to document and develop pedagogical approaches for international musicking, in collaboration with children and families, whilst deepening an understanding of fieldwork methodologies across online and offline spaces. I hope to contribute to ethnomusicological scholarship on children’s musicking, participatory practice and audio-visual technology in the hybrid field.