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“Queerness, Voice, Embodiment”, 2nd Symposium of the LGBTQ+ Music Study Group, 20th-21st April 2018, Maynooth University

Symposium Report by Thomas Hilder

The symposium “Queerness, Voice, Embodiment” took place from 20th to 21st April 2018 at Maynooth University, Ireland. It was the second annual symposium of the LGBTQ+ Music Study Group, an organization established in 2016 to bring together scholars of different disciplinary and sub-disciplinary backgrounds interested in music, gender and sexuality. In line with the Study Group’s ethos, the event set out to elicit current queer and feminist perspectives on musical performance, particularly the voice, with a desire to nurture approaches informed by notions of embodiment, theories of intersectionality, and critiques of neoliberalism. Through a range of formats – including a keynote lecture, roundtable discussions, presentations, and invited themed panels – the symposium raised broader issues of local and global LGBTQ+ politics as well as pressing issues of diversity and wellbeing in contemporary higher education.

The symposium began on the Friday morning with a welcome by the chair and lead organizer Danielle Sofer (Maynooth University). This was immediately followed by a discussion about safe spaces by the Study Group chair Thomas R. Hilder (Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim) and a 30-minute “speed-networking” exercise, whereby participants briefly introduces themselves to as many other people in the room.

The academic rigour and critical poise of the symposium was set by the keynote speaker, Liam Lillis Ó Laoire (NUI Galway). His paper “Thinking about Race with Traditional Irish Song” beautifully weaved together reflections on whiteness, gender and sexuality through inspecting canonical Irish folk music in contemporary, multi-ethnic and postcolonial Ireland. Further explorations of gender, sexuality and ethnicity in Irish contexts were offered through an invited panel on the second day. Here, Moynagh Sullivan (Maynooth University) examined Irish national identity by critiquing the received hetero-patriarchal cannon of Irish-British pop stars and posited alternative feminist and queer lineages. Her fellow panellist, the cabaret and burlesque performer Shir Madness offered an eloquent critique of cultural appropriation in burlesque performance by drawing on her own experiences as a postcolonial Irish citizen.

Intersections of gender, sexuality and coloniality were also addressed in several other presentations, including a study of queer Cuban dancing bodies by Moshe Morad (Tel Aviv University) and an analysis of the South African queer artist of colour Umlilo by Ernst van der Wal (Stellenbosch University/Humboldt University of Berlin). Chris Stover’s (Arizona State University) presentation on the composer-improviser-activist Sun Ra, and the organised panel on falsetto, countertenors and male sopranos by Michael Arshagouni, Robert Crowe and Morgan Crowley drawing on their work as musicologists and performers, explicitly explored the voice. The theme of embodiment was explored in different guises, through a study of lip-syncing in RuPaul’s Drag Race by Manuel Pinto (University of Groeningen), reflections on gendering in ballet education in the UK by Jonathan Still (UCL Institute of Education), and an analysis of the composition, performance and reception of the works by the US composer Harry Partch by John Hails (Edinburgh Napier University).

Meanwhile, issues of queer subjectivities was the focus of Marion Wasserbauer’s (University of Antwerp) presentation of her beautiful oral history project “Queer Voices”, which involved interviews with queer-identifying people in Belgium and discussions of their musical tastes and personal biographies. Ethnographic methods also informed the work of David Buschmann (University of Bern), who presented on issues of safe spaces in Berlin queer clubs. Several presenters offered analyses of queer identifying artists, such as the US pop star Annie Clarke by Megan Rogerson-Berry (Waikato Institute of Technology, Hamilton), and the US organist Cameron Carpenter by Laura Wahlfors (Sibelius Academy). To compliment, Magdalena Fürnkrantz (University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna) uncovered new perspectives on jazz musicians of the Harlem renaissance, and Mark Fitzgerald (DIT Conservatory of Music and Drama) offered a reassessment of twentieth century Irish composers, continuing a tradition within queer approaches to reveal hidden LGBT histories. Other presentations included a model for queer listenings of J.S. Bach by Nick Bonadies (Guildhall School of Music and Drama), an analysis of film music in Derek Jarman’s Edward II by Richard Piatak (University of Huddersfield), and the preliminary ideas for a project on social networking amongst LGBT musicians by Pam Burnard (University of Cambridge).

(Photograph by Christina Appleby)

 Another key focus of the symposium was issues of health and wellbeing. This was addressed in a roundtable on mental health in higher education which featured the speakers John Hails, Annie Hanlon (Dundalk Institute of Technology), Sarah Hawes (Maynooth University), Christopher Morris (Maynooth University), and Aoife Fennel (Maynooth University). Drawing on their experiences as students, lecturers, heads of department, and welfare and equality officers, the speakers offered their own insights into, and strategies for dealing with the marked rise in mental health issues amongst students and staff in music departments. As Annie Hanlon reminded us, levels of depression, anxiety, self-harm and suicide are higher among LGBTQ people, and the panellists urged for greater awareness and the implementation of new policies at universities. Such issues were a stark reminder of one of the main aims of the Study Group, to create a support network for LGBTQ identifying students, scholars and musicians and to provide a forum for issues of diversity and inclusion in the academy.

Overall, the symposium was a huge success. Participants hailed from numerous countries – including South Africa, Belgium, New Zealand, Finland, the USA, Austria, Israel, the Netherlands, Germany, Norway, Ireland and the UK – demonstrating the growth in interest in issues of music, gender and sexuality, and the expansion of the Study Group network. The careful curation of the event by the programme committee, especially the host Danielle Sofer, created a supportive and jovial atmosphere, promoted critical scholarship and discussions, and engendered a strong sense of politics. Through the diverse participants, contributions and formats, the symposium continued the Study Group’s role as an academic forum with activist and outreach aspirations. The Study Group committee would like to thank all the student helpers and our funders, including the British Forum for Ethnomusicology, the Royal Musical Association, the Society for Musicology in Ireland and Maynooth University.

Participants at the symposium were shocked and saddened to hear of the death of David Buschmann just weeks after having presented at the event. David had recently completed his MA in Graz, Austria, and was just beginning a PhD in Bern, Switzerland. The Study Group offers our sincere condolences to his family and friends.

The organising committee for the upcoming BFE One-day Conference at Keele University (Saturday 3 November 2018) is delighted to share the abstracts for the conference keynote panel, which will feature presentations from Prof. Rachel Beckles Willson, Dr. Felicity Laurence and Prof. John O’Connell. Details of the keynote speakers and their abstracts are now available to view on the 'Keynote Speakers' page of the conference website (click on link below):

We look forward to seeing many of you at Keele University in November!

The RMA and BFE welcome expressions of interest from PhD students to host a study day in music studies. The societies are able to provide financial and organisational support for a themed event that aims to connect ethnomusicological and musicological approaches. The study day is intended to be largely by and for students, but with the participation of more senior academics welcome. By way of guidance, previous years' themes have included: Music and Mobilities; Music, Circulation and the Public Sphere; and Music, Wellbeing and Mental Health.

If you are interested, please send a short proposal including institutional details, theme, the name of an academic mentor who is willing to support the study day, and the format of the event to:

Matthew Machin-Autenrieth (
Steve Wilford (
Susan Bagust (

Deadline for expressions of interest: 18th June

The BFE is keen to provide financial help for student members to assist with their attendance at the 2018 BFE One-day Conference in Keele. To this end, the BFE has created a small bursary fund that will provide a £40 contribution towards travel to the conference and conference fee for up to ten successful applicants. Applicants must be BFE members in good standing, and will need to send a short statement of interest that includes the reason for their application.

Prospective presenters can apply for bursaries when submitting an abstract, and applications should be sent to the BFE conference email address: In the event of a greater number of applications being received than there are bursaries available, student presenters will be prioritized. Please refer to the conference website for registration details.

Deadline for non-presenter submissions is Friday 1st September 2018, and bursary award winners will be notified in early October.

The BFE Student Prize for 2018 recognises an outstanding paper presented by a student at this year’s BFE Annual Conference, hosted by the University of Newcastle, 12-15 April 2018. We are delighted to award the prize to Katie Young (Royal Holloway, University of London) whose paper is described below. We would also like to thank everyone who submitted a paper this year, and all BFE student members are encouraged to submit papers for next year’s conference at the University of Aberdeen in 2019.

Katie Young – ‘“If You Know Arabic, Indian Songs Are Easy For You”: Hindi Film Songs and the mawlid in Tamale, Northern Ghana.’

This very well researched ethnographic paper provides fascinating insights into memory and pedagogy in Hindi film reception in cinema halls post-1957 by African Muslim audiences in Tamale, Northern Ghana. Young examines how modes of listening learned in Qur’anic schools have affected active response to Hindi film in terms of audition and recitation.  The memorisation of both Arabic religious texts and Hindi songs are revealed to have meanings not associated directly with context but rather with the act of sounding and re-sounding these texts. Young’s original primary research undertaken in 2016 and 2017 on the adaptation of Hindi song melodies in Tamale’s Islamic schools demonstrates how mawlid praises in Arabic have been set to well known Hindi film songs, a practice her interviewees describe as natural due to the similarities of the two non-native languages and the timbral and decorative vocal styles of both the call to prayer and Hindi film song performance.

Young makes a powerful contribution to a range of fields including the study of Islam, linguistics, music learning, (post)colonialism, and South-South cultural flows. Most importantly, through this paper Katie Young suggests an innovative approach to ‘listening’ that combines pedagogy with pleasure and religious doctrine with popular culture, in ways that challenge longstanding boundaries within our research fields. The original and imaginative paper brings together a thorough historical account with lively first-hand descriptions, also supported by very illustrative audio-visual extracts.

This paper makes a valuable contribution to the discipline, and is a pleasure to read.


Dr Fiorella Montero-Diaz (Chair BFE Student Prize Panel)

Dr Sue Miller

Dr Ioannis Tsioulakis


3 May 2018

The BFE is delighted to announce the introduction of a new Ethnomusicology Film Award at the RAI Film Festival, to be held from 27-30 March 2019 at the Watershed Cinema in Bristol (UK). Submissions to the Festival are now open. Films can be submitted via a (short) form on the RAI website or via FilmFreeway. The description of the Ethnomusicology Film Award can be found in the 'Awards' section of the BFE website here. We welcome submissions from independent filmmakers as well as researchers in all areas of music and sound studies. We look forward to receiving your submissions and watching your films!

The BFE Committee is delighted to announce that Dr Simon McKerrell (Newcastle University) has now taken up the position of Chair of the BFE. The previous Chair, Dr Barley Norton, will remain on the Committee for a short transition period, but all matters relating to the Chair’s role should now be directed to the new Chair. Many congratulations to Simon!

With the new Committee members previously announced, the BFE Committee is comprised as follows:

Simon McKerrell
Committee Members: 
Ruard Absaroka
Stephen Wilford
Shzr Ee Tan
Fiorella Montero Diaz
Deirdre Morgan
Matthew Machin-Autenrieth
Frances Wilkins
David Wong

Dear BFE members, 

Following the recent call for nominations for election to the BFE Committee, I would like to update you on the membership of the Committee.

Following the call, we received nominations from Deirdre Morgan (Membership Liaison), Matthew Machin-Autenrieth (Conference Co-Liaison), Ruard Absaroka (Treasurer) and David Wong (Website Administrator). 

As the four nominations did not exceed the number of Committee places available, voting is not required and all nominated candidates are deemed to have been elected (see Rule 7ii of the BFE constitution, see

I’m delighted, therefore, to welcome Deirdre and Matthew to the Committee and I am pleased that Ruard Absaroka and David Wong are re-elected to their current roles. These appointments will commence following the next AGM at our annual conference in Newcastle. At the next AGM, Frances Wilkins (Elphinstone Institute, University of Aberdeen) will also be co-opted for a one-year term as Annual Conference Liaison. 

Three committee members, Byron Dueck, Ilana Webster-Kogen and Keith Howard have come to the end of their terms and will stand down after the next AGM. On behalf of the committee, I would like to extend my sincere thanks to Byron, Ilana and Keith for the invaluable contribution they have made to the BFE. Although no longer on the Committee, Keith has agreed to continue to act as the ICTM Liaison until the next ICTM World Conference in Bangkok in July 2019, for which he is programme co-chair. 

Calls for further nominations to posts on the BFE Committee will be sent out later in the year.

Barley Norton

Chair, British Forum for Ethnomusicology

Congratulations to BFE member Frances Wilkins, who has released a new book publication in the SOAS Musicology Series called Singing The Gospel Along Scotland's North-East Coast, 1859-2009 (Routledge 2018). This volume will be of interest to anyone with an interest in various aspects of ethnomusicology, including sacred singing traditions, congregational singing, Scottish ethnology, hymnody, group singing. music and revival, history of Scottish music in worship. 

Frances will be officially launching the book during the BFE annual conference in Newcastle in April 2018, and further details about the book (including a link to purchase the volume in both Hardback and eBook formats) follow below. Well done Frances!

Frances Wilkins, Singing The Gospel Along Scotland's North-East Coast, 1859-2009, Routledge, SOAS Musicology Series, 2018

Following three years of ethnomusicological fieldwork on the sacred singing traditions of evangelical Christians in North-East Scotland and Northern Isles coastal communities, Frances Wilkins documents and analyses current singing practices in this book by placing them historically and contemporaneously within their respective faith communities. In ascertaining who the singers were and why, when, where, how and what they chose to sing, the study explores a number of related questions. How has sacred singing contributed to the establishment and reinforcement of individual and group identities both in the church and wider community? What is the process by which specific regional repertoires and styles develop? Which organisations and venues have been particularly conducive to the development of sacred singing in the community? How does the subject matter of songs relate to the immediate environment of coastal inhabitants? How and why has gospel singing in coastal communities changed? 

These questions are answered with comprehensive reference to interview material, fieldnotes, videography and audio field recordings. As one of the first pieces of ethnomusicological research into sacred music performance in Scotland, this ethnography draws important parallels between practices in the North East and elsewhere in the British Isles and across the globe.


Following the call for applications for the 2018 BFE Fieldwork Grant Awards scheme, the BFE is delighted to announce that a total of four fieldwork grants have been awarded for 2018. Once again, the standard of applications was extremely high. We offer our congratulations to Sara Selleri, Georgette Nummelin, Gabrielle Messeder and Soosan Lolavar, who are the 2018 grant recipients. For further information about their fieldwork research projects see:

Barley Norton
Chair, British Forum for Ethnomusicology