BFE Student Paper Prize 2014

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)