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The School of Society and Culture at the University of Plymouth is delighted to host the BFE/RMA Research Students’ Conference from 6th to 8th January 2022. The Call for Proposals deadline is Friday 1 October 23:59 GMT - for further details please visit the Conference event page.

We offer huge congratulations to BFE Member Ross Cole, whose new monograph has just been published! Entitled 'The Folk: Music, Modernity, and the Political Imagination', this compelling work traces the musical culture of folk musicians in Britain and the US during the period of industrialisation from 1870 to 1930, and beyond. The work is published by University of California Press, Oakland and is available to purchase now from the UCP website and Amazon (paperback and Kindle editions).

This year, the BFE will be hosting our own two-day Autumn Conference (12th-13th November 2021, online via Zoom) with the theme 'Ethnomusicology in 2022 and Beyond': to view the Call for Contributions, please visit the BFE Autumn Conference 2021 page of our website. We look forward to welcoming you all to this exciting online event in November!

The BFE Committee is delighted to announce that Dunya Habash (University of Cambridge) has been awarded the 2021 BFE Student Prize for her paper ‘“Do Like You Did in Aleppo”: Negotiating Space and Place Among Syrian Musicians in Istanbul’. The prize recognises an outstanding paper presented by a student at the BFE Annual Conference, this year hosted 8–11 April by Bath Spa University.

The paper explores how Syrian refugee musicians in Istanbul maintain traditions in displacement, re-conceptualising Philip Bohlman’s idea of ‘aesthetic agency’ with respect to refugee music making. It highlights the difficulties of integrating into a new society where spatial, social, material, and economic realities have changed significantly. It is especially concerned with processes of inward, rather than outward, negotiation as refugees come to terms with the musical opportunities and limitations that they encounter in contexts of displacement.

Judges praised the paper for its contribution to studies of music and forced migration, for conveying genuinely new knowledge, and for engaging with debates in several fields. They also commended the compelling presentation and sensitive interpretation of the author’s ethnographic data.

The judges for this year’s competition were Dr Klisala Harrison, Academy of Finland Research Scholar at the University of Helsinki, Dr Andrew Killick, Reader in Ethnomusicology at the University of Sheffield, and Dr Byron Dueck, Senior Lecturer in Music at the Open University. They extend their congratulations to Habash and their thanks to the other entrants for the opportunity to engage with their research.

Dear BFE Members,

We are inviting all members of the BFE to vote on the list of proposed sub-topics below, which will form the basis of the conference’s Call for Papers. We invite you to indicate up to four preferred options from this list:

  • Decolonising Ethnomusicology
  • Ethnomusicology Beyond the Academy
  • Ethnomusicological Discourse Beyond the Anglo-American
  • Ethnomusicology and Education
  • Ethnomusicology, Health and Wellbeing
  • Ethnomusicology and the Human Life Cycle: Children, Family, and the Elderly
  • Ethnomusicology and Privilege
  • Ethnomusicology and Racial (In)Justice

You can cast your vote until 11pm on Wednesday 9 June via this link:

We look forward to hearing your opinions and welcoming you to the conference in November.

The British Forum for Ethnomusicology seeks nominations for election for an open position on the BFE Committee. There is no specific portfolio or specialist requirement for the role; it is anticipated that prospective candidates will indicate in their proposal statement the area/s that they would be keen to work in.

It is vital for the future of the BFE that we have a strong Committee so please do consider nominating yourself. We are looking for committed committee members who will make an important contribution to the day-to-day running and future development of the BFE. In line with our equality ambitions as a subject association, we welcome nominations that will help the Committee reflect the diversity of our membership and discipline.

General responsibilities of Committee members include:

  • attending 2-3 BFE Committee meetings each year
  • engaging proactively in BFE business
  • contributing creatively to BFE strategies and initiatives
  • engaging in regular email communication with the Committee
  • writing short reports on BFE activities for the annual Chair’s Report
  • participating, when necessary, in working groups on specific BFE tasks

If you wish to stand for election you must be nominated by one BFE member and seconded by another. Please send a proposal of no more than a single side of A4, which will be forwarded to the BFE membership by email and our list serve prior to voting. Include:

  • Your name and a contact address
  • Your current employment
  • The names of the BFE members who have nominated and seconded your candidacy (it is not necessary for the nominators to email the Chair separately about the nomination)
  • Length of time you have been a BFE member
  • A statement outlining why you think you are suitable for being a member of the BFE Committee, highlighting relevant skills, experience, or previous time served on the Committee

Nominations must be sent by email to Byron Dueck ( ( by the end of Friday 18th June 2021.

In order to vote you need to be a current member of BFE, so please renew your membership for 2021 if you have not done so already. Online voting will take place soon after the deadline for nominations and the results will be announced at the next AGM, which is scheduled to be held during the 2022 Annual Conference hosted by the Open University.

On 26th March, the Office for Students (OfS) released its ‘Consultation on recurrent funding for 2021–22’, which proposes an allocation of government funds to UK Universities in the upcoming academic year. One of the most disturbing proposals is a 50% cut to funds allocated to music, dance, drama, the performing arts, art and design, media studies, and archaeology. These disciplines, the OfS believes, are ‘high cost’ and ‘not among [the Government’s] strategic priorities’.

Most of us missed the release of the document until this past weekend when several organisations, including the Musicians’ Union, tweeted their anger over such drastic cuts. Academics, teachers, and even one of the Government's own MPs has now taken up the cause. They encourage members of the public to express their outage by the end of the consultation period on 6th May.

This Government has not hidden its distrust of music, media, and drama. The Department for Education (DfE) clearly does not view them as ensuring our collective future prosperity. Gavin Williamson initially proposed these cuts in a letter of 19th January 2021. Going back further to May 2019, the Augar Report referred to ‘low value’ and ‘high value’ degrees, offering new nomenclature for classifying university subjects. Although the proposed OfS budget is not directly linked to the Augar Report, the budget creates a ‘new price group’ called C1.2 for these ‘low priority’ subjects. One cannot help but see C1.2 as the new ‘low value’ category with the attached epithet of ‘high cost’ to boot.

The OfS rationale for these cuts is that these subjects do not offer growth: ‘STEM and healthcare subjects....are much more relevant than those in the proposed price group C1.2 to the government’s “Plan for Growth”, which prioritises investments and skills in science, technology and health’. These investments, furthermore, will ‘maintain...the UK’s position as a leader in science and innovation’.

This logic reveals that the DfE has no understanding of the roles the media, archaeology, and creative arts play in society. Those who study media understand how communication shapes worldview. Archaeologists bring the forgotten past into the fold of the present so we rediscover and learn from it. Artists inspire new horizons of life and living, and suggest connections between disparate parts of our everyday lives: looking at a painting or going to a concert encourages reflection on our daily interactions, our priorities, and even our politics. When I stood in the Tower Ballroom in 2019 to watch the Birmingham Opera Company perform Dimitri Shostakovich’s Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, for instance, I not only revelled in the power of Shostakovich’s social commentary, but also considered the contemporary possibilities of a more inclusive and representative art which reflects the diversity of the UK. Two years on, I still think about the vision of the work, and the others who were there with me—doctors, solicitors, and scientists. Art brings humans together and lingers in the mind. It reshapes our collective values and perceptions of the world over time.

Indeed, it’s important to remember how fundamental the arts are to the functioning of society. As I write this from home, one of my neighbours is teaching the basics of spoken language to her toddler through song; another neighbour is painting a room to the soundtrack of BBC Radio 1. High-street shops fill spaces with sound and art. As we come out of lockdown and engage with our local communities again, we all perform as we speak. Using the grain of our voices, emphasising syllables, structuring our speech through rhythm, and making the occasional sing-song melody with a phrase, we express ourselves and our ideas. How we think is creative. How we remember is visual and sonic. How we connect to one another is artistic. It takes training—a great deal of training, in fact—to teach these forms of connection and communication. We—all of us—need this funding intact for society to function and grow.

Growth does not occur in a laboratory—it occurs in society. Human creators use art, sound, and science together to innovate. This is easiest to see in the polymath artist/scientists of history: Leonardo da Vinci, Beatrix Potter, Fazlur Rahman Khan, and Abu Yusuf Ya’qub ibn Ishaq Al-Kindi all cross-fertilised scientific innovation and the arts, and we remember their profound achievements today. Most of us are not polymaths, so we instead need to foster collaboration between science and the arts. Both need investment: innovation and creation cannot occur without creativity. If the government does not fund creativity, creation will not occur.

With these cuts, the government is saying that we don’t need to understand communication, listen to music, understand the past, or create. We do not even need the next generation of artist innovators: whoever could be the next Edward Elgar, William Turner, or Lady Leshurr will not appear. What kind of desolate future awaits us? It’s difficult not to feel a profound sense of loss already for those who may not have an opportunity to flourish and inspire.

There is still time to rectify this. Participate in the consultation. Write to your MP. Write to Gavin Williamson. Share your experiences of art, science, and innovation. Let us teach these politicians of the artistry omnipresent in everyday life because, clearly, they aren’t living with the rest of us.


Dr Alexander M. Cannon is Co-Editor of Ethnomusicology Forum and a lecturer at the University of Birmingham.


We are delighted to announce the winner and commendation for the first BFE Early Career Prize. This prize is awarded biennially for a distinguished article written by a BFE member who is in the early stages of their career. The recipient of the prize will be invited to deliver a keynote lecture on behalf of the BFE at the annual BFE-RMA Research Students Conference, to be held at the University of Plymouth in January 2022. 

The first prize is awarded to Dr Lyndsey Copeland (University of Toronto) for her 2019 article ‘The Anxiety of Blowing: Experiences of Breath and Brass instruments in Benin’, Africa, 89(2), 353-377. The prize committee said that Copeland’s innovative and engaging article provides a really thought-provoking exploration of relationships between breath, affect and brass performance in Benin. Copeland introduces new ways of thinking about breath and breathing and about the human body – musical instrument relationship: the article interrogates ‘a common phenomenology of breathing across cultures, and serves to advance breath as an important site of meaning making’. The article is beautifully written and illustrated: a joy to read.

The commendation goes to Dr Phil Alexander (University of Glasgow) for his 2018 article ‘“Our City of Love and of Slaughter”: Berlin Klezmer and the Politics of Place’, Ethnomusicology Forum, 27(1), 25-47. The prize panel found this to be an insightful, complex piece of research exploring how music produces the place. The article explores the distinct backgrounds and performance practices of three Berlin “klezmer” bands focusing on their approaches to both repertoire and to documenting Berlin, past and present.

Congratulations to Lyndsey and Phil, and thanks to everyone who submitted their articles. The prize committee noted an admirably high level of scholarship; a fine generation of scholars is clearly in the making. 

A huge thanks also to Dr Hettie Malcomson, Dr David Hughes and Professor John Baily for serving on the prize committee.   

Submissions are invited for the BFE Student Prize that is awarded annually for the best student paper presented at the BFE Annual Conference. All students who are presenting papers at the online BFE Annual Conference hosted by Bath Spa University (8th-11th April 2021) are strongly encouraged to submit their papers for consideration. Only papers from students who are BFE members are eligible. This initiative is designed to support and recognise the work of student members of our scholarly community. The papers will be reviewed by a BFE prize panel.

Please note that your paper should not be significantly revised prior to submission. The text should be as for your 20-minute presentation and should not be more than 3000 words. Please do not submit a longer version of your paper as submissions that are clearly over length will be disregarded. If it is important for audio or audiovisual materials to be considered with the text of your paper, please include web links to these materials (on YouTube, Vimeo etc.), along with any necessary passwords to access links if they are private. Powerpoint or other presentation slides should not be included, though important images from slides can be incorporated into the body of the paper.

Papers should be sent as a PDF, Word or RTF attachment to the Chair of the BFE:

The deadline for submissions is midnight Monday 26th April 2021 and the result will be announced by the end of May.

We look forward to receiving your paper.

Simon McKerrell

Chair, British Forum for Ethnomusicology (BFE)

Please respond by 8th April 2021

The British Forum for Ethnomusicology (BFE) invites expressions of interest from institutions interested in hosting the BFE Annual and One-Day Conferences in 2022 and 2023.

Annual Conferences 2022 and 2023

BFE Annual Conferences run for four days (from Thursday to Sunday) and are usually held in April during the Easter vacation period. Annual Conferences typically have a theme, although delegates may present research on any subject of interest to ethnomusicologists. A summary of past Annual Conferences can be found at

One-Day Conferences 2022 and 2023

BFE One-Day Conferences are usually held on Saturdays in November (although late October and early December are also possibilities). They are more narrowly themed than Annual Conferences and focus on specific, sometimes emerging, areas of ethnomusicologicial enquiry. Interdisciplinary approaches are encouraged. A summary of past One-Day Conferences can be found at

Expressing Interest

For further information or informal conversations about the possibility of hosting these conferences, please contact Matthew Machin-Autenrieth at (in relation to the annual conference) and Stephen Wilford at (in relation to the one-day conference). We would be happy to meet to discuss hosting during the forthcoming Annual Conference at the University of Aberdeen.

To express interest, please send no more than one side of paper outlining
• a proposed theme;
• who will be responsible for planning the event;
• the advantages of hosting it at your institution.