Posts Tagged ‘ethnomusicology’


March 31, 2009

Warning: This entry contains some Shameless Self-Promotion.

Ryan Bañagale at that school across the river wrote this about the Boston University Music Society graduate student conference held Saturday. As one of those who helped organize it and, in particular, arranged for the keynote speaker and helped select the papers that were presented, I feel a bit like crowing. Caw. Caw.


Transparent Barriers

March 30, 2009

I’m currently working on the biography chapter of my dissertation. I’ve been making notes from each of the three published biographies then trying to verify the information (some truly blatant errors in those books, by the way). In my search for “correct” information, I have found that the Country Music Hall of Fame has an impressive collection of oral histories, including recordings of Margaret Everly, as well as other informants who played with or knew Ike Everly. There are also recordings of key figures in the story such as Wesley Rose. I’m now waiting to hear from the historian at CMHF about access to those histories.

I have also discovered that the Kentucky State Library and Archives has collected newspaper and magazine clippings concerning the Everly Brothers. It is more than they are willing to photocopy and mail, so I’m currently trying to find a local researcher who can do it for me (for pay, of course).

Ideally I would talk to Don and/or Phil in a sort of ethnographic interview. I found a phone number for one of them today (thank you, oh great internet gods), but I can’t imagine what I would say in a phone call to convince him that I am a legitimate researcher and not some kooky fan stalking him. Bruno Nettl and Helen Meyers are silent on this topic. I’m going to sit and contemplate this for a few days. Maybe ask my advisor. But I keep looking at that number and thinking this is too good to be true. Only People magazine has phone numbers like this, right?

And therein lies one of the strange problems with doing musicological research in the area of popular music. If your subject is alive and famous, your access will probably be restricted or heavily mediated, assuming you can get any access. If you can’t, then whatever you can learn through secondary sources is, again, heavily mediated. This is, of course, a common dilemma for the historical musicologist, who deals exclusively with artifacts and descriptions that have been processed by both humans and time. The ethnomusicologist, on the other hand, can interact directly with the music-making subjects and objects, reporting her findings with or without critique. I feel caught between the two worlds and know that most of what gather from secondary sources (newspapers, magazines, fan biographies, websites, liner notes, etc.) has been “spun” to meet a marketing need; in other words, the information is presented as a transparent barrier. None of the writers on methodology for popular music studies seem to address this and many of the works I’ve read maintain a distance with the actual subject, as if they were dead. I am not satisfied with taking that approach, but I’m not certain yet how to negotiate this new territory.

Graduate Student Conference

January 28, 2009

I’m a (founding) member of the Boston University Music Society, a group for the musicology, ethnomusicology, and music theory students at BU. I’m going to shamelessly plug our upcoming graduate student conference. 

Our keynote speaker is Dr. Kiri Miller from Brown University. Her talk is tentatively titled “Virtual Virtuosity and Mediated Musicality: Why Guitar Hero Players Don’t Just Play Real Guitars.”  We have six student papers being presented that day that represent the wide and varied research interest of graduate students today. I served on the program committee and I am quite excited by both the submissions we had and the choices we made. You can see the program and read the abstracts here.

So if you’re in Boston on March 28, stop by. We are still making arrangements, but it looks like we’ll be in room B12 of the College of Arts and Sciences building, 725 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston. Keep checking our website for information or email us at bums _at_