Ethnomusicology

babiracki_carolCarol M. Babiracki, Syracuse University
CMS Board Member for Ethnomusicology

The College Music Society’s engagement with world music and ethnomusicological perspectives took some significant steps forward in 2012, demonstrating real improvement over the previous year. At the national conference in San Diego, world music was integrated into a greater range of activities and formats than in the previous year, including a pre-conference; a panel on curriculum; nine individual papers; a workshop; demos and new compositions (at least four of them); performance (the highly successful international perspectives concert and the mariachi group that serenaded the closing reception); a Routledge focus group; a poster session; and the mock interview/career mentoring program.

The Pre-Conference workshop in World Musics: Asia, Africa, and Latin America, hosted by the University of San Diego and Lewis Peterman of the Center for World Music, offered a feast of demos and hands-on experiences in South Indian rhythm, Chinese qin music, Persian classical music, mbira music of Zimbabwe, and the Mexican Son Jarocho (music and dance). Unfortunately, the workshop attracted only a handful of attendees, though all of us got lots of personal attention. In the future, I would love to see such workshops more fully integrated into the conference itself, giving everyone more opportunities to attend workshops of their choice. To that end, the Ethnomusicology Advisory Committee and I have proposed two workshops for the 2013 conference in Cambridge, MA on the theme “Embodied Pedagogy.” Performance has always been part of the ethnomusicologist’s toolbox, but the young scholar/teachers featured in these workshops are leaders in developing embodiment as a pedagogical practice at the college level.

The panel, called What is the Core Curriculum: Why Ethnomusicology Matters, featured a stellar lineup of ethnomusicologists (Eileen Mayes, Patricia Shehan Campbell, Timothy Rice, James Scott, Deborah Wong and myself) discussing a variety of innovative approaches and best practices to integrating ethnomusicology into general studies and music core curricula. The panel was well attended by close to 50 participants, and it was clear by the end that we had barely scratched the surface of a big topic. I would like to see a panel such as this become a regular feature of the CMS national conference. To that end, I have proposed a follow-up panel for 2013, Continuing the Core Conversation: New Models for World Music in both ethnomusicology and general studies areas. Panelists will include Gordon Thompson (Skidmore College), Kay Kaufman Shelemay (Harvard), David Locke (Tufts), and Marie Abe (Boston University).

Performance: CMS’s commitment to international conferences, particularly the recent conferences in Croatia and Korea, resonated throughout the 2012 national conference. The International Perspectives Concert featured pianist Dalibor Cikojevic from the University of Zagreb and the Gyeongju City Chorale from South Korea. In addition, the conference featured at least four demonstrations and new compositions that engage non-Western aesthetics and musical principles, largely from East Asia.

Mentoring: Timothy Rice and I participated in mentoring/mock interview sessions with two, young ethnomusicologists who are just entering the job market, a rare and much-appreciated experience for both of them. This opportunity should be a feature of every CMS national conference and could be a model for regional conferences as well. In future, we should make an extra effort to advertise the opportunity through regional conferences and sister societies, especially the Society for Ethnomusicology.

Thinking ahead, I would like to encourage the Board Member for Ethnomusicology and Advisory Committee to move from reacting in the short-term to calls for proposals to formulating some longer-term objectives for the development of world music and ethnomusicology within CMS. This will require improvements in continuity from one conference to the next and from one Board Member to the next as well as better communication between CMS and SEM. I propose the following goals in 2013 to move us in this direction:

1. Improve the presence of ethnomusicology on the CMS website, more actively involving an expanded Advisory Committee that specifically includes music educators. The expanded committee might develop Forums and other features that will draw ethnomusicology faculty and students to the website more regularly.

2. Continue the integration of world music and global perspectives throughout the national and regional conferences. We should see improvement every year.

3. Make the ethnomusicology panel, featuring leaders in the field, a regular feature of every national conference.

4. Improve the hand-off from one ethnomusicology Board representative to the next.  Some sort of written guide would be helpful.

5. With an expanded Advisory Committee, it should be possible for a sub-group to meet face-to-face at least once a year, either at the CMS national conference or the SEM. This will go a long way to improving long-term planning. Furthermore, the out-going Board Member for Ethnomusicology should serve on the Advisory Committee for at least one year after completing the Board term.

6. Formalize the relationship between the CMS Board Member for Ethnomusicology and the SEM Second Vice-President, who is charged with maintaining liaisons to sister professional societies. At various times in the past, SEM has appointed an “official” liaison to CMS, but this comes and goes at the whim of the SEM President. Maintaining an active linkage should be part of the portfolio of the CMS Board