Ethnomusicology Conference Draws Worldwide Audience

It’s all about politics, about western influences, Asian influences, African influences, gender relations, protest, genocide, violence, spirituality, centuries of culture, the latest fad, and performers in the New York Subway system and more than a hundred other topics set in disparate times, places and civilizations.

Which is all another way of saying it’s all about music. Specifically, the Annual Meeting for the Society for Ethnomusicology (SEM), which will be held Oct. 25-28 at Wesleyan.  The annual conference will draw over 700 academic researchers, students, musicians and administrators who will gather to discuss music and its influence on an array of topics that could conservatively be called “broad.” These include, but are by no means limited to:

“Intercultural Aesthetics in Afro-Ukrainian Hip-Hop”

“Music of the Rawandan Genocide”

“Spectacle and Performance in the New York City Subway System”

“What Makes it National? Popular Music and National Movements in the Middle
East and Central Asia”

Eric Charry (Photo courtesy of Afropop.com).

Eric Charry (Photo courtesy of Afropop.com).

“This is a conference that will draw people from all over the world who will discuss virtually every type of music style,” says Eric Charry, associate professor of music, local arrangements committee chair. “We’re very excited about hosting this here, as well. Usually the conference is held at a hotel or conference center. This is only the second time in recent history that the conference has been held on the grounds of a university, so it really gives this year’s events a true academic underpinning. And in a way, it’s a homecoming for ethnomusicology.”

Charry refers to the fact that Wesleyan was one of the first institutions in the world to offer ethnomusicology as a major and a Ph.D. course of study. He cites the groundbreaking work done by former professor David MacAllester, who co-founded the Society for Ethnomusicology in the 1950s and founded Wesleyan’s World Music program in the 1960s.

“Two of the Society for Ethnomusicology’s presidents have also come from Wesleyan,” Charry says. “David MacAllester and Mark Slobin.”

In addition, Wesleyan recently created a virtual instrument museum http://learningobjects.wesleyan.edu/vim/ which has become a tremendous resource to ethnomusicologists and teachers world wide.

Charry also points out that when so many musicians gather, they are going to play. Three concerts will be held every night running from 9 p.m. until midnight comprising a vast array of musical styles and types.

“The concerts will feature Asian music, African music, Latin American and Caribbean music and a variety of other styles and types,” he says. “It really will be amazing.”

There will also be workshops, which include a presentation on “Shape Note Singing” featuring Neely Bruce, professor of music, and “Hollywood Music” featuring Jeanine Basinger, Corwin Fuller Professor of Film Studies, chair of film studies, and Mark Slobin, professor of music. A schedule of all the events can be found at: http://sem2008.blogs-staging.wesleyan.edu/conference-schedule/ .

The conference has been scheduled to coincide with Wesleyan’s fall break, so all events will be held on campus.

“This is the major event for Ethnomusicology and World Music this year, and there will be hundreds of scholars and musicians from all over the world here,” Charry says. “Wesleyan is the center of it all so it’s very exciting.”

For more information on the conference go to:
http://www.indiana.edu/~semhome/2008/index.shtml

To see the blog on the conference go to:
http://sem2008.blogs-staging.wesleyan.edu/