News archive

Two honours went to ethnomusicologists

The Jerome Roche Prize 2010, "for a distinguished article by a scholar in the early stages of his or her career", was awarded to David Irving for his article 'Comparative Organography in Early Modern Empires', Music & 
Letters 90/3 (2009): 372–398.  See information

The Dent Medal 2010, "awarded to recipients selected for their outstanding contribution to musicology", went to Martin Stokes. See information

Many congratulations!

Around the World in 30 Days: a month of events celebrating World Music featuring musicians from the School of Oriental and African Studies and the World‟s top conservatoires.

Throughout March, The Gallery Cafe will host live music performances, workshops, talks and films; as well as the chance to sample food and traditions from around the world.

Mondays- Open Acoustic Evenings with a world music twist

Thursdays –Film nights featuring talks and workshops

Fridays and Saturdays- Concerts and workshops

Full listings and tickets will be available from the website.

Juniper Hill has been awarded a research grant from the European Union worth over one quarter of a million euros to work on her project "Sociocultural Enablers and Inhibitors of Musical Creativity: A Cross-Cultural Comparison." She will be taking a two-year research leave from her permanent position at University College Cork, Ireland, to be a Marie Curie Fellow in the Faculty of Music at Cambridge University. At Cambridge she will be collaborating with musicologist Nicholas Cook and the AHRC Research Centre for Musical Performance as Creative Practice. The project will also involve fieldwork in Finland and California.

By Trevor Wiggins

Society for Ethnomusicology meetings tend to be large, and this year’s gathering in Los Angeles (11-14 November 2010) was vying to be the largest yet with around 1200 delegates. Within the welter of up to nine parallel sessions at any time, various interest groups (such as those focusing on African music, Music Education, Medical or Historical Ethnomusicology) arrange meetings shoehorned into spaces in the timetable, often when delegates are most desperate to revive themselves with a drink and/or some food. By far the largest and most successful meeting this year was the British Forum for Ethnomusicology High Tea Party at 5.30 on 12th November. Organising the event with the hotel took Ruth Hellier-Tinoco around 7 months and over 100 emails (don’t ask for the details) and even then various members of the BFE smuggled packets of English biscuits into the USA to authentically supplement the menu. Although we had catered for 80+ delegates sharing our tea, the space was packed and overflowed into the lobby, with more people attracted by both the noise of conversation and the traditional English ‘Palm Court Orchestra’ music we played to support our ironic take on the ‘tea party’ (with its USA meanings as well). Having pulled in at least double the number of attendees of any other interest group meetings, Chair Caroline Bithell was able to plug the serious side of the gathering, making our international colleagues more aware of the work that the BFE does—and making sure they knew what the acronym really stands for and there is also an online usage to describe something wacky and out of sight as ‘Beyond F****** Egypt.’ Trevor Wiggins was also able to plug the next annual conference in Falmouth and show the conference website at The event was very successful in raising our profile—the tea and cakes certainly helped—so there are plans to consider a similar event next year in Pennsylvania. Anyone for tea?

1 Nov 2010

Jonathan Stock will be leaving Sheffield where he has been since 1998 to take up the post of Associate Dean, Research at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, which is part of the University of Sydney. The BFE is sad to hear that Jonathan will be leaving the UK but wishes him all the best in his new job. We're sure you will wish to join us in sending Jonathan our warmest congratulations and sincere thanks for all that he has done for ethnomusicology in the UK over many years! We look forward to continuing our association across the globe.

Caroline Bithell, BFE Chair

I cried on the mountain top: Images from the Afghanaid archive (1980-2010) with traditional Afghan poetry, selected and translated by Veronica Doubleday. 64pp with Introduction, Notes and Further Reading. Price £10. The publication supports ongoing Afghanaid projects in Afghanistan.

The book combines stunning archive images with evocative song texts to present a portrait of Afghanistan of the past three decades, and it is complemented by beautiful calligraphy in the original Persian. In selecting the poetry, Veronica has drawn on her authoritative knowledge of an important orally transmitted singing tradition also discussed in a forthcoming Ethnomusicology Forum article. Copies will be available at this Saturday's BFE conference, or directly from Veronica (

The Angolan Roots of Capoeira

The AHRC-funded project “The Angolan Roots of Capoeira” explores the transatlantic links between the Afro-Brazilian martial art capoeira and particular Angolan traditions. An extended period of civil war made it difficult to carry out fieldwork in Angola until recently. So this research is about to enter exciting new territory. It will not only fill a significant gap in scholarship but also disseminate its outcomes in a documentary and journals available to the wider public. See details.

Symposium Report by Thomas Hilder

The symposium Music, Indigeneity & Digital Media took place from 15th to 16th April 2010 at the Music Department, Royal Holloway, University of London (RHUL). Organised by Thomas Hilder, Shzr Ee Tan and Henry Stobart, the event brought together leading scholars from five continents engaged in research on music and the role of digital media in negotiating and transforming the politics of indigeneity in a range of contexts around the world. Consisting of paper presentations, a roundtable discussion and a film showing, the symposium set out to explore the issues of representation and revival, production and consumption, archives and outreach, place and environment, authorship and ownership, through indigenous musical performance. The event was supported with generous funding from Indigeneity in the Contemporary World: Politics, Performance, Belonging (European Research Council) and the Arts Faculty of Royal Holloway.

An announcement from Martin Stokes

This prize is offered for the best student paper presented at the BFE annual conference, 2010, held in Oxford. A panel of four readers evaluated some 19 papers submitted for consideration. All on the panel agreed that the standard was exceptionally high this year, unsurprising, perhaps, given the record number of attendees at the conference. It gives me great pleasure to announce that the prize this year is awarded to Stephanie Conn, currently a PhD candidate in ethnomusicology at the University at Toronto, for her paper "Getting To Know a Song: Memory, Social Interaction and Discourse in Cape Breton Gaelic Singing" The judges were impressed by many aspects of the work. They found the paper engaged contemporary theory with sophistication and depth, reflected productively on interesting fieldwork, and engaged some pressing questions about memory, change and transmission in traditional repertoires, attending well to both discursive and material environments. The paper's attention to the supple historicity of song in the New World Gaelic context was remarked on by several members of the panel. Congratulations, Stephanie, on this award! Thanks, and congratulations too, to all those who submitted such well-written and thought-provoking papers this year. The award will be announced at the AGM at the conference next year in Falmouth.

By Anna Bull

The National Graduate Conference for Ethnomusicology, held in September at the Institute of Musical Research in London, presented a diversity of approaches from current graduate students in ethnomusicology and related music disciplines. The conference was themed ‘Doing Ethnomusicology: implications and applications’ in anticipation of the Research Excellence Framework which will include an assessment of the impact of research.

Papers ranged from the more traditional end of ethnomusicology such as Jyoshna Joanne Latrobe’s detailed account of devotional singing in Bengal, India; to the technological such as Francis Ward’s virtual fieldwork examining the transmission of Irish traditional music through youtube and Skype; to the global such as Irfan Zuberi’s study of the commercialisation of khanquhi qawwali in India. Ethnomusicology ‘at home’ was also well represented in papers examining British pan performance, musical scenes in Chester, and religious music in London. Future directions of EM were also on the agenda. Caroline Bithell argued during the ‘professional trajectories’ roundtable that ethnomusicology is a growth discipline; certainly the broadness of its scope as seen at this conference will facilitate the future proliferation of ethnomusicologists in academia! And as Fiona Magowan argued during a lively final roundtable discussion on ‘ethnomusicology, activism and the public sphere’, the requirement to assess the ‘impact’ of research may affect EM as a discipline in unexpected ways, as the impact is difficult if not impossible to gauge before starting a piece of research.

Tia DeNora’s keynote speech provided another example of a discipline extending itself to ask old questions in new ways. DeNora is, of course, a sociologist, and her paper ‘Music’s Impact: Toward a Strongest Possible Case’, suggested ways in which the socio-cultural study of music can be a tool to explore questions of performing identities and ontological security. This paper was based on DeNora’s ongoing ethnography of community music therapy, asking how music can help develop transferable skills for the ‘presentation of self’.

As with the best conferences, the most stimulating intellectual discussion went on in the coffee breaks and in the pub. As someone migrating from an alien discipline (sociology), I was left wondering whether the fact that we were all studying the same cultural artefact, music, gave us enough in common to make a distinct discipline out of us. I explored this question during coffee-break discussions over ‘what is ethnomusicology?’ and ‘what’s the difference between ethnomusicology and musical anthropology?’, questions prompted by the diversity of approaches, research areas, and styles of research (if I can use so vague a term) in the papers presented.

I found it especially exciting to be in such a vibrant graduate student environment where we owned the space, allowing me to ask all manner of stupid questions. The organisers, Carolyn
Landau and Emma Brinkhurst, academic advisor Barley Norton, and indefatigable administrator Valerie James, did a superb job of organising the event and creating an open and welcoming space for us. Watch out for the next graduate student conference, which is scheduled for September 12 – 14, 2012.