One Unspoken Reality of Ethnomusicology, Among Many

Today, I was treated to a once-a-year opportunity. I attended the Northeast Chapter of the Society for Ethnomusicology’s Annual Meeting. Held on the 9th floor of the Photonics Center at Boston University, not only was a plethora of knowledge literally at my doorstep, but it was free. And for a college student, that’s a very important thing. My professor of ethnomusicology, Dr. Brita Heimarck, is on the board of NECSEM. However, her involvement in today’s conference went so much further than merely hosting the event; she brought her gender instruments to the conference room, and she and the Gender Wayang Ensemble (consisting of graduate students) played a traditional gender wayang piece from Sukawati, Bali, Indonesia, a wayang performance complete with wayang puppets and an elaborate Boston T(ea) story (explained later), and played an original composition of the graduate students, based on a traditional round. Needless to say, the performance was a highlight of an extraordinary day: thank you, Dr. Heimarck.

The NECSEM conference consisted of about twenty various students of ethnomusicology who gave half hour long presentations on various pieces of research that they had conducted recently. The vast diversity among the topics was completely overwhelming at first, but seriously offered a great look into the minds of the ethnomusicologists that attended the conference today. For this I was grateful. I discovered an aspect of ethnomusicology that no one really addressed or spoke about, but which instilled in me an enormous amount of respect for the subject.

I’m sure that everyone at the conference today could sit down and talk about “their specialty”; the area of the world, the time period, the instrument, the history behind their work, the politics of their music that they find themselves passionate about above all other subjects. And literally every lecture that I sat through today, all twelve, I found myself in awe of the passion and excitement that emanated from each and every speaker, no matter how specific or focused their research was. Yet, everyone gave as much attention to the other lectures as they did their own, following each presentation carefully, and wanting to understand each subject different from their own better that they couldn’t help but go over the allotted time asking questions, specific and general. I realized that the respect for ethnomusicology surpasses ones own excitement for the subject. It is not a profession filled with individual work. Instead, it is an arena for communal integration of knowledge, a constant forum where new ideas and things are shared openly and freely. It is the biggest form of education in the field of ethnomusicology: learning from others, exposing yourself to new and different things, and always being open-minded and ready to think about something in a unique light, to infect your already diverse mind with an additional unique piece of knowledge. Perhaps this quality is common in any field of work in which someone finds themselves passionate about the work. It’s just nice to know that I see an competitive, yet friendly and communal field ahead of me. That, in itself, is comforting beyond belief.

Funny- as I just ended that paragraph, “August’s Rhapsody” just ended on my iTunes shuffle. It ends with a quote from the movie “The music is all around us. All you have to do is listen.” It couldn’t be said any better than that. I’ll include the music below.

Soon to come, I hope to explore most, if not all┬áthe lecture topics that I was exposed to today at the NECSEM conference. I fear that if I were to attempt to tell you about the conference in one fell swoop here, you would either (a) get bored, or (b) stop reading. So, I’ll break the subjects up to a single post on each one, that way, you can read about the subjects most intriguing to you. Have a fantastic night, and as always, stay safe, stay healthy, and keep on smiling. :D

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