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I Has Been Edjumacated

The conference was lots of fun, but very long. Nine hundred ethnomusicologists swamping onto one little bitty college campus! I probably saw too many papers, and not all of the ones I saw were good, but there were a lot of interesting ones. And I also saw what one of my friends calls "the First Amendment paper." Apparently, there's roughly one paper every conference that's either so bad or so controversial that people feel that it's in there just to demonstrate free speech. In this case, it was a guy from Ohio State University talking about the ethics of secret recordings.

Actually, that's not quite accurate. He didn't talk too much about ethics at all; just expressed his views that secret recordings were always permissible and morally justified, even in the face of a recordee who specifically denied permission when asked directly. The guy basically came right out and said that all the music of the world belongs to ethnomusicologists by right, and who are people to deny it to us? Kind of like: performers aren't actually human, they're trees who produce apples that we can pick.

Ooo, I was so mad that I could spit! Right after he finished speaking, I jumped up and asked him if he saw any difference between just not asking for permission, thereby assuming consent, and going directly against someone's denial of permission, which Mom Pony taught baby me was basically lying. He just smiled and said he saw no difference, that everything was allowed in the pursuit of the holy object. Then I got to have the immense pleasure of hearing a luminary in the field tell him, in a very nice, conversational tone, that she thought that his paper was "morally repugnant." That's something you don't always hear in a high-level academic conversation!

So that was an interesting session. I also attended two panels on Jewish music and the meeting of the Jewish Music Special Interest Group. Made a few good contacts there. There was also a shape-note workshop with Neely Bruce and Tim Eriksen, which was fantastic, and I saw a very nice grad student that I'd met at a conference back in February, so we are fast becoming Conference Buddies.

Good times, good times. Next year, it's going to be in Mexico. I aim to be healthy enough to submit a paper for that one, because I've never been to Mexico!

Comments

( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
jelazakazone
Oct. 30th, 2008 01:20 pm (UTC)
I didn't even know there were 900 ethnomusicologists! Sounds like fun. That guy does sound morally repugnant. Good thing he's "only" an ethnomusicologist.

A workshop with Neely Bruce and Tim Eriksen; sounds like great fun. How is Tim's wife? My dh had the impression she had breast cancer (I don't remember anything about that, but the last time we saw them I had a sick two year old and was fairly pregnant with DD2 at the time, so I could have just been a little distracted:P).
frenchpony
Oct. 30th, 2008 01:36 pm (UTC)
Apparently, 900 ethnomusicologists is a relatively small conference, too!

The OSU guy admitted at the beginning that he's not an ethnomusicologist. He's (allegedly) a philosopher, though I can't imagine he's a very good one. He clearly has absolutely no idea of what fieldwork is actually like. He also said that his wife is an ethnomusicologist, and that she hated his paper as much as everyone else did.
dawtheminstrel
Oct. 30th, 2008 01:25 pm (UTC)
Sounds like fun, Pony. And like it was good for getting your blood pumping.
frenchpony
Oct. 30th, 2008 01:37 pm (UTC)
It was fun! I'll have to do it again next year.
berzerker_prime
Oct. 31st, 2008 03:01 am (UTC)
I know several folk with big sticks of rattan who we might be able to convince to give him a beat-down...

That is seriously disgusting. But, beyond that, if the entire cultural meaning of a song is lost when it is recorded, how can he claim to be studying the "ethno" part of ethnomusicology? Talk about missing the point entirely!

There are several songs that I know of in SCA circles where the entire point is to learn them from someone who knows them and not from a transcript or a recording. The idea is to experience the way songs were learned and taught in period. The song itself is only half of the culture behind it.

Luckily, it doesn't sound like this guy's ideas are going to get him very far.
frenchpony
Oct. 31st, 2008 03:08 am (UTC)
The weird thing is, he isn't an ethnomusicologist. He's a philosopher, and he clearly has no idea how fieldwork is done. He also mentioned that his wife is an ethnomusicologist, and that she absolutely hated his paper. Along with everyone else in the chapel.

If I were to study the musical culture of the SCA (and one never knows, do one?), I might have reasons for wanting to record songs -- most likely for later reference in a performance analysis. But, just from instinct, I'd ask permission first, and if permission was denied, I would not record, but take field notes instead. This is because I am a) a real ethnomusicologist, and b) not a douche.
meggins
Nov. 2nd, 2008 01:00 am (UTC)
Sounds like a good time. Even "the First Amendment paper" makes for a good anecdote.

Oooh, Mexico! That would be keen.
frenchpony
Nov. 2nd, 2008 04:43 am (UTC)
It was fun! And I am definitely looking forward to Mexico.
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )

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