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What is Applied Ethnomusicology & Why Did They Say so Many Terrible Things About it?

What is Applied Ethnomusicology & Why Did They Say so Many Terrible Things About it?


>>Voiceover: From the Library
of Congress in Washington DC.>>Elizabeth Peterson:
Hello everyone, my name is Betsy Peterson. I’m the director of the
American Folklife Center here at the Library of Congress,
and I want to welcome you today to the latest in our
ongoing lecture series, the Benjamin Botkin Lecture
Series, and I just want to note, for the record, and for
posterity, that I’m speaking to a beyond standing-room-only
audience, which is terrific. The Botkin Series — [ Applause ] The Botkin series allows us to
highlight current scholarship from distinguished scholars
in ethnomusicology, folklore, oral history, cultural
heritage studies, and other related fields. It also, for the
American Folklife Center, allows us to accomplish
a couple of other things, and one important thing is that
it feeds into our acquisitions. We record all of these lectures,
so that later, on the website, and generations later, folks
can hear this lecture today. So with that said, if you have
any electronics turned on, please turn them
off at this point. We’d appreciate it. Today I have the honor of
introducing a very distinguished at ethnomusicologist,
folklorist, and musician, Jeff Todd Titon. Professor Titon received his BA
from Amherst College and his MA in English and PhD in American
studies from the University of Minnesota, where he studied
ethnomusicology with Alan Kagan. He’s done extensive fieldwork
on religious folk music, blues, and old-time fiddling, and
he’s the author, or editor, of numerous books, including
Early Down-Home Blues, for which he was awarded the
prestigious ASCAP Deans Taylor Award; Worlds of Music, a
classic ethnomusicology textbook that has gone through
five printings since it first appeared in 1984. Powerhouse for God, a book, a
record, and a documentary film; Old-Time Kentucky Fiddle Tunes,
and American Musical Traditions. In addition to all of this
writing and publishing, Jeff also served as the
editor of Ethnomusicology, The Journal for the Society of Ethnomusicology
during the 1990s. His teaching career has, well,
began at Tufts University, and he later went
to Brown University, where he was a professor for
roughly — almost 20 years, not quite, and he’s been
a visiting professor at numerous colleges, including,
I know, Indiana University, my alma mater, Carleton College,
Amherst, and Berea College. He’s also a fellow of the
American Folklore Society and was recently
elected to the board of the American Folklore
Society. His current projects
include fieldwork with Old, Regular Baptists in
Eastern Kentucky, with whom he’s already
produced two CDs for Smithsonian Folkways. He is developing a website
on the life and preaching of the Reverend C.L. Franklin,
father of Aretha Franklin. He has a fabulous blog on
music sound and sustainability, which I encourage you
to go and look at. Maybe he’ll give you the URL. At any rate, as you can
imagine, I could go on. And so, I think I’ll
stop right here. I’d just like to add that Jeff
has also recently donated some of his collections to the
American Folklife Center, which we’re very pleased about,
and I want to encourage you to come and use that material. So without further ado, then,
I will just simply turn this over to Professor
Jeff Todd Titon.>>Jeff Todd Titon:
Thank you, Betsy. Thank you, Betsy. [ Applause ] Thank you, Betsy, and
thank you all for coming. Can you hear me? Is this all right? It’s good? Okay. It’s a little overwhelming
to see all of you out here. I hope I have something
that might interest you. I’m sure I’ll — [ Laughter ] — have something to say,
I will at some point. I hope. This is a talk about
applied ethnomusicology, what it is, and why they said
such terrible things about it. It’s not a very original title,
and I apologize for that, but I thought it
might be of interest. At least, some people wonder
what the terrible things are. They include such things as
irrelevant and imperialism and political interference
and, let’s see. A good phrase was manipulating
the destinies of people. Another one was spying. So we’ll get to those
in a little while. I want to begin this with a
confrontation that took place in the winter of 1939, an
encounter between Alan Lomax, who I’m sure is well known
to all of you, and somebody who may not be so
well-known, George Herzog. Lomax had moved to New
York temporarily in 1939, with the permission of his
employer, then the Library of Congress, to take
courses in music and anthropology at Columbia. At that time, Herzog
was a Columbia professor of anthropology and also
the most powerful figure in comparative musicology,
which is one of the ancestors
of ethnomusicology. No doubt, Lomax told Herzog
who he was and why he wanted to take his course in folk
music as a special student, but Herzog refused to let him in because Lomax had taken
the prerequisite course study offered in primitive music. And those of you who knew Alan
can only imagine the scene. Herzog had a terrible
temper, and Alan wrote back to his supervisor, Harold
Spivacke, at the Library of Congress, and he said, “I met
a very much-surprised Dr. Herzog at Columbia this morning,
a Dr. Herzog who told me that I’d made a great
mistake in coming to school to take his course this term. That I should’ve come next
term, should’ve come next year, and for a whole year, such a neurotic little academic
man you never saw before.” [ Laughter ] So, he never took the course,
and I take this confrontation between Lomax and Herzog
to foreshadow the problems of applied work, that
applied work would have within ethnomusicology, at
least in the early years, and why ethnomusicologists
might say such terrible things about it. In 1939, when their
confrontation took place, of course, the field
ethnomusicology didn’t yet exist. The word wasn’t even coined
until 1950, and the Society for Ethnomusicology wasn’t
established until 1955. But if anybody was doing
ethnomusicology in America in 1939, it was George Herzog,
and as both Daniel Sheehy and Anthony Seeger
have pointed out, Alan Lomax was doing applied
ethnomusicology before it got its name either. So between its naming in 1950
and the death of Alan Merriam in 1980, ethnomusicology often
was described as a marriage of comparative musicology,
with cultural anthropology. During that same period,
applied anthropology was one of anthropology’s emergent
and exciting growth areas. We would expect that an applied
ethnomusicology would have emerged then and grown, as
well, but that did not happen until the 1980s, and instead, ethnomusicologists said
terrible things about it. Why they did so, and why applied
ethnomusicology wasn’t accepted until the 1980s, is one of
my subjects this morning, or this noon I guess it is. The other, of course, is what
is applied ethnomusicology, and what do applied
ethnomusicologists actually do? And of course, I’ll
give you my take on it. There are different
opinions, of course, and what it is and what we do. But at any rate, it’s
important to know that today, applied ethnomusicology
is well established as one of the strongest branches
of academic ethnomusicology. Among the sections of the
Society for Ethnomusicology, the applied section is the
third-largest in membership. Only the student section and
the popular music section are larger. Herzog would’ve been
rolling in his grave at that. And so, before going to
that history, before getting to that history and some
of the terrible things and what happened to
turn things around, I want to propose a definition
of applied ethnomusicology and offer some examples of what
applied ethnomusicologists do. Many of you here will
be familiar with this, and some of you practice
applied ethnomusicology. There’s a lot of
information here, much of it never before
presented to the public, and that’s why am
relying on my notes. I want to do what I can
to get it right for you. I like to think of
ethnomusicology as the study of people making music. Applied ethnomusicology
puts the study of people making music
to practical use. Now that’s a very
broad definition. More specifically, as it’s
developed in North America and elsewhere, applied
ethnomusicology is a music-centered intervention into a particular
community whose purpose is to benefit that community. For example, a social
improvement, a musical benefit, a cultural good, or
an economic advantage. It’s music-centered,
but above all, the intervention
is people-centered. For the understanding that drives it towards
reciprocity is based in collaborative
partnerships that arise from ethnomusicological
fieldwork. Applied ethnomusicology is
guided by ethical principles of social responsibility,
human rights, cultural and musical equity, and justice. Although some ethnomusicologists
regard applied ethnomusicology as a career alternative
to academic work, I don’t think it’s helpful
to make that distinction, because ethnomusicologists who do applied work are
employed both inside and outside of academic institutions. In other words, the place of employment doesn’t
determine whether the study of people making music has
any application outside of the world of scholarship. What matters is the
work itself, how, where, and why the intervention
occurs and the communities to whom we feel responsible. What kinds of activities are
applied ethnomusicologists involved in? Where, typically, do we
intervene in the public sphere? Applied ethnomusicology is
practiced internationally, but because I’m most
familiar with activities in the United States, and the
professional organization based here, that is, the Society
for Ethnomusicology, or SEM, as I’ll sometimes call
it, all concentrate on US-based applied
ethnomusicology. First, like public
folklorists, we’re involved in promoting music, dance, and
other cultural expressions, in order to benefit artists and
communities, whether undertaken by ethnomusicologists acting
primarily on their own behalf, or whether supported by
cultural organizations, these cultural policy
interventions are among the oldest types of applied
ethnomusicology and remain one of
the most common. Lately, sustainability has
become the generally accepted policy goal. At the moment, I am trying to
push cultural sustainability in the direction of
cultural resilience, but that is a story
for another time. Examples of these policy
interventions include working with and for granting
agencies to promote the arts, and with organizations devoted to expanding the creative
economy through musical heritage and cultural tourism, sometimes
with a view to recovering from disasters, such as
hurricanes, urban blight, and mountaintop removal. In the 21st century, as
most of you know very well, UNESCO has become the
major international force and cultural policy, with
its treaties encouraging the preservation of what it calls
“intangible cultural heritage.” The US has not signed
these treaties, but because our work takes
us all over the world, many US-based ethnomusicologists
are involved with UNESCO activities anyway. Ethnomusicologists have
worked as consultants, as arts administrators,
ethnographic field workers, festival presenters, radio and
television producers, podcasters and Internet site developers,
educators, facilitators, mediators, writers,
expert witnesses, and in various other
capacities, formulating and administering cultural
policies whose purpose is cultural, economic,
and musical benefit, as informed by social
responsibility and justice. Another area of practice for applied ethnomusicologists
is advocacy, either on behalf of particular music makers or
a music community as a whole. Rather than adopt the role of objective observer
gathering information, the applied ethnomusicologist
assumes the role of a partisan, working in partnership
towards goals that are mutually
understood and agreed on. Seldom has partnership worked when the ethnomusicologist
plays the role of the expert and imposes solutions to problems perceived
from a distance. Advocacy includes grant
writing on behalf of individuals and communities, writing
promotional and press materials, acting as an agent to
arrange performances, facilitating community self-
documentation initiatives, repatriation of recordings and
musical artifacts from museums and archives, political
lobbying for arts spaces, facilitating community
arts education projects, of researching the history
of musical traditions for the community,
acting as an intermediary between cultural insiders and
outside, and long-term planning for the sustainability
of music cultures. A third area that applied
ethnomusicologists are involved with is education. Often, educators ourselves,
applied ethnomusicologists work with other educators designing
curricula and to bring musicians into the schools and community
centers to demonstrate to teach and to perform. They also facilitate
visits to performance spaces where people may observe
and sometimes participate in music-making activities. Like folklorists, ethnomusicologists have been
active in fostering interest in local musical artists
and traditions, particularly from newly arrived
cultural and ethnic groups. Other areas of contemporary
practice include peace and conflict resolution,
medicine, law and the music
industry, libraries, museums and sound archives, journalism, and environmental sound
activism and eco-justice. Peace-related applications
are more frequent outside of North America, as
among refugee populations and in conflict regions, such as
The Balkans and the Middle East, while music has been an
important part of labor and civil rights movements
in the United States since the 19th century
and probably before. Among the projects of medical
ethnomusicology are HIV/AIDS work in Africa, therapeutic work with posttraumatic
stress survivors, and music within
autism communities. Legal applications have involved
music copyright infringement cases and work on
intellectual property issues, as the question,
“Who owns culture?”, becomes increasingly
important when large sums of money are at stake. Applied ethnomusicologists
are involved in political action opposing
sound pollution, such as noise from ocean vessels and military
activities that affect whales, dolphins, and other
sea creatures. We are contributing to the new
discipline of eco-musicology, which is the study of
music, sound, culture, and nature in a time of
environmental crisis. Journalists educated and
ethnomusicology bring to world music a broadly
informed, historical, and geographical perspective. We’ve written for
newspapers, magazines, and online publications. Ethnomusicologists working
in the music industry serve as consultants, ethnographers, technical assists,
and producers. Many libraries, museums,
universities, and others institutions maintain
sound archives where archivists with ethnomusicological training
offer expertise in acquisition, cataloging, grant writing,
preservation, and outreach. Applied ethnomusicologists also
are gradually producing a body of theoretical and
critical literature. In 1992, a special issue
of Ethnomusicology, The Journal of the Society for
Ethnomusicology was devoted to ethnomusicology in
the public interest. It featured essays by Daniel
Sheehy, Bess Lomax-Hawes, Martha Ellen Davis,
and Anthony Seeger. In my own essay in
that special issue, I wrote that ethnomusicology
and the public interest, “Is work whose immediate end
is not research on the flow of knowledge inside intellectual
communities, but rather, practical action in
the world outside of archives and universities.” and that, “As a way of
knowing and doing fieldwork which is constitutive of
ethnomusicology, at its best, is based on friendship rather
than observation of objects.” Bess Hawes was invited to
give the Seeger Lecture at the 1993 SEM Conference, and this autobiographical
talk meant, in part, to attract listeners to
applied ethnomusicology and public folklore
as a calling, was published two years later
in the journal Ethnomusicology. An international conference on applied ethnomusicology took
place at my university, Brown, in 2003, the same year
that a special issue of Folklore Forum devoted to applied ethnomusicology
was published. A book of essays entitled
Applied Ethnomusicology, Historical and Contemporary
Approaches, appeared in 2010, and the Oxford Handbook of Applied Ethnomusicology
is scheduled for publication in the summer of 2015. Let me give you an example
of applied ethnomusicology. Because I know my own work
best, please indulge me as I show you something
from my own work. I hope it’s not too
immodest to do so. In 1990, as a visiting professor
at Berea College in Kentucky, I spent my weekends with
Old Regular Baptists in the southeastern part
of the state in the middle of coal-mining country, and
after several months of getting to know them and they me, the
head of their association, Elwood Cornett, asked me if I could help them conserve
their singing tradition, lined-out hymnody, which is
the oldest style and repertoire of English language religious
music is an oral tradition in the United States. It is a very, very complicated
and difficult way of singing. Each singer elaborates the
melody in their own way, and they don’t have a conductor. They don’t have musical
notation, and the music doesn’t
have a pulse beat. One person sings a line,
and then the rest join in and repeat the line to an
even more elaborate melody in step, but out of phase. Here I want to show you a little
video clip of their singing, so you have an idea of what
it’s like, and to do that, I have to get out of here. This is a song called
Bold Soldiers. This is from a baptism, and it’s from video footage
that I shot 1990. [ Inaudible Speech ] [ Singing Acapella ] That’s an example
of their singing. Women sing, too. It just happened
that in this example, it was only men,
but women sing, too. Elwood Cornett, their
association leader, told me that the
elders had tried to teach the younger
ones some years earlier, but in this culture where
modesty is palpable, the face-to-face instruction
put too much pressure on the youngsters, and
the education failed, and he wondered whether
I might have, you know, some ideas that might help. And we talked about it, and I
realized, I noticed that some of the church members were
bringing cheap boomboxes to church to record the
services, the singing and preaching, especially
for friends and relatives who are sick and
couldn’t come to church. So I suggested that we try to
make good-quality recordings, so that the younger people might
learn the songs by singing along in the privacy of
their homes or, even better, in their
automobiles. And so, Elwood agreed,
and I got them a grant from NEA Folk Arts Division. This was in the early
1990s, and I taught them how to make good recordings
of their music, and we made some together,
and then, they made a lot more and circulated cassettes for the
younger people to learn from. And then, Smithsonian
Folkways released a couple of albums of their singing. Tony Seeger, on hearing
this music, said he felt like he was surrounded by a
room full of Rosco Holcombs. Anyway, and now the singing
tradition is on firm ground, and here’s what Elwood Cornett
said about it in an interview with Appalshop that
was broadcast over the Appalshop Kentucky
radio station a few years ago.>>It would appear
to me that this way of singing is probably much
more accepted right now than it was a few years ago,
and I think the interest of Jeff Titon and Willy Ruff
and some others that used to be at Berea, Bill Talmans [assumed
spelling], and so forth, has made a lot of
difference in that, and then, our people have begun
to say, hey, we’ve got something
here pretty special, and I think you know already that the Smithsonian recorded
a couple of CDs of our singing, and all of that has caused
our people to say, hey, we want to hang onto
this way of singing.>>We couldn’t have done it
without many of the people and organizations
represented in this room. So congratulate yourself,
as well, successful project. I turn now to applied
ethnomusicology and the terrible
things that were said, what you’ve all been
waiting for. The histories of
ethnomusicology taught in most doctoral
programs traces its roots to comparative musicology,
defined by Guido Adler in 1885 as, “A division
of musicology which involves the
comparison of musical works of the various peoples of the
Earth,” these are his words, “for ethnographical purposes
and the classification of them according to
their various forms.” Comparative musicology
arrived in the United States in the person of none other
than Alan Lomax’s nemesis, George Herzog in 1925. Herzog studied anthropology
with Franz Boas at Columbia, and this is an art
picture of Boas. Isn’t that striking? He studied with Boas, Herzog
did, and he received the PhD in 1928 from Boas in Columbia. Herzog pursued an academic
career as a professor at Yale, Columbia, and Indiana
Universities, one that lasted until he went insane
in the mid-1950s. He was recognized
during this period as the leading American
authority on indigenous music. He was also one of the leading
authorities on folk music, which is why Alan wanted
to take his course. Among his students were two
of the founders of the Society for Ethnomusicology, David
McAllester and Willard Rhodes. Herzog’s writings exhibited an
empirical scientific method, which required musical
transcriptions and analysis. His methods added Boas-styled
ethnographic research to the comparative
musical analysis that often characterized
the work of the Germans. A Dutch comparative
musicologist, Jaap Kunst, coined the term ethnomusicology
in 1950 and proposed that comparative
musicology change its name. His argument didn’t rest on
the idea of ethno, but rather, on eliminating the
word comparative. “All good science,” he argued, “is comparative in
nature anyway.” Disciplines like
comparative linguistics and comparative embryology
had, after all, dropped those adjectives and just become embryology
and linguistics. Why should musicology have it? But then, if it was musicology,
that wasn’t quite right either. So he added the ethno- prefix. His argument was persuasive, and many comparative
musicologists began to call themselves
ethnomusicologists, while those of a more cultural
persuasion saw a chance to elevate the cultural
study of music in the new field
with a new name. The founding of the
Society for Ethnomusicology in 1955 might have moved
applied ethnomusicology to a more central position. As Bruno Nettl observed,
“The beginning of the SEM was deeply rooted in
the anthropological background of its most influential
leaders.” Most prominent among
them were Alan Merriam and David McAllester, both
among the four founders of SEM. Herzog was noticeably
absent from SEM’s founding, and it’s worth asking why. Nettl attributed his absence
to his growing mental problems, and no doubt, that was so. But the founders
also, certainly, wanted to escape
Herzog’s dominance. McAllester reported that as far as he knew he (McAllester)
was the only student ever to finish the doctorate
under Herzog’s supervision. Herzog had a habit of losing his
students’ papers, never grading or returning or returning them,
and anyway, McAllester came to my seminar on the history
of ethnomusicological thought, which I taught at
Brown for 27 years. McAllester came in 1989 and
talked about the history of the founding of SEM and
his career and everything, and so on, and I’m
going to draw on some of the things he said for this. “The campus was littered
with the bodies of failed Herzog students.” McAllester told my seminar. “Herzog’s habit,” McAllester
said, “was to demonstrate to them time after time that they could not
meet his standards. He never failed them
in so many words, but they had a very hard time
ever getting an appointment with him, and when
I finally did, it was all at such a high level
that they felt sort of defeated. If they brought in a
transcription, it was so bad, that he went over it note by
note to show them and said, ‘Now see if you can’t, now that you’ve had this
practice, do better next time.’ And then, a month or so
later, when I finally caught up with him again, then the
same thing would happen again.” Herzog was Nettl’s dissertation
supervisor at Indiana, but before Nettle could
complete his doctorate, Herzog’s erratic behavior
forced Nettl to move to a different supervisor. McAllester commented,
“Nettl left Herzog, but most of us couldn’t do that. We were with Herzog, and it
was do or die, and many died.” One of those who died
was Willard Rhodes, one of the founders
of the society. Herzog would never approve his
work, and so, it’s no wonder, really, that Herzog was not
involved with these founders. But that must be only
part of the answer. In his memoirs, Nettl
reminiscing about this early period, recalls
that he and others, he thinks, regarded these events
more as a revival of comparative musicology, which
had been all but eliminated in Europe during the Nazi
era than as a revolution that brought about something
new, ethnomusicology. As a comparative
musicologist himself, Nettl’s bias towards comparative
musicology is understandable. However, he was not
one of the founders. This is Nettl. This is Bruno Nettl,
and here’s kind of a silly picture
of the four founders. It’s — you can see, left to
right there, Charles Seeger, Alan Merriam, Willard
Rhodes and Dave McAllester. And I asked them all
about this founding. I had conversations
with all of them. So some of this is
based on what they said, McAllester in particular. Nettl was still a graduate
student when the Society for Ethnomusicology was founded. He was not involved in the
conversations with McAllester, Merriam, Rhodes, and
Seeger as they planned, and then established,
the new organization. So let me try to reconstruct
something of its significance, as I believe it to have appeared
to the founders at the time, and as I said, in so doing,
I rely on my conversations with Rhodes, Merriam, and Seeger and especially McAllester,
about this period. McAllester recalled that after
Herzog was finally confined to a mental institution, he could no longer exercise his
former control over degrees, grants, and publications
in comparative musicology. “He became so ill that he
had to be in an institution, and then the lid was off, and the society could be
established,” McAllester said. For the four founders, SEM
must’ve represented a move away from comparative
musicology, not just an escape from Herzog’s iron
grip, but also, establishing a field
more welcoming to the cultural study of music. The founders resisted
efforts from other societies, who tried to dissuade them
from starting a new society, including the American
Musicological Society and The International
Folk Music Council. McAllester reported that, Moncarpolis [assumed
spelling] or is it Moncarpelis?>>Carpolese [assumed spelling].>>Carpolese, thank you,
“Came and pleaded with us to become a wing of the International
Folk Music Council. Alan Merriam, particularly
well, Charlie Seeger, too. They were both very insistent
that it not get into the hands of the International
Folk Music Council.” Merriam thought they were
just a bunch of singers and dancers, you know?>>That would be terrible.>>Yeah, really. So when — this is
McAllester talking here. So when we started the society,
they, the IFMC, got wind of it, and they were very upset, because they had
their American branch, they were afraid we would
simply split their society and draw membership
away from them. There were scholars among them,
great scholars among them, but they were not
anthropologically oriented, and it just happened by the way
we operated that the Society for Ethnomusicology began with
an anthropological orientation. For Alan Merriam, even
more than for McAllester, ethnomusicology would become
the anthropology of music rather than comparative musicology. He lobbied hard for the
study of music as culture, not merely in culture,
and that’s a viewpoint that most contemporary
ethnomusicologists have assimilated. Obtaining a full
professorship in anthropology at Indiana University in 1962,
Merriam was not only a founder, but a forceful presence in
SEM from the very beginning until his untimely death in
an airplane crash in 1980. He’s still the forceful
presence. Nettl is still fighting
with him. For Nettl, ethnomusicology
was a subfield of musicology. For Merriam and McAllester, ethnomusicology was a
subfield of anthropology. As I said, one would expect
that the anthropologists who led SEM would’ve encouraged
and applied ethnomusicology. Anthropologists had by then
started putting their knowledge to work in solving
social problems. John van Willigen, historian
of applied anthropology, dates the rise of a
socially committed, applied, or action anthropology to
1945, but this exciting, albeit controversial,
development in anthropology, did not cross over into SEM with
any success until decades later. The reasons, in retrospect,
are not surprising. To establish ethnomusicology
within the most secure of institutional bases, that
is, within universities, it was necessary to
position ethnomusicology as a research science. Musicological and anthropological
ethnomusicologists might disagree over the emphasis of
the discipline, but they agreed that scholarship
and the production of knowledge was in school. Applications of that research in
the public arena might be well and good, but the
pursuit of knowledge for its own sake had always
been valued most highly in university settings
where it could be protected from outside forces. In 1950, ethnomusicology
itself was a fringe discipline within the United States, with only a few courses
being offered, and only a few professors
available to advise doctoral
dissertations. For ethnomusicology to
expand, professors must succeed in establishing more
faculty lines. Eventually, every music
department, every music school or conservatory, and every
anthropology department would have at least one
ethnomusicologist doing research and offering music courses
with a worldwide scope, and some would have
more than one and establish graduate programs,
training future generations about the musicologists, as
the discipline would expand. Second, for ethnomusicology
to become institutionalized, it had to be regarded as
a professional vocation, not as an amateur pursuit. Cultural anthropologists and comparative musicologists
had always distinguished between themselves as
professional scientists, and the amateurs who
traveled the world and collected information
in the field, but were not properly
trained to analyze it. Besides, these amateurs
exhibited a dangerous tendency to write popular books, to present illustrated
lectures in public libraries, [ Laughter ] and to catch the
attention of the media. Only by continuing
this gatekeeping could ethnomusicologists keep their
jobs and professions secure within the university world. I believe that a third reason
was the distrust among this generation of scholars who
came of age during or soon after World War II of
social engineering. Applied research put to
practical use in musical or cultural interventions,
despite intended benefits, was suspect, particularly
given the political uses to which music and art,
generally, have been put in the Nazi and Soviet spheres. Most important, many in
the previous generation of United States music scholars
had been born in Europe and fled to the New World to
escape persecution and establish a musical
scholarship inside the university world where
they could be free from political interference. This third reason was
never directly articulated, but it can be inferred from
the cautionary language that they used when
they deigned to talk about applied ethnomusicology,
as we shall soon see. The term, applied
ethnomusicology, did not appear in SEM publication until 1963. Alan Merriam was the first US
ethnomusicologist to recognize and apply ethnomusicology
by that name. In his book, The Anthropology
of Music, published in 1964, he wrote that, “The
ultimate aim of the study of man involves the question
of whether one is searching for knowledge for its
own sake or is attempting to provide solutions for
practical applied problems. Ethnomusicology has seldom
been used in the same manner as applied or action
anthropology, and ethnomusicologists have
only rarely felt called upon to help solve problems in manipulating the
destinies of people. And in those circumstances,
it’s also difficult to avoid outside control
over the research project. Merriam’s worry over
outside control is a worry over outside threats
to academic freedom, and his sardonic phrase,
manipulating the destinies of people, voices is
distrust of social engineering and his opposition to political
and cultural interventions. Bruno Nettl was born to a
Jewish family is Czechoslovakia in 1930. In 1939, to escape Nazism, he and his family emigrated
to the United States. His father, Paul, was a
famous musicologist who taught at Indiana University. Far more than anyone else,
Nettl has shouldered the burden of writing the history
of ethnomusicology and almost single-handedly has
done so for the past 60 years. Generation after generation of graduate students have
absorbed his histories. He seldom mentions
applied ethnomusicology, but when he does, he says
terrible things about it. In his most important textbook,
The Study of Ethnomusicology, published in 1983 and revised
in 2005, he writes this. This is the same language in
both editions, 1983 and 2005, “In the course of the 1950s,
there developed a concept in a subdiscipline, applied
anthropology, whose task it was to use anthropological insight
to help solve social problems, particularly those occasioned by
rapid culture change in the wake of modernization
and westernization.” I believe that that Nettl
gets it exactly wrong here. Applied anthropologists
were enlisted then to help solve problems such
as Third-World poverty. The solutions attempted, as
they advised US government organizations, such as AID,
were agricultural modernization and economic development, and the unfortunate result
often was rapid social change and cultural upheaval. No wonder then,” as
Nettle continues, although, “anthropologists wanted to
help, they frequently ended up offending the
local population in doing what was
perceived as harmful. As a result, in the late
1960s and early 1970s, they were widely attacked for
doing work of no relevance to social problems, of mixing
in local politics, of spying. Ethnomusicologists
shared in this criticism.” Nettl has somehow mapped applied
ethnomusicologists’ efforts to conserve traditional
music and culture onto applied anthropologists’
efforts to overturn traditional culture. Compounding this error,
he means to suggest that applied ethnomusicologists
were offensive, harmful, and irrelevant and that they
barged into local politics and were accused of being spies. These are terrible things to
say, but if they were true about applied anthropologists
for one kind of intervention, they could not be true about
applied ethnomusicologists for the opposite, unless
Nettl means that any kind of intervention was resented. Eventually, Nettl admits that “The picture is not
entirely negative. Some societies are happy
to have outsiders come, appreciate their efforts, their
respect for the traditions, and their help in
restoring vigor to rapidly disappearing musics. Even so, there is often the
feeling that the members of the society itself, given
the right training, equipment, and time, could do it better.” To his credit, Nettl
recognizes the potential good that can arise from
a collaborative, applied ethnomusicology. Yet, his unease with
applied work is obvious. To be fair, Nettl may be
changing his mind late in his life. He’s now in his mid-80s,
and in a recent lecture, he acknowledged the appeal
of applied ethnomusicology to a new generation
of ethnomusicologists. Those in ethnomusicologies
found a generation who did some applied work. Mantle Hood and David
McAllester, for example, did so without calling
attention to it, as such, and they probably didn’t even
consider it in that light. They simply did it out of a
sense of ethics and reciprocity. And ethnomusicology gradually
did become established in the college and
university world. Yet, ironically, it was not
by positioning ethnomusicology as a research science. Rather, beginning in the late
1960s, ethnomusicology benefited from a combination of
external circumstances that the founding
generation did not foresee. The most important of these
were, first, the sudden craze for world music available as
never before on LP records and in concerts by Ravi Shankar
and Ali Akbar Khan and others. Some of you are probably
old enough to remember that. Master musicians from Ghana,
North and South India, the Arab world, China, Japan,
and Indonesia soon were in residence as world music
performance ensemble directors at American colleges
and universities, where ethnomusicologists
were already teaching. Enrollments in world music
courses grew exponentially. Secondly, America was moving
his cultural narrative away from the universal melting pot
and towards ethnic roots, pride, and cultural pluralism. In education, this opened
the humanities curriculum to a variety of international and minority subjects
and voices. Music schools that saw the
handwriting on the wall began to hire ethnomusicologists. By 1977, it was possible
to obtain a doctorate by studying ethnomusicology
with Nazir Jairazbhoy at UCLA, Frederick Lieberman at Brown,
George List and Alan Merriam at Indiana, Bruno Nettl at
Illinois, Robert Garfias at Washington, Alan Kagan,
my teacher, and Minnesota, William Malm at Michigan,
and David McAllester at Wesleyan Universities,
among others. Today, most top and second-tier
colleges and universities have at least one ethnomusicologist
on their faculties and usually in the music department
or music school. In the 1980s, the Society
for Ethnomusicology, though, remained chiefly a research
community of professors and graduate students. It was not until most of
the founding generation aged and gradually relinquished
leadership that applied ethnomusicology
was able to enter SEM in an institutional way. But it was not merely a
changing of the generations. Another significant change
within academia resulted from the growth of cultural
studies and critical theory. The result, particularly among
those attracted to the study of music as culture, was
a turn in ethnomusicology from science toward
cultural critique, from the musical object
to the musical experience, from analysis to interpretation, and from explanation
to understanding. By the end of the 1980s, ethnomusicology had assimilated
the interpretive cultural anthropology of Clifford Gertz,
Dennis Tedlock, James Clifford, George Marcus, and others, a far cry from the empirical
anthropology Herzog had championed, or the
science thing about music that Merriam had propounded. Ethnomusicology’s
turn away from science and toward the humanities
led a growing number of North American
ethnomusicologists to applied ethnomusicology
in one form or another, advocating on behalf of
individual musicians, musical communities, and musical
life in particular places. The new fieldwork had
become experience centered. The 1970s ethnomusicological
monographs such as those by Paul Berliner,
The Soul of Mbira, and Charles Keil’s [inaudible]
Music were in the vanguard of the turn to reflexivity. Kenneth Gourlay’s 1982
essay in the SEM Journal, “Towards a Humanizing
Ethnomusicology,” offered a theoretical basis
for the new direction, along with a strongly
worded critique of Merriam’s distance
on science. In that same issue
of Ethnomusicology, Charles Keil’s essay, Applied
Ethnomusicology and a Rebirth of Music from the
Spirit of Tragedy, charted a path towards
work that, as he said, “can make a difference through
an insistence on putting music into play wherever people are
resisting their oppression.” Keil’s radical position
allied applied ethnomusicology with decolonization,
and in retrospect, I think it’s very fortunate that
applied ethnomusicology waited to emerge during the period
of postcolonial critique. For in so doing, it
largely avoided the stigma of applied anthropology’s
alliances with government-supported
modernization and development programs
in the Third World. A humanized ethnomusicology
this made it possible for an applied ethnomusicology,
manifesting itself not only in a new fieldwork
based in reciprocity, leading to advocacy, but also, through institutional
gains within SEM. The growth of applied
ethnomusicology in the United States in the
1980s was also greatly aided by the development
of public folklore. As administrators and
sometimes field workers, a few dozen ethnomusicologists
were employed either full- or part-time by the
Smithsonian Institution, the American Folklife Center,
and the Folk Arts Division of the National Endowment
for the Arts, whose director, Bess Hawes, held
an informal session at the SEM conference
every year in the 1980s to inform ethnomusicologists
of the opportunities for submitting applied
ethnomusicology project proposals to the NEA. I, myself, served as a presenter at the 1976 Smithsonian
Folklife Festival, which Hawes also directed, and on the NEA Folk Arts
Division Panel from 1989 to ’83 and then again a
couple more times. I owe a lasting debt of
gratitude to Bess Hawes and to her assistant
director at the NEA Dan Shehi, for helping me understand
how I could function as both a research scholar and as an applied
ethnomusicologist while employed in the academic world. Applied ethnomusicology
went mainstream within SEM during the 1990s. I’ve already discussed some
of the landmark publications of that decade and the next. The applied ethnomusicology
section of SEM began as a committee in 1998 and
became a section in 2002. In 2007, SEM itself
went on record with a position statement
opposed to the use of music for torture. You may know that
music was one of the — detainees were tortured. They especially,
apparently, hated Eminem, and we convinced
the executive board, who didn’t really need
convincing, to go on record with the position statement
against the use, you know? And so, there is a position
statement, and you can see it on the SEM website, that condemns the use
of music for torture. It should condemn
torture, too, of course, but music and the use. This is a political stand
taken by the organization, SEM, that would’ve been
unthinkable in the 20th century, just absolutely unthinkable for
the organization to do that, and by the way, there
were objections from some when it did that. The board said that,
go ahead, object. Anyway, I don’t have time
to discuss the many projects that applied ethnomusicologists
embarked on beginning in the 1980s, but I would refer
you to the growing literature on the subject already
published, especially to the
forthcoming Oxford Handbook of Applied Ethnomusicology. In fact, this talk is a
greatly, greatly condensed and somewhat modified version
of my part of the introduction to that book, the Oxford
Handbook of Applied Ethno. And finally, there are
so many folklorists here. I would invite you to
think of parallels between, if you haven’t already
been thinking about it, between the histories of
applied ethnomusicology and public folklore. Did anybody say terrible
things about public folklore? And maybe and why and what
happened to turn things around? It would be interesting to
hear some of the answers. So I’m done, and I tried to
time this leave some time for questions. Did I?>>Elizabeth Peterson: Yes.>>Jeff Todd Titon: Okay.>>Elizabeth Peterson:
Thank you.>>Jeff Todd Titon: All right. [ Applause ] [ Chuckles ] There aren’t any? Yes?>>Audience Member: Yes,
in defense of Paul Nettl –>>Jeff Todd Titon:
Bruno Nettl you mean.>>Audience Member: Bruno
— I’m sorry, Bruno Nettl. I’m very sorry.>>Jeff Todd Titon: Yeah.>>Audience Member: He would’ve
had, in the back of his mind, the treatment of folk
music in Czechoslovakia, which has a long
and sad history.>>Jeff Todd Titon: No doubt.>>Audience Member: I can understand very well why
he retreated from that position.>>Jeff Todd Titon: No doubt,
and the way that the Soviets, and the communists in general,
were using folklore was, you know, part of the problems
that that generation had seen up close, in his case, up close
and personal, and so, naturally, it led to a distrust
of social engineering. Absolutely.>>Audience Member: Hi, thanks
very much for your talk. It’s really wonderful to hear about this history
of ethnomusicology. I just have a sort
of — I don’t know if it’s a basic question or not. But I’m curious about the terms
applied in ethnomusicology versus public folklore
versus, say, public humanities or public scholarship, and
has there been any discussion [inaudible] SEM about that? I mean, your discussion of
Nettl’s characterization of the roots of [inaudible]
musicology being like anthropology makes
sense, but you seem to be kind of doubting that. So I wonder just by
sort of what seems to me a more descriptive
title for sort of [inaudible].>>Jeff Todd Titon:
No, it’s not absent. In fact, the current president of SEM prefers the term
public ethnomusicology but is not familiar
with the history of applied ethnomusicology. It just happens that applied
is the established term. In 1992, it was not. When the issue of the
SEM Journal came out, there were a number of possible
terms including public, applied, action, and others,
and I decided that I would title the journal
Music in the Public Interest. That was the title
of the special issue. When the section,
rather, when the committee on applied ethnomusicology was
established by SEM in 1997, Doris Dian [assumed
spelling] and Martha Davis, whose established it, chose the
term, applied ethnomusicology. ICTM, the successors of the International
Folk Music Council, the International Council
and Traditional Music, a UNESCO organization,
established a study group on applied ethnomusicology
a year or two later, I think, in 1998 or so. And so, that’s the
name that’s in use now. But I think it’s open for
discussion, and it may be that public ethnomusicology
turns out to be a better term. There are certainly
some advantages to it emphasizes the work
in the public sphere. The problem I see with it is
that it also can be confused as a place of employment, and I
think that it’s very problematic to dichotomize the academic. Obviously, I have a bias here. I think it’s very problematic
to oppose the academic world and the world outside. I don’t think it does
good for any — either. And so, I see that is a
problem with the word public, but I think it certainly open,
and these things change, too, over time, and may be
in five or 10 years, public will become
the accepted word. I don’t know. Yeah, Brent, yeah.>>Audience Member:
Thank you very much, and congratulations
on [inaudible].>>Jeff Todd Titon: Oh, yeah. [ Laughter ] I wonder if I know
what I’m in for. You’ve been on the board
now for a couple of… [ Laughter ] [ Inaudible Speech ]>>Audience Member: I wanted
to just ask and go back to the thing about trust and
associated bigger [inaudible] at that type when
you first met –>>Jeff Todd Titon: Yeah.>>Audience Member: [inaudible]
program in Frankfurt, I think you brought some
singers there, and you talked about trust and friendship.>>Jeff Todd Titon: Yeah.>>Audience Member: But I
was wondering, when you start to bring them out about
true community context, where you were going in, can
you tell us, maybe briefly, about how that process, when
brought, with Bess’s coaxing, how you maybe [inaudible] into
Washington, but then you started to bring them closer to
home and tell that dynamic.>>Jeff Todd Titon: Well, Elwood
has always felt, Elwood Cornett, the head of the association,
as always felt that it was important for
the Old Regular Baptists not to be misunderstood by people
in universities, colleges, general public, and
so on and so forth, the history of misunderstanding
there. And he felt that by doing
these public things, it might actually help. He, for example, where
I first met him was that Berea College in 1979. That’s where I first
met Loyal Jones. They had a conference on what
they called rural hymnodity, and Berea invited Elwood and
a group of singers to come in and demonstrate their music
for this conference at Berea. And I thought it
was very important to make the distinction between
demonstration and performance, and they understood, and
in fact, endorsed the idea that it would be a
demonstration, and so on. And when we brought
them to Frankfurt, or when we brought them to
the Smithsonian’s Festival, I had some trepidation. I, myself, if any of
you have read my blog, you know that I have
grave misgivings about creative economy
cultural tourism and allying all this
stuff to money. I’m happier in a gift economy, and I think that the Old Regular
Baptists really understand that, as well, music is a gift. Of course, that’s an old
Christian idea, but it’s also, I think, important to
understand that someone like Elwood is a wise
and brilliant person. I can’t tell you how,
when — you’ve probably — you’ve all met some people in
these communities who are just, you know, if they were President
of the United States or Speaker of the House or something,
right, you know, we wouldn’t have these problems,
or we’d have less of them, and Elwood was one
of these people. He’s much wiser and smarter
than I am and any of us, and he was in favor
of doing all this, and we went to the
Smithsonian, he understood at once what the
festival was about and their demonstrations
were just splendid. At the end, he had everybody
in the last performance, in the big tent —
Diana Parker was there. You know, all the — James
Early, and he had everybody in the audience just, you
know, listening to every word that he was saying, how he had
appreciated what had happened. How they all had
appreciated what had happened at the festival, and
then, he did something that I hadn’t expected. He had everybody sing “Amazing
Grace” in the new melody. They have an old melody, the different melody
for “Amazing Grace.” Everybody sang amazing Grace,
and it’s their habit to go around shaking hands and hugging
each other in their services. So they did that. Everybody did that. Diana Parker was in
tears over all of this. So he understood that —
he understands is better, you know, than most people do. He should be the
— anyway, so… [ Laughter ] Just fortunate to be able
to meet somebody like this.>>Elizabeth Peterson:
Maybe one more question. Time for one more question.>>Jeff Todd Titon: Greg? Yeah.>>Audience Member: Question. Thanks again for a great talk. It’s so instructive to get more
dimension about the history of the disciplines
that we had here, too, and understand the dynamics
of the relationships, and to be able to
take the time here with you to kind of look back. One of the questions
that I have, I guess, it still somewhat applies to
myself, but I also know a number of people in the room that
are coming to the discipline of ethnomusicology or political
or cultural anthropology. How much of the history of these
disciplines do they need to pick up the baggage, in order to
move forward with the work that they want to do, with
the communities that they want to engage, and how flexible
are these disciplines, in terms of the collaborative
possibilities? They’re trying to find their own
identities within the discipline and building careers
[inaudible].>>Jeff Todd Titon: I think
it’s, as you’re suggesting, I think it’s very
important for everybody to construct their own narrative
of themselves in working in the area, wherever
they’re working. There’s a tendency, I
think, for younger people to be somewhat rebellious
and see themselves as doing something original or
something different or something in opposition, and so on, and
then finally, you realize that, well, this is your family,
and, you know, you kind of need to figure out where you stand
within this particular context. I think that happens when you
get older, but at any rate, it does seem to me that
different generations are going to write different histories. The founding generation of ethnomusicology
clearly had very little use for applied ethnomusicology
or public ethnomusicology. The contemporary
generation needs to write a different history,
and some of us are trying, but you know, I’m
an old guy now. So the younger people need
to write about that, too. There needs to be more
written by younger people about public folklore,
certainly. It’s very important to do that
and, you know, the narrative that I gave you was
kind of a struggle and triumph narrative, right? You recognize this
kind of thing. And there are other kinds of
formulas that we could put all of this into, as well, and
[inaudible] quite like that, and it’s always in
process and progress. But I think the important
thing is to locate oneself in an ongoing stream eventually, rather than to say
that I’m different. You may be, you know, if
you’re really different, you wind up like the
people on Solaris. Some of you saw that
science fiction movie, very alone and isolated. [ Laughter ] Yeah, okay.>>Elizabeth Peterson:
Thank you so much. [ Applause ]>>Jeff Todd Titon:
Thank you all. [ Applause ]>>Voiceover: This has
been a presentation of the Library of Congress. Visit us at loc.gov.

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