Eastman/Rochester Studies in Ethnomusicology series

Eastman/Rochester Studies in Ethnomusicology series
Guest post by Ellen Koskoff, Series Editor
Professor Emerita, Ethnomusicology
University of Rochester’s Eastman School of Music

About ten years ago, the University of Rochester Press made an awesome decision: to widen the scope of its studies in music to include books exploring the anthropological perspective of living musical cultures, a musical discipline known today as ethnomusicology. Thus, the Eastman/Rochester Studies in Ethnomusicology (E/RSE) series was born. Since our first publication in 2011—Heather MacLachlan’s Burma’s Pop Music Industry: Creators, Distributors, Censors — the series has published a further seven volumes.

What is ethnomusicology and how is it different from historical musicology? Historical musicology generally deals with Western art (and now popular) musics. Related to the discipline of history, historical musicology relies on primary and secondary written sources–scores, letters, diaries, etc. and written histories and analyses–and on Western music’s theoretic structures. Ethnomusicology, on the other hand, is the study of all music in (mostly contemporary) human social and cultural life. Closely related today to the disciplines of anthropology and cultural studies, ethnomusicology is at its heart interdisciplinary. Like anthropology, its basic method is ethnographic fieldwork; its tools are recording, transcription, and analysis; and its discourses can be defined by their flexibility and openness to philosophical and methodological differences.

As our series shows, ethnomusicology is based not so much on a particular music, people, or context, as on relationships between musics, peoples, and contexts. I like to think of ethnomusicology as a way to grapple with musical and social differences, and the titles we have published have clearly illustrated this focus. From those examining new homes for old musics and the effects of new music technologies on contemporary music practices to those that discuss performances of musical gender and changes in music and social identity, these titles attest to the visibility and vitality of different musical practices throughout the world.

Our two most recent titles further illustrate the breadth of ethnomusicological inquiry.

An unusual ethnographic study, Listen with the Ear of the Heart: Music and Monastery Life at Weston Priory, by Maria Guarino, goes a long way in expanding the notion of ethnomusicology as a basic approach to all musics, not simply the study of specific, so-called “non-western” traditions. Examining the everyday ritual and musical practices within a Benedictine monastery located in Weston, Vermont, Guarino describes how musical performance is integrated into life there and acts as a guide to the basic monastic ways of being and knowing. Based on a newly-developed theory of “contemplative ethnography,” Guarino uses the Catholic experience of conversatio–the basic process of communal learning–as a model for the gradually unfolding process of life in the monastic context. This book was funded in part by publication grants from the Howard Hanson Institute for American music and the Society for American Music, indicating the strong role American music plays in the book.

Tuning the Kingdom: Kawuugulu Musical Performance, Politics, and Storytelling in Buganda, by Damascus Kafumbe, draws upon oral and written materials, on archival research, and, most importantly, on many years of ethnographic fieldwork among the Kawuugulu Clan-Royal Musical Ensemble of the Kingdom of Buganda, a large region in south-central Uganda. Written by a native Ugandan, the book examines how Kawuugulu musical performance and storytelling collectively “manage, model, structure, and legitimize power relations” in Buganda, a phenomenon Kafumbe describes as “tuning the kingdom.” This book was funded in part by publication grants from the American Musicological Society, the Society for Ethnomusicology, the Pabst Charitable Foundation for the Arts, and Middlebury College.

All publications in the series

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