Music Conferences in November 2014

In November of 2014 I will be speaking for music conferences in Estonia, Norway, and the USA. Below are titles and abstracts for the three presentations, two of which are on research methods, while the other is on issues in the evaluation of music lecturers in higher education.

-Roundtable Panel Presentation at Annual Meeting of the Society for Ethnomusicology (Chaired by James Revell Carr, with panelists Jonathan McCollum, Ingrid Monson, Gillian Rodger, Michael Iyanaga, and David Hebert):

Excavating the Subaltern Past: Theories and Methods in Historical Ethnomusicology

As ethnomusicologists continue to grapple with the musical legacy of hundreds of years of colonialism and imperialism, more scholars are recognizing the importance of historical research in understanding a post-colonial world. The old adage tells us that “history is written by the victors,” but twenty-first century ethnomusicologists are making efforts to uncover the voices of the subaltern, the subjugated, the marginalized, and the colonized, excavating alternative histories that complicate the received understanding of the past inscribed by prior generations of scholars. Research of this sort does not simply tell us about the past, but can have important repercussions for political and social issues in the present. This roundtable will explore the possibilities and the pitfalls of undertaking historical ethnomusicology with subaltern subjects, discussing a variety of methodologies, practicalities, and theoretical frameworks that have been utilized in recent work. Panel participants represent research on a wide range of geographic areas and socio-cultural issues, including African-American vernacular music and the Civil Rights movement, devotional song for Catholic saints in Brazil, syncretic music genres of native Hawaiians, representations of gender transgression on the American popular stage, nationalism in Japanese music education, and the music of the Armenian Apostolic Church. Each of these scholars will discuss their efforts to negotiate differences between radical postmodern subjectivities and the compelling desire to understand objective, empirical “truth.” Through these disparate case studies, the panelists will propose approaches that can help other ethnomusicologists navigate the contested terrain of history and uncover obscured perspectives and previously untold narratives. [James Revell Carr, chair]

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-Keynote Speech at Grieg Research School Conference:
Observational Methods in Music Research

Interviewing is often perceived as a particularly insightful and enjoyable way to conduct research. Interviewers typically sense that they are connecting personally with interviewees, and attaining deep insights into their world. Especially among music scholars in the Nordic countries there is a tendency across recent years to emphasize interview data within qualitative studies. But what of observational methods? Has observation become passé, and no longer necessary for the production of new musical knowledge? One perennial rationale for the use of observational methods is the unassailable truism that “People only sometimes say what they really think, and what they really think only sometimes accurately reflects reality” (Hebert & McCollum, 2014, p.49).

Indeed, consideration of systematic observations may even be necessary in order to fully understand ourselves, enabling a healthy confrontation with biases and inaccuracies in the explanations constructed as we strive to make sense of musical developments in our lives (i.e. arts-based research). Empirical observation can be conducted in various ways by music researchers, including such approaches as ethnographic field notes and automatic recording techniques for capturing sound, video, images, movement, or other data. Some observational strategies require special conditions (e.g. expensive equipment in a laboratory), while others can be conducted naturalistically: in music studios, classrooms, or therapy settings, for example. An array of quantitative and qualitative techniques may be used for analysis of observational data, many of which are greatly enhanced by the convenience of recent digital technologies. This session will combine a lecture format with various workshop activities designed to acquaint participants with issues and strategies for observational research. Key concepts to be demonstrated include subjectivity, delimitation and framing, sampling, content analysis, inter-observer reliability, thick description and “thick analysis”. We will consider common threats to the relevance, accuracy and thoroughness of observations, and examine an array of strategies for effective collection, analysis and interpretation of observational data in research that advances human knowledge with new musical discoveries.

Key questions addressed by the lecture:
-What kinds of significant musical knowledge cannot be obtained from interviews; and conversely, what of importance cannot be observed?
-What are some diverse ways that observations may be collected, analysed, and interpreted in order to produce new findings regarding a musical phenomenon?
-What are some effective techniques for strengthening the reliability and convincingness of observational reporting?

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-Keynote Speech at Annual Meeting of Nordic Network for Music Education:

Cultural Differences and Strategies in the Performance Assessment of Music Lecturers in Higher Education

In most countries, assessment and evaluation entail complex processes faced from the time young children first enter schools until they complete advanced and professional studies as adults. However, evaluation continues further, even through the PhD and onward, as lecturers seek promotion in higher education careers. While effective assessment can be a uniquely valuable tool for growth, it too often becomes an arena in which biases and misuse of power are painfully evident. Many may assume that standards are fairly uniform, but there is in fact enormous diversity in the expectations and underlying assumptions that inform the practice of assessment and evaluation in higher education. This topic appears to be little researched, yet assessment commonly affects many of us in ways that can become quite personal and distressing. This presentation is based on critical review of documents (from the fields of higher education, intercultural communication, and music education research) as well as reflection on four kinds of personal experience: (a) managing music lecturers for New Zealand’s largest college, (b) serving as a supervisory committee member or examiner for doctoral degrees in various countries (USA, Canada, Finland, Norway, Sweden and Spain), (c) assisting China Conservatory in Beijing with its development of an international network in 2014 for collaboration between music schools (partly for assessment purposes), and (d) evaluating music faculty as an anonymous reviewer - mostly for tenure and promotion to Associate Professor and full Professor - at public universities on five continents: Europe (Finland and Iceland), Asia (Singapore), Oceania (Australia), Africa (South Africa), and North America (public universities in Illinois and British Columbia). I will seek to identify the types and causes of an array of common issues, and attempt to formulate possible solutions or strategies for minimizing certain problems largely attributable to cultural differences. It is hoped that the ideas shared here will prompt further discussion of how assessment in higher education may be implemented in sustainable ways that are increasingly fair and transparent as well as effective toward the objective of nurturing artistic, pedagogical, and scholarly excellence in conservatories, colleges, and universities.

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