Computational ethnomusicology

RILM features computational ethnomusicology!


Block diagram

The June 2013 issue of Journal of new music research (XLII/2) is a special issue devoted to computational ethnomusicology.

The editors, Emilia Gómez, Perfecto Herrera, and Francisco Gómez-Martin, explain that the term computational ethnomusicology is over 30 years old, but it has recently been redefined as “the design, development, and usage of computer tools that have the potential to assist in ethnomusicological research.”

Above, a diagram of the Tarsos platform from “Tarsos, a modular platform for precise pitch analysis of Western and non-Western music” by Joren Six, Olmo Cornelis, and Marc Leman (pp. 113–29). Below, a vintage computer cover of The house of the rising sun.

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First From the Field

Bibliolore links to the first “From the Field” feature produced by the Society for Ethnomusicology and Smithsonian Folkways. The first installment of the series, by Jonathan Ritter, discusses protest songs and memory at a carnival in the Peruvian Andes. Read it in full here.

Photo by Jonathan Ritter

Photo by Jonathan Ritter

The post is first in a series, as Bibliolore writes, which will present “recent ethnomusicological field research to a general audience. Reports combine audio and video recordings, photographs, and narrative to explore music-making and social issues at locales around the world.”

I look forward to future installments!

Copyright, Education, Access and "Other" Media

In the CLIR report “Why Digitize?” (1999), Abby Smith suggests that digitization offered great potential for increasing the access to hard-to-find collections or fragile collections. There are, as she notes, some major problems:

The notion on the part of many young students that, if it is not on the Web or in an online catalog, then it must not exist, has the effect of orphaning the vast majority of information resources, especially those that are not in the public domain. This is not what the Framers had in mind when they wrote the copyright code into the Constitution, “to promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts.” This skewed representation of created works on the Web will continue for quite some time into the future, and the complications that surround moving image and recorded sound rights means, ironically, that these will be the least accessible resources on the most dynamic information source around.

This points to a fundamental tension that complicates the existence and use of audiovisual materials in many museum and archival collections: copyright and access. If the purpose of copyright was to promote innovation and progress, then copyright certainly isn’t doing its job anymore but serving the purposes of corporations and profit. There’s currently an important review of copyright going on, which will affect audiovisual materials in the U.S., particularly the access of copyrighted recordings held in research collections.

The Society for Ethnomusicology just released a position statement regarding copyright. You can learn more by reading the statement (click to link).

Blogging Ethnomusicology

I was excited to receive a package from New Zealand last week! It was my copy of the ICTM Yearbook. (Only the second that I’ve received since I just joined last year when I went to the world conference.)

The 2009 volume (41) contains a review essay, “Blogs by Ethnomusicologists,” by Barbara Alge (pp. 265-268). I wasn’t excited only because my fieldwork blog was listed on Alge’s blog, Blogging Ethnomusicologists, but also because it seems that blogging is receiving more recognition as a medium that plays a role in academic music circles. The review offers “insights into some blogs created by ethnomusicologists” (265), and Alge’s blog contains links to almost one hundred blogs maintained by ethnomusicologists. Although Alge suggests that “deep understanding is hindered by the often randomness of the information” gleaned from blogs, she concludes that blogs “can indeed have relevance for ethnomusicology” when used as “knowledge management tools” (268).

Blog away!