Save the UMich Gamelan

If this post motivates you to do one thing, let it be to sign the petition!

The University of Michigan gamelan faces an uncertain future, despite its nearly 50-year history of vibrant educational opportunities and performances with many world-renowned artists. While the School of Music, Theater & Dance has just broke ground for a new addition, it can’t seem to find a place in its priorities (nor its facilities) for a permanent commitment to this venerable ensemble! The Michigan Daily has chimed in with this feature story, which offers a good overview of the history of the ensemble, how it arrived in Ann Arbor, and it’s history at the University. Current concerned students have created a petition to gather signatures. If you’re reading this, you can voice your support and sign it, too!

And of course, go to the concert on February 15, 2014 at Stamps Auditorium to show your support!

You can also contact university administrators directly, including the dean of the School of Music, the Provost, and the University President. And of course, go to the concert on February 15, 2014 at Stamps Auditorium to show your support!

Here is some of the social media buzz from the first 48 hours of the petition going live here on storify, and here’s some of the tweets so far:

Update: nearing 2,000 signatures on the petition, in 48 hours.

Nearly 2,000 signatures in 2 days!

University of Michigan students play on the Javanese gamelan ensemble next to the pond near the Moore Building.

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!

Support the Center for Black Music Research

A recent report that ironically proposes to “increase resources” at Columbia College in Chicago actually proposes to lower the quality of research and academic infrastructure at the College by eliminating funding for the world-renowned Center for Black Music Research (CBMR). The news was publicized in a Chicago Tribune article earlier this week, and many in the sound archives and musicology communities are gathering support for the Center. Here is an excerpt of a blog post by musicologist Fredara Mareva, “Help Save the Center for Black Music Research”:

Yesterday, Howard Reich (@howardreich) wrote an Chicago Tribune article that informed us that the CBMR at Columbia College in Chicago is slated for elimination as a part of a plan to “increase resources.” Dr. Louise Love, Vice President of Academic Affairs and Interim Provost, is responsible for proposing a cost-saving plan that will help offset the school’s decreasing enrollment. The irony is that enrollment in Columbia College’s music program is increasing while the rub is that the CBMR is not housed in its music department, but in its Office of Academic Research. A final decision about the CBMR’s future will not be made until June 2012, but now is the time to voice your support for its important work. . . .

I fervently encourage you to join us in a letter writing campaign to show support for the work of the CBMR. Please take a moment to send a note of support for the CBMR and the Chicago Jazz Ensemble to the following:

Dear President Carter:

This is my letter in support of the preservation of the Center for Black Music Research at Columbia College. I am gravely concerned about the proposed plan to eliminate the CBMR, which would eliminate access to invaluable resource that document the evolution of African American music. Its contribution to knowledge includes on campus Columbia College students and extends to all of us who appreciate the history of African-derived music from around the world. There is no other organization that provides the comprehensive level of research and programming that CBMR does. I believe that the access they provide to rare recordings and collections is an important cultural service that needs to be preserved.

Sincerely,

Please send to:

Dr. Warrick Carter, Ph.D.
President of Columbia College
wcarter@colum.edu

Prioritization Team responsible for making recommendations to the President: blueprint@colum.edu

Read Mareva’s full post here and Howard Reich’s article here.

Archives Relief, West Africa

The BAPMAF archives (Bokoor African Popular Music Archive Foundation) in Accra, Ghana were flooded on October 26 of this year. The damage appears to be serious, and a plea for financial support has been circulating via email, blog, twitter, etc. John Collins, the archives founder, state on 10 November: “As you may know I have been operating the BAPMAF music archives since 1990 which was partly opened at my Bokoor House to the public in 1996 and more fully in 2007. However, devastation struck in the middle of the night of 26th Oct 2011 in the form of a flood. . . . The resulting flooding on the 26 Oct was unprecedented with almost 6 feet of water entering our land and 5 feet into the downstairs house and premises where some of the BAPMAF archival holdings are kept.” It is estimated that 10 to 20% of the archives holdings were damaged or destroyed, including all electronic equipment. Further illustrations of the damage were posted by the Afropop blog on November 19—if you have any doubt as to the extent, have a look at the photos!

If you are able to help, monetary donations can be made via Paypal. Information is given at the AfroPop post above, and via the BAPMAF Facebook page.

Further information about the BAPMAF project and its collaboration with Africa House at NYU can be found at the BAPMAF collection page.

Instruments in Museums

A klezmer exhibit at the MIM.

The MIM klezmer exhibit.

A couple weeks ago now, NPR ran a short piece that featured the Musical Instrument Museum (the MIM). Ted Robbins quotes director Bill DeWalt noting that the museum is, ironically, “one of the most quiet museums you’ll ever be in.” The reason is that the sound samples illustrating the instruments are heard on headphones. This is the trend in musical museums, I believe, and it matches what I experienced five years ago at the Czech Museum of Music in Prague. Headphones and digital files are certainly one of the amazing technologies that offer a better experience to musical instrument museums!

Last year, when the MIM opened, however, Edward Rothstein was a bit more critical in his New York Times review. Comparing the museum to a “department store” because of its size and architecture, the criticism seemed to be that the collection is too large and lacks a focus in display:

Think of instruments, too, as a kind of raw material that you are confronted with as you walk through the expansive exhibit spaces of this $250 million museum. It is material that the institution celebrates, promotes and sometimes illuminates, and it makes the museum of immediate interest. But the possibilities, for now, are more compelling than the achievements.

Though I saw the museum before its exhibits were fully mounted (and obtained images, text and plans for what was missing), the impact of this institution is in its size, nerve and astonishing quality and character of parts of its collection. But it seems unfinished in ways that should be examined.

In any case, I want to go to the museum, and I encourage anybody in Phoenix to check it out! Have you been? What do you think?

The Musical Instrument Museum is at 4725 East Mayo Boulevard, Phoenix; (480) 478-6000; themim.org.

Hill Auditorium History and Information

Screen grab of search terms arriving at the blog for the last year

A screen grab of some top search terms for the past year.


I was surprised to find while looking over my blog stats this afternoon to find that, of search phrases that bring visitors to the blog, “hill auditorium” was the second highest. This is not to say that it brought a lot of visitors — only 7 — which makes me think that people are interested in performances more than musical instrument studies. (Duh?!) Nonetheless, Ann Arbor’s Hill Auditorium seems to bring a lot of traffic here. This is likely due to my May post on the pipe organ in Hill Auditorium, “The 1895 Columbian Organ,” which was really just a positive reaction to James Tobin’s article about the instrument in Michigan Today.

If you end up here with an interest in Hill or in the pipe organ, you probably want to know more than I wrote in that post. I’d recommend first, if you’re interested in the building’s history, to read Tobin’s article. Next, you might want to visit some of these links:

Hill Auditorium Stage; photo by Paul Jaronski, UM Photo Services

Other ideas? Add links in the comments, please!