For the Birds

I found my ARSC newsletter in the post when I arrived home this evening. I was quite taken with the illustration on back, RAAF pilot Eric Douglas playing a record for Adelie penguins in Antarctica, January 1931:

Pilot Officer Eric Douglas playing music for unappreciative Adelie penguins, January 1931

The photo was taken by Frank Hurley during the British, Australian and New Zealand Research Expedition (BANZARE) of 1929–1931, an “acquisitive” expedition with the purpose of claiming extensive areas of the Antarctic for the British Commonwealth.

I enjoyed the photo’s playful tenor. Though the caption suggests “unappreciative” penguins (how would appreciative ones look?), the one reproduced in the newsletter shows one looking directly at the phonograph with what might be interpreted as an inquisitive gesture (then again, how would an inquisitive penguin look?). Perhaps somewhere in the National Library of Australia there is documentation as to what Douglas was playing for the penguins!

More photos are at the exhibit page, including a feature on albatrosses. More materials, including photographs and documents from the BANZARE expedition, can be searched online at the National Archives of Australia.

Moravian Sound Terrains

I wanted to offer open (online) access to some of my research. This hasn’t caught on so much in ethnomusicology, but it’s been standard in other academic disciplines since the birth of the Web (the SPIRES-HEP database of physics papers at SLAC, for instance). Peer-reviewed publishing and scholarship is great, and it’s highly important, but it takes time. It’s often difficult to get fresh perspectives and brand-new ideas.

Therefore, I thought I’d try a relatively new option, and publish on the Web my recent conference paper from the Society for Ethnomusicology’s annual meeting. The presentation was on November 11 (2010) in Los Angeles. If you’re interested in reading it after skimming the abstract, follow the links to the full paper below.

The essay is titled “Sound Terrains: ‘Soundscape,’ Place and Nature in South Moravia.” Here’s the abstract from the conference program:

Place and ecology loom large in the conception of traditional music in slovácko, a region of Moravia (Czech Republic) known for its natural beauty, vibrant folk festivals, and viniculture. The region’s gently undulating landscape forms an ecosystem suited to the cultivation of wine grapes, and these have in turn closely entwined musical expressions and wine-related cultural activities. Not only nature, but also music, then, have been closely associated with slovácko’s unique identity, creating a unique connection of sound and ecology. This presentation will explore the link between ecology, soundscape, and music in slovácko through the analysis of recent recordings and ethnographic interviews with Moravian musicians undertaken in 2005 and 2006. This paper will support the ethnomusicological observation that, while soundscape recordings, called “sound terrains” in Czech, may easily appear as etic artifacts collected by ethnomusicologists, each of these sound ecologies has its own trajectories of history and understanding that may be apparent to locals as well as ethnomusicologists and other scholars. To illustrate this argument, I will examine two recent recording projects. These projects reveal dichotomies among contemporary Moravian traditional musicians that fall along lines of professional and amateur, traditional and fusion, and rural and urban; however, considered from the standpoint of a sound ecology, they reveal continuities of thought in traditional music about the intimate connections between place, Moravianness, nationalism, and music that persist within new social and political configurations in the European Union.

To download a pdf version of the complete paper, click http://bit.ly/fP9C0v. (If the link is broken, find it on the publications list of my Webpage.)

If you want to reference, cite, or use the essay, please do. If you’re not sure what scholarly attribution should look like in the internet age, check out the attribution guide from open.michigan. It’s common practice to attribute authors and also share your work with others, so this is distributed under a Creative Commons 3.0 Attribution-ShareAlike unported license.

A unique feature of online access (at least via blog) is that you can let creators know what you’re doing with their stuff. Please let me know what you think or if you use this essay! Any feedback would be appreciated, and you can leave it in the comments.