Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The other IMF

One of my other, nondissertation duties here is co-running the Interdisciplinary Music Forum. Most of the time, it's fairly small scale, things like organizing forums for students to share their work, inviting scholars to give talks, reading groups. But my favorite part is the two-day residency we hold with a scholar, and this year I was very very thrilled (as I think was everyone) to have Professor Philip Bohlman from Chicago.

Yesterday, he presented some new work and in conjunction with his highly-recommended book The Music of European Nationalism, opened up a discussion. His own work touched upon some fascinating bits including Jewish populations in Europe, parades, Herder's folk collections, and the Eurovision song contest. I know for me, it opened up some new windows of thought for my own dissertation. His distinction between national and nationalist musics strikes me as a rather important and undervalued one, and raises the question of how the national music is arrived at and how the idea of sameness is negotiated. I was also fond of the striking images Bohlman picks- the parade, the song contest, the Euro, the anthology. That's the art historian in me, which brings me to what Professor Bohlman's stressed at the very start: interdisciplinarity. The need for musicologists to engage with broader audiences, to realize that your dissertation isn't as narrow as you might think (actually he highly recommended writing your first book not on the dissertation). And Bohlman is a terrific role model for this. He is, after all, the author of one of the more foundational texts in my personal canon: Musicology as a Political Act. He also exposes the myth that there's some deep chasm in between historical and ethno musicology, between scholar and performer, between musicologist and anybody else. The only thing I'm not sure I'd want to emulate is his getting up before 7.

Oh, and the Norwegian winner of the Eurovision is adorable, the back up dancers are doing a halling and the song has been stuck in my head all day. See for yourself!


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