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.
C. Saraswati Bai (1874–1974) began studying Karnatak music at the age of 6, and by the time she was 9 her exceptional talent was so evident that the harikathā guru Tiruvaiyaru Krishnachar took her under his wing.
By the age of 11 she was gaining local notoriety, and as it became clear that she was contemplating a professional career the established performers of this male-dominated genre moved to undermine her, effectively blackmailing performance venues into refusing to engage her. Saraswati persevered, and public support for her grew; at last, those who had sought to squelch her career relented and tried to make amends.
In early 1911 she embarked on a highly successful tour of India and Sri Lanka, and by the age of 22 she had become one of the most acclaimed harikathā performers of the time.
From 1913 through the 1930s Saraswati traveled almost continually, performing standing up for six to seven hours in a different town each night. She recorded nine successful records for Odeon, and often performed on the radio; she was also in great demand for performances at weddings. At the height of her career she earned 2000 rupees each night, more than any other harikathā performer at that time.
From the 1940s until the early 1960s Saraswati performed less and less, due partly to a decline in audiences with the advent of sound films, and partly to the intense physical demands of traveling and performing. She took a keen interest in developing cultural organizations, and was an ardent supporter of Gandhi.
This according to “C. Saraswati Bai” by Sriram Venkatakrishnan (writing as Sriram V; Sruti 262 [July 2006] pp. 21–31 and 263 [August 2006] pp. 17–38). Below, one of her Odeon recordings.
Zoomusicology is an area of intellectual endeavor that developed outside of music studies, among scholars interested in animal behavior.
Although this field is almost 30 years old, people operating in ethnomusicology, who are potentially the better equipped to understand the goals and challenges of zoomusicology, are often not aware of how compatible the two fields are.
Zoomusicology and ethnomusicology have much to gain from each other. Moreover, if ethnomusicology indeed has the ambition to be a field that brings together musical knowledge in a worldwide perspective, then one would have to maintain that zoomusicology should be seen as part of ethnomusicology.
This according to “Zoomusicology and ethnomusicology: A marriage to celebrate in heaven” by Marcello Sorce Keller (Yearbook for traditional music XLIV  166–83). Above and below, lupine group vocalizations.
The Strong Women from the Tiwi Islands (northern Australia) are concerned that young Tiwi people are straddling two cultures, losing their language and their Tiwi identity.
To address this problem, the women and their grandchildren have composed a song that emphasizes connection to the ancestors, to country, to language, and to the elders. With lyrics in English, traditional Tiwi song language, and the contemporary spoken language, and with a hip-hop dance-mix sampling an ethnographic recording made in 1912, Ngariwanajirri (Strong kids song) is an example of new music helping to preserve tradition.
This according to “Ngariwanajirri, the Tiwi Strong kids song: Using repatriated song recordings in a contemporary music project” by Genevieve Campbell (Yearbook for traditional music XLIV  1–23).
Below, a music video of Ngariwanajirri; the song changes dramatically around 2:00.
“Pungmul is played with your heel!” say many celebrated performers of this percussion genre, underscoring the inseparability of the music and the musicians’ dance moves.
Merely listening to the music of pungmul is not sufficient for differentiating between passages where the meter does not change but the instruments play cross-rhythmically and those where the meter does change and the instrumental parts reflect this change. Such passages can only be differentiated through a choreological analysis that demonstrates the relationships between the stepping patterns of the dancing musicians and the music that they are simultaneously playing.
This according to “‘Pungmul is played with your heel!’ Dance as a determinant of rhythmic construct in Korean percussion band music/dance” by Nathan Hesselink (Eum’ag gwa munhwa/Music and culture IV  pp. 99–110). Below, a taste of pungmul from the Gungnip Minsok Bangmulgwan (National Folk Museum) in Seoul.
Launched in 2011 by the Irish National Committee of the International Council for Traditional Music (ICTM Ireland), Ethnomusicology Ireland is a peer-reviewed online journal edited by Colin Quigley.
The journal aims to reflect the range of music played, studied, and researched in Ireland, providing a regional forum for scholars. While PDFs of the articles are open-access, enhanced versions with links to sound and video illustrations are only available to members of ICTM Ireland.
Related article: The Joe Heaney Archives
In 1990 Mickey Hart and the Library of Congress’s American Folklife Center began work on what would become known as the Endangered Music Project—an effort to disseminate both new and archival recordings of vanishing world traditions.
In a 1993 interview, Hart described assembling the tracks for the project’s first CD release, The spirit cries: Music from the rainforests of South America & the Caribbean:
“My selection process was mostly earplay…I didn’t want it to be an ethnography specifically of the area, I wanted it to be a popular work.”
“I would listen to them over and over…in different environments, on the beach, in the house, in the car….I would listen in the morning, the afternoon, and the evening, and the selection revealed itself to me.”
This according to “Opening up the ‘Oz of archives’: Mickey Hart and the Endangered Music Project” by James McKee (Folklife Center news XV/1 [winter 1993] pp. 3–7).
Today is Hart’s 70th birthday! Below, a brief documentary about The spirit cries.
Although he was only eight years younger, Bob Dylan called Mike Seeger (1933–2009) a father figure, and considered him the ultimate embodiment of a folk-star persona. Recalling him in Chronicles. I (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2004), Dylan wrote:
“Mike was unprecedented. He was like a duke, the knight errant. As for being a folk musician, he was the supreme archetype. He could push a stake through Dracula’s black heart. He was the romantic, egalitarian, and revolutionary type all at once—had chivalry in his blood…”
“He played all the instruments, whatever the song called for—the banjo, the fiddle, mandolin, autoharp, the guitar, even harmonica in the rack….He played on all the various planes, the full index of old-time styles, played in all the genres and had the idioms mastered—Delta blues, ragtime, minstrel songs, buck-and-wing, dance reels, play party, hymns and gospel—being there and seeing him up close, something hit me. It’s not as if he just played everything well, he played these songs as good as it was possible to play them.” (pp. 69–71)
Today would have been Mike Seeger’s 80th birthday! Below, Seeger in 1976.
The Society for Ethnomusicology and Smithsonian Folkways launched From the field, a series of multimedia reports for the online Smithsonian Folkways magazine, in July 2013 with Carnival of memory: Songs of protest and remembrance in the Andes by Jonathan Ritter.
Co-produced by Smithsonian Folkways and SEM, this peer-reviewed series presents 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.
(Photo by Jonathan Ritter)