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A silhouette (in white) of Founder's Tower, on a background illustrating a musical theme. Royal Holloway, University of London
Enthnomusicology and the Culture Industries




in association with


10th NOVEMBER 2007

The autumn one-day conference of the British Forum for Ethnomusicology
will be held at Goldsmiths College, University of London, on Saturday 10th
November 2007. The theme for the day will be ‘Ethnomusicology and the
Culture Industries’.

Of all the various components of the music studies field, ethnomusicology
has perhaps the most long-standing relationship with what have latterly
become known as the ‘culture industries’. This relationship stretches
back to at least 1901, when the Gramophone Company’s Fred Gaisberg made a
pioneering recording trip to India. In those early days the
representatives of record companies sometimes functioned themselves as
fieldworkers, and often preceded scholars in their engagement with and
chronicling of particular music cultures. While the appropriation,
commodification and dissemination of these musics was initially viewed
favourably, because of the access to unfamiliar sounds it easily provided,
the growing power of the record companies became seen as increasingly
problematic. Alan Lomax, for example, was particularly critical of the
‘one-way channel’ of media influence upon what he conceived as ‘the
integrity of cultural systems’. As recording and production costs
decreased, however, so local musicians were able to harness recording
technologies for their own purposes, creating ‘cassette cultures’, for
example (Manuel 1993), where issues of ownership and identity became more
complex, more fragmented, and more negotiable than the model of the
hegemonic national or multinational corporation might suggest. This trend
has continued over the last few decades, as the digital revolution and the
internet have further enhanced the possibilities available to musicians
performing traditional music, both in terms of their abilities to market
themselves and their work and in the possibilities offered for musical
influence and/or collaboration, again subverting the overarching influence
of the culture industries. Additionally, the rise of ‘World Music’ as a
marketing term, and the bringing together of musicians from often very
disparate cultures to create synthetic musical works, has also challenged
the methodological and conceptual bases upon which ethnomusicology has
long been founded, and has caused ethnomusicologists to reconsider the
nature and scope of what they do and how they account for it.

These wide-ranging ideas suggest a variety of possible articulations
between ethnomusicology and the culture industries, of which the following
broadly-conceived questions are offered merely as starting points:

• How has the work of ‘traditional’ musicians been influenced by national
or multinational corporations, and what effects have such influences had
upon musical outcomes?

• How have such musicians adopted the technology underpinning mass media
for their own enterprises, and to what ends has this technology been put?

• What sort of new musical collaborations have arisen in the service of
‘World Music’, how have such collaborations been marketed, and what new
insights can be gained from studying them? Indeed, is the term ‘World
Music’ still relevant, and if not, in what ways has it been superseded?

• How is the latest communications technology, particularly file sharing,
digital downloads, and internet sites such as MySpace and YouTube,
changing patterns of musical behaviour in respect of the relationship
between traditional music makers, their audiences, and the culture

• How are ethnomusicologists adapting to the changing relationships
between musicians and the culture industries, and what are the
consequences of such changes for the theories and methodologies they

Potential contributors are invited to submit abstracts of up to 300 words
to the conference convenor, Stephen Cottrell, preferably by email at:


or by post to:

Dr Stephen Cottrell
Department of Music
Goldsmiths College
Lewisham Way
New Cross
SE14 6NW

The deadline for submissions is July 30th 2007, and contributors will be
advised by late August.

Further information on the conference will be uploaded on the BFE website
as it becomes available:


Last updated Fri, 11-Jan-2008 15:01 GMT / PH-S
Department of Music, Royal Holloway, University of London, Egham, Surrey TW20 0EX
Tel/Fax : +44 (0)1784 443532/439441