|Scholar sharpening his quill, by Gerrit Dou (Dutch, 17th c.)|
Although I don't have a quill pen, as does the scholar in this painting courtesy of the Wikimedia Commons, I thought I’d offer readers glimpse into some of my scholarly writing projects going along during the second half of this calendar year, and where they stand. Compared to this blog which is aimed at the public, these projects may appear esoteric and begging for translation. That would be a useful future task for this blog. Yet this blog originally was intended as a research blog, a basket of ideas mainly for my own use. But the writerly voice that emerged wanted to write for the public, not mainly for myself. This entry will be a change of pace, then, because it's going to be much more like that basket.
I want to say also that besides writing projects, like most people in the United States today I’ve been much absorbed this year with activities surrounding the upcoming elections, local, state, and national, to take place in only a few days, although the results may not be known as quickly this year as usual. But this isn’t a blog about elections and politics.
It seems no week goes by without something needing to be done on an article, a chapter, or a review in progress. I couldn’t possibly have involved myself in these writing projects while I was a professor, because during the academic year I spent almost all my work time in teaching, advising, and administrative work. Now in retirement I have no teaching or advising obligations—at least, no formal ones—and the only administrative work I’ve been doing has been for the academic societies to which I belong. Before I retired, I was able to work on writing projects only during summers (when I had no teaching obligations) and semesters or years on leave with fellowships or grants, often combining those with sabbaticals. Now in retirement I have much more time to read freely, and to write when I wish to. Here, then, is a brief description of some in-progress writing projects.
1. “Ethical Considerations for Ethnomusicologists in the Midst of Environmental Crisis.” This is my chapter in a book in progress edited by Jonathan Stock and Beverley Diamond called the Routledge Companion to Ethics in Ethnomusicology. The initial draft of my chapter was due on August 31. I just barely sent it in by the deadline. The abstract: Ethnomusicologists’ “primary ethical responsibility is to their research participants,” according to the 2018 SEM Statement on Ethical Considerations. The Statement asserts further that in some cases this responsibility must be extended to “natural flora, and fauna, and human relationships to these.” What happens when these two principles are in conflict? I re-examine, from an ethical standpoint, a longitudinal research study among a musical community of coal miners whose industry harms the environment and themselves, rendering them vulnerable to both economic and environmental injustice. Resolution of this ethical conflict is rendered especially difficult because this community has a justifiable and longstanding distrust of outside do-gooders such as union organizers, social workers and environmentalists.
1a. On October 23 I gave a brief and partial version of this chapter at a roundtable on “complicating the conversation about ethics in ethnomusicology” at the recent Society for Ethnomusicology conference.
2. “Ethnography in the Study of Congregational Music.” This is a chapter on doing ethnographic fieldwork, with special attention to prospects and problems with ethnography in religious music-cultures. In this chapter I attempt to answer three questions: (1) What is ethnography? (2) What theories and methods offer a foundation for ethnographic research, and does religion present special difficulties? and (3) Why incorporate ethnography into studies of congregational music? The chapter is for a book long in progress that’s edited by Jeffers Engelhardt, Monique Ingalls, and Andrew Mall. It’s entitled Studying Congregational Music, also under contract with Routledge. This book has been in progress since 2015. Jeffers Engelhardt asked me if I’d write a chapter on ethnography for this volume in 2015; I accepted the invitation and submitted the chapter in May, 2016. More than four years went by as the rest of the authors wrote their chapters and the editors wrote their introductory material. Last month the manuscript underwent Routledge’s copyediting. My copyedited chapter was sent to me about two weeks ago, and I was given 7 days to go over the copyedits, answer questions, and make corrections. I managed to squeeze it in while also attending and presenting at the SEM conference, again just returning it before the deadline. Possibly I will see page proofs and have a chance to correct these as well, but it’s just as likely that the editors will take care of that. Most likely the book will be published in 2021, five years after I completed my chapter for it. That is a long time, but it’s not uncommon in an edited volume with a dozen or more contributing authors.
3. “A Sound Economy.” This article is an expansion of one of the four topics of my “sound ecology” project. It is a chapter in a book in progress entitled Transforming Ethnomusicology, edited by Beverley Diamond and Salwa El-Shawan Castelo-Branco, under contract with Oxford University Press. I wrote my chapter in 2017, basing it partly on my plenary address for the 2015 “Transforming Ethnomusicology” forum in Limerick, Ireland; and on one of my four public Basler Lectures at East Tennessee State University in March and April, 2016. A sound economy is characteristic of a sound community and arises from the recognition of co-presence and a universal kinship by means of sound experience. These ideas are much elaborated in my sound ecology project, the latest summary of it having appeared in the last chapter of my book Toward a Sound Ecology, published last August by Indiana University Press. Last month the manuscript for Transforming Ethnomusicology underwent Oxford’s copyediting. My copyedited chapter was sent to me about two weeks ago, and I was given three weeks to go over the copyedits, answer questions, and update the citations and references, and make other corrections. I spent a couple of days last week doing this in down time from the SEM conference, and have been working steadily on it this weekend as well. I hope to complete it and send it back to the editors in a few more days. Possibly I will see page proofs and have a chance to correct these as well, but it’s just as likely that the editors will take care of that. Most likely the book will be published in 2021, four years after I completed my chapter for it.
4. “An Ecological Approach to Folklife Studies, Expressive Culture, and Environment.” This article, like the first three, came as the result of an invitation—in this case from a group based at Indiana University that go by the acronymn DERT, which stands for Diverse Environmental Research Team. DERT consists of folklorists, ethnomusicologists, and ecomusicologists. The article will be published in a book under contract to the University of Illinois Press, entitled Diverse Environmentalisms: Expressive Culture and Environmental Change, edited by John McDowell, Katherine Borland, Rebecca Dirksen, and Sue Touhy. In this article I attempted once more to advance an ecological approach to folklife and the performance of expressive culture, returning to a topic that I first broached in my 1988 book, Powerhouse for God: Speech, Chant, and Song in an Appalachian Baptist Church. The abstract: The performed word, whether spoken, chanted, or sung, offers more than an expression of culture in aesthetic form. From an ecological point of view, it articulates changing historical and contemporary relations among living beings and their environments. Theories from ecosystems ecology, when applied to sociocultural systems as well as biological ones, reveal that the performed word adjusts connections among people, material culture, animals, plants, landforms, and other aspects of the physical environment. Sacred language in particular is imbued with the power to alter relations and, therefore, to change beings, the environment, and the course of future events. The article goes on to illustrate these claims through a case study of environmental affordances, catastrophes, and life story narratives in a community in Virginia’s northern Blue Ridge Mountains, over a time depth of approximately 150 years. The DERT team editor that I worked with was more interested in the performed word than in ecology. In 2018 expanded the my 2017 draft of this chapter by adding a few pages about expressive culture, while I insisted on maintaining what I had written about farming, family, husbandry, and the effects of a changing physical environment, encouraging various adaptations and requiring others. I reviewed the copyedited manuscript two years later (i.e., in late July and early August), sending it back to the editors then. I hope to see page proofs either later this year or early next. We expect that the book will be published in 2021.
5. “Earth Song: Music and the Environment.” Like the first four, this essay was written on invitation. In 2019 I was approached by Huib Schippers, then director of Folkways Records, about writing a short article for Alexander Street Press for a curriculum accompanying various albums featuring music and environment, in the Folkways Records catalog. It was to be a brief essay, no more than 3000 words (the first four averaged 8,000 words). I said I would do so, as long as I could write about the deep connections between music, sound, and nature. After they agreed, I wrote the essay and completed it shortly after Thanksgiving, 2019, and returned it then. In 2020 I’ve been corresponding all the while with Huib and some others who were hired for the project, advising them as they prepare a list of further readings to go with this essay and the curricular unit that it’s a part of. I’m not sure when it will be published; perhaps next year, perhaps later.
6. A “response” chapter based on my presentation for an online conference at Dartmouth College, entitled “The Power of Song: The Cultural Politics of Singers Around the Globe,” to take place in early December. This, also, came about as a result of an invitation. I’m to respond to three presentations on “musical icons,” that is, people who make music and who have become performers who are more than just famous; they have become cultural symbols, they and their careers embodying beliefs deeply embedded in their societies. So far two of the three papers have arrived, but only one arrived by the deadline. As a result I’ve blocked out my response to that paper and will need to incorporate my response to the second paper shortly while I await the third. After the conference they will revise their conference papers and turn them into articles, and I will revise my conference response for publication in the book.
7. “Eco-trope or Eco-tripe? Music Ecology as a Complex System.” This is an article in progress for a book edited by Aaron Allen and myself, called Sounds, Ecologies, Musics, under contract with Oxford University Press. The article is an expansion of part of my invited keynote address to the Irish ICTM conference in 2017, and part of the abstract goes like this: “Complex ecosystems analyses, environmental philosophy and ecological knowledges (from both Western science and indigenous populations) of sonic behavior, in both human animals and other-than-human animals, are complementary in ways that hold out the promise of re-centering sound connections and kinships. In this way, music/ecology becomes more than merely a metaphor. Employing ecological principles to understand sonic behavior among organisms and their environment, the music/ecology metaphor offers a path toward sound communities, sound economies, and a sound ecology.” My progress on this article has been gradual as I’ve been attending to the five that I listed above. I’m going to try hard to keep my desk mostly clear for the next couple of months so that I can finish up a draft.