Locations and Dislocations: An Ecomusicological Conversation featured presentations of wide-ranging papers from diverse researchers in the field of ecomusicology. Topics included academic discourse of terminology ("rural" does not equal "nature", "queer" as accepting of difference vs "community" as encouraging similarity), anthropological studies of folk musics in Mongolia, Bali, and Timor-Lesta, presentations by artists in music, choreography, and composition... and more. In short, the conference was awesome!
It was particularly inspiring to see academics in a shared field present their ideas to one another. For the most part, presenters took the front of the room and simply read the papers they had prepared for the conference. At first, the reading felt a bit cold but I quickly realized the charm in this unassuming approach. The reading of the paper dethrones the author from "performer" to "presenter", and puts the ideas at the fore. Compare this to the polished, entertainment-focused feel of a TED talk, which can feel staged, self-serving, and superficial. Here, the language takes center stage, and the presentations are densely packed! I struggled to keep up, and loved it.
The post-reading question sessions were profound. All audience members were presenters, so they were knowledgeable and curious. Common refrains were, "Great idea!... I'll look into that," and "talk to me after... our work has a lot of overlap."
The ecomusicology umbrella is full of topics I find interesting and this particular group of academics showcased an inspiring awareness of issues of gender, race, and class. For an aspiring environmentalist worried about his privileged role in society, ecomusicology provides insight into numerous offenses I might unwittingly commit. I felt continually challenged to refine my world view.
I performed Radiddlepa in a concert involving pieces by Byron Au Yong / Aaron Jafferis, Lenka Morávková (electronics and glass), and others. I was nervous about performing for such an intellectual and musically-advanced crowd and started with "san bon jime", the Japanese event-ending clap, with the hopes it might trigger a sense of relief. It seemed to work but nervousness came back toward the end of the piece. All the same, it went relatively well and the audience seemed appreciative. In retrospect I might have appreciated more criticism, but perhaps my "performer" status and obvious nervousness made everyone ready to root for me, and less critical. In my head, potential criticisms of the piece might include "poorly arranged bag of magic tricks" and "just another western male conquering a foreign drum".
When I got home a friend asked, "Was it worth the CO2?" By measure of the environment, the answer would have to be a strict "no". I'm well past a sustainable max of 2 tons CO2 for 2016. It's hard to think of any travel I might do that would be worth contributing an outsize share to global warming. By the more lenient measure of my 10-year CO2 reduction plan, however, the trip was exactly how I should be spending my remaining CO2. Thanks to the performance opportunity, I practiced Radiddlepa for 1004 minutes (16.7 hours) between Feb 22 and Apr 9 and revised a section I had found lacking. The conference taught me tons about how music and the environment interact, opened my eyes to a number of social issues in music, introduced me to wonderful people, and was fun.
Highlights and takeaways
- a conference formed of only presenters (no observers) promotes in-depth discussion
- realization that environmentalist resistance to development must include alternative. Rather than, "Don't expand the quarry because this land is important", I want to be able to say, "The stone from the expanded quarry will be used in landscaping and it's not worth losing these endangered trees for landscaping. We should change our use habits (landscape with bark) and not grant the quarry expansion." Or "although the stone from the quarry is used in essential roads and sidewalks, it will be better for the environment to source this material from X." In short, environmental activism should present an alternative to destruction that addresses the underlying purpose of the proposed destruction.
- inclusiveness through being accepting of difference can be more welcoming than "community building", which subtly values homogeneity
- Sarah Harmer's "hiking tour" to connect fans to endangered woodlands
- a focus on "fidelity" and "transparency" in live sound can marginalize black sound engineers (as has so often happened to black workers historically)
- need to learn more about Pauline Oliveras
- excited to have met performers, Elizabeth Martignetti, Leah Stein, Lenka Moravkova, Ray Lustig, Adam Tinkle