Postgraduate Research Seminar

Wednesday 29 June 2011, 4.00PM

Two recently-completed PhD students present their research on the impact of sound-archival work in ethnomusicological settings, followed by an open discussion for all on the later stages of the PhD.

The presentations are as follows:

'Sharing Somali song: proactive archiving in London's King's Cross' (Emma Brinkhurst)

In a sung poem by poet and cafe owner Abdullahi Bootan Hassan that maps London’s King’s Cross from the perspective of its Somali residents, the British Library is described as “the place where the people of Corfield keep their history”. Given that Corfield was a British general defeated by Somalis during colonial times, this poem reveals the ideological distance between the Somali community in King’s Cross and the British Library, despite their close physical proximity.

I will reflect upon the process of facilitating engagement between the Somali community of King’s Cross and archival sound recordings from Somalia held at the British Library. I will consider the role of key sites and individuals in transferring knowledge via the Somali oral network and discuss the potential of archival recordings to impact upon memory and identity following displacement.

'Recording and remembering the sounds of Africa' (Noel Lobley)

“What is this music doing in the fridge?” a Xhosa friend in South Africa asked me, when listening to archival Xhosa recordings, “and how can we get it out?”

I will discuss the value of sound elicitation, taking ethnomusicological sound recordings out of archives and re-connecting them with the people whose music they capture. With reference to my work exploring practical uses for two major collections of African field recordings – Hugh Tracey’s The Sound of Africa series, and Louis Sarno’s ongoing archive of Babenzélé music from the Central African Republic, I argue for the need to create innovative ways to curate and circulate recordings amongst source communities, who often have no meaningful access to academic archives. I ask why most ethnomusicological field recordings remain un-examined, unused and unknown to non-specialists, and consider how through collaboration with source communities, local social mechanisms can be used to re-insert recordings into people’s daily lives.

The open discussion which follows will cover issues faced by PhD students over the final year or two of their research, as they draw their findings together and face the task of writing up.

Location: 107