Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures

School of Music

Music Research Seminar: James Williams

Seminar Title: Expanding Ethnomusicology: Evolutions towards Ethnosonicological Research Methods


Lecture Theatre 1, School of Music

The speaker is James Williams (University of Derby)


This research seminar investigates the concept of ‘ethnosonicology’ as a terminologically and practically different research method to ‘ethnomusicology’. It is an expansion of a paper given at the University of Wolverhampton in September 2017, and drawn from the speaker’s prior doctoral studies. Rice (2014: 5) recently wrote ‘some ethnomusicologists have begun to suggest that our object of study should be that of sound and not just music […] perhaps someday ethnomusicologists will have created an ‘ethnosonicology’. Today, Rice’s claim is examined in a collaborative electroacoustic case-stud, fusing contemporary, notated music (exploring minimalistic structures, repetition and timbre) with undulating sonic soundscapes (exploring timbre and space/spatialization).

In May–June 2012, composer Jeremy Peyton Jones (Goldsmiths College) collaborated with live electronics artist and improviser Kaffe Matthews to produce Endings: a series of concert performances across the UK featuring 12 of Peyton Jones’s original works. Their run-up to performances including compositional meetings, discussions, listenings and experimental rehearsals with Peyton Jones’s ensemble Regular Music II. Matthews’s electronics not only added timbral layers to Peyton Jones’s work, but also continued between his compositions to create conjoining transitional interludes. An ethnomusicological approach to analyzing Endings featured as part of the core research model. Such remethods rest on anthropological disciplines exploring music as both product and process. However, the collaborative cross-disciplinary fusion between Matthews and Peyton Jones required on one hand an analysis of ‘sound’ and on the other an analysis of ‘music’. Their combination informed slight alterations of an ethnomusicological approach resulting in trends towards an ethnosonicology. This research seminar will shed light on the proposal of an ‘ethnosonicology’. Although themes of ethnography and anthropology remain within the research model, the seminar opens the floor to thoughts and questions on the differentiations between the (ethno)musicological and the (ethno)sonicologial study of compositional and behaviour. What new approaches are/can be taken, and what alternative findings can be discovered from such methodological expansions?

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