Global Thesis Update: Will’s Study of Ethnomusicology

By: Will Conroy

My global thesis focuses on music from around the world in an attempt to better understand various non-western idioms, both musically and culturally. Last year, when introduced to the global thesis project I thought immediately of this topic as I was largely ignorant to most non-western music and it is a topic that I wouldn’t be able to explore through other GFA coursework. Then, I asked Ms. Bergeron to join me as my advisor for this project, as she has taught since freshman year in both electronic music and music theory. Through Ms. B I have been introduced to various sources and was even able to connect with a renowned sitarist named Josh Feinberg who has worked with Ms. Bergeron for years.

While my topic is extremely broad, I began reading over the summer to see where I wanted to go with my work and what was particularly interesting to me. In the first weeks of summer I went to the local library and checked out pretty much anything I could get my hands on relating to “world” music and the topic of ethnomusicology. This left me with a stack of CD’s and books to work through throughout the summer, ranging from instrumentation of Berber music to Brazilian bossa nova of the 50’s and 60’s.

Since the summer, I have remained on track through a series of benchmark assignments that have helped me further examine my sources and narrow my focus. Additionally, I had the opportunity to compose short excerpts in the styles of various non- Western idioms in order to better understand the theory and technical aspects of the music. In order to learn more about the cultural impact and relevance of these styles I conducted an interview with Josh Feinberg (the sitarist mentioned above) and wrote and presented on topics including the link between bossa nova and politics and the role of imperialism in Indian classical music.

My work throughout the first semester culminated in a presentation in front of my peers and their faculty advisors during which I discussed my research, what I have learned and where I am going. This was a great experience as it not only prepared me for my final presentation at the end of the year, but also allowed other advisors to give me feedback on my topic. This gave me the opportunity to hear some new perspectives and insight and scrutinize certain aspects of my project that I had failed to previously consider.

For the remainder of the year I will be working on my final paper and presentation. In doing this I will continue to focus on the role of music in specific regions and nations around the world. Additionally, I will begin to synthesize my sources and examine the role of imperialism, technological advancements, and politics to better understand these nations and their people. These topics, listed above, will make up the bulk of my final paper, which I am beginning to work on. These final months will be an exciting culmination of my findings throughout the year regarding both the musical and cultural aspects of my work.

Global Thesis Update: Will’s Study of Ethnomusicology

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