Interviews with ethnomusicologists

Peter Cooke interviewed by Carolyn Landau. (2 of 3).

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  • Recording locations

    Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands

  • Interviewees

    Cooke, Peter (speaker, male, interviewee)

  • Interviewers

    Landau, Carolyn (speaker, female, interviewer)

  • Recordist

    Landau, Carolyn (speaker, female

  • Abstract

    Track 2 [46:34] [Session one, continued: 7 July 2010] Discussion of years in Uganda (1964-8), particularly his experiences recording field recordings: initial description of buying a tape recorder in the 1950s in order to record his teaching, illustrating his longstanding interest in the latest technologies; description of getting hold of equipment from the BBC prior to leaving for Uganda; description of different recording machines available at time: the Butoba being the best available at the time; detailed description of buying one of these in Aden en route to Uganda (by boat). Description of how he used Hugh Tracey’s wandering microphone technique and how musicians responded to these recordings more favourably than to Wachsmann’s recordings. Discussion of why PC made recordings: to understand and analyse the music; for teaching purposes in Uganda for students to be able to transcribe and analyse music from different parts of the country. Comments that this was part of ‘nation building’ – learning about different tribes’ musical cultures and how students found PC’s recordings very interesting and useful. Describes how his interest in flute music developed and consequently his recordings of these. [8:35] Mentions how at this stage PC wasn’t thinking of archiving his own collection and therefore not making recordings ‘for posterity’, this being something that he thought more about when he moved to Edinburgh. Return to discussion of field recordings, such as how the recording trips came about and how he decided what to record (and what not to); these decisions being led by his own research interests in flute music; remarks on how his Masters’ thesis on the royal flute music was part of emphasizing that African music was not only drumming. Description of PC’s move back to the UK to do his Masters’; having considered studying with Wachsmann in the US, but not being able to afford this and approaching Antony King at SOAS, who said he didn’t know enough about East African music; remarks how there was nowhere in the UK at this time to study ethnomusicology / world music; before deciding to study long distance at the University of Wales (whilst working at a teacher training, Moray House, college in Edinburgh); description of his use of the School of Scottish Studies’ transcription apparatus and how Thorkild Knudsen (Danish ethnomusicologist employed there for a few years [1963-9] before he returned to Denmark to set up a folk music house) was very influential in PC’s life. Description of how PC got Knudsen’s post when he returned to Denmark, overlapping with him for a few months and accompanying him on his fieldwork trips round Scotland. Mentions how the IFMC held its annual meeting in Edinburgh in 1969 and how this was an important moment for PC, who remembers how Knudsen’s paper, which advocated that all the music of all people was worthy of study, was badly received at the conference, due to its forward looking (and ethnomusicological) outlook on research. Mentions and quotes the proceedings of (at some length) another conference that was organised, a kind of ‘counter conference meeting’ by Knudsen, during which he gave a presentation on some Scottish musicians, which was published in DFS Information (“Notes on Folk Music Research”), emphasising the fact that Knudsen, like Wachmsann, was interested in individuals, who he would study in different contexts/situations; PC reflects that he considers Knudsen to have been a very important person, years ahead of his time (1969) due to his interest in context, identity and so on. Also describes his study of the Skye bard in some detail. PC comments that although Knudsen didn’t use the term ethnomusicology, this was what he was doing, much to the disapproval of the folklorists. [27:05] Discussion of when PC first became aware of the term ethnomusicology, when he returned to Britain from Uganda in 1968, remembering how the term was used rather contentiously at first. Discussion about who else would have attended the 1969 Scottish meeting: has no recollection of Blacking, King or Picken being there; PC remembers recruiting Blacking to help set up the IFMC UK Chapter in 1972; PC remarks how few of these characters attended IFMC meetings; However he does remember Wachsmann and certainly A.L. Lloyd being there. Discussion of ‘rescue research’, which was popular in Britain and around Europe at this time – rescuing what was ‘best’ in Scottish (or other) folk musics. Remarks how one of the best parts of this was that making the best quality recordings for posterity was considered very important, which influenced his own recordings in the field from then on, both in Scotland and in Uganda later. Remarks how this also had implications for the context of the recordings, which needed to be taken into consideration. Also remarks how this approach was very much in keeping with Wachsmann’s approach and also with the French (ethnomusicologists) of the time. Discussion of PC’s thesis examination, examined by Alun Hoddinott (Welsh composer) and others who knew nothing about African music; remarks that this was probably the first ethnomusicological thesis to go into the University of Wales. [35:53] Discussion of how the UK Chapter of the IFMC was established: mentions how, whilst PC was in Uganda, everything had to be done by correspondence and when he returned to the UK he was very keen to be in contact with others with same research interests as himself, but that nothing existed; the IFMC had begun in Britain but was then based in Canada with meetings all over the world. Remarks that there was no structure for people to meet up and discuss their work. PC resolved to start something. Since PC had met Blacking in Uganda, he invited him to some of the first meetings, also Maud Karpeles, Nibs Matthews (secretary of the English Folk Song and Dance Society), Douglas Kennedy (father of Peter Kennedy), Anthony Baines (of the Galpin Society); convening some of first meetings in Maud’s house. Invited all members of IFMC living in Britain and contacted Graham Douglas (General Secretary of the IFMC in Canada) to see how best to proceed with forming a UK Chapter. Mentions that all of this process is documented in the correspondence (currently archived in the British Library World and Traditional Music Section). PC remembers that Blacking was using the word ethnomusicology at this time. Following a few meetings in London, first conference was held in Keele. Remembers dealing with Maud Karpeles with some fear and much tact – PC refers CSL to correspondence. Description of first conference, including memories of Bert Lloyd’s Sheep Shearer’s song and how he also attempted to set out a platform for research. [42:58] Discussion of how and if a distinctively ‘British’ ethnomusicology began to emerge through these early meetings; PC reflects on how there was very clearly two main strands flourishing: an anthropological one which Merriam had founded and a musicological one, such as that which was happening at the School of Scottish Studies and elsewhere; and also the setting off of function against music making, which PC reflects that there is still some distinction. Remembers in 1970 that a Brazilian harper came to Scotland for a festival and made a comment to PC about the big questions being aesthetic questions about music, requiring one to learn other people’s aesthetics – music as sound, rather than music as politics or identity etc. [Telephone rings. End of track]

  • Description

    Interview with Peter Cooke (2 of 3). The ethnomusicologist talks about his research. Interviewer: Carolyn Landau.

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