Interviews with ethnomusicologists

Peter Cooke interviewed by Carolyn Landau. (3 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 3 [52:06] [Session one, continued: 7 July 2010] Resumes discussion about harp player’s point and how PC feels that in Britain, people have tended to not wander too far away from the results of the musical activity, focusing on aesthetics and the music itself, whereas in the US the function of music perhaps plays more of a role. Mentions Henry Kingsbury who has recently protested about a paper by Susan McLeary on the role of gender in Beethoven, without having listened to the music itself. [3:05] Discussion of PC’s role and work at Edinburgh, where he remained for 25 years, including how he introduced and developed ethnomusicology in the Music Department; mentions some of his students, including Andrew Killick, Jan Fairley, Hugh McDonald, Linda Headley (later Williamson), and Peggy Duesenberry who sat in on tutorials with other students; and the importance of Nigel Osborne on the staff as an ally in developing the discipline. Describes how PC wasn’t paid for his ethnomusicology teaching. Description of teaching amadinda to students. [10:45] Description of first & subsequent return trips to Uganda from 1987 when it became relatively peaceful again, in order to see friends and musicians again; remarks that it was at this stage that he was able to put together his Ugandan teaching materials and also start a musician in residence at Edinburgh, with Albert Ssempeke coming over to the university and working with the students there. Remarks how his interest in collaborative research really took off at this stage, with Ssempeke and others. Mentions how he was becoming interested in musical traditions from other parts of the world at this stage, forming an inter-university classical Indian music circuit with Niel Sorrell and others; and spending 3 months doing his own research in India (Rajasthan) on bagpiping traditions near the Nepali border; and a brief period in Malaysia teaching and also researching the use of the shawm and a type of dance from the north of the country. Both collections have yet to be archived.) [19:18] Reflections on later trips back to Uganda: description of initial trip in 1987 to discover what had become of the royal musicians and also some research with some Busoga musicians, which he continued in 1988; mentions how this was the first time he made serious films in Uganda (having already made some in Scotland); remarks on how excellent film is for teaching. Description of appeasement of ceremony amongst the Soga which he filmed in 1988. Describes how his interest in the north of the country – their composition techniques – then developed. Anecdote of taking some Bantu students to the north of the country (Acholi language group) in the 1960s and how pleasantly surprised they were. Reflections on using video versus audio in research, including the making of some flutes, such as the omukuri flute [PC plays flute]. Remarks on how much (or little) his own filming affects performances with anecdote of some recent filming in Uganda with Philipp Wachsmann. Reflects that, when making video on your own, something always suffers (unless you have a team with you: mentions occasions when PC has had a local team with him). [37:22] Discussion of and reflection on PC’s own legacy and other Africanists working from Britain. PC mentions how he is looking forward to Ugandans appraising his work and Wachsmann’s work on Ugandan music. Description of an early conference when Blacking was talking about anthropological methods and the important questions, when David Rycroft strongly disagreed with him, stating that there was more than one way to conduct research and do ethnomusicology. Reflects, however, that Blacking gave ethnomusicology in the UK a much higher profile, since he had gained a professorship and was well-respected. Discussion of the development of teaching of ethnomusicology in Britain, reflecting on how it was fairly haphazard, developing quite differently from institution to institution and according to individuals there within. Remarks that there was little interaction with SEM at this early stage, although many in the UK were members. In terms of teaching, PC remarks that progress has been very slow, although has sped up over the past 8 years. Briefly, mentions his freelance teaching at SOAS, Birmingham, Wolverhampton and Sheffield. Reflects that the current state of ethnomusicology teaching in the UK is very pleasing and gratifying. Comments that individual British based ethnomusicologists have generally been so snowed under with their own teaching responsibilities and research that they’ve not been able to make a case for the development of the discipline as a whole. Reflects that Blacking’s contribution was particularly great because he wrote theoretically, thus having a wider appeal (even outside of the discipline) than those who might focus more on a specific musical tradition. Final comment saying how pleased PC is that the discipline is now so safe within British universities.

  • Description

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

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