Interviews with ethnomusicologists

Richard Widdess interviewed by Carolyn Landau. (1 of 2).

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  • Interviewees

    Widdess, Richard (speaker, male, interviewee)

  • Interviewers

    Landau, Carolyn (speaker, female, interviewer)

  • Recordist

    Landau, Carolyn (speaker, female

  • Abstract

    Track 1 [1:43:31] [Session one: 14 July 2010] David Richard Widdess (RW), born June 1951, St John’s Vale near Keswick. Outlines musical background and upbringing in Lancaster. Father played piano and cello and conducted choir. RW sang and played piano, organ and oboe. Describes parents' reaction to his desire to study music and his route to Cambridge University. [05:57] Memories of being at Cambridge and first awareness of Indian music (initially in Lancaster: concert of Imrat Khan on sitar). Describes reaction to watching improvisation. [08:40] Development of interest in Indian music and influence of lectures on music of South Asia at Cambridge given by ‘Rajeesh Redupta’ [name transcribed from interview, awaiting confirmation], then lecturer in Indian music at SOAS. Entered William Barclay Squire music essay competition, writing about Indian music. Didn't win but research consolidated interest. Mentions lack of knowledge/mention of ethnomusicology as a methodology/discipline at this stage. [12:47] After graduation in 1972 RW was referred to Laurence Picken at Jesus College. Describes how he made contact and subsequently did BMus at Cambridge and Masters at SOAS. Mentions Margaret Bent (supervisor, Cambridge) and ‘Rajeesh Redupta’ [name transcribed from interview, awaiting confirmation] (supervisor, SOAS). [17:25] Describes year at SOAS. Learnt Sanskrit. Studied Hinduism and early Indian history with ‘Wendy Donagher’ [name transcribed from interview, awaiting confirmation]. For dissertation wrote about the ‘Goolagalamai’ [name transcribed from interview, awaiting confirmation] inscription from 7th century southern India. [21:45] Gives background to his Masters course and mentions Nazir Ali Jairazbhoy, ‘Rajeesh Redupta’ [name transcribed from interview, awaiting confirmation] and Arnold Baké. Describes structure of area centres, cutting across disciplines. Tensions between these and departments. Outlines general music scene and other music specialists; mentions AM Jones, Anthony King, Owen Wright and David Rycroft . Studied alongside ‘Beth Boad’ [name transcribed from interview, awaiting confirmation] and Andrew Topsfield. [27:55] Describes time spent studying for PhD under Laurence Picken [LP]. LP suggested for PhD the Dhrupad tradition of North Indian classical music, believed to be extinct. Describes first trip round India where RW discovered many examples of Dhrupad, making many recordings. [38:40] Outlines return to UK and desire to return to India to study music inscriptions and their significance against oral tradition idea. Describes Laurence Picken's Tang music project - mentions Allan Marrett, Rembrandt Wolpert, Jonathan Condit and Elizabeth Markham (later). Outlines what the project was and who did what and reasons they met. Mentions Mellon funded project to study earliest surviving Japanese scores. RW joined and helped by trying to play scores on instruments. RW helped out by playing the drum and later recorder. Wife Margaret joined on E flat clarinet. [45:00] Related this experience to his own studies. Decided to leave Drupud to one side and work on early notations. [46:46] Describes Asian Music Circle at Cambridge and in London. Story from Viram Jasani about musicians from India disappearing on arrival. Mentions tabla player, Latif Ahmed Khan, who was left without a passport. Describes community of scholars in Cambridge at time: Allan Marrett, from New Zealand, working on flute manuscripts; Rembrandt Wolpert, from Germany, working on lute manuscripts; Jonathan Condit, from the US, working on zither manuscripts; and Elizabeth Markham working on Sibara vocal repertoire. Describes the things they were finding out and how they came to have students of their own teaching Asian music. [55:30] Mentions Donald Mitchell and Thai musicians at Aldburgh. Met Jack Dobbs who set up a meeting at Dartington college to address concern about lack of ethnomusicology in UK. Attended by John Baily, Alistair Dick, Robert Provine, Steve Stanton, Imogen Holst, Keith Pratt, Neil Sorrell, Peter Cooke. Gives views on Cambridge scene. Discussion on when IFMC became ICTM. [01:03:30] Thoughts on use of term 'ethnomusicology' in 1978. His understanding of what was happening to ethnomusicology in USA and what it meant in UK. Mentions Laurence Picken's dislike of term. Mentions Jack Dobbs' use of the term and the alternative term used in Oxford. [1:06:00] Describes return to SOAS. Two posts - one for Indian and one for African music, part of plan to establish centre for musical studies. Appointed to India job. No one appointed for Africa job because of education cuts. Mentions John Akell [1:09:00]. Difficulties of getting a degree course going. Mentions Brian Trowell. Ken Gourlay appointed as African music lecturer temporarily in 1981. Set up joint degree in history and music. Mentions Rosemary Joseph and Stanley Glasser. [1:16:08] Confirms he was Chair of Centre of Music Studies from 1982-1986 and lecturer in Indian music. In 1986 post in ethnomusicology created through Government 'New Blood' initiative. Appointed David Hughes. Cambridge had appointed Ruth Davis in 1983 under the same scheme. [ 1:19:47] Describes David Hughes' background and process for him joining. Describes how David's arrival made Masters and BA programmes possible. Became department in 1997 by which time had acquired Lucy Durán and Keith Howard. Outlines which departments everyone belonged to and how this related back to the Centre for Music Studies. [1:26:30] Describes the creation of the department and problems with getting facilities. [1:31:07] Describes emphasis of music of regions of Asia and Africa. Reflects about Belfast university, mentioning John Blacking's conference in 1985. Mentions David Rycroft and Ken Gourlay. [1:35:46] Outlines trends in ethnomusicology and move from mostly study of historical texts to more anthropological approach. Mentions Jonathan Stock and John Blacking's legacy. Also Laurence Picken's impact on the study of Chinese and Japanese music. [1:42:03] Believes Picken's scientific approach chimes with current growth in science and music. Mentions publication that commemorates him.

  • Description

    Interview with Richard Widdess (1 of 2). The ethnomusicologist talks about his research. Interviewer: Carolyn Landau.

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