Interviews with ethnomusicologists

John Baily interviewed by Carolyn Landau. (2 of 2).

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  • Interviewees

    Baily, John (speaker, male, interviewee)

  • Interviewers

    Landau, Carolyn (speaker, female, interviewer)

  • Recordist

    Landau, Carolyn (speaker, female

  • Abstract

    Track 2. [01:48:02] [Session one, continued: 29 April 2010] Description of JB’s first meetings with Blacking in Belfast (on Bloody Friday) to discuss research proposal on Afghan lutes; mentions that Blacking gave JB a tape recorder (a Sony TC800B - a poor man's Uher) and some tapes. Description of period in Tehran from 1972 living with friends, working at the university, and studying Iranian setar whilst writing (successful) grant proposal with Blacking. Description of period in Iran and Nepal prior to going to Afghanistan. Mentions reading Mantle Hood’s book and finding it particularly challenging. Further descriptions of preparatory trips to Afghanistan and 1 year period back in Belfast before spending 1976-7 in Herat and a year as a visiting fellow at St Anthony’s College in Oxford. Describes being appointed as lecturer in social anthropology in Belfast, then lecturer in ethnomusicology, in 1978, where he remained for 5 years. Recollects how Belfast was becoming a centre for ethnomusicology thanks to Blacking; mentioning others who came, such as Martha Ellen Davis who was employed at the time and Jan and David Steele and others, including many African students. Mentions how important dance studies was at this stage. Remarks how Blacking was particularly good at spotting talent in people and nurturing it. Remembers an International Folk Music Council (IFMC) meeting in Keele, which JB attended with Blacking and met figures such as Bert Lloyd for the first time, Marie Slocombe, Lilia Fox and Maud Karpeles, who represented a strand of ethnomusicology that had started in 1947. Comments that the discipline was not without its ancestors. Remembers a meeting being convened in 1979 by Jack Dobbs in Dartington to survey ethnomusicological teaching in Britain (c.f. booklet “Ethnomusicology in the United Kingdom: Courses and Resources 1979”). Comments that although there was a lot going on, there was very little by way of formal ethnomusicology training, such as a Masters’ degree. Mentions Stanley Glasser, who knew Blacking from South Africa and worked at Goldsmiths for many years, championing ethnomusicology and setting up a Masters’ course at Goldsmiths in (?) 1981. (Mentions Natalie Webber at Goldsmiths as playing an important role in this process). Remarks that Belfast dominated the IFMC UK Chapter (in which Jeremy and Gwen Montague were important players) meetings for many years, with Belfast students giving at least half the papers. Mentions the Durham Oriental Music Festivals as being important and Keith Pratt’s involvement in these; Blacking found the money to send his students to these. Mentions the 1976 Islam Festival as being key and Jean Jenkins’ involvement in this; tells story of going to meet her at the Horniman Museum. Remembers first meeting Richard Widdess in 1978 at a one-day conference in Indian music at Wolfson College in Oxford. Mentions other figures, such as Jonathon Katz, the librarian in the Indian section of the Bodleian Library. [25:10] Discussion of comparative ethnomusicology scene in North America. Mentions that Blacking had funds to bring people from the US over to Belfast, such as William (Bill) Malm, an expert on Japanese music; Mantle Hood; Charles Seeger; Klaus Wachsmann; and from France, Gilbert Rouget. Mentions ASA (Association of Social Anthropology) conference that was held in Belfast in 1975 on the anthropology of the body, which he remembers Rouget and others attending and giving him very positive feedback on the paper he presented on the dutar; remarking how pivotal this moment was for his career. Describes how, in 1982 (approx.), Blacking convened a conference and brought over various Eastern European musicologists such as Anna Czekanowska and Slava Mira from Warsaw; Balint Saroshi from Hungary; Anka Georgescu from Romania; Roderyk Lange from Poland. Comments that Blacking was very good at getting money for scholars to come to Belfast. Comments that this was the beginning of the ESEM (European Seminar in Ethnomusicology). JB remembers the first meeting taking place in Cologne in 1983, which he attended with Klaus Wachsmann, who JB described as very careful scholar. Mentions anecdote of Wachsmann telling JB that, following a paper JB had given, he would now accept data from him. Also mentions others that Blacking brought over, such as Charles Seeger and Hormoz Farhat (Iranian composer); illustrating how well connected Blacking was with the international scene and therefore instrumental in developing ethnomusicology in Britain. Mentions Blacking’s impressive character and the six programmes (called “Dancing”) that he made for Ulster Television. Discussion of family life for JB and Veronica in Belfast and how they left at the time of needing to make decisions about schooling for their children. Mentions James Kippen, who was a student living upstairs from John and Veronica. Explains that at this point the RAI with Leverhulme funding set up an anthropological film training scheme at national film and television school, which JB applied for and was appointed to (giving up his job in Belfast), on the strength of the some early films he had made in Afghanistan during the 1970s. Consequently spent time in Pakistan and shot 'Amir: An Afghan refugee musician's life in Peshawar, Pakistan'. In second year, JB made film in Bradford. Following this period, JB was out of work for 2 years, with visiting research fellowship at University of Sussex, which was very useful; reflects that this was a very productive time. 1987 JB attended at conference in Denver to present a panel on children’s music organised by Helen Myers (student of Nettl). Remarks that this was a key moment as he met others like Chris Waterman who suggested he did a tour in the US. JB organised this, visiting Paul Berliner, Phil Bohlman, Mark Slobin, Dieter Christensen and others. Remarks how grateful he was for this experience and how he made a small financial profit from this, which went into his business “John Baily, Ethnomusicologist”. Following this period, a position came up at Columbia, which JB was appointed to for 2 years, taking the whole family (with 2 young children). Comments that his children did not enjoy being in America. For this reason and due to a problem with tax, JB decided to return to the UK for a year, at which point a position arose at Goldsmiths, which he applied for. Mentions that Owen Wright was on the panel who suggested that the role was upgraded to Senior Lecturer in order to keep him in the UK. Mentions being on the music panel for the 2001 RAE, which contributed to his obtaining a Chair in music at Goldsmiths. [54:20] Reflections/discussion on JB’s role in the development of ethnomusicology. Reflects on how satisfied he is with the improved status of the discipline at Goldsmiths and more widely in other institutions across the UK. Wonders whether Nicolas Cook has been influential and helpful in this development, convincing other leading musicologists in the country that ethnomusicology should not be something that is marginalised. Mentions Simone Kruger’s book on teaching ethnomusicology in UK HEIs and how Goldsmiths is well-reviewed in this. Reflects on how his own teaching has been strongly influenced by Blacking, who always taught within social anthropology, not musicology. Remarks how JB held the position in ethnomusicology, not Blacking and remembers how Blacking was actually rarely in Belfast due to regular trips abroad. Reflects on JB’s early days of teaching in the ‘Blacking line’. Mentions how much he learned about the history of ethnomusicology from Dieter Christensen during his time in Columbia. Mentions some of his students over the years, such as Gerry Farrell and Laudan Nooshin, who he regards as his prodigies. Discussion of whether or not a school of British ethnomusicology has emerged over the years: remarks that he can’t do this. From his perspective and in terms of his own areas of interest and career trajectory, he feels that film making has become more and more important in terms of academic outputs, whereas the experimental psychology side of his work has not developed that much; music and migration has become increasingly more important. Refers to a paper he’s written on interdisciplinary issues ("Crossing the Boundary: From Experimental Psychology to Ethnomusicology”, in Empirical Musicology Review, Mentions his lack of interest in postmodern writings in ethnomusicology. Remarks that the study of popular music was excluded within ethnomusicology until more recently, which he always found strange as he’d grown up with popular music. Mentions the influence of Paul Oliver’s ‘Savannah Syncopators’ and Nettl. [1:17:13] Further description on the early days of ethnomusicology in Britain. Mentions Rosemary Joseph, Jan Fairley, Gerhard Baumann, Peter Cooke, Gordon Geekie, Fionullah Scullion. Mentions organising conferences in Oxford and Durham. Mentions participants being part of the English Folk Dance and Song Society (EFDSS) and Cecil Sharpe House. Mentions Maud Karpeles and Marie Slocombe and their interactions with Blacking. Mentions an RAI conference at Urchfont Manner, Wiltshire, circa. 1979. Mentions Paul Oliver, Lucy Durán, John Blacking, Klaus Wachsmann and Neil Sorrell. [1:23:30] Describes research in Tehran and correspondence with Blacking during this period. Mentions systematic, scientific approach and working closely with musicians and children’s music. Reflects on research questions and focus. Describes second trip to Afghanistan and difference of approach following study in Belfast. Describes how his field recordings have been used subsequently and plans for future use, digitisation, and plans for collaborating with University of Herat. [1:34:25] Discussion of location of field recordings, instruments, etc. Describes re-engagement with Afghans post 1985. Reflects on difference between recording audio and video. Mentions current project, funded by Leverhulme Trust on ‘War, exile and the global circulation of Afghan music’ (now called 'War, Exile and the Music of Afghanistan: An Ethnographer's Tale'). [1:38:26] Describes impact of recordings, films and research (including Veronica Doubleday’s) on Afghans around the world; reflects on need to archive their work. [End of track.]

  • Description

    Interview with John Baily (2 of 2). The ethnomusicologist talks about his research. Interviewer: Carolyn Landau.

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