Dear Colleague

Click here to download a pdf version of the following text

Click here for application information

Ethnomusicology and Global Culture

A National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Institute

June 20 – July 1, 2011
Music Department, Wesleyan University

Middletown, Connecticut


Dear Colleague,

The Society for Ethnomusicology (SEM) and the Wesleyan University Music Department are pleased to announce our collaboration for the first National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Summer Institute in ethnomusicology. We will provide stipend support for the participation of twenty-two faculty from universities, four-year colleges, and community colleges, and three full-time graduate students. Three principal faculty from Wesleyan (Mark Slobin, Su Zheng, and Eric Charry) and six visiting lecturers will lead the daily sessions.

What happens when music travels across the globe? What kinds of transformations take place? How has recent technology facilitated such transformations? These are some of the key questions that will challenge us as we look at case studies from around the world. The aim of this institute is twofold: 1) we will introduce college/university teachers to new and recent scholarship in ethnomusicology that focuses on transformations as music travels throughout the world, and 2) we will facilitate the development of teaching strategies for incorporating this focus into both music curricula and the curricula of related humanities disciplines. The use of new technologies in music production, research, and pedagogy will be addressed throughout the institute.

We welcome applications from specialists in ethnomusicology, music scholars outside the field of ethnomusicology, and academics in related disciplines. The intellectual and pedagogical perspectives presented in this institute will provide each of these three constituencies with a deeper and broader understanding of how the world’s peoples creatively use music and related forms of expressive culture, and will encourage both new research agendas and approaches to humanities teaching.

Institute Theme

We focus on two key areas of the global environment that have occupied ethnomusicologists: the movement, migration, and subsequent new uses of musics around the world, especially in recent decades; and new uses of technology in the production, dissemination, distribution, and consumption of music, and in music research and teaching. Daily sessions will offer rich case studies of a diverse array of musical traditions that in one way or another have crossed borders and boundaries. A smaller number of sessions will explore the broader implications of the case studies, engaging with theoretical issues common to ethnomusicology and the humanities as a whole. In both types of sessions, the role of technology in research and pedagogy will be a constant presence. Evening workshops will give participants a more intimate hands-on experience with some of the musical traditions and technologies discussed during the day.

Terms such as “diaspora,” “transnational,” and “globalization,” all referring to the movement of people, ideas, and cultural practices, have figured strongly in work in the humanities of the past few decades. Ethnomusicologists have contributed much to deepen understanding of how people cope with their new surroundings, specifically how they use music to address some of their needs and aspirations. But these terms can sometimes be used haphazardly, resulting in obscuring rather than clarifying dynamic processes of the circulation of peoples and their creative endeavors. Furthermore, new migration patterns coupled with internet technologies have demanded new ways of investigating, thinking about, and understanding the flow of people and ideas around the world.

Our institute faculty has done some of the most significant on-the-ground research into what happens to musical traditions when they travel, and they offer a wealth of data and interpretive and theoretical insight. During the institute, they will present diverse and compelling case studies that involve musics on the move, transplanted traditions, and the interface of technologies with current research and pedagogy. Through these case studies and additional sessions for theoretical reflection, we will offer institute participants an in-depth look at recent and innovative developments in ethnomusicology; discuss diverse theories, methods, and practices involved in such developments; and identify paths for further exploration.

The expertise represented by our faculty and lecturers will give participants an expansive perspective on ethnomusicological thought and practice. Case studies include: traditional and contemporary music of China and its Asian-American diaspora; Eastern European Jewish folk music and its circuitous routes through North America and the rest of the world; Indonesian gamelans (orchestras) transplanted to North America and Europe and used in novel ways; West African string and percussion music riding the world music boom to Paris and New York, around the globe, and back; American hip hop transformed in contemporary African contexts; the Australian didjeridu (trumpet) taken up in new contexts around the world; routes of Haitian, Jamaican, and African American religious music and related expression; and issues of race and gender in the popular music of the US and UK.

Institute Schedule

The daily schedule of the two-week institute will consist of a two-hour morning and two-hour afternoon session led by the principal faculty and visiting lecturers. (A few afternoons each week will be devoted to smaller breakout sessions and consultations.) Discussion will continue with communal lunches and dinners. Evenings will include ensemble demonstrations/workshops, film screenings, and visits to Wesleyan’s World Musical Instrument Collection. There will be sufficient study time for participants to read, write, and consult with faculty while the institute is in session, especially during the one weekend. Participants will also be encouraged to contribute to an institute blog and e-mail listserv.

The institute faculty will provide a reading list well in advance, and the readings will either be made available electronically through Wesleyan’s online network or sent directly to the participants. We will ask participants to provide daily responses to assigned readings and to formulate a final research project that will initially be presented on the last day of the institute and formally submitted in October.

We will ask participants to provide daily responses to assigned readings and to formulate a final research or pedagogical project that will initially be presented on the last day of the institute and formally submitted in October.

Each participant will be asked to produce the following three items:

1) A presentation to the institute faculty and participants at the conclusion of the institute based on their research/pedagogical project carried out over the course of the two weeks.

2) A brief evaluation (1-2 pages) of the quality and effectiveness of the institute. Due July 15, 2011.

3) A final report (2-4 pages) on the significance and impact of the institute on one’s professional development as a scholar/teacher, including a summary of one’s institute project. The report should be accompanied by any related bibliographies, syllabi, or curricular materials prepared during the institute.  Due October 15, 2011.

Institute Faculty and Staff

A. Principal Faculty

Eric Charry (Institute Director), Associate Professor, Music Department, Wesleyan University, specializes in music of West Africa, improvisation, jazz, and contemporary popular music. His publications include the book Mande Music, entries in encyclopedias and dictionaries, numerous articles and book chapters, and a forthcoming book he is editing on rap in Africa. He is a past Chair and Director of Graduate Studies of the Music Department.

Mark Slobin, Richard K. Winslow Professor of Music, Wesleyan University, is one of the most prolific and respected scholars in the field. He has authored or edited over one dozen books, including Tenement Songs (1983) and Fiddler on the Move (2001), both of which won ASCAP-Deems Taylor Awards. His most recent books are Global Soundtracks: Worlds of Film Music (2008) and A Very Short Introduction to Folk Music (2010). He is a past president of SEM and the Society for Asian Music, past editor of Asian Music journal, and past Chair of the Music Department. He is the Series Editor for American Musicspheres at Oxford University Press.

Su Zheng, Associate Professor, Music Department, Wesleyan University, specializes in gender and music, music in Asian America, and traditional and contemporary music of East Asia. She is a Visiting Professor of the Shanghai Conservatory of Music, as well as a Special Researcher of the Anthropology of Music Division, E-Institutes of Shanghai Universities. Her publications include the recent book Claiming Diaspora: Music, Transnationalism, and Cultural Politics in Asian/Chinese America, entries in encyclopedias and dictionaries, and numerous articles and book chapters. She is the current Chair of the Music Department, past Director of Graduate Studies in Music, and past Chair of East Asian Studies at Wesleyan.

B. Visiting Lecturers

Melvin Butler, Assistant Professor, Music Department, University of Chicago, has published extensively on the intersection of Pentecostalism, popular culture, and music in Haiti, Jamaica, and the US.

Peter Hadley (PhD, Wesleyan University) teaches at Wesleyan, University of New Haven, and Central Connecticut State University. He is currently preparing a book on the global dispersion of the didjeridu.

Maureen Mahon, Associate Professor, Music Department, New York University, is the author of Right To Rock: The Black Rock Coalition and the Cultural Politics of Race. Her current research on the music and legacy of black women in rock examines the intersection of gender, race, sexuality, and music production.

Maria Mendonça, Luce Assistant Professor in Asian Music and Culture, Kenyon College, has extensive experience as a researcher and teacher of Indonesian gamelan music. She teaches in both the music and anthropology departments at Kenyon and is working on a book manuscript titled Globalization and Gamelan: Communitas, Affinity and Other Stories.

Alex Perullo, Assistant Professor, Bryant College, has expertise in music and internet technology and hip hop in Tanzania. His book Sounds of the City: Popular Music, Creative Practice, and Tanzania’s Music Economy will be published by Indiana University Press in 2011.

Sumarsam, Adjunct Professor, Music Department, Wesleyan University, is one of the most highly respected Javanese gamelan artists, dalangs (puppet master), and scholars. He is the author of Gamelan: Cultural Interaction and Musical Development in Central Java.

C. Institute Staff

Stephen Stuempfle (Institute Manager), Executive Director, Society for Ethnomusicology, has extensive experience in organizing museum exhibitions, educational program series, and academic conferences. His role in the institute will be to assist with communications, the selection of participants, logistics and finances, and evaluation and dissemination of results.

Wesleyan University

Wesleyan University, established in 1831, is a premier liberal arts college with over 2,700 undergraduates and 300 graduate students. The Music Department, with 16 full-time and over 30 private lessons teachers has an intimate relationship with ethnomusicology, dating from the very origins of the field. The late Wesleyan anthropology professor David McAllester was one of the co-founders of SEM in 1955, as well as a co-founder of the World Music Program at Wesleyan. Both McAllester and current Wesleyan professor Mark Slobin served as president of SEM.

SEM annual meetings took place at Wesleyan in 1963, 1975, and 2008. This last meeting brought over 1,000 student and professional ethnomusicologists to Wesleyan for four days of paper presentations and ten concerts ( Wesleyan’s ethnomusicology program is one of the oldest in the country, with undergraduate and MA ethnomusicology theses dating from the 1960s and the first PhD granted in 1971. Wesleyan graduates are teaching ethnomusicology at universities, colleges, and conservatories throughout the United States and around the world.

SEM’s journal, Ethnomusicology, was published by Wesleyan University Press from its inception until 1971. Wesleyan’s performance study groups, directed by full- and part-time ensemble coaches as well as occasional graduate students, span a broad spectrum of the world, including West Africa, South India, Indonesia, Eastern and Western Europe, China, Japan, Korea, the Caribbean, and North America. Wesleyan’s World Music Archives is one of the oldest and most robust in the country, with extensive materials deposited from its faculty and graduate students. It is housed in the excellent Olin Library, which contains close to one million volumes and offers students access to a dazzling array of scholarly databases in the arts, humanities, and social and natural sciences. Wesleyan’s World Musical Instrument Collection is one of the most extensive in the country. Since 2003, the Virtual Instrument Museum ( has served as an online showcase for many of the instruments in the collection, with audio and video demonstrations, and full text descriptions.

Stipend and Housing

NEH Summer Scholars will receive a $2,100 stipend (an amount stipulated by the NEH), which should cover their travel expenses, living expenses during the two weeks of the institute, and books and other research costs. We have arranged housing for all of the participants in a single spacious brick tudor-style residence hall (with a kitchen) located in the heart of the campus at the rate of $22 per night for single rooms. We have not yet finalized meal plans, but the first week we may be utilizing the excellent array of restaurants on nearby Main St., with an option of a meal plan at the Usdan University Center the second week. Participants are free to make alternative housing arrangements. For further details, see All participants will be responsible for finalizing their own housing arrangements and for making their housing payments. The first installment of the stipend ($1,050) will be paid upon arrival, and a second installment will be paid during the second week of the institute. Some out-of-pocket expenses may be incurred. Participation in all sessions is mandatory. Individuals who leave early will be required to return unused portions of their stipends.

Application and Logistics

Application instructions can be downloaded from Applications and all supporting documents must postmarked no later than March 1, 2011, and sent to Stephen Stuempfle (project manager) at the address provided below. See application instructions for additional details. Successful applicants will be notified on April 1, 2011.

Please note that the most important part of the application is the essay. The essay should include your reasons for applying to this institute, your relevant personal and academic information, your qualifications to participate in the institute and how you will contribute to it, and what you hope to accomplish at the institute and with your specific research/teaching project.

We look forward to hearing more about your interest in the SEM-Wesleyan University Summer Institute. Should you have any questions, please feel free to contact Stephen Stuempfle at the below email address or telephone number.


Eric Charry, Institute Director

Associate Professor

Music Department

Telephone: (860) 685-2579


For further information, please contact:

Stephen Stuempfle, Institute Manager
Executive Director, Society for Ethnomusicology
Indiana University, Morrison Hall 005
1165 E. 3rd St.
Bloomington, IN  47405-3700
Telephone: (812) 855-8779

Ethnomusicology and Global Culture is supported by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this program do not necessarily reflect those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

November 19, 2010