- J. Marshall Bevil,
- Response to Presentations in Session,
- "The Uses of Technology:
Implications for Ethnomusicology,"
1994 Convention of the Society for
We have been informed about overlapping applications of high technology to research and
instruction in ethnomusicology. The first purpose of this response is the provision of
comments on the individual presentations. The second purpose is the advancement of some
ideas that the studies jointly raise.
Comments on Presentations
The first portion of the initial presentation was an assembly of both familiar and
lesser-known facts into an integrated framework that facilitates better use of
telecommunication technology. The second part provided a vamp for the other papers by
revealing the ability of the Information Superhighway to span cultural gulfs, link
dissimilar societies, aid in the application of interactive research paradigms, and thus
contribute to the building of a truly global community. The handout material provides a
valuable list of resources for the fluent, versatile user who wishes to expand already
broad horizons, for the would-be beginner who is not altogether certain of how to start,
and for the moderately experienced telecommunicator who wishes to go beyond basic services
such as e-mail, bulletin boards, newsgroups, and text-only online publications.
Imaginative use of this material could enable one to go beyond being a provider or
consumer of information in the manner long associated with printed media.
of Technology for the Discipline
interactive research and discourse through telecommunications allows one to explore
phenomena such as those discussed in the second portion of the opening presentation. This
approach also is making it possible in an ever-increasing number of instances for
individuals to contribute to and draw from databases supporting a continuously growing
range of systems. In addition, new library and collection catalogs, analytical systems,
and audio and visual archives are coming online at a rapidly expanding rate. Its ability
to make possible the use of the many present and even more numerous future services of
these kinds is what lends electronic networking such an enormous advantage over the
standard print-reliant models and methods.
Those of us
who have attempted oral descriptions of technical procedures know that they tend to be no
more than marginally successful when the role of the audience is that of passive listeners
and observers.Therefore, we can appreciate the wisdom of not attempting to deal, in a
twenty-minute timeframe, with any of the hands-on facets of either general or
specifically ethnomusicological uses of the Internet. However, there undoubtedly are those
among us -- especially within the ranks of beginning and intermediate users -- who would
like to have at hand more instructional material focusing on Internet use in
ethnomusicology. Such companion literature to the already numerous printed and online
general-usage guides could be made available on a renewable subscription basis to
facilitate frequent updating. Whatever the authors of the first presentation may or may
not elect to do in this regard, we should hope that they continue with their important
work in Internet utilization.
The second study
dealt more exclusively and deeply with the differences between long-established and more
recent investigative concepts and models. Of special importance was the issue of
sociological stratification according to literacy levels. This mode of classification has
colored the views of authenticity and change not only among many students of Western
written traditions but also among some specialists in oral and non-Western genres and
from the literacy-centered perspective and its concomitant view of minority issues toward
one that more readily permits an unobstructed view has become obvious within fairly recent
times. The roots of this movement, however, have penetrated the soil of Western thought to
progressively greater depths since the end of the First World War and have been
inextricably anchored since the end of World War II. The abondonment of overt, aggressive
colonialism -- a leavetaking that began due to economic and other practical exigencies
rather than a widespread sense of moral imperative -- cleared an initially narrow but
significant path for those who had long questioned the moral rectitude as well as the
common sense of colonial enterprises. As the path evolved into a major highway, there
began emerging a change in Western attitudes not only toward non-Westerners but also
toward the various minorities within dominant European and Euro-American cultures.
turnabout is far from complete. Like the Europeans who lived in the late fourteenth and
late seventeenth centuries, we Westerners who live at the close of the twentieth century
dwell in an era of transition as living witnesses to the often agonizing slowness of
large-scale change. Therefore it is particularly fitting, as well as ironic, that the most
sophisticated products of our age have been developed mostly to further the entrenched
interests of dominant Western cultures yet hold enormous promise of speeding the creation
of a neutral territory for the communication and understanding of the human experience
within a multiplicity of cultural contexts.
The use of
multimedia-based research and instructional tools also will help those of us who have
active interests in both the art music of the West and other musical traditions. We now
can realistically hope to see high technology hasten the final dissolution of the barriers
that have partitioned into largely discrete zones what should be a single, albeit
heterogeneous, scholarly arena and at times caused those of us who desire to function in
more than one zone to be considered neither fish nor fowl. In addition, hypermedia and
related technological developments have great potential for the enhancement of heuristic
educational environments. This is true with regard not only to ethnomusicology but also to
historical musicology and other disciplines presently devoted primarily to the Western
considered, it seems safe to predict that the changes of both perspective and approach
expedited by hypermedia and other present and future frontline technology ultimately will
effect the design and foci of both undergraduate and advanced degree programs in music and
other areas of the humanities while they open new avenues of research and understanding.
Hence a command of the tools in this area of the hi-tech workshop soon will be as
essential as research, study, and pedagogical skills rooted in the traditional media have
been, remain, and will continue to be.
presentation has shown that familiarity with sequencing technology and
electronically-assisted manipulation of recorded material eventually will be vital to
effective investigation and instruction.
composition of movie music is done contractually, under producers and directors, to
support predetermined dramatic plots. Whenever a plot includes inaccurate stereotypes, the
offending auditory, visual, and dramatic juggernauts are propelled by the economic engine
of ticket sales to persons who often seek entertainment that reinforces their prejudices.
could argue for re-education, the possibility of turning very many of the adult consumers
of the Iron Eagle and Rambo movies seems remote. However, techniques of the sort that we
have witnessed could contribute to the edification of future generations and thereby
reduce the market for works that cater to cultural myopia. To yield the desired results,
educational efforts must not be limited to addressing the music either alone or primarily.
Musical issues should be treated, ideally within interdisciplinary environments, as one
facet of the broader goal of exposing the bases, fallacies, practices, and techniques of
stereotyping. Further, instruction should begin not in college classrooms but as part of
secondary or even upper elementary multicultural instructional units. Failure to pursue
the matter with younger students will result in many of those who most need this education
never receiving it.
Technologically altering the image that an artistic creation projects is a valid and
useful means of investigation and instruction, but this practice also raises the issue of
change for the purpose of inquiry or illustration versus change for the purpose of
revision. Related to this is the question of the violability of creative autonomy in the
name of some greater good. Further, the same technology that can be applied to
investigation and instruction could be applied to censorship in certain circumstances.
personal persuasions may be, it seems evident that the third study could raise ethical
questions surrounding one person's use of technology in the refashioning of another
individual's work, and that the defensibility of such a procedure hinges on the purpose to
which it is applied.
The three presentations together point up major differences between past, present, and
future associations of ethnomusicology with technology. Encompassing all three is the
problem of staying current in both materials and individual preparation. Past
technological advancements were slower and hence less sweeping within any narrow
timeframe. In contrast, high-tech hardware and software usually lose their cutting-edge
status within eighteen to twenty-four months and become obsolete within roughly twice that
time. Both the partial and the total status-degradation timelines are noticeably shorter
than they were a decade ago, and they are continuing to shrink.
implications for both the design and the frequent updating of investigative methods
curricula and courses seem clear. The problem of hardware and software obsolescence stems
from interaction between the scientific and economic communities and therefore is largely
beyond our control. We have to reconcile ourselves to upgrading our systems as often as
finances permit -- and to the reality of that usually not being often enough.
Institutional budgetary planning, like curriculum and course design, needs to take into
account the future as well as the present technological demands.
The need for
keeping ourselves current is somewhat more manageable, although much of the race seems
like - and at times is - a losing one. Notwithstanding financial limitations and other
hurdles, we must make every reasonable effort to obtain, and thereafter keep as current as
possible, our working knowledge of electronically-based research
and instruction if we are serious about desiring the broadest and deepest dissemination of
knowledge, the expedition of both queries and answers, and the maximum enhancement of
human relationships across geographic and cultural boundaries.
currency is especially important with regard to both publication and the use of sources.
While there remain, and will continue to remain, enormously significant roles for printed
scholarly newsletters, journals, and books, these media alone are no longer adequate. Due
in part, yet again, to economics, there is not enough newsletter and journal space for the
publication of all meritorious ideas, discoveries, and conclusions; and most book
publishers cannot place originality, brilliance, incisiveness, or any of the other
earmarks of good scholarship above the issue of whether or not a work will sell to enough
consumers to make its publication and marketing cost-effective.
The need for
restrictiveness in the production of printed material not only limits available space but
also contributes to the need for screening. While this helps eliminate substandard
efforts, some quality labors are lost because they are judged to lack sufficiently
widespread appeal to a publisher's clientelle, to lie outside the normal scope of a
document's coverage, or to be simply either too long or too short. In contrast, online
sources usually do not experience the ongoing financial pressures that commonly beset
printed ones. Therefore, most online publications, unlike their printed counterparts, can
be made available to a large number of readers at little if any charge. The result of this
is threefold. First, the readership of the online publication can be larger and have a
wider interest base than the readership of a printed newsletter, journal, or book. Second,
the range of studies disseminated by the online publication can be commensurately broader.
Third, the quantitative balance between contributors, readers, and respondents can be more
nearly equal. This makes the online document a discussion group as well as a publication.
to these factors, the turnaround time usually is measured in days, or sometimes even
hours, in the case of the electronic source, as opposed to the several months to a year
(or occasionally longer) that authors and readers can expect to face in connection with
printed publications. There exists an especially thorny problem with printed studies
involving technological applications. Even a six-month turnaround time can cause one of
these works to be dated by the time it is published.
expanded volume of information-sharing through telecommunications, there probably will be
some increase in turnaround time. There also will arise the need to impose more
restrictions than now generally are encountered concerning what material is accepted by
online sources. This need has been recognized already in some cases. However, screening
probably will never be quite the barrier in electronic publication that it is in the world
of print because of differing economic constraints. Focus can be more exclusively on
quality in the online document.
new online journal usually can be undertaken more quickly and maintained at less expense
than can be realistically expected in connection with printed matter. Also, much can be
accomplished apart from online publications through postings to electronic bulletin
boards, newsgroups, and mailing lists; through queries about these postings and the
replies to these queries; and through the rapid forwarding of material to individuals or
online services. All of these operations occur within very narrow time slots and without
the payment of printing, copying, marketing, or mailing costs.
should be prepared to dispense with any ideas that we might have concerning the scholarly
superiority of printed sources to online ones. Selection according to both interests and
standards often is more the task of the readers of online sources and less the
responsibility of reviewers. The tradeoff accompanying this added readers' burden is the
availability of an extremely wide range of topics, concepts, and approaches that can be
submitted, published, considered, responded to, and on occasion revised very easily,
quickly, and inexpensively. As more and more scholars become aware of both this and the
possibilities for interaction that the Internet provides, there will appear more
first-rate studies in online sources. This increase also will be fostered by future
improvements and reduced costs of the technology for transmitting and reproducing musical
notation, sound, and other non-textual material.
In sum, it
seems that high technology will permeate ethnomusicology and allied disciplines at an
ever-expanding rate throughout the rest of our lives and beyond. Therefore we must
continuously familiarize ourselves with, and imaginatively utilize, technological
breakthroughs and improvements while retaining both our respect for the more time-honored
tools and our skills in using them.
Dr. J. Marshall
is a native of
where he also currently lives. He is both a
string music educator and a
Oklahoma Baptist University, 1970;
M.Mus. - Musicology,
University of North Texas, 1973; Ph.D. - Musicology, University of North
Texas, 1984) with specialization in the
history of bowed string instruments,
oral-aural musical transmission, British and
British-American folk music, and British academic music of the late nineteenth
and early twentieth centuries. His
doctoral dissertation has
been published by University Microfilms, International
No. 8423854, "Dissertation Services"),
and he has published
post-doctoral studies in
professional journals and presented papers in his areas of specialization at
regional, national, and international academic convocations in both the United
States and Great Britain. He also is the author of encyclopedia articles on
John Avery Lomax, Alan Lomax, and Percy Aldridge Grainger; and he has
published on the Internet. In addition to his pedagogic and academic pursuits,
he is a
Welsh crwth, a
composer and arranger for
string and vocal ensembles (publications on
Sibelius.com, from December of
2004), and a forensic
musicological consultant and expert witness in copyright
and intellectual property misappropriation disputes
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