Rebecca Dirksen Ethnomusicology Review Article

Reconsidering Theory and Practice in Ethnomusicology: Applying, Advocating, and Engaging Beyond Academia


Dr. Rebecca Dirksen, MIT Music and Theater Arts Mellon Fellow

The branch of ethnomusicology commonly referred to as “applied ethnomusicology” has received comparatively little attention within the university setting. The relative lack of academic debate surrounding research and representation activities labeled “applied” does not, however, denote a paucity of such activity. Nor does it reflect an absence of interest in the subject. The dearth of discussion does reveal, however, long-held tensions between “pure” and “practical” scholarship and ingrained prejudices against matters perceived as atheoretical. These tensions and prejudices have decreased significantly in recent years but nevertheless remain present across the discipline. Arguably more relevant today, the positioning of applied ethnomusicology off to the side of more dominant discourses hints at some of the typical job parameters and work-related stresses faced by “applied” ethnomusicologists, which have tended to limit publications; this, in turn, has limited broader considerations of the subject.  MORE

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