Wednesday, March 27, 2019

The Politics of Personalism

By Brendan Kibbee (City University of New York)

*This article also appears in SEM Student News 14.2, Fall/Winter 2018.

As we engage with the world as scholars concerned with music and its political effects, it is important that we not only consider what we think and say, but just as importantly, who we engage and express ourselves with, and how we think and express ourselves with others. Doing so might enable us to establish new repertoires of social action in our personal and professional lives and new ways of creating knowledge in the world. As I have been processing my experiences doing fieldwork in a crowded, working-class neighborhood in Dakar, Senegal, over the past few years, and as I have begun to think about what I hope to achieve with my work, I have become increasingly drawn to an idea of “personalism” as it manifests in the postcolonial city.

Letter from the Editor (Volume 14, Number 2)

*This letter also appears in SEM Student News 14.2, Fall/Winter 2018.

This issue of SEM Student News marks my penultimate as editor, and I am extremely grateful to have worked with SEMSN over the past six (almost seven!) years. Not all of this has involved editing, though editing has been the most meaningful to me for several reasons: I get to read and re-read the writing of my colleagues, open myself to their ways of thinking about and perceiving musicking in our lives, communicate and exchange ideas with them, and present their hard work to our readers in a way that (I hope) does it justice. This has never been an easy process and there are many challenges with which I regularly struggle, including balancing my time and energy between SEMSN, graduate school, and life in general; possessing (or not) knowledge and experience fit for evaluating such a diverse array of topics; and the ever-pervasive self-doubt that has plagued me throughout my higher education. But there is one particular challenge that I want to take this moment to attend to: the frequent appearance and continued use of terms like world music(s), non/Western, and the West in (ethno)musicology.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Final Call for Submissions: SEMSN 15.1 [Deadline Extended]

Dear Colleagues,

This is the final call for submissions for the Spring/Summer 2019 issue of SEM Student News. This new issue, vol. 15, no. 1 (Spring/Summer 2019), will focus on a theme of Music and Movement with particular attention to theoretical approaches to embodiment and dance (choreomusicology). We are seeking article submissions on any topic but will give preference to those that fit within our theme’s area of discussion. Likewise, we will consider submissions from both students and working scholars alike, and encourage authors to submit pieces in a variety of media.

We are also accepting early submissions for vol. 15, no. 2 (Fall/Winter 2019), which will focus on a theme of Music and Affect with special attention to intersections between affect, embodiment, and mindfulness/meditation.

Submissions may be written, photographic, or multimedia (written with visual, audio, and/or video components). We particularly solicit audio/visual contributions to correspond with the theme for this issue. We are currently accepting submissions for the following categories:
  • Original photography or artwork related to the issue’s theme [with attendant permissions and appropriately publishable captions]
  • Student submissions (c. 200–250 words) for our “Thoughts from the Field” column [relating students' personal perspectives and experiences in the field to the issue's main theme; please contact the editor at for more specific details]
  • Student articles (c. 500–1500 words) [related or unrelated to the theme of the issue]
  • Student response column (c. 500–1500 words) [responding to a previous issue of SEM Student News or something else in the world of ethnomusicology today]
  • Professional submissions:
    1. For our “Dear SEM” column (c. 250 words) [related to the issue’s theme and responding to the following prompt: “Music studies and dance studies have historically been distinct disciplines, yet music-making and dancing are often not separate and distinct practices. How have you approached scholarship, performance, and pedagogy on the interrelationship between music-making and dancing? How might we holistically study and teach these practices?”]
    2. Individual articles (c. 500–1000 words) [related or unrelated to the issue’s theme, and speaking toward student interests, concerns, experiences, opportunities, etc.]

If you would like to submit a piece for either issue, please contact the editor at We also welcome any other ideas, comments, and questions. Submissions should follow Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition (author-date). Files should be submitted in .docx (text), .jpg (photography and images), .mp3 or .flac (audio), and .mp4 (video) formats no later than April 8, 2019 (for 15.1 submissions; 15.2 submissions are also welcome at any time, with a final deadline TBD). Be sure to include your contact information and university affiliation in your email. Please feel free to share this call widely.

Best regards,

Eugenia Siegel Conte, Incoming Editor
Davin Vidigal Rosenberg, Outgoing Editor

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

What Can One Learn in Gamelan Ensemble in One Semester? A Performative Ethnography of a World Music Ensemble

By Wangcaixuan (Rosa) Zhang (University of Pittsburgh)

*This article also appears in SEM Student News 14.2, Fall/Winter 2018.

The 1950s marked the establishment of ethnomusicology as a discipline in United States universities. In conjunction with Mantle Hood’s concept of “bi-musicality,” world music ensembles (WMEs) became part of ethnomusicology university programs to allow students to explore the music of the “Other.” Although these ensembles promote a decolonized attitude[1] toward understanding the “Other,” constrained within a Western university setting, they end up encouraging students to approach the “Other” with a colonized gaze. Through a performative ethnography[2] as an ensemble member, performer, and researcher in the Sundanese gamelan ensemble at the University of Pittsburgh in both Fall 2017 and Spring 2018, this article re-visits how we teach WMEs and questions what representations of the “Other” we are passing on to our students. This, I argue, serves as a good starting point for unfolding the politics of representation within ethnomusicology today.