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May 31 2019

Locating Western Popular Music in Ethnomusicology: Disciplinary Identity in the Twenty-first Century

Ethnomusicology Lab

Lecture by Nathan Hesselink, Professor and Chair of Ethnomusicology, University of British Columbia / Visiting Researcher, UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music

This paper outlines the background motivations and decisions behind changing the area of my research as a mid-career academic toward Western rock and popular music, and the resultant insecurities that arose as I tried to locate my efforts within a traditional ethnomusicological framework. What does it mean to be an ethnomusicologist in the 21st century? More than just a recurring exercise in disciplinary soul-searching (or flagellation), the question of disciplinary identity has important ramifications for how we conceive of and structure our programs, the kind of work we encourage and support both within and outside of academia, and the image we project outwards to the general public, including state-run funding agencies. - Nathan Hesselink

Nathan Hesselink’s research broadly encompasses the topic of rhythmic play and social meaning, firstly in South Korean traditional percussion genres and more recently in British rock music. He received his Ph.D. in ethnomusicology from the University of London, SOAS, and was a postdoctoral research fellow in Korean studies at the University of California, Berkeley. In addition to visiting posts at the University of Chicago and the Academy of Korean Studies, in 2012 he was Trinity Term Visiting Research Associate, St John’s College, University of Oxford.

Select publications include P’ungmul: South Korean Drumming and Dance (University of Chicago, 2006, winner of the 2008 Lee Hye-Gu Award by the Korean Musicological Society), SamulNori: Contemporary Korean Drumming and the Rebirth of Itinerant Performance Culture (University of Chicago, 2012), and “Radiohead’s ‘Pyramid Song’: Ambiguity, Rhythm, and Participation,” Music Theory Online (19.1.3, 2013). He is currently professor of ethnomusicology at the University of British Columbia and a Research Associate of the Centre for Korean Research.

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