BFE Annual Conference April 2011 “Mediation, Writing and Performance”

British Forum for Ethnomusicology (BFE) at University College Falmouth, Tremough Campus, Cornwal
7-10 April  2011

Following a highly successful 2010 conference in Oxford, the annual conference moves to the rural south-west of the UK for 2011. The conference will take place in the new Performance Centre in Cornwall, built by University College Falmouth in 2010. This area of the UK is noted for its coastal scenery and mild climate and is also the location of an under-represented Celtic community with its own language, traditions and culture but little functional autonomy (unlike Wales or Scotland). UCF is a specialist arts college with schools of Art & Design, Media & Performance. The conference theme is chosen to provide an opportunity for cross-disciplinary links between Ethnomusicology and Media, Writing, Theatre and Dance.

Mediation, Writing and Performance

Processes and critical analysis of the role of the ethnographer/ethnomusicologist as mediator, are an accepted part of academic practice and writing and of the creative practices of music and media-based outcomes. Although recordings have been used to make sonic and visual statements ever since they were technically possible, the majority of information about other people, places and music is now accessed via (the) media, particularly video/film. Whilst video may be used in many different ways, from a scholarly ethnographic study through the openly partisan/partial ‘edutainment’ to commercial pop video and advertising, it is increasingly social networking sites that provide a platform to display a vast range of video material to friends and strangers as people share images of their lives, including their musical choices and encounters. There are few places in the world where people do not have some access to video media and the internet and perceptions of lives in other places are most often accessed through brief home videos that might be the complete antithesis of the academic approach to the medium. Video as a medium also displays the theatre and movement/dance that makes these sounds or is linked to them.

  • What is current thinking about mediation through film, writing (including auto-ethnography), film-making, composing?
  • How is increased access to the media changing the lives of those we study?
  • Are the changes to the way we access media and pay for it, significant culturally?
  • How is access to the musical/cultural lives and choices of others changing what is created in different locations around the world?
  • How much has the situation changed in the 15 years since an SEM meeting in 1995 came up with the ‘Ethno-Techno-person’ – fully plugged in (Lysloff & Gay: 2003:2)?
  • Would we still agree with the statement, “Common sense tells us that technology, rather than being part of our lived experience, only mediates it.” (Lysoff & Gay 2003:3)?
  • How has Auslander’s  opinion that, “the general response of live performance to the oppression and economic superiority of mediatised forms has been to become as much like them as possible” been played out in music globally (Auslander 1999: 7)?
  • What do we now feel about Myers’ observation that the use of recording equipment designed for ‘amateur enthusiasts to make home movies’ indicated falling standards linked to ‘pedestrian standards of writing’ (Myers 1992: 84)?
  • Are there changes in our conception of mediation and our roles and responsibilities as researchers? How do notions of copyright and permissions play out in the digital age where there is a high expectation of ‘free’ downloads?

The questions posed above are not exhaustive and might be considered in many different locations and functions, for example, within academic study, pedagogic practices and structures, communities and relationships between them (including notions of charity/fundraising), rituals, recreation.


Auslander, P (1999). Liveness: performance in a mediatized culture. New York, Routledge

Lysloff, René T. A. and  Leslie C. Gay Jr (eds.) (2003). Music and Technoculture. Middletown, Wesleyan University Press.

Myers, Helen (ed.) (1992). Ethnomusicology: An Introduction. New York, W. W. Norton

Proposals are invited for:-

  • Papers (20 mins + 5-10 mins for questions)
  • Organised sessions (3 or 4 linked papers around a theme, 1½ or 2 hours)
  • Round table discussion sessions (discussion topic, 3-4 shorter presentations not exceeding 15 mins each, chaired discussion, total 1½-2 hours)
  • Poster/digital display material.

Proposals should follow the following format to enable them to be reviewed anonymously:-

Paper proposals: Name of proposer, email address, Paper title, Abstract – not exceeding 300 words. The name of the presenter should not appear in the abstract.

Organised Session proposals: Name of proposer, names of other contributors, email address of proposer and other participants, overall abstract for session, abstract for each contributor. Abstracts should not include the names of any of the contributors.

Roundtable proposals: Name of proposer – assumed to be the chair unless stated otherwise, names of other contributors, email address of proposer and other participants, overall abstract for roundtable, abstract for each contributor. Abstracts should not include the names of any of the contributors.

Poster/Digital display: We hope to be able to support a number of digital displays of work in the same area as the book displays/refreshments, enabling work in progress to be shared using video/image as well as other media. A brief description of the material and technical requirements should be submitted for this.

Proposals should be submitted by email to by

15th October 2010.