Monday, December 26, 2005

The Kwaito Generation : Inside Out :: A production of 90.9 WBUR Boston, MA

The Kwaito Generation : Inside Out :: A production of 90.9 WBUR Boston, MA It feels like I've been off-line for ages. I am on holiday, a holiday that has been long in coming, and I am taking the opportunity to really rest for the first time in ages. Still, I do miss my online life, and so tonight I bit the bullet, gritted my teeth as the high cost of cellphone internet access ate into my tight budget, and decided to blog this fabulous website. I am developing an increasing fascination with Kwaito, partly because of the claims of connections between this South African genre, and Hip-hop. It is very fashionable to study kwaito at present, and I am not a follower of fashion, but for my own interest, it is worth pursuing. This website offers some interesting commentary on the genre, and SA society in general.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Google Blog Search: "south african" white

Google Blog Search: "south african" white I often back-track through my blog stats to see how people who visit me find me, and how high up on searches I occur. This particular trackback lead me to some terrifying things like this, and this. On the other hand, I also ran across this and this, which gave me pause to think. I am a die-hard South African, but I do get fearful. Especially when I realize that my chances of gaining financial assistance, or a job in academia, in this country, are decreasing. There is an interesting section in this book, that I linked to in September, about the benefits of affirmitive action. This was written by the past president of the SRC at our university. I am unsure what to think. I am tempted to just say "make up your own minds", but I don't think it is that simple. I spent today walking in one of the most beautiful nature reserves near my home. It is maintained using money that is not being used to provide several hundred pregnant women with anti-retrovirals. It is money which is not being used to pay for several student's education. It is money which is not being used to buy one farm from a white farmer as part of the land redistribution program. But without it, what do we have? if we destroy all these natural resources, we are diminishing our countrie's ability to support those children saved by the antiretrovirals. I don't know how to solve these things. I do know that I am willing to keep trying. I don't want to stop trying. This is my home. I am a white South African.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

see jane in the academy: for the greater good.

This post got me all emotional, because it makes so much sense, but is so lacking. I have had the most superb mentor, and have been incredibly luck with the support I have received from several people, but at the same time, I have encountered my share of academic hipocrites, and every time it makes me ask "why". If you don't think like the author of the above post does, then why teach? and if you don't want to teach, don't get into academics. Or at the very least, back off, and let those who do teach do their jobs without hinderance. Someone I respect said recently that being an academic is a vocation, not a career. It makes so much sense.

Monday, December 12, 2005

The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy I don't know whether I have blogged this before, or not, but either way, it is a useful resource.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

World History Archives: The contemporary political history of the Republic of South Africa

World History Archives: The contemporary political history of the Republic of South Africa I had some difficulties with the South African history section of my honours project, so this is part of an attempt to gain a better understanding of South African political history.

Friday, December 09, 2005

White Africans

There was an interesting, though somwehat troubling article and response in yesterday's Mail and Guardian, under the headline "How to be a White African". It was an extract from the book The White Africans by Gerald L'Ange. What worried me about it was that although both the article and the response pretended to be liberal and inclusive, the extent to which they expressed a concern with classification and difference made me wonder how we are ever to move beyond it. I get that there is still a massively uneven distribution of wealth and resources, and there are still a shocking percentage of racists around, but classifying a person as priveleged, wealthy and racist because they are white is equivalent to classifying them as poor, uneducated and criminal because they are black. These stereotypes are the real problem. I have sung choral music in African languages. I teach this music to my choir, and wrestle with issues of authenticity every time I do. Does that make me African? There is an entirely black choir on the television in front of me right this moment singing "Benedictus" from some or another mass. It is in latin. Does that make them not African? Does the fact that I choose to attend the Christmas concerts of Chantecleer and the Welsh Male-Voice choir rather than Afro-tenor make me not African? and if I'm not African, what am I? I speak English, but so does everyone at my university. I don't speak any other european language, but I do speak Afrikaans. I don't speak an nguni language, though. So what does that make me? I'm going to further my studies in the United States next year. A friend of mine is planning to do the same. For her, it is a way out of South Africa. For me it is a way in. I'm going to the united states because I need to be a highly qualified and capable an academic as possible in order to come back to South Africa to work. No matter what anyone says, this is where I want to be. And I don't just want to be here, and fool around. I want to contribute. I want to make a difference. and yet this article suggests that "any group of ‘outside educators’ who had grown up and been educated in a privileged situation where teachers are educated by former European systems, curricula and processes and those elites who travel to Europe, North America and overseas to continue an elite education, are distanced from the people they might, hopefully, return home to teach." So what is one really supposed to do. I don't really want to leave, but I feel that I have to if I am to make this career work. Does that make me disloyal to Africa? does that make me not an African?

Meditations71 writes about seeing South Africa through Western Eyes

Thursday, December 08, 2005

SA ePublications | MUZIKI

SA ePublications | MUZIKI My dear friend Steph just had a paper she wrote solicited by this journal. I am so thrilled, I can't stop grinning. Congratulations, love. You worked so hard, and you really deserve this. I hope it is the first of many.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005 From Conscious Hip Hop to Racism in the Jazz Age. From Conscious Hip Hop to Racism in the Jazz Age. This is an interesting comment from someone else who linked to the same Village voice hip-hop article I linked to a few days ago. Some interesting commentry about music and politics. A friend of mine edited a special issue of a local journal recently, that deals with music and politics. Will link to it when it comes out

[[----WISER----]] - Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research

[[----WISER----]] - Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research

ZA@PLAY - MOVIES: Putting words into action 09/04/98

ZA@PLAY - MOVIES: Putting words into action 09/04/98 This is a script-writing workshop run by a friend of mine. It has been going for several years. Will link to their official website when it's up and running.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Six degrees of Wikipedia

Six degrees of Wikipedia This is enormously fun, and surprisingly informative. It lets you view the shortest path between any two topics in Wikipedia. Try typing in "Blogging" and "Choral Music". The results are interesting. It is usually difficult to find anything separated by five or six degrees.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

village voice > music > by Bakari Kitwana

village voice > music > by Bakari Kitwana This is somewhat amusing. It seems that black-consciousness hip-hop has recently been developing an almost entirely white audience. Somewhat unexpected, but worth reading

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Early Modern Notes: So, why would I champion academic blogging?

Early Modern Notes: So, why would I champion academic blogging?

Academic Blog Survey

Overview:The following survey is for bloggers who are actual or aspiring academics (thus including students). It takes the form of a go-meme to provide bloggers a strong incentive to join in: the 'Link List' means that you will receive links from all those who pick up the survey 'downstream' from you. The aim is to create open-source data about academic blogs that is publicly available for further analysis. Analysts can find the data by searching for the tracking identifier-code: "acb109m3m3". Further details, and eventual updates with results, can be found on the original posting:
Instructions:Simply copy and paste this post to your own blog, replacing my survey answers with your own, as appropriate, and adding your blog to the Link List.
Important (1) Your post must include the four sections: Overview, Instructions, Link List, and Survey. (2) Remember to link to every blog in the Link List. (3) For tracking purposes, your post must include the following code: acb109m3m3Link List (or 'extended hat-tip'):
1. Philosophy, et cetera
3. Add a link to your blog here

Age - 23
Gender - Female
Location - Johannesburg, South Africa
Religion - Christian (Anglican)
Began blogging - October 2004
Academic field - Ethnomusicology: South African Choral Music
Academic position [tenured?] - Prospective Graduate student

Approximate blog stats
Rate of posting - dailyAverage no. hits - 20/day
Average no. comments - .10/day
Blog content - 98% academic, 2% personal.

Other Questions
1) Do you blog under your real name? Why / why not?- Yes. I want my work to be associated with my professional persona. I consider this blog (pleasant) work.
2) Do colleagues or others in your department know that you blog? If so, has anyone reacted positively or negatively?- Yes. I've had mostly positive feedback, but some concern has been expressed about my risking my professional persona and my intellectual property by publishing work in progress.
3) Are you on the job market?- Yes, part-time, for 9 months untill I begin grad school in September 2006
4) Do you mention your blog on your CV or other job application material?- Yes.
5) Has your blog been mentioned at all in interviews, tenure reviews, etc.? If so, provide details.- no
6) Why do you blog?- I use my blog as an information gathering and archiving tool, and I enjoy the interaction with other bloggers.

Monday, November 28, 2005

ABD: Almost Bloody Done

ABD: Almost Bloody Done Here's someone else who's also just finished a degree, and hasn't stopped stressing. I'm glad I'm not the only one. Also, some interesting musings on the academic blogger issue.

Digitizing the Past

Digitizing the Past Well, Google is certainly trying to fill the information gap. I really believe that this is the best use of the internet, as it makes quality information available in a space that, I believe, contains too much imperfect data, simply because there is nothing better filling it. I really am convinced that the more quality data that becomes available on the internet, the less unreliable data there will be.

When Information Access Is So Easy, Truth Can Be Elusive

When Information Access Is So Easy, Truth Can Be Elusive I get the point. In fact, student research practices that do not take into consideration print resources are a real concern. The thing is, how many people the world over don't have access to specific print resources? Even our university library has proven woefully inadequate on many occasions, with some of my primary resources being unavailable, even by inter-library loan. I have the resources to purchase, but how many don't. Surely the solution is to make all the relevant resources available in digital form.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Technology Review: An MIT Enterprise

Technology Review: An MIT Enterprise There is a fabulous argument built into this about the educational value of improved access to information via digital technology. Don't be frightened away by the title, or the technospeak in the beginning. It's worth pressing on. The last few paragraphs are the best.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Morpheme Tales: BLOGFIRED: Bloggers and Employers Test Each Others' Boundaries

Morpheme Tales: BLOGFIRED: Bloggers and Employers Test Each Others' Boundaries The ins and outs of blogging are complex in many industries, it seems. This article was written by a journalist (I think) who was not given a job at a radio station because of his blog. It certainly makes for interesting reading, and I think a lot of the same points apply to academic bloggers. At the same time, though, the potential of blogging as a research tool complicates the issue for us in academia somewhat. I would like to think that openness about my work makes me more employable in an academic situation. But on the other hand, does a post like my last one do the opposite? I have considered pulling it, but left it up, because I really do want to know if others have had a similar experience, and I want others struggling with this issue to read it and know that they are not alone. Does it make me less employable? I guess time alone will tell.

This article offers an interesting perspective on why people blog about work despite the pitfalls.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

finishing this damn degree

I guess what I'm experiencing must be a bit on the unusual side. Most people are particularly excited to complete their degrees. I was, too, to some degree, but to my horror, I've lapsed into a real depression over it. For the past four years, I've had a real purpose. I was doing something important. And there were people with an investment in me. There was a reason for me to push forward every day. There was also a lot of stress, enough that I got pretty sick at one point because of it, but at least I was doing something meaningful. Now, everything I do feels pointless. I've gotten involved in a seriously stupid romantic entanglement with someone I don't love, more because it fills the emotional space left by my degree than anything else. I have work to do, but it just doesn't fill the gap. Has anyone else felt like this? I typed "finishing a degree" into google, to see what I could find, but it seems like everyone else is really glad to reach the end of it. People's lives seem to start when they finish studying. My life seems to have been my studies. Please, someone, tell me I'm not the only one feeling like this!?!
I'm doing a little better than I was when I first posted this. I'm working on two publishable pieces simultaneously, and rehearsing for two choir performances, and so things really are moving again. The negative feelings will take time to get over, as will the stupid relationship (which I have extracted myself from), but I'm moving forward, and that really is all I can do at this point.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Why I blog (Anders Jacobsen's blog)

Why I blog (Anders Jacobsen's blog)


EFF: This is an interesting plug for anonymous blogging. There are some strong, sometimes undeniable points, but I still don't think they really count for me. It's always worth thinking about though. Particularly thought-provoking is the point that a potential employee may think twice about hiring a blogger. My supervisor suggested recently that being too open with half-formulated thoughts or in-progress research may give a competitor for jobs an advantage over one. I know a lot of what I blog is not thought-through enough to be really valuable, and I change my oppinion on issues frequently as I work through them. Does that mean that revealing them makes me look bad? I hope it makes me look human, and sympathetic. Will have to keep thinking about this one more.

choir concert

The concert yesterday was a disaster! Ok, maybe that's not fair. The preformance itself was really good. The choir were the best I've heard them yet, and the audience was responsive and engaged. The problem was, the venue was double booked. The insane thing is, I checked several times last week to make sure the booking was in order, and phoned someone who had booked a rehearsal there during our performance. The rehearsal was cancelled, but I wanted to be absolutely certain. And then, half an hour before we're due to start, another party arrive, and claim the space as booked. The result was, we landed up sharing the venue, with the choir concert following their piano recital, their noisy audience socializing in the next room during our performance, and our program cut to half length, because it was getting so late. And now, the venue managers want to charge both groups overtime for using the venue for longer than originally booked. I can't believe they are being like this! whose fault is it, after all, if not the venue organizers. I was so mad yesterday, I was shaking during the performance, and today I'm exhausted, and very stiff.
Ah well. These things happen. such are the trials of running a choir.

Saturday, November 19, 2005


PhDweblogs My blog just got listed on this site! there are so many interesting sites here, I'm quite honoured.

Also, I just performed a concert with the Johannesburg Chamber choir, the choir I conduct. It went really well. We're having a repeat tomorrow, at the atrium at Wits University at 15:30, if anyone reading this is in the area. I'd love to meet you in person...

Friday, November 18, 2005


thought:less:ness � Just Quote Is this an answer to my comment on the impossibility of a PhD?
"Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent."

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Richard Butterworth

Richard ButterworthThis is hilarious! I think I need to right something similar about doing an honours degree. Seriously, though, it can't be that bad. Can it? Please tell me its not....

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

so now what?

At 4:20 this morning, I finished my undergraduate degree.
Of course that isn't the end, I still have publishing to do, and I want to work so much more on my research. It has become so personal, I can't let it go till I feel I've done something worthwhile with it. but despite all that, the last submission really did go in this morning, and there is no longer anything I can do about any of it.
I hate feeling so out of control.
So now what?

I probably should go sleep (I've been awake for 51 hours straight), but the adrenaline in my veins is keeping me fidgeting, and I know if I stop too suddenly now, the downer will leave me depressed. Ah well, this is the perfect excuse to surf some of those blogs I read, but never have the time to comment to, and get some real interactions going. Also, I have so much reading to do before I touch my research again. Perhaps that's the way to go.
Sorry if this post doesn't make much sense. My brain is fried.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Blogs - How Weblogs Influence A Billion Google Searches A Week

Google Blogs - How Weblogs Influence A Billion Google Searches A Week - Microcontent News, a Microblog An explanation of the impact of linking on page ratings and search engines.

Academia and Wikipedia. Many-to-Many:

Academia and Wikipedia. Many-to-Many: Some writing on the role of expertise in knowledge publishing. The debate continues here and here.

Internet has academia seeking Web detours

Internet has academia seeking Web detours info on internet2. Is this the answer to all those misgivings my supervisor has posed in relation to my advocacy of academia online?

Professors online

Professors online A recent survey of the use of the internet by US college faculty


INTERNET PRICING: INTRODUCTION This is a useful reference site on some of the issues associated with internet access.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Some friends from the writing retreat

The time I spent in Mpumalanga last week was all devoted to writing. I am part of a student publication project, run by the grad school at my university, and part of the project involved us spending a week at the Wits Rural Facility, on the boarder of Thronybush Game Lodge, in possibly one of the most beautiful parts of the country, writing. And write I did. I finished three essays for anthropology and my 10 000 word honours essay, and I made good progress on my blogging article, which I have since completed in draft. 16 hours of writing per day. It was superb. Funny thing is, though, with my degree, and all this writing, coming to an end at a rapid pace, I'm feeling increasingly reluctant to let it go. I know the choir research is going to continue. There is just so much more I want to do with it, and I think I may extend it into my masters next year, if practicality allows. It still just feels a little strange to be reaching the end. And I don't even know for certain what I'm doing, or where I'm going next year.
Ah well. Will just have to see what comes up.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Blogging Thoughts: Personal Publication as an Online Research Tool from University of Oslo White Papers at ZDNet UK

This is a fabulous and useful article, but you will need to get a username to access it. It is a bit of a pain logging on, as the system is far from bug free, but the article, on blogging and research, is thought-provoking, and eerily similar to what I have been writing about academic blogging. Well worth a read.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

About the South African Choral Society

About the SACS Was doing a search on blogging on choral music, and stumbled across this. The sentence under "vision" is particularly fascinating

Monday, November 07, 2005

home at last

It is so great to arrive home to such a great set of engaging comments (see my post from October 12th, and the comments there in particular). Thanks to all of you. Weirsdo, I take your point, and have done some of the anti-hegemony reading, but I still feel that it is a useful concept. Rather than taking it to imply that we are all "mindless dupes", though, I prefer to think that it explains why good, intelligent people land up subject to systems that often don't make any sense. If there wasn't power in hegemony, if there wasn't something really difficult to see through, we wouldn't all be tricked for as long as we are, or as frequently. Perhaps you could comment further, but I really think that the concept of agency, as it modifies the hegemony issue, is the most satisfactory, as it takes into account the power of hegemony, but also the greater power of human intelligence to recognize and resist hegemony.
Thanks for the suggested reading. I am working through the Bernstein at present. I always had a problem with the cognitive psychology perspective, bit it always seemed to me to miss the point that hegemony implies extreme coersion. It's a coersion that's masked, admittedly, but that's what makes it so powerful. And as for the Comaroffs, I love their work, and have read quite a lot of it. Do you refer here to Of Revelation and Revolution? I read it so long ago, that I don't really recall their perspective on hegemony (I was reading it for other reasons then, and may have missed it altogether), but will certainly return to them. Have you read their "Ethnography on an awkward scale" in Ethnography. 2003; 4: 147-179? its available online, but unless your institution has access, you'll have to subscribe to the journal to read it. It's well worth it, though. John Comaroff's "NOTES ON ANTHROPOLOGICAL METHOD, mainly in the key of e"is available freely, and is also a worthwhile read.

Allan, thanks for the heads up. I loved Asimov's "I Robot", but got into trouble in grade school for bringing a book that "wasn't suitable for children to school", and so never actually got around to finishing it... Perhaps over Christmas break.

Ah, it's good to be back! I will still get around to posting photos etc from both trips, so look out for them, but in the mean time, keep reading and posting comments. I love the feedback. I am turning my paper from the Cape Town conference in August into a publishable article, so will probably be posting on blogging mostly the next while, but that doesn't mean the other conversations need to be put on hold.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

still out of town...

Ok, back from Sweden, but I'm now in the wilds of Mpumalanga province, enjoying the peace and quiet, and frantically working. Again, will post when i get home.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005


I meant to post this before I left, but things got so out of hand, I simply haven't had time. Anyway, the point is, I am at a conference in Sweden all this week, and so will be out of touch for much of that time. Will post lots when I get back!

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Lenin and Philosophy and Other Essays

I have been working with Althusser's notion of ideological state apparatuses to explain the functioning of choirs as sites for the formation of national identity. Well, here is the whole essay, in fact, the whole book, in which he discusses this notion. I am drawing, in particular, on the idea that schools (and by extension, Universities) are ideological state apparatuses that reinforce ideology through rituals in which official university choirs are directly implicated. I am keen to expand on this, however, with the idea that hegemony functions, in part, by facilitating some resistance. Only thing is, I can't remember who said that. Any ideas?

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Althusser and the subject

Althusser and the subject

The State and the South African University System under Apartheid by John Davies

I just discovered that this link doesn't work properly due to the firewall on the site in question. Will try to find the article at a better location, but in the mean time, if you access this from a subscribing institution, copy the title of this post, and paste it into the search box on the page that comes up. Tick the box labled "Article title". Once the search results are returned, click on "open whole article". You should get a Pdf version of this article. It is well worth a read. Again, I will search for it in a more permanent, easily accessible location, and will also review it when I have the opportunity.

Guide to Literary and Critical Theory

Monday, October 10, 2005

The Opening of the Apartheid Mind: Options for the New South Africa

The Opening of the Apartheid Mind: Options for the New South Africa This is another complete book available online. I get so excited when I find these, because it spells real progress to me. Ordinary people suddenly have access to extraordinary information.

Stephen Biko

Stephen Biko

South African History

Only just begun exploring this, but there's so much! I can't believe what a narrow view I have had on South African political history. I always thought I was quite well read on this topic. Shows you what our education system is like!

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

official parlimentary rhetoric

My supervisor and I were discussing earlier whether government still subscribes to the "Rainbow nation" rhetoric about SA, or whether the president's "African Renaissance" perspective has taken over. I thought that looking through parlimentary documents like these might lend some insight, and to some extent they do. The Rainbow nation ideology is mentioned in the first paragraph. But does that really say much about the direction of government? The rhetoric has taken on such a life of its own, that it isn't clear whether references to it indicate any sort of statement of intent, or just yet another passing reference to an entrenced discoursive device that has passed its sell-by date.

Monday, October 03, 2005


I'm dealing with issues around the compatibility/incompatibility of the African Renaissance vision of our president, and the Rainbow Nation ideal of our former Archbishop, Desmond Tutu, and struggling to reconcile them. I get that much collonialism in Africa has been perpetuated by white foreigners, but really, in South Africa, Apartheid was a product of a distinctive sector of a white African race, the Afrikander, and not all of them, at that, and focusing as deeply on a black African vision as the president does in this speech, is exclusionary to people like me, who have no national identity beyond South African, and no ethnic identity beyond practically white (there is just enough middle-eastern blood in my veins that I occasionally get asked whether I am "entirely white", but not enough that I know anything about that part of my herritage. I can't even find out what country my middle-eastern ancestors came from). The Apartheid legacy was erasure of identity. The post-Apartheid legacy is reclamation, and pride, in that identity. But, it seems, only for those with the bodily markers of "African-ness." spiritual marks are too difficult to see...

Saturday, October 01, 2005

a bit from my research report.

wow, a whole week since my last post. It has been a busy one, including, among other things, a trip to the opera with 21 music undergrads, and my GRE exam (at least that's out of the way).

Mostly, though, I've been working on my honours project. so here is a little bit from the beginning of it. Will post more as I get the referencing fixed up....

“If you have a hang-up about it, you can leave!”

It was the last thing I expected to hear from a choir master, hours before a performance. Truth was, I did have a “hang up” over what he was requiring, and I didn’t feel unjustified. The evening before, we had been instructed to “make an African-sounding noise for eight bars” at the end of a piece of music, and aside from my discomfort over the idea of noise having a nationality, I was extremely uncomfortable with something so apparently unmusical in a choir performance. I couldn’t even count eight bars without some sort of structure in that moment of performance, and I certainly couldn’t achieve any co-ordination in my usually fairly instinctual movements. I don’t know whether I actually crossed my arms and legs when the original instruction was given, but I certainly felt like doing so.

Choir rehearsals have always been a safe space for me, somewhere where I was just capable enough to be above average without standing out. I did not like feeling out of control. I wasn’t alone. The young woman sitting beside me pulled a face, and I heard a furtively whispered debate over the sanity of the conductor somewhere to my left. But there were others who stood, as if to attention, expressing solidarity with a conductor they trusted, willing to take whatever chance he considered necessary to the success of the performance. The choir was divided.

In the end, we all made the required noise, the conductor was satisfied, and the adrenaline we were feeling after an hour and a half on stage masked any lingering discomfort. Watching a video recording of the concert several weeks later, I had to concede that it was an impressive conclusion to the program. The music that preceded it built dramatically up to an explosion of sound and energy, which was followed by a spontaneous, high-energy, immensely satisfying rendition of Tshosholoza that brought the audience to their feet, and propelled us off stage in impressive fashion. The performance had been a success.

But my discomfort lingered. Whether I wanted to accept it or not, this relatively innocuous incident brought into question all my deeply felt, and unquestioned perceptions about why I sing what I sing, and even, what music is, and more specifically, what African or South African music is.

South African identity politics
The reasons individual choristers give for singing in choirs are diverse, and often revolve around issues of personal satisfaction, group interaction and creative expression. In a previous study I conducted amongst choristers of the choir of the University of the Witwatersrand, the impact of a desire for nationalized identity on choristers’ decision to participate in a particular type of racially integrated choir became apparent. This study revealed that, while choristers derive some satisfaction from the group dynamic characterized by the choir, many white and coloured choristers specifically seek out an inclusive, racially integrated, culturally mixed South African identity when choosing to sing in a choir of this nature (Hammond, 2004).

Jacklyn Cock and Alison Bernstein have cited as an explanation for the rise in “The explosion of fundamentalist movements and particularistic identities” (Cock and Bernstein, 2002) Eric Hobsbawm’s observation that we "are living through a gigantic 'cultural revolution,' an extraordinary dissolution of traditional social norms, textures and values. In this context men and women look for groups to which they can belong, certainly and forever, in a world in which all else is moving and shifting, in which nothing else is certain. And they find it in an identity group" (Hobsbawm, 1994, quoted in Cock and Bernstein, 2002, conclusion). While such ‘identity groups’ are frequently constructed around racial, ethnic and cultural identities, such constructions can, as Cock and Bernstein point out, be mobilized in order to divide, rather than reconcile people (Cock and Bernstein, 2002, chapter 3).

The non-racial identity projected by the ruling political party in South Africa, the ANC, is heavily invested in the “Rainbow nation” ideology, but there is an inherent tension between the government sponsored notions of South Africa as a “Rainbow Nation,” and the mainly foreign-policy motivated conception of the “African Renaissance,” primarily because of the contrasting perceptions, in each case, of South African identity. While the rainbow nation ideology, as Cock and Bernstein point out, is predicated around the notion of non-racism, or multi-racialism (Cock and Bernstein, 2002), the African renaissance is conceptualized as a “counterbalance” to Eurocentric international relations (Kornegay, Landsberg and McDonald, 2001), and hence can be interpreted as antagonistic to South African identities with historical and cultural connections to Europe.

While a simple reading of the situation would suggest, therefore, that embracing the rainbow nation conception, and abandoning African renaissance notions should be enough to stabilize notions of an inclusive South African identity group, the reality is that South Africa’s position in the international political and economic arena may be dependent on the construction of an African identity that is, if not antagonistic to Euro-American identities, at least clearly distinct from them. Cock and Bernstein point out that one of the greatest shortcomings of much contemporary social theory and activism is not its failure to recognize difference, but rather its uncritical universal application of established (and often hegemonized) structures (Cock and Bernstein, 2002). The effect of such “globalization” is potentially a degree of homogenization that may not be recognized because of the extent to which such structures are considered universal. If you believe that a structure has a universal applicability, you may not notice the changes that happen in order to make a particular body function within that structure. And no matter how effective such changes may make the functioning of the whole, the reality is that they dilute identities. In order for Africa, as a whole, and South Africa, in particular, to function at optimum efficiency on the global stage, therefore, it is necessary for us, as Cock and Bernstein suggest, to not simply fit in with the Eurocentric structures that dominate international relations, but rethink, and potentially reconfigure these structures (Cock and Bernstein, 2002). Global structures need to be developed around the needs of all participants in order to be effective. Exactly what these needs are, however, cannot be determined until clear notions of the identities of all these participants have been formulated.

What is Identity?
While the term “identity” is frequently associated with the individual, and notions of “self”, it is difficult, or even impossible, to consider the concept without reference to the collective. While post-structuralist, postcolonial theory discourages the dichotomization of complex concepts, it is fairly standard practice to conceptualize identity in terms of a “self”/ “other” dichotomy.[1] One reason for this could be that it is seldom necessary for the individual to define a personal identity unless their self-concept is challenged, and such a challenge usually exists in the form of an “other” or different identity
[1] See, for example: Sartre (1948), Sartre (1956), Fanon (1967), Born and Hesmondhalgh (2000)

Saturday, September 24, 2005

AfricAvenir - E-Library - African Renaissance

AfricAvenir - E-Library - African Renaissance

apophenia: Is Identity About Ownership or Assertion?

apophenia: Is Identity About Ownership or Assertion? - Opinion Meki Nzewi - Globalization Made Africa a Mental Colony - Opinion Meki Nzewi - Globalization Made Africa a Mental Colony

Les Nubians � One Step Forward by Marianna Childress - The Globalist > > Global Music

Les Nubians � One Step Forward by Marianna Childress - The Globalist > > Global Music

The Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture

The Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture

Globalization and Cyberculture, Martin Irvine

Globalization and Cyberculture, Martin Irvine


Friday, September 23, 2005

Cock and Bernstein/Melting Pots & Rainbow Nations. Table of Contents

Cock and Bernstein/Melting Pots & Rainbow Nations. Table of Contents Another fabulous piece of writing in digital form. This is so useful, and so current, and I'm thrilled that it's available so easily.

Update: 24 September 2005, 9:45 am.
I can't quite believe it. The whole book is available online. And it is fabulous. I sat up most of the night reading large portions of it, because it is impossible to put down. Well-written, exciting and valuable. I think I should go and ask the authors (one of whom works at Wits) why she was prepared to have it distributed freely this way, for my blogging paper. But in the mean time, this fits so well into my choir music paper, that I can't wait to get reading again.

Reader of South African Music

I don't know whether this link will work off campus, where I have online access to things I don't have elsewhere, but either way, it is worth blogging partly because it was published by a lecturer of mine, partly because it includes chapters written by friends of mine, and partly because it's just plain useful.

Update: 24 September 2005, 9:03 am
Only the introduction of the book is available at this url, but even that is amazing, and it is definately worth a read.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Crisis States Research Centre: The Politics of Conflict Management and Democratic Reform

Crisis States Research Centre: The Politics of Conflict Management and Democratic Reform

South Africa: An Emerging National Identity South Africa [book review]: Ethnicity and Identity in the New South Africa South Africa [book review]: Ethnicity and Identity in the New South Africa Someone else has used Social Identity Theory to deal with South African Identities. The reviewer here says that it's a bit dated, but then, so is Adorno, and that hasn't yet stopped anyone using him. (VBG)

WorldBank: Development Outreach

I like the idea of research for development projects, and this topic is, of course, relevant to my work, but I can't help feeling that the fact that it's an online source has been used as an excuse to be less academically rigorous than the author might be for a peer-reviewed journal article, and that really, the article is less practically applicable than it might be, were it more rigorous.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

BBC News | AFRICA | Rainbow nation at risk?

BBC News | AFRICA | Rainbow nation at risk?

Roots of the rainbow nation -

Roots of the rainbow nation - I never know quite how to respond to things like this. There is a picture of Ndebele women, in costume, sitting before brightly-painted huts accompanying this article, with a caption that reads: "Cultural villages give fascinating insights into the way our people live." I would love to get comments from anyone who has visited a cultural village in this country, about what the experience felt like, and the impression of South Africa you were left with. I wish I knew why this sort of marketing of South African-ness makes me so uncomfortable. Is it just because it is exclusionary? As a white South African, I am directly excluded from this marketed impression of my own country. But at the same time, villages like this really do create a stagnant impression of what South African culture really is. Has anyone noticed that the only people who really seem to still live like this are those living in the artificial environment of the cultural village? South African culture, even in its deepest traditional forms, when lived in the present, is hybrid. I have a friend who works with electronic music during the semester, and then returns home to a village with no electricity. That is the reality of far more people than this frozen Utopian ideal projected by so-called "cultural villages." Perhaps the purpose of "Township Tours" is to redress this imballance to some degree. And perhaps it even works, some of the time. But I still feel that there is a big part of who we are, and what we are, that these things can't show a tourist, and that marketing ourselves like this, rather than marketing our exciting artists, development and global engagement, perpetuates the impression beyond our boarders that we are not able to engage with the "big fish." In a seminar over the weekend, there was some debate over whether Johannesburg is a world-class city, or an African world-class city, or simply an African city. Of course I don't have answers for that, but I'd like to see us becoming all of the above. Our identity as South African makes me feel that this really is the right place for me to be. I become so excited when I think that legally, we are one of the most inclusive, accepting nations. The concept of human rights, as it is built into our constitution, puts us worlds ahead of many so-called "first-world" nations, because we really are about people. We are about recognizing and including people. we are about tollerance, and more than tollerance: acceptance, co-operative co-existance, appreciation of individuality. We are first world in terms of our resource of people. But looking at the picture on this page, you would swear otherwize. I'm not saying that cultural difference is undesirable. Quite the contrary. But I am saying that rigid notions of what culture is, or what makes something authentic, or more specifically, authentically Africa, or South African, is counter-productive if it creates a false impression in the minds of others of our true level of development and potential for trans-national engagemen. Culture is about us, about our sense of self and other, and about understanding how we fit together, and into a broader context. And in that sense, it is both inward, and outward looking. Rather than marketing ourselves to an audience who are primarily interested in the entertainment value of who we are (a terrifyingly degrading and patronistic idea in itself), we should be seeking to really engage, first, by understanding ourselves, and then by understanding how we vary from others, and then by enjoying both. Selling our exoticism to the world does not open real markets. Selling our diversity, and our resultant ability to understand, however, does.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

American Visions: South Africa's rhythm - the popular music of South Africa is popular in the US also

American Visions: South Africa's rhythm - the popular music of South Africa is popular in the US also I find it fascinating to read the views of others, and particularly non-South Africans, on what constitutes a South African sound. This is interesting not least in its (perhaps expected) condemnation of "modernization", or "Americanization", as it is described here, and references to "African rhythm" and percussion instruments. Any comments, from South Africans, or otherwise, on what constitutes a "South African" or "african" sound?

choral sound, and the bigger fourth

I was going through some of my notes from the Cape Town conference yesterday, and came across a series of comments I had written during a paper on Choral music that focused on two performances of Ladysmith Black Mambazo's "Homeless". The performances selected were from a 46664 concert, in Cape Town, and a performance the group did with the London Philharmonic. The presenter had used spectrographic analysis to determine that there was a variation in the size of the sung 4th between the two performances, and had concluded that the reason for this was that the latter-mentioned performance had been put through some sort of pitch-altering device. For anyone unfamiliar with the music, "Homeless" is usually performed acapella, and is in the isicathamiya choral style made so famous by LBM. The first of the performances mentioned above is acapella, while the second, obviously, is with orchestral accompaniment. The presenter of the paper assumed that the 4th, which was "in tune" with the orchestra was digitally altered in order to make it so, because in the other recording, the 4th was wider. My comment in my notes was "Couldn't the singers have made the adjustments themselves, by ear?!?
These are highly competent, experienced performers we are speaking about, with experience singing both with, and without accompaniment. The fact that they may choose to sing a wider fourth when performing acapella does not mean that they have to make the same choice every time, or even, as the presenter seemed to suggest, that they are only capable of singing a wider fourth. If they felt that the wider fourth did not suit the circumstances, I'm sure they would have (consciously or instinctively) made whatever changes they believed were necessary.
Later that same day, I had a conversation with a student from another university who was seeking an explanation for the "different sound" between black and white choirs in Grahamstown. His amazement when I suggested that it may be nothing more than habit would have been comical, had it not frustrated me so.
So much time and energy is spent on trying to understand and explain differences between black and white choirs, aesthetically and physiologically, and I can't understand how educated, intelligent people can still think that the difference has some fundamentally racial basis. I have a personal theory that I intend to investigate at some future juncture, that the language we hear in infancy, and the earliest languages that we learn to speak, may alter our physiology enough that they may affect the sound of our voices. The result, I think, is something along the lines of developing strength in muscles you use frequently, and loosing strength in those you use rarely. If you fain a limp for long enough, for example, you will eventually develop a real one. But essentially, it all boils down to habit. We sing by immitating what we hear. You can experience the effect of this by holding choral auditions. the voices you are likely to encounter will probably be of several types, and will fit with voice types you will encounter in other environments. Sure, it may be predominantly black females who have a particular type of gospel voice, white males who have a particular "Anglican Church" type, or whatever, but the reason for this is that the black women listen to, and hence immitate, that particular gospel style, mostly, while the white men sing most often in church. Habit, pure and simple. If you persevere long enough, you can get even the most unwilling singer to alter their sound for the purpose of a particular performance, or number. It really is all about will. And that doesn't mean that anything other than time and perseverance will turn your top lyric soprano into a belting contralto, but it is possible. Develop the right muscles, and anything is possible.
Just please, stop trying to essentialize race! we are beyond that. Singing is about community, not segregation, and calling for cultural "authenticity" on the basis that "black people sing bigger fourths" is counterproductive.

Monday, September 12, 2005

disappointing weekend

Ok, so the linuxchix thing turned out to be less than inspiring. I understand that people can be deeply devoted to the idea of freedom of information, and related ideas, but I don't like getting preached at because I use a mixture of free and propriety software, and I don't like feeling like I have been lured out for the purpose of being sold specific products. Also, I thought linuxchix was supposed to be about promoting floss among women. Well, as far as I could see, I was one of only a tiny handful of women over 18 there! there were mostly school kids about. Oh well, perhaps this wasn't quite the organization for me. will keep looking.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

LinuxChix Africa

The thought of being part of a community of African women involved in open-source promotion and development is thrilling! Please come to wits on Saturday, if you have the opportunity, and get involved. This group promises to be very exciting!

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Singing out of Africa

Back to the choir work. I don't think I have blogged this before, but I am finally getting around to reading it. I heard a paper by Prof. Ballantine in Capetown, and enjoyed both his writing and presentation style immensely. He's addressing many of the issues around popular music studies that I am interested in, but need to delay untill this degree is finished. In the mean time, I am glad to have had the opportunity to meet him.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Try this on for size

Androgen, n : a largely male-dominated areas of the internet that requires a high level of programing knowledge to access. Users have generally rejected user-friendly, more accessible platforms in order to deliberately exclude non-program-savvy users. pl. Androgens.

Post-conference euphoria

Wow, the conference is over, and it's back to real life with full force. I had the most amazing time, for all sorts of reasons, and will treasure this experience for a long time to come. Lara, Liza, Susan, Brett, Kurt, and everyone else who had a hand in making this such a special weekend, thanks a ton. I love you all, and am a better, stronger person for knowing you, and having you in my life.

I will try to post my conference paper and the attendant power-point presentation (which technical difficulties prevented me from showing at the conference) on this blog in a day or two.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

I can't believe it's already a week since my last post! The conference starts tomorrow, and I have been going mad trying to get all the final arrangements sorted out. I haven't even packed yet! Still, I'm excited about this paper, and eager to see what response I get. So wish me luck!

Wednesday, August 17, 2005 Academic credit for blogging Academic credit for blogging These debates have been going on for so long, and we just haven't got into it in music. I feel really behind the times, and yet I consider myself forward-thinking iin terms of music scholarship.

Matthew G. Kirschenbaum: Front Page News

Matthew G. Kirschenbaum: Front Page News

Blogging Clicks With Colleges (

Blogging Clicks With Colleges ( And another something for the publishable article...

Relevant History: What's a blog (continued)

Relevant History: What's a blog (continued) While the conference paper just doesn't have space for this, it's so useful, I will probably need to refer to it when I publish the longer paper. So this is just a link to remind me to do that.

The Dead Parrot Society

The Dead Parrot Society I'm increasingly liking the idea of group blogs, like this one. It's not quite the same as my original idea of blogging research journals and related conversations, but potentially a useful way to get conversations going. I have begun putting together a group blog for my chamber choir, and I'm quite eager to get it published. The way things are at present, though, I'll have to wait till after the Cape Town conference.

EdBlogger Praxis: Scholars Who Blog

EdBlogger Praxis: Scholars Who Blog Haven't had a chance to explore this yet, but hope to soon. It looks potentially interesting.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

The Rambler

The Rambler Another music blog. Diverse topics, and lots of thoughtful commentary.

ArtsJournal Forum: A Better Case for the Arts?

ArtsJournal Forum: A Better Case for the Arts? this is exactly the sort of public conversation that blogging can facilitate. One of the comments my supervisor made on the draft of my paper of blogging music scholarship, was that I will need evidence to back up my assertion that the public is more intelligent than we, within the academy, give them credit for. I think I just may have found that evidence here...

Crooked Timber Academic Blogs

Crooked Timber Academic Blogs Just what is says: academic blogs. nicely thematized, too.


There is such a beautifully thoughtful post on the use of consonants in singing on this blog (dated August 14, 2005). Any choristers reading my blog, take a look at this, if you have the opportunity. It's well worth the read.

ArtsJournal: PostClassic

ArtsJournal: PostClassic I was hoping to post a comment to Kyle Gann's "Aspiring to the Condition of Music?" No Way at the link above, but as he doesn't appear to have a comments page, I will post my thoughts here instead. Read his post first to understand.

Wits Music School is also part of a relatively (and increasingly) interdisciplinary program that gives us the opportunity to interact with students and academics from other disciplines on a regular basis. Recently (and with great success) a series of seminars open to the whole school of the arts were established, and have provided an incredible seminar for interdisciplinary interaction. Every now and again, a film is shown, or a work discussed, which I and my familiae just don't get. It happens. We converse among ourselves, and move on. More often than not, though, when a seminar with a music emphasis is presented, the other disciplines don't bother to show, or when they do, refrain from commenting, or apologise for their lack of knowledge about music, before commenting. There are occasional forays from other disciplines into ours: scholars with little or no experience writing and speaking about music, who publish papers, or even books, on some aspect of music or music scholarship. And some of them are surprisingly capable. Those who fail do so for lack of academic rigour, rather than lack of prior knowledge. But by and large, non-music scholars, and even some of us trained within the discipline of music, are terrified to engage with music. There is a notion out there that music, and particularly "classical" music, requires a level of expertise in order to be engaged with. And yet, if you ask people in informal settings for comments on music, most will be more than ready with an (often strongly-held) oppinion. By shutting ourselves off from interdisciplinary interactions, we set music up as an inaccessible, unintelligible form of creative production to be only passively consumed by anyone with less than a Phd in music. And we lose out on the potential to understand the way in which our art functions in the real world, among real people. I'm convinced that the reason music has lagged so far behind other disciplines in engaging literary/critical theory, for example, or making use of technology like blogging to facilitate academic dialogue and conversation, is that we are unwilling to make the effort to engage in interdisciplinary interactions that would both demistify our work and potentially offer us new perspectives.
I am not suggesting, of course, that there is no place for expertise within music scholarship; only that we should bring our experts, and their dialogues and discourses, into broader conversations.

ArtsJournal: PostClassic

ArtsJournal: PostClassic A musicologist blogger! there are more of us out there.

Monday, August 15, 2005

The Chronicle: Colloquy Live Transcript

The Chronicle: Colloquy Live Transcript This deals with a lot of the same stuff I did in my previous post. One question that comes up in this that I only "waved at" (as my supervisor puts it;-)) is blogging and tenure, or recognition of blogging, not just among academics, but by that abstract 'academy' that decides what counts as scholarly contribution, and therefore affects promotion. Volokh suggests that blogging might be more about promoting scholarly work published elsewhere, and perhaps not as a recognized part of the credit-giving process. And he has a valuably tentative point, but I feel that blogging is about more than just conversing and interacting. I would like to believe that it has the potential to undermine the expensively superfluous conventional publishing industry that restricts the spread of knowledge. I'm not talking about publishing all writing in freely available digital formats that make remuneration for the authors difficult, or impossible. Some writing is a comodity on its own, and has a market as such. But academic writing is simply a means of communicating the real comodity: knowledge. We don't usually get paid directly for what we write, and when we do, our audience is so restricted by our careful guarding of our writing, that what we write seldom makes us money worth taking note of. Our stock and trade is education. We aquire knowledge in order to disseminate it. When we are recognized for that, the proliferation of researchers who don't care about teaching, and are consequently particularly bad educators who really don't have their students interests at heart (or even in the backs of their minds) will no longer be rewarded more than the true academics who educate, sometimes at the expense of producing that book that will get stuck on the back shelf of some library in some university, but never at the expense of knowledge, minds and enthusiastic student souls who will go on to educate others, or make use of all this data we are perpetuating.

Ok, rant over. And if the people about whom I am writing don't read this, it isn't from lack of trying on my part...

Thursday, August 11, 2005

academic blogging

I'm involved in a panel presentation on "doing ethnomusicology" at the musicology and ethnomusicology congress of South Africa in a few weeks time, and below is a draft of my paper. Feedback and comments would be greatfully welcomed. I'm afraid the citations are not up to par yet, though I will correct them over the next few days, so please forgive me if you are incorrectly, or not, referenced, and feel free to point out my errors as appropriate. Also, any jazzy suggestions for a title would make a huge difference! I really am stuck on that one.
Enjoy :-)

The internet is often criticized for being too information rich, overwhelming, difficult to filter and navigate, and unreliable in terms of quality of content. And to some extent, this is true. The greatest strength and greatest weakness of the internet is that anyone can put anything they like in the public realm. Responsibility remains with the reader to assess the value, or validity, of the information available.

The various systems of peer reviewing that facilitate the validating of information published offline have equal potential online. And in fact the internet, by virtue of the increased speed and diversity of communication available online, has great potential for diversifying and facilitating peer review opportunities and mechanisms. Most news and current affairs pages, for example, include forums for discussion of the information presented, and many lively, and often very informative discussions spring to life on these forums. Weblogs (blogs for short) were originally developed as a way of filtering information.

While there is now a proliferation of “personal journal” type blogs available, weblogging systems were originally developed with the intention of allowing bloggers to collect and comment on links to information. Readers typically would find a few blogs whose authors had similar interests to themselves, and read them regularly, as a source of information of interest. Virtual intellectual communities continue to form around well-authored weblogs on various topics.

I began blogging just over a year ago, when I came across Anthroblog (now out-dated) while searching for information relating to a paper I was researching on South African choral music. After several weeks of reading about and mulling over the blogging phenomenon I was won over by the sheer convenience of being able to organize, comment on, and access information I found online while working at home and university. Unlike offline or mirrored web pages, the urls of blog-linked pages remain in tact, and links and comments are automatically dated, making referencing a much easier task. And one’s research is accessible from any internet-connected computer.

But there is more to the addiction that is blogging than these practical conveniences. My first three entries were published privately (accessible only to myself as editor of the blog), but rapidly, the idea that someone might be able to comment on what I was reading, won me over, and I began to publish, and promote, my blog. Last October I wrote “I can think of few other ways [than publishing] of making what I do accessible to the broader public. Perhaps this is the way to do it. Maybe blogs are the ultimate way of getting what I do out into the public sphere.” The conventional publication process is slow, and somewhat laborious, and while a combination of peer-reviewing and informal communication on published papers does have the effect of generating conversation and debate around topics of interest, the amount of real feedback and interaction is limited by the inconvenience of the process. Blogging facilitates instant publication, and instant conversation (for anyone willing to engage in it) in that most conventional blog tools allow the publisher to enable comments pages for each of their posts. Readers can then post their thoughts, reactions and general feedback, either under a user name, or anonymously, and the original authors, or other readers, can read and reply to them in the same place. It is easy to track discussions on particular topics by clicking on the links pages, and authors are empowered to update their original posts, or post newer drafts, as their work is influenced by these conversations. An option also exists to create multi-author blogs, that allow several authors/editors to post and manage blog entries in a co-operative manner, while still allowing those not listed as authors to engage in the conversations through comments, as described above. Such blogs are frequently created for academic or information-oriented groups in which many (approved) voices are more desirable than a single “authority”. The result can be very like a rapidly edited, easily developed, technology enriched journal that invites and documents readers’ participation alongside that of the authors/editors.

Similar real-time discussion is, of course, possible in face-to-face forums like conferences, discussion groups, or informal meetings, however, these are obviously limited by practical concerns in the number of participants they can include. Blogging has the potential to broaden the field of conversation, opening the author and their work to a broader range of opinions, creative ideas, and expert comment. And online interactions are easily documented and archived, and hence, more easily referenced than the somewhat ephemeral interactions generated in face-to-face encounters.

An additional benefit of recording more that just research findings online is the creation of a research ‘trail.’ Aside from lending a degree of transparency to individual research projects, this trail empowers a willing reader, who may not have the background in academic discourse and theory, to follow the process of enlightenment originally taken by the author. Rather than “dumbing down” data for general consumption, then, one is able to publish with integrity in an accessible form. The reader is educated, rather than the data being compromised.

In early February, this year, I began to published my field-journal on my blog. I gave my informants the url, and suggested that they might want to comment on what I had written. Most declined to comment online, but engaged with what I had written in follow-up interviews. A conversation was thus established, not only on the subject of our interviews, but on the actual knowledge being produced.

The notion of dialogic knowledge has had a profound impact on the discipline of anthropology (and congruently, ethnomusicology), mainly as a result of the postmodern move toward a recognition of the collective/interactive nature of knowledge. Disciplines like ethnomusicology, largely because of their work with culture, a fundamentally dialectical entity, have increasingly moved toward a recognition of both the knowledge, and the agency of the “subject” of research. The notion of authorial privilege, and even of authorship itself, is contested, and researcher’s attempt to introduce alternative voices into texts, in order to produce a more holistic perspective. And yet, while we actively work outside of the academy “in the field”, we tend to restrict our conversations on, and publication of, the data we collect, to the constructed environment of the academy. Peer reviewed journals, in practice, are not open to the general public, and neither are our conferences, conversations and interactions. Relatively little of the information we produce is distributed to the broader public, and when it is, it is usually in a non-dialectic form. The people who are making the music, by and large, are not participating in the conversations about that music, and the result is a loss of both an important intellectual perspective, and the opportunity that our research can have some real effect. Who are we writing for, if not the people about whom we write, and those who don’t as yet know of them?

By publishing my field journal online, in a format that encourages interaction and conversation, I aim to not only disseminate the information I am gaining, but also to enrich it by encouraging input both from within, and beyond, the academy, and from the people who really hold that knowledge. The continued dominance of the Western cannon on music scholarship limits our potential for understanding music that is not of this cannon. Unlike mathematical or scientific knowledge, which can, and usually is, studied without consideration of cultural and contextual circumstances, musical production has a fundamentally cultural grounding. While it is (arguably) possible to study music without considering context within which it is produced and consumed, and within which meaning is constructed, consideration of these influence can, not only enrich understanding, but potentially also facilitate music making at all levels. Shifting emphasis from, for example, a pitch-centered understanding, to a timbral-focused interpretation, can open up new sound possibilities, and expand creative potential. Opening conversation on music up to the people who make and consume it, increases the chance of understanding it in terms one may not have considered.

Another benefit of online publication of in-progress work, and field-journals in particular, is the increased accountability that I, as the researcher, am faced with. In February, I wrote “I am finding that the field-notes make me more aware than ever of how judgmental I am. Everything has to be checked for bias or judgment, and I am struggling to write about race, or language group. Anything that is 'other' for me is difficult to put into words without sounding judgmental or patronizing.” On the (thankfully increasingly rare) occasion that I find myself writing something that I am not prepared to show my informants, I am forced to reconsider my perspective, and generally, to reach a deeper understanding of the situation, often in conjunction with my informants.

The purpose of the peer-review process in conventional print journals, with its parallel in the conversations generated around blogs, is to screen data for deficiencies or inaccuracies, and to facilitate the publication of quality data for dissemination. While not infallible, the system is widely accepted in academia, and used for the assigning of credit, and hence employment, allocation of funds, and the like, within universities. The system is so entrenched, that it is difficult for individuals, regardless of experience, contribution to intellectual endeavor, or extent of research, to gain recognition within the academy without some publication in accredited journals.

While there are several high-quality online journals available for general access, many have suffered from the widespread suspicion with which the academy, by and large, have viewed free, digital resources. Online journals rarely receive accreditation unless they are little more than offshoots of established print journals, and even when they do, they are seldom the first choice of publishing academics. The development of online technology, however, should have made the print journal, if not obsolete, then at least less dominant as a mode of disseminating researched and reviewed information. Ironically, however, the convenience of online publishing in journal format has not loosened the strangle-hold of traditional publication processes on the industry. Journals are still published (by and large) in formats that encourage passive consumption rather than interaction. Whether it is the online, or the free status of these publications that invites this distrust is impossible to determine, but as Stevan Harnad points out, while scholars and reviewers have been producing research reports and comments in their professional capacities for years, neither group has received reimbursement directly for these activities, despite the fact that money has been changing hands. This money originally went toward covering the cost of producing and disseminating hard copies of journals, and was viewed as “a lamentable filter (a financial filter), blocking access to their work, reserving it only for those who (or, rather, whose institutions) could/would pay” (Harnad, 1999).

In the commercial and entertainment writing worlds, it is understandable, and expected, that one pays for the content of texts, and not just the paper on which they are printed. Authors in these fields are writing in order to earn money, and market the products of their creativity appropriately. While the result is that an author has the potential for developing an extensive audience that is willing to pay, they are also compelled to “sell” their work to this audience, writing what the audience wants to hear, and potentially resorting to sensationalism or half-truths in order to achieve this. The academic system is designed to shield scholars from this need by paying them for research and teaching (directly or indirectly), rather that commercial value of the texts produced. That does not mean that value is not placed on texts, as these, in the form of research reports, or publishable papers, are the means by which research output is measured. But the scholar is paid and supported by the institution to which they belong, and not by the reading public, and therefore has a reciprocal responsibility to that institution.

While collaboration within the broader intellectual community is what makes the peer review system, among other collaborative systems, work, there is a level of elitism within the academy that alienates not only the general public, but also the student who has yet to prove herself, or the enthusiastic amateur. By blocking access to academic content, both financially and practically, a discipline not only limits its audience in the immediate instance, but also limits its future reach. Understanding academic content, and particularly music, because of the ‘specialized’ nature of the subject, takes practice. Old habits associated with publication prevent those without the resources from accessing the information we produce, while old attitudes about the inability of the general public to understand, prevent those with the will, from learning. And the more people that learn to interact with music scholarship, the more potential for profitable collaboration and the development of our discipline there is. Music scholarship, particularly in the South African context, deals with an expressive medium that is an entrenched and valuable part of society. And yet, on a continent in which simply feeding people remains a major challenge, it can be difficult to justify assigning resources to music scholarship. The knowledge which we produce belongs to the people from whom we learn it, and needs to be taken to them in order to entrench its value in the social conscience. Generating self-perpetuating, self-consuming knowledge in an insulated, privileged community, is no longer an option.

Opening research up to the general public in the form of weblogs, or similar technologies, and allowing, and even encouraging general comment and interaction does create the risk that one may receive worthless or even destructive critique. Not making it accessible, however, carries the greater danger that it may become irrelevant in the “real world”, beyond the academy.

The general public is more capable that we give them credit for.

The potential of digital and online technologies to impact positively on academia in general, and music scholarship in particular cannot be overestimated. Particularly in the South African academy, which has been traditionally somewhat isolated from the rest of the world, almost instant online communication and interaction broadens both our intellectual community, and our opportunity for disseminating our scholarship, while alternative publication formats enhance our ability to communicate effectively on the topic of our research, with a wider audience.

Scholars Who Blog

The Chronicle: 6/6/2003: Scholars Who Blog I'm gradually finding more and more scholars and academics who are using weblogs in a way similar to myself, and although few of them (as mentioned in this article) are in the same field as me, it's still interesting to see what the concerns are in other disciplines. And anyway, I like the idea of interdisciplinary conversation much more than strict disciplinarity, that limits scope and, lets one discipline wallow in an intellectual issue that is well-rehearsed, and even outdated, in another. This sort of article keeps one up to date on what others are talking about.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Blogging to Learn

Keeping an education-related online diary

incorporated subversion - social software, online education and james farmer : Blog Archive : Keeping an education-related online diary
I'm presently taking a little hiatus from my choir research to produce a paper for a panel presentation for a conference to be held in Cape Town at the end of August. I'm dealing with technology and information dissemination generally, but specifically with my blogging concept as it relates to my research journal and field-notes. This is, of course, related.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Lawrence Lessig

Lawrence Lessig This is such a fabulous site created by someone who has spent a lot of time and effort thinking about issues of online publishing, and the like. I can't wait to begin reading his book "The Future of Ideas".

Dictionary of the History of Ideas

Dictionary of the History of Ideas How useful is this! I wish I had it months ago.

Microsoft reader, and other useful links.

Microsoft Reader - Download Microsoft Reader for PC This is such a useful piece of software for reading ebooks. I'm working on a paper on dissemination of information at present, and this is exactly what we need. Thank you to web_loafer ( for pointing this out. His site has so much great info on it. Check out BugMeNot, that he has linked to in a later post. Really useful. I hate feeling like a hacker, but I will not put up with having my ability to access information curtailed by people out to make money off of those seeking an education, and if things like this are the best way to avoid it, then so be it!

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Back from holiday

After two weeks of doing absolutely nothing, and enjoying it thoroughly, It's back to work today. It feels so good to be getting back to a project I really do love, without the intense exhaustion that made it something of a chore last month. Lets hope I can keep the tranquility up, because it seems to make me more productive.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

choir concerts

I attended a concert by one of the choirs I am researching last night with the intention of documenting their performance specifically. What I got was yet another example of cross-cultural interaction through music. The choir I was there to see and two local boys' choirs performed with an American Gospel choir from Pennsylvania state. The first thing that jumped out at me about the choir I was documenting's repertoire was how many African American Spirituals they performed. These numbers are always popular with South African audiences, partly because of their vibrancy (even subdued numbers are usually sung full-voice, the music is rhythmically interesting, and the melodies are memorable and lyrical), but I was certain the American choir was more interested in hearing South African music. They did sing a few South African numbers, including two versions of "Ntylo Ntylo", one ballad-like, and one fast and energetic, with complex movements, but while the audiences smiles and movements during the latter piece, and their applause at the end suggested that they enjoyed this number particularly, I noted that the majority of improvised vocalizations of the type traditionally used to indicate approval and enjoyment, came from the choir, and not the audience, as is usual, and that these seemed to do more to get the audience going than the music alone. On the other hand, the gospel sung by the American choir got a similar audience reaction to the African music, though the majority of the spontaneity was directly connected to the music in that it involved actual vocal and musical interpolation and improvisation, and while there were a few interjections, these were from the audience (and mainly the visiting American audience, at that), and not the choir. The choir did, once or twice, interject improvised clapping sequences that I interpreted as having a similar function to the South African choir's vocal interjections. The American choir made some use of movement during their performance, thought it was generally simple swinging or swaying movements, and less choreographed than the South African choir's movement.

I really got the feeling, during this concert, that Gospel music, with it's roots in the African American tradition, is to multi-racial American culture what "African Traditional" music is to Multi-racial South African culture: somewhat representative of "their culture", in a tensely divisive/unifying relationship with national identities, but evocative, and demanding of a response.

Note to self: Teach chamber choir to ululate!

Tuesday, June 14, 2005


A couple of weeks ago, I got a write-up in a series of local newspapers. It was about the choir I conduct, and was a lot of fun to do. So last week, a guy from SABC (TV) phones up. He read the paper, and wants to do a slot on the choir and I for a national television show! It was broadcast on Saturday morning, and despite the atrocious skin break-out (post-exam stress, interview stress, any stress!) I was suffering at the time, I am really happy with the results. It is so nice to have one's work taken so seriously. Now if I could just get back to taking my research seriously...

Thursday, June 09, 2005


I'm supposed to be recovering from exams. Really, isn't that what everyone does in the post mid-year insanity? A day, or a week would do it. Instead, after two weeks of absolute insanity, writing and studying till midnight, up again at 6am, and hours locked in the university library, I'm sitting in front of my computer, in the university library (where else) trying to pull together a draft of my research paper before tomorrow. And so what do I do? blog, surf, and read horoscopes. of all things! I have never been so absolutely incompetent, procrastinating, and incapable of thinking straight, ever! Please, if you know the trick to getting down to work in as exhausted a state as I, at present, am, please let me know. Ok, rant over. Back to the word-processor.

Friday, May 27, 2005

It's nice to be surprised

I got in touch with a new choir, after a long battle to find correct contact information, among other things, a short while ago. I have been following the choir for a while, partly because of my research, and partly just because they are an interesting group. Well, last night, I finally got an opportunity to spend time with them. I was thrilled at what I discovered. This in a predominantly white, Afrikaans choir, with an extremely difficult repertoire, and a very high level of discipline. They are lively and enthusiastic, and there were plently of jokes flying about, and a lot of socialising, but when they were working on the music, the focus was tangible. There are two other choirs on this campus, that I am aware of, though I haven't yet made contact with either of the others, but it will be great to see how the atmosphere in rehearsals differs. And perhaps the most exciting thing is that this is the first of the choirs I have spoken to thus far who refers to Afrikaans music as "South African." Even the first choir I began researching, who do more Afrikaans music than the second one, suggested that the Afrikaans music was closer to European than African.

I got a little lost on my way to this rehearsal, and so was much later than I usually like to be. Still, I went in, and introduced myself to the conductor, who introduced me to the choir, and gave me an opportunity to explain my project to them. I was then invited to join in the rehearsal. At first, I sat off to the side, on the extreme right, in the front, where I was relatively inconspicuous, but at the suggestion of the choristers around me, I moved a few places over, so I was, unfortunately, sitting in a rather more conspicuous position. Still, I could hear better, and that should be more important (shouldn't it?). I found the whole experience rather taxing on my nerves, as My sight-singing was tested in action on some of the most difficult music I have ever sung. Talk about concentration! This choir doesn't sit in voice groups, like most of the others with which I am familiar. In stead, everyone is between members of different voice groups, and so not only do you have to be rock-solid on your own music, but you also have to have the most amazing blend. Also, these singers put their hands up when they make mistakes, to acknowledge them so that the director doesn't have to work on them. It makes a lot of sense, but is terribly daunting. I just sang really quietly so that I could avoid exposing myself like that.
This is a very energetic, lively choir, with a lot of good humour and enthusiasm, but absolute spot on focus when they are working on the music. That is always nice to see. The piece they were working on is called "Cloudburst", and is not easy. I look forward to hearing a performance of it.

I'll admit that I was very pleasantly surprised by this encounter. I was expecting a slightly staid, old-fashioned choir, with little of real interest. What I got was a really vibrant, exciting adition to my research. I can't wait to get going properly with the interviews, but those will have to wait till after my exams!

Friday, May 20, 2005

Obedience - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Obedience - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Following up on my previous link on "discipline", I came across this. I am a bit ambiguous in attitude toward ideas of control and discipline, as i feel that some self-discipline is necessary in order to function in a social environment, and that when that self-discipline is not forthcoming, that external control is needed. On the other hand, obedience to external control can lead to blind subservience, and lack of careful thought. I hope the links to the experiments described on this page throw more light on the subject.

Thursday, May 19, 2005


We just had a really interesting research seminar about composition process, and creativity, and the various conversations had me thinking so much about my choir work, that I just had to write something down, before I forget completely. There was a lot of talk about listening to and responding to music, particularly about body, or movement responses, which made me think about teaching my own choir African music. When we first started, there was a lot of resistance to movement, particularly from the men in the choir, many of whom claimed they "can't move my mouth and feet at once." It just occured to me that dancing isn't about just moving feet, but that, for now, is beside the point. Lots of people in the seminar today expressed a desire to respond physically to the music. The composer, on the other hand, commented that she had wanted to "force people to listen", and called herself a "sound fascist." When I got my choir moving, as I expected, the music happened much more easily, their faces livened up, and in some ways, the rhythm took on a life of its own. It actually mutated into a nice swing, which I didn't notice untill we tried to practice with a CD.
another thing that came up today, that I guess was to be expected, was the question "why does the public respond badly to contemporary music?", and an expansion of that, "why does the public respond worse to music they don't like than to art they don't like?" On the latter, I have nothing of value to add, but a general observation for me was that at NYC, our 8 bars of 'African Noise' was disquieting in that it's difficult to respond physically or emotionally to something so unbounded. Without the rhythmic drive with which I am familiar, I could neither count the bars, nor make my body move comfortably. And yet, oddly enough, I tend to move more in response to contour and melody in music than to rhythm. I have a problem trying to understand what it is in music that I like, or dislike, mainly because my favourite music is almost exclusively music I associate with particular times and place, or music that I have sung, and therefore associate with the pleasurable act of singing. I'll admit, though with some trepidation, that I like all of the music we sang at NYC, including the pieces I'm obsessing about. When I found a recording of "Rainmaker" on the internet, I got tears in my eyes, and the base melody of "Mbube", which is running through my mind as I type, makes me smile indulgently. Is music all about metatext? I need to ask one of my choristers tonight what it is about renaissance madrigals that he likes so much, and what about other music he dislikes, or is neutral to.

Just completely on the side, I had a revalation the other day, concerning my writing. We were talking about making academic writing 'accessible,' and of course, the trend of the conversation was towards "dumbing down" the writing. That sort of conversation puts me terribly on edge, though, because it feels so patronizing. I got to thinking about why it is that I make this blog public, and continue to do so, despite the absolute lack of public engagement it receives. The thing is, this blog is about leaving an intellectual trail. I will write about Foucault and Butler (and heaven forbid! Adorno) in my final product, and the impression that a standard piece of literature will attempt to create is that I, as 'authority', understand Foucault and Butler (and heaven forbid!! Adorno). But the thing is, I don't. Or at least, I didn't when I started, and I might not when I write my paper. We have this thing in academia, particularly in social science, about leaving a research trail for whoever is unwise enough to attempt a restudy, or simply to alow the reader to make up their own mind, and yet there is an aversion to leaving a 'think trail', a path through the mine-field of intellectual activity over time that informs our thinking. Well, I want my work to be accessible, and complex, and academically sound all at once. So I'm going to attempt, rather that playing at being an authority, or playing at being a 'general public', to take my inteligent reader, academic, public, or otherwise, along my reading trail. And this blog will be my roadmap.

group effort

group effort Just something to help me with my proposal, the final draft of which is due tomorrow.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Discipline - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Discipline - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
After my rant on discipline in my comment to the description of the choir induction ceremony, I just had to explore this further!

Wits Choir

Wits Choir This website doesn't seem to be funcitoning fully yet, but it's worth bookmarking nonetheless. I sang with them for two and a half years, and my experiences there were the inspiration for this research. They were also the subject of my rather disorganized, but very illuminating, pilot study.
As of 3 September 2008, the Wits Choir official website is here.

A different experience of a very familiar choir

I sang with one of the choirs I have been researching for about two and a half years. It was my experience of singing with them that, to some extent, made me want to conduct this research. It also made me want to conduct choirs, (funny, but I never really noticed that those words correspond. I wonder if I can't use that in my write-up?!) and that, ultimately, is what led to my leaving the choir. I began conducting my own choir only shortly after I left, but I was, and still am, a little heartsore about having left a choir that I cared very deeply about. I was, therefore, a little nervous on Saturday morning about seeing the choir perform for the first time since I left. In fact, in some ways it was, to be the first time I would see them perform at all. I had, of course, watched them as I conducted, but it's such a different type of watching, that it can hardly be compared.
I don't know what I was expecting, but it was with some surprise that I found my palms sweating as I parked my car outside the atrium, in which the performance was to take place. certainly I was a little nervous about seeing my former colleagues again, but surely that wasn't enough to provoke the rather extreme physical reactions I was experiencing. Even now, as I type this up, my reliving of the experience causes a wash of adrenaline that sends little cold shivers through me, and sets my heart pounding.
The choristers' reactions to me as I arrived were entirely welcoming and pleasant, and I was somewhat reassured by that, but I couldn't shake the feeling of impending -- what? -- that rattled me so deeply. The concert, ironically, was called a "welcome day", and like the induction ceremony performed by the recently combined choir a few months back, was about welcoming new members into the choir, signing a register, and showcasing the choir to the choristers' families. These ceremonies are becoming quite popular...
The conductor, wearing a dress I had seen her conduct in many times before, opened the proceedings by introducing the choir, and 'what it stands for' to the audience. A mission statement was read, and then the director went on to give the audience some "big words" she claimed they would need to properly evaluate the performance. I found this process both somewhat amusing, and very informative, and I really wish I had a recording of it. Still, without quoting directly, and ignoring my field-notes, for the time being, what stood out for me most was the conductor's use of the terms "integrity" and "style." She defined integrity as "heart and soul", and suggested that it was the emotional content that gives the music integrity. Not emotional content in the music, but in the performance. "style", on the other hand, was expressed in terms of what other informants have sometimes called "authenticity." Style is, according to this director, what sets an English choir performing African music apart from an African choir performing African music. I will have to look up the song that she used as an example, though it was one that I know well. She said that without "integrity" the "style" would be wrong.
Another thing that I couldn't help notice was her comment that "there aren't many choirs like this in the world." Tajfel and Turner par excellence. She was refering particularly to the multi-racial, and what she called "multi-musical" character of the choir.
The performance itself was very entertaining, partly just because it is a good choir, and I really enjoyed listening to them, but partly because of what I always seem to describe as energy. It's a term I've used more than once on this blog alone, and seem to use almost constantly with my own choir. And in some ways, it's quite acurate. Performing this way does seem to require an enormous output of energy, and it's difficult to do so when not pumped on adrenaline. This choir was always particularly interesting in the way this was attained. The conductor called it "focus", and we all had techniques for achieving it. I had spent some time on the aeroplane to Argentina two years ago listening to a relaxation audio channel, and I revisited that before every performance in Argentina. I also, as always, spent a lot of time praying, as did other choristers. One chap had an elaborate ritual combining prayer and meditation with wild stretching and leaping about, and some people just preferred to sit quietly for a bit. Once or twice, the conductor had us close our eyes, while she recited an elaborate relaxation mantra, or something similar, and the warm-up was always used to help focus, not only the mind, but the voice and body. Inevitably, adrenaline would interfear with the restful atmosphere we were striving for, but somehow it always worked. Perhaps too much relaxation would have taken away from the energy, while too much expenditure of energy would have exhausted us. Ballance really was, or is, key. I don't know what the effect of several minutes sitting in the audience would have been on the choir on this particular occasion, but when they got going with the music, they were good as ever.
It was interesting to note, though, that while the choir's spirits seemed to be high all the way through the performance, they certainly increased toward the end. I suspect that the main reason for this is that the last few songs were the most familiar. I had sung them with the choir when I was there, and they had always been familiar, and something we were confidant about. There were moments, however, during the first part of the performance, where the choir were very obviously uncertain, or lacking in confidance, and once the director stopped them, and then the second time around told the tenors to "fix it" on a song the choir had been singing for years, and one more recent number was repeated from the begining. Thing is, the errors weren't that bad, and I might not really have noticed, at least in the first of the two, had she not pointed it out. In the second, I was aware that the bases were weak, and struggling, but as they seemed weak most of the way through, I didn't take it as such a big deal. The weak bases were something of a surprise to me, as that choir had always had strong bases, and I was amazed to encounter a really top-heavy sound this time. still, I guess choirs like this do change from year to year, and this year is no different. Their strengths and weaknesses when I last saw them have been displaced, and a whole new character has developed.
I was surprised to notice that there was only folk music, in various forms, on the program, especially as I had always thought of their repertoire as very diverse. Thing is, when I think about it, they always did focus on the folk and popular music side. With the exception of the Halleluia chorus, the only western classical music I can remember doing with them, I conducted, and the results were disasterous. Ok, that probably had more to do with my inexperience conducting, but none the less, it's an interesting point to note, particularly when considering how heavily the other choir's repertoires, with the exception of one, are weighted toward Western Classical repertoire.
It's amazing to see how choirs change over time. Or was it just me who changed? Perhaps it was only my perceptions that changed, and the choir is still pretty much the same. It has been interesting nonetheless to compare Saturday to the last induction ceremony I attended. How the characters of the choirs differ....