Wednesday, June 4, 2008


In 2003 I won an undergraduate research award from my university. I remember Q kicking my butt to help me write and awesome proposal, and I remember how excited I was when I found out I had won. But now 5 years later the research I did seems insignificant and flawed.

However, Q recently got in touch with me to invite me to contribute some thoughts on that research for a website project she's working on. I went through a video of the concert I put on to wrap up the project and through my old notes, and today I gave an interview on the project. It was nice to be reminded that the work I did was actually important and meaningful to many people, including me.

I can't believe that I had the audacity to organise that concert. There were over 80 performers in 6 ensembles, and the concert ended up running close to 4 hours. It was a huge success though; the hall was very full and everyone seemed to really enjoy the concert. It was so much work to arrange it all in a way that was respectful to all the performers and sensitive to the fact that the devotional music they were performing is often not performed on a concert stage. I'm still so grateful to all the performers, but especially the ladies (my ladies) from the Hindu society temple who dressed me up in the lovely sari and bangles and performed so well.

Here's an excerpt from a capping report that I wrote up at the end of the summer:

I formed several friendships with the people that I have worked with this summer and my personal experiences have offered great insight into the relationships that this music can foster. I truly enjoy making music with these people and conversing with them. In spite of these warm relationships, many people are still apprehensive about giving interviews, although they will talk enthusiastically on the subject informally.

I learned a great deal about the ethnographic process. All of the books world can’t prepare you for the first time you go into a strange place to meet informants and start the research process. It takes an assertive attitude that does not come naturally to me; I really had to work up the courage to go up to those first people and introduce myself. And it doesn’t end there. Once they agree to do an interview I am always filled with anxiety, “Will I ask the right questions?” “Will they feel comfortable talking to me?” and the list goes on. While the interview process has gotten more comfortable as I learn more on the topic and feel comfortable discussing the musical and social elements, I still get nervous.

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