Interview with Kate Galloway
Ecomusicology is a new subfield of both musicology and ethnomusicology, where we’re looking at relationships between music, nature, culture and society.
My current research project is looking at contemporary music in Canada and how it expresses environmental issues, environmental representations and environmental social justice—and asking questions that link music studies and music practices to some of the big social and cultural issues that are pertinent in contemporary period or were pertinent in the past, as well.
It’s presenting a Canadian perspective on an international trend in environmental humanities and environmentally focused performing arts studies.
Typically, there’s a lot of work that is being done in American musics and European musics, and the practices that are occurring internationally but often a Canadian voice isn’t figuring into that dialogue.
A lot of the initial work in the 1960s around looking at the soundscape and acoustic ecology started in Canada through Simon Fraser University, in Burnaby, British Columbia, through the work of Murray Schafer and his collective in the World Soundscape Project.
In popular music we have several different artists that are actually trying to fuse their environmentalist aims and their active social justice initiatives, with their music performance and composition.
So, for instance, Sarah Harmer has been quite active in environmental social justice and that is part of her discourse surrounding her albums, but also in her performance and composition.
There are also composers who are trying to use specific places in Canada and the natural and urban environment, as performance spaces to bring audiences into those spaces to get a better understanding of specific environments, or, using recordings of specific environmental features in order to draw the audience’s ear closer to those features of the environment. So there are many different sonic and textural approaches being taken, throughout the Canadian arts, which is what makes this project really interesting to me.
I hope that my postdoctoral project will help students and the general public and other scholars be more aware of the relationship between music and place, but also more specifically music and specific environments, whether they’re representing those environments using sounds from those environments in their compositions, or maybe being performed in those specific locations, and sensitizing audiences to the environments, but also the multisensory aspects of those environments, and more specifically the sound of these environments.
Being awarded this prize from SSHRC will allow me to participate more actively in the international dialogue. This prize will allow me to show how music and performance-based messages can communicate environmentalism, and environmental relationships, and environmental representations of both urban and natural environments, to new audiences.