Musicians debate research issues

11 July 2002
MUSIC research came under the spotlight last week when 30 doctoral and post-doctoral music researchers from around South Africa gathered with scholars from other disciplines at UCT's South African College of Music (SACM) for a weeklong workshop on interdisciplinary study.

The gathering was convened by the SACM's Dr Anri Herbst, Dr Jacques de West of the Graduate School of Humanities and Professor Kathy Primos of the National Research Foundation's (NRF) Travelling Institute for Music Research in South Africa (TIMR). The workshop was the 13th in a series hosted by the TIMR since it was founded in September 2000.

Statistical analysis, musicological research methods and a number of case studies were among the topics discussed at the event. Other facets of research also came up during the week, with presentations on research networking by Professor Stig-Magnus Thorsen of the University of Gothenburg in Sweden and Dr Maria Smit of the University of Stellenbosch; on NRF funding by the Foundation's Ben Durham; and one on proposal writing by Dr Marilet Sienaert, Director of Grants and Research Development at UCT, among others.

Speaking in her capacity as Executive Director of Research at the NRF, UCT's Deputy Vice-Chancellor designate, Associate Professor Cheryl de la Rey, talked on a number of aspects of music research in South Africa. She noted that although the number of funding applications to the Foundation for music research has decreased, there has been an increase in successful applications.

In turn, SACM Director, Associate Professor Franklin Larey, highlighted some of the research being done at UCT. This included work by Herbst, who has teamed up with Dr Vasan Sreenivasan of the UCT Biomedical Engineering Department to do Electroencephalogram (EEG) scans of musicians when they're performing on the amadinda, a Ugandan log xylophone, to see which parts of the brain are activated during performance.

Herbst is also collaborating with Professor Meki Nzewi, an ethnomusicologist at the University of Nigeria, on African-sensitive music education. Both these projects will form the basis of papers Herbst is due to deliver at the biannual conference of the International Society for Music Educators (ISME) in Norway.

The SACM currently has 91 students registered for postgraduate studies at UCT, tackling a broad range of subjects.

According to Herbst and De la Rey, there is a common misconception that tertiary music departments in South Africa do no research. The many studies at the SACM and elsewhere is a clear indication that this is far from true, said Herbst.

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