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2005 Lecture: Anthony Seeger
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2005 Charles Seeger Lecturer: Anthony Seeger

By Marina Roseman, Queen’s University, Belfast

Anthony Seeger, Professor of Ethnomusicology at the University of California, Los Angeles and Director Emeritus of Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, will present the Charles Seeger Lecture at the 50th annual Society for Ethnomusicology meeting in Atlanta. Known for his fieldwork and publications on the Suyá Indians of northern Mato Grosso, Brazil, Professor Seeger was also instrumental in absorbing the Ethnic Folkways recording label into Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, which became, under his directorship, one of the premier labels for ethnomusicological recordings. His Seeger Lecture, "Lost Lineages and Neglected Peers: Ethnomusicologists Outside Academia,” draws on a sensitivity toward applied ethnomusicology honed both through his involvement with an Amazonian tribe fighting for its land, resources, and cultural heritage, and with issues of intellectual property rights in his efforts on behalf of artists from around the world represented on the Smithsonian Folkways Recordings label. As we review our history and examine our lineages during this year’s celebration of the 50th anniversary of the founding of SEM, it is particularly fitting that Anthony Seeger gives the lecture named after his grandfather Charles, whose work, like that of his grandson Anthony, has had far-reaching effects within and outside of academia. Charles Seeger gave SEM’s first Distinguished Lecture in 1976, which was renamed the Charles Seeger Lecture in 1983, following his death in 1979. Like his grandfather before him, who served as President of SEM in 1960 and 1961, Anthony Seeger served as President of SEM from 1991-1993, as President of the International Council for Traditional Music (ICTM) from 1997-99, and Secretary-General of ICTM from 2001 to the present. Both grandfather and grandson have made significant contributions to ethnomusicological theory and method, and served their academic societies as well as society at large. Born in New York City on May 29, 1945, and raised within the musically and politically active extended Seeger family, Anthony Seeger received his Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of Chicago in 1974. During his predoctoral research with the Suyá (1970-73), he engaged his Suyá hosts with banjo and song, as they drew him into their ceremonial and musical world. His continued visits to the Suyá over the years, with his most recent visit in 2004, have resulted in numerous publications in English and Portuguese that speak to anthropologists, ethnomusicologists, and musicologists in a writing style that never shies from complex details, but recounts them in an approachable, action-packed rendering of social and ceremonial life. His renowned book Why Suyá Sing: A Musical Anthropology of an Amazonian People, originally published in 1987 by Cambridge University Press with accompanying cassette, received the American Musicological Society’s Kinkeldey award in October 1988, and has been issued in a revised paperback with CD by the University of Illinois Press in 2004. Why Suyá Sing, building upon the solid ethnographic foundation laid in his earlier Nature and Society in Central Brazil: The Suyá Indians of Mato Grosso (Harvard University Press, 1981), drew upon forays into ethnomusicological theory and analysis that first found expression in Seeger’s extensive and well-archived field collection of Suyá song and speech genres. These materials formed the basis for recordings (Música Indigena: A arte vocal dos Suyá, 1982) and articles ("Porque os índios Suyá cantam para as suas irmãs) appearing first in Portuguese, and later developed as articles for the journal Ethnomusicology (1979) and McLeod and Herndon’s coedited The Ethnography of Musical Performance. Why Suyá Sing brought together the various strands of Seeger’s anthropological and ethnomusicological lineages to present a "musical anthropology” that established aspects of social life as musical, and as created and re-created through performance. Rather than assuming a pre-existing and logically prior social and cultural matrix within which music is performed, Seeger’s description and analysis of the mouse ceremony within a cycle of ceremonial activities and a structurally orchestrated set of speech and song events presented music as a part of the very construction and interpretation of social relationships and processes. Seeger’s methodological and analytical breakthroughs into performance-centered and musically-centered social analysis found in the 1988 version of Why Suyá Sing is matched by the Afterword of the 2004 version, which extends musical anthropology into applied ethnomusicology. Here Seeger recounts how he took knowledge originally obtained for a scholarly purpose and helped Suyá use it to benefit themselves in their battles for land, resources, and cultural integrity. This movement of ethnomusicology and ethnomusicologists "outside academia,” its historical precedents and its social consequences, is the subject of his Charles Seeger presentation at the 50th annual meeting of the Society for Ethnomusicology. In 1973, and again from 1975 through 1982, Seeger taught in the Department of Anthropology and the Graduate Program in Social Anthropology of the National Museum in Rio de Janeiro, becoming Chair and Director in 1981. From 1974-75, he served as Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Pomona College, returning again to the United states in 1982 to become Associate Professor, then Professor of Anthropology and Director of the Archives of Traditional Music at Indiana University, Bloomington. In 1988 he became Curator of the Folkways Collection and Director of Smithsonian Folkways Recordings in the Office of Folklife Programs at the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. During this time, he became involved in research and action in the realms of the independent recording industry, rights to intellectual property, and the structure of ethnographic recordings. This work resulted in a number of international lectures, conferences, and publications on the subject of field recordings, archives, and intellectual property rights, culminating in a co-edited volume with Shubha Chaudhuri, Archives for the Future: Global Perspectives on Audiovisual Archives in the 21st Century (Calcutta: Seagull Press, 2004). In July 2000, Anthony Seeger joined the faculty of the Department of Ethnomusicology at UCLA, where he continues to draw upon his field research, social activism, and experiences in the worlds of archiving and ethnographic recordings to help train the next generation of ethnomusicologists. He is recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship (1995), an elected Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1993), and has been awarded fellowships from NEH, the Ford Foundation, NSF, SSRC, Wenner-Gren, and the Smithsonian, along with numerous other organizations and institutions. He has also received funding from the Grateful Dead’s Rex Foundation to support applied ethnomusicological work with the Suyá. His wife, Judy, and daughters Elisa and Hiléia have joined him in his field research among the Suyá. While his students and wide-ranging readership may not have visited the Suyá, they have been brought into their world of euphoric song and the ongoing drama of indigenous rights and intellectual property rights issues through Seeger’s teaching, mentorship, and publications. Those attending the 50th annual meeting of the Society of Ethnomusicology will have the opportunity to reflect with him upon the often-neglected history and future role of ethnomusicologists outside academia.
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