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Interview with Yun Emily Wang: Winner of the SEM 2018 Seeger Prize

Friday, October 25, 2019   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Stephen Stuempfle
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Interview with Yun Emily Wang:
Winner of the SEM 2018 Charles Seeger Prize

By Jesse Fivecoate, Indiana University Bloomington

Yun Emily Wang, a Mellon Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow in the Department of Music at Columbia University, was the winner of the SEM 2018 Charles Seeger Prize for her paper “Shopping and Chopping: Sound, Diasporic Intimacy, and Everyday Movements in Chinese Toronto.” SEM awards the Seeger Prize annually to recognize the most distinguished student paper presented at the previous year’s Annual Meeting.

Wang began her ethnomusicological career as a music major, having trained in viola performance. While studying classical Western art music at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro, she had questions about the social and cultural dimensions of being a musician. She came to realize that if she wanted to examine the socio-cultural aspects of music further, she would have to look outside the field of music performance. During this period, she studied with two ethnomusicology professors (James Revell Carr and Gavin Douglas), who gave her books to read to learn more about the field.

Wang says she conceptualizes the field more as ethnomusicologies than a single ethnomusicology—the diversity of theoretical and methodological approaches is a generative and integral aspect of the field. For her, ethnomusicology hits a balance between attending to the social and the sonic.

Wang’s Seeger Prize paper derives from ethnographic research that she conducted while working on her dissertation at the University of Toronto. In this paper, she looks at one of her interlocutors, how this individual moves within particular diasporic spaces, and her use of sounding and listening practices in the course of everyday life. Wang discovered that these sonic practices are employed in a variety of ways to maintain, negotiate, and transform social relations. She adds that the case in question was one of those moments in the field that is beautiful, intimate, and poetic. She wanted to investigate this moment further in order to understand how to talk about what was happening in the life of her collaborator.

Wang states that it is incredibly affirming to have been selected by the award committee for the Seeger Prize and notes that it is important for junior scholars to be recognized for their work, especially if it is experimental or outside the traditional methods of the field.

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