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Barbara Krader
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Barbara Krader




Memorial Citation by

Timothy Rice (UCLA) with

Mark Slobin (Wesleyan University)



Past SEM Presidents at the SEM 1980 Annual Meeting in Bloomington, Indiana. Front row, left to right: Gerard Béhague, Klaus Wachsmann, Barbara Krader, David McAllester, and Willard Rhodes. Back row, left to right: Nazir Jairazbhoy, Bruno Nettl, Mieczyslaw Kolinski, William Malm, and Mantle Hood. Photograph courtesy of William Malm.

As part of SEM’s Sound Future Campaign, a group of SEM members established a Memorial Gift in honor of Barbara Lattimer Krader (1922-2006), the first woman to serve as an SEM president. Barbara earned her Ph.D. at Radcliffe College in 1955, with a dissertation entitled “Serbian peasant wedding ritual songs: a formal, semantic and functional analysis.” During the Cold War, she served as a human “space shuttle,” communicating news of research and researchers between the first and second worlds at a time when such scholarly contacts were difficult. She eagerly and generously welcomed and supported my work and that of all the younger American scholars of the 1960s through the 1980s who entered the field of Eastern European and Soviet music study. In Ethnomusicology, she published important articles on “Soviet Research on Russian Music” (1963), “Bulgarian Folk Music Research” (1969), and a profile of Soviet scholar “Viktor Mikhailovich Beliaev” (1968) as well as a profile of “Vasil Stoin, Bulgarian Folk Song Collector” in the Yearbook of the International Council for Traditional Music (1980). In 1985, she delivered SEM’s Charles Seeger Lecture, entitled “Slavic Folk Music: Forms of Singing and Identity,” one of the earliest examples of the identity theme in the ethnomusicological literature. She wrote the article on “ethnomusicology” in the groundbreaking 1980 edition of the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, and served the Society as its president from 1971 to 1973 (see Paula Morgan’s biography and bibliography of her writings in Oxford Music Online.). In 1998 SEM honored her as the first of its Honorary Members and, on the Society's 50th anniversary in 2005, Mark Slobin wrote a lovely encomium to her, reproduced here (SEM Newsletter 39(2), March 2005, p. 6).


Barbara Krader
By Mark Slobin, Wesleyan University

Barbara Lattimer Krader (born 1922) was among the first generation of post-World War II American scholars to train in Russian and east European studies. She studied with the great slavicist and theorist Roman Jakobson and spent a year in Prague University in the fateful year of 1948-9, when eastern Europe was in the throes of decisive intellectual and societal change. Back in the U.S., she moved into ethnomusicological and folklore circles. In Speaking of Music, the compendium of music conferences over the decades, there is a photo of the International Folk Music Council meeting in Indiana in 1950, and there she is, alongside Charles and Ruth Crawford Seeger, Albert Lord, George Herzog, and a group of distinguished European scholars, already making the connections that would mark her career.

Indeed, for many years, Barbara Krader’s principal activity was to serve as the unofficial ambassador of American ethnomusicology to Europe, partly through her work with the IFMC (now ICTM), but most importantly as practically the sole link to the region then known as “the east bloc.”
When I planned a visit to the Soviet Union in 1968, she wrote me—an unknown grad student—a long, tightly- packed handwritten letter in her inimitable hand. She told me whom to look up, detailing each person’s interests and position in the local context, advice I badly needed and closely heeded. It allowed me to see things from their angle of vision rather than approaching non-American scholars with preconceptions. The first time I gave a paper for an international audience, she was there, and instructed me kindly but firmly to slow down, speak clearly, and make my points succinctly so nonnative speakers could follow.

Everyone “behind the Iron Curtain” knew “Barbara,” who, since the 1950s, had maintained an extensive network. She not only literally and figuratively spoke the languages of the older generation of scholars, but also identified promising younger scholars and helped them to visit and train in “the west.”
We had a memorable moment at the Soviet-American ethnomusicology conference of 1988 when a band of Georgian musicians led the toasting on both sides to Barbara, for her long-term contribution to mutual understanding.

In the long run, Barbara Krader’s work as translator, facilitator, and connector of transatlantic scholarship superseded her own scholarly work in south Slavic studies, begun as a Radcliffe dissertation (1955). Much of her bibliography (see the current Grove’s entry by Paula Morgan) consists of writings meant to explain European scholars and scholarship to Americans, and vice versa. For her entry on “Ethnomusicology” in the 1980 edition of Grove’s, she spent a significant amount of space giving examples of figures, concepts, and trends in European ethnomusicology alongside American developments. Few if any other U.S. ethnomusicologists would have balanced an overview article that transatlantically.

Barbara Krader was an exceptional figure in Euro-American ethnomusicology, an unusually generous and thoughtful communicator who was most active exactly when the times called for, and rarely witnessed, the spirit that she embodied.

Donate now to the Barbara Krader Memorial Gift

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