The Northeast Chapter of the Society for Ethnomusicology

The James T. Koetting Prize

The James T. Koetting Prize is the Northeast Chapter's award for the outstanding graduate student paper presented at the annual chapter meeting. Jim Koetting (1939-1984) was a respected ethnomusicologist whose main area of research was African music. He was an Associate Professor at Brown University. This award honors his memory as a distinguished teacher, scholar, musician, and colleague.

The James T. Koetting Prize was established in 1985. Past winners include: 

2015- Panayotis League, Harvard University, "Matters of Taste and Time in Greek Anatolian Music"

2019- Byrd McDaniel, Brown University, "Popular Music Reaction Videos: Staging the Body as the Material Site of Music Reception”

2019- Pei-ling Huang, Harvard University, “'Thin Voice, Bud Voice, Female Voice': Material and Discursive Productions of Voice and Voicing in a Sindhi Devotional Community” 

2018- Payam Yousefi, Harvard University, “Singing Resistance and Subversion: Feminine Voices Renegotiating Iran’s Public Sphere”


Honorable mention: Jason Reid Winikoff, Tufts University, “The Mikakaji: Timbre in Zambian Luvale Percussion”
2018 Honorable Mention - Jason Reid Winikoff, Tufts University, “The Mikakaji: Timbre in Zambian Luvale Percussion”

2017- Rujing Huang, Harvard University, “We’ve Got Harmony, Too!”: Reclaiming Music Theory, Performing Chinese-ness

2016- Sarah Politz, Harvard University, "Multiple Temporalities in Benin's Brass Bands: A Postcolony's Local Histories of the Global"

2015- Panayotis League, Harvard University, "Matters of Taste and Time in Greek Anatolian Music."

2014- Panayotis League, Harvard University, "The Musical Metrics of Poetic Dialogue in Greek Song" 

2013-Max Jack, Tufts University, "On the Terrace: Ritual Performance of Identity and Conflict by the Shamrock Rovers Football Club Ultras in Dublin"

2012-Warrick Moses, Harvard University, "White Skin, Black Masks? Expressions of Identity in the Work of South African Rave-Rap Crew 'Die Antwoord'"

Koetting Prize honorable mention: Samantha Jones, Boston University, "Timing and Groove in Irish Traditional Music and Dance" 

"White Skin, Black Masks? Expressions of Identity in the Work of South African Rave-Rap Crew 'Die Antwoord'"
"White Skin, Black Masks? Expressions of Identity in the Work of South African Rave-Rap Crew 'Die Antwoord'"
Warrick Moses, Harvard University
"White Skin, Black Masks? Expressions of Identity in the Work of South African Rave-Rap Crew 'Die Antwoord'"

2011-Ulrike Praeger, Boston University, "Music in 'Sudeten-German' Expulsion."  

2010-Garrett Field, Wesleyan University, "From Threatened by Modernity to Reinvented by Modernity: The History of the History of Indian Classical Music (1980 - 2006)."                      

2009-Anaar Desai-Stephens, Boston University, "Playing Their Part: The Changing Role of Professional Female Musicians in India."         

2008-Katherine I. Lee, Harvard University, "P’ungmul, Politics, and Protest."

2007-Maria Guarino, Tufts University, "Common Life, Common Prayer: The Music of Community at Weston Priory." (abstract)

2006-Christopher J. Miller, Wesleyan University, "Indonesian 'Musik Kontemporer' and the Question of 'Western Influence'"(abstract)

2005-No prize awarded (no meeting)

2004-Anne Elise Thomas, Brown University, "Curriculum, Canon and Creativity: Youth and Arab Music Transmission in Cairo."

2003-No prize awarded

2002-Stephen Pixley, Wesleyan University, " Performance as Ethnographic Object: Musical Images of the Primitive in Hill Tribe Tourism"(abstract)

2001-Birgit Berg, Smith College, " The Kidung Jemaat: A Christian Hymnal in a Non-Christian World"(abstract)

2000-Susan Thomas's "The Transformation of the Black Man in the Cuban Zarzuela" treats issues of race and gender in a minstrel-related repertory of Cuba, making comparisons to the United States.

1999-Judith Casselberry of Wesleyan University won the 1999 prize for her paper, entitled "The Living Dead and Spirits: Inspiration and Guidance for Black Women in Popular American Music," (abstract)

1998-Robin Carruthers, M.A. candidate at Tufts University, won the 1998 prize for her paper entitled "Calamé: Characteristics of Lullaby in Venezuela." (abstract)

1996-Timothy J. Cooley, a Ph.D. candidate at Brown University, was awarded the 1996 Prize for his paper entitled "Authenticity on Trial in Polish Contest Festivals."(abstract)

1995-Gregory Barz, "Kwayas, Kandas, Kiosks: The Making of a Tanzanian Popular Music." 

1994-No prize awarded 

1993-Frank Gunderson, Wesleyan University, "Music, Ritual and Soundscape on Wanyamwezi Caravans in 19th Century East Africa." 

1992-Patrick Hutchinson, a graduate student at Brown University, won the 1992 Prize for his paper, "Hand-Made Music: An Uilleann Pipers's Way with Words."

1988-Lisa Lawson Burke, Brown University, for "Te kaunikai to te kaunimaneve: Changing aspects of performance competition in Kiribati."

Garrett Field, Wesleyan University.
"From Threatened by Modernity to Reinvented by Modernity: The History of the History of Indian Classical  Music (1980 - 2006)" 

In Singing the Classical, Voicing the Modern, Amanda Weidman argued that ethnomusicology had ignored Indian classical music's colonial history in favor of musicological knowledge. Thus, her project's "most important aim" was to "bring Indian classical music...within the purview of anthropology"  (2006: 24). Quizzically, Daniel Neuman aimed for the same twenty-six years earlier. His 1980 The Life of Music in North India, also endeavored to provide an anthropological account of modern Indian classical music culture. The fact is, both authors were firsts, since what it meant to bring this music under the purview of anthropology—or history and ethnography for that matter—had significantly changed after twenty-six years. Most notably, twenty-first century scholars no longer saw modern Indian classical music through the lens of culture and tradition. Rather, they reframed it as a product of nationalism, modernity and colonialism. Thus, whereas Neuman and Jon B. Higgins portrayed the music as an evolving ancient tradition adapting to the threat of modernity, scholars like Lakshmi Subramanian and Weidman argued that nationalism fueled a re-invention of Indian classical music in response to the legacy of colonialism. If Neuman and Higgins were under the ideological sway of structural anthropology, the Indian nationalist music-reform movement, and orientalism, the new scholars used postcolonial theory to re-cast Indian classical music in new light. In tracing the emergence of nation, modernity and colonialism as the dominant analytics for discussing Indian classical music in English-language ethnomusicological scholarship, this paper tries to understand the logic behind this shift and suggests a new avenue of inquiry. 

Maria Guarino, Tufts University.

"Common Life, Common Prayer: The Music of Community at Weston Priory."
On the edge of the Green Mountain National Forest in the tiny town of Weston, Vermont, there is a community of Benedictine monks. The men who call the Weston Priory home live a contemplative life of study, work, and prayer based on the Rule of Benedict. The Priory bells ring before dawn each morning, calling the brothers to their vigil prayer. It is the first of several times throughout the day that the community gathers in common prayer, and at Weston, music plays a central role in each of these times of prayer. The brothers compose all of their own psalms, songs, hymns, and canticles for use in their prayer and liturgy celebrations. This tradition of monastic music and prayer, which is the subject of my current research, has been a central feature of life at Weston Priory since it was founded in 1953. How do the brothers use their music to express, reinforce, and enhance their community? What is it about the music and the experience of creating and performing it that lends meaning to their common lives and common prayer? What does the music reveal about their values and spirituality? My paper presents the vibrant tradition of these local monks and the community that both creates and is created by their music

Christopher J. Miller, Wesleyan University.

"Indonesian 'Musik Kontemporer' and the Question of 'Western Influence'"
Western influence is commonly regarded as a major factor in the existence of contemporary art music in Asia. Yet in the case of musik kontemporer by traditionally-based Indonesian composers, several observers have commented on their lack of familiarity with Western new music. Conversely, acknowledging a long colonial history and forces of modernization, scholars such as Becker, Sutton, and Sumarsam have drawn attention to conceptual and technological forms of Western influence on Indonesian music. These discrepancies follow in part from disciplinary understandings of influence. The humanities focus on individual artists, texts, and matters of style, while the social sciences give greater attention to social and cultural forces and phenomena. I argue, with reference to musik kontemporer, that it is crucial to be specific about the kind and extent of influence, the path that influence travels, and most importantly the degree of what I term "ethnological valence." For example, sound amplification is arguably less Westernizing and more ethnologically neutral than the symphony orchestra, though both are Western inventions. More complex in this respect and most pertinent to musik kontemporer are the concepts and attitudes associated with experimentalism. Having traveled to traditionally-based and Western-oriented scenes by distinct and parallel paths, experimentalism is variously abstracted or associated with Western models and practices. Specificity and conceptual clarity are thus crucial to the evaluation of the role of Western influences on modern arts in postcolonial contexts, in order to avoid reinforcing the notion of the all-powerful West without resorting to simplistic disavowal.

Stephen Pixley, Wesleyan University.

" Performance as Ethnographic Object: Musical Images of the Primitive in Hill Tribe Tourism."
Based upon recent fieldwork, this paper examines the performed display of upland ethnic minority cultures (hilltribes) for tourists in the mountains of Northern Thailand, and the use of music in crafting images of primitivism. Case studies of three varieties of staged culture shows will demonstrate how dichotomous aspects of the Primitive saturate hill tribe tourism. While hilltribe tourism's performative nature has been widely discussed, especially in Erik Cohen's theory of communicative staging, this paper addresses the specific contribution of music to tourism narratives. Culture shows at mass-audience venues utilize musical strategies of simplification, ethnic cross-dressing, superficial glossing, and the conflation of unrelated ethnic groups to perpetuate a savage and undeveloped image, thereby achieving an impoverishment of both the sound and meaning of hilltribe music, and ultimately a musical silencing of their subjects.
Borrowing from Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett's analysis of how museum objects become ethnographic through processes of detachment and contextualization, the second part of this paper theorizes that hilltribe music and dance within the khantoke dinner show do not function as concert performances, but rather as ethnographic objects fulfilling expectations of the tribal primitive, and illustrating the narrative of the Thai nation. The same primitivizing musical strategies that serve to detach hilltribe music from its musical roots, also serve to recontextualize it within the khantoke show's narrative of how hilltribes and Northern Thais differ from each other in the national imagination.

Birgit Berg, Smith College.

"The Kidung Jemaat: A Christian Hymnal in a Non-Christian World"
Although it is the largest Muslim nation in the world, Indonesia is the home to a number of diverse Christian communities. In an attempt to unite these communities the Indonesian Council of Churches (I.C.C.) sponsored a program to "scientifically study several indigenous Indonesian music system and their potential for being utilized in and by the Church" (Cooley 1981). A decade later, the I.C.C. published a Christian hymnal, the Kidung Jemaat. This hymnal contains over 100 hymns written by Indonesians, some in indigenous styles, but it also contains hymns from a variety of countries, cultures, and denominations. Hymns in the Kidung Jemaat can be traced to the Lutheran, Calvinist, and Anabaptist traditions of Europe and America, as well as to cultures and communities in such places as India, Zambia, and Sri Lanka. The aim of this paper is to investigate the Kidung Jemaat; the styles, forms, and traditions found in its contents; its use in everyday worship; and its background, including a look into the history of Christian conversion in Indonesia and the role conversion played in the promotion and demotion of indigenous arts in the Church.

Judith Casselberry of Wesleyan University won the 1999 prize for her paper, entitled "The Living Dead and Spirits: Inspiration and Guidance for Black Women in Popular American Music."
Spiritual text by African-American women recording artist has most often been examined in the context of the Christian spirituals. However, Black women’s spiritual text exists in many musical genres, and outside of conventional constructs of hierarchical modes of religion and worship. This paper explores examples of traditional West African cosmologies and ontologies— an African sacred world view—apparent in original lyrical text by African-American women. Particular attention is given to the roles of the living dead and spirits in the work of Bernice Johnson Reagon, historian, activist, and founder of the internationally renowned, women’s a cappella group Sweet Honey in the Rock, and Blue Note label, jazz vocalist Dianne Reeves.

A distinction between spirits and the living dead is made in West and Central African cosmology, and other Black Atlantic belief systems. Utilizing field research, personal interviews, and song text analysis, I explore how this distinction is manifest in the work of these two contemporary Black women artists.

Robin Carruthers, "CalamC: Characteristics of Lullaby in Venezuela."
The paper contains information regarding research in Venezuela between September and December of 1997. The research focused on obtaining examples of lullabies from Barlovento, a region of the state of Miranda. This paper covers historical information on lullabies in general, origins and influences on the lullabies, and textual and musical analysis of the lullabies. Prior work on lullabies considered the common textual and musical characteristics of lullabies from different regions of the world (USA, Turkey, Indonesia, and South India). I use this group of similar elements when analyzing the lullaby collected from Barlovento. I chose one of the fifteen lullabies, "CalamC)", to provide an example of my analytic process.

Timothy Cooley, "Authenticity on Trial in Polish Contest Festivals."
Song and dance troupes and contest festivals have been part of the cultural landscape since the Second World War in "Podhale", the Tatra mountain region of Poland. Festival performances and their larger context of tourism are part of the metamorphoses of Podhale from an isolated and avoided mountain region into a major tourist destination. A prominent feature of a contest festival is a jury of folklorists, ethnomusicologists, dance ethnologists, and other cultural experts who judge performing "folkloric" troupes on the basis of "authenticity." The music, dance, costumes, and local dialect presented on the festival stage are entertainment to some, and highly symbolic to others. To many "G?rale" (mountaineers from Podhale), the festival performance is a carefully crafted public statement of ethnic identity-identity that is in dialogue with multiple constructions of the "authentic."

Recent writings in ethnomusicology, anthropology and folklore recognize the interdependence between the industries of heritage, tourism and ethnography. In this paper, I focus on one intersection of these industries-the festival performance. My research reveals that G?rale musicians and dancers perform in response to, and sometimes in resistance to, the notions of authenticity valued in a festival setting. Based on field research in Poland conducted since 1992, this presentation shows the impact of festival performances and their supporting industries of heritage, tourism, and ethnography on G?rale, G?rale music culture, and on G?rale ethnic identity.