By Stephen Stuempfle, SEM Executive Director
The Society for Ethnomusicology 2019 Annual Meeting (November 7-10) attracted to the Indiana University Bloomington campus approximately 940 attendees from across the United States and a variety of other countries. Organized in conjunction with IU's Bicentennial celebrations, the conference highlighted the university's strong legacy in ethnomusicology (dating back to the 1940s) and reinforced perceptions that it remains a world center in this field.
The official meeting was preceded on November 6 by two pre-conference symposia: "Film as Ethnography, Activism, and Public Work in Ethnomusicology," co-organized by Rebecca Dirksen (IU Bloomington) and Jennie Gubner (UC, San Francisco); and "Heritage and the Politics of Inclusion in Latin American Brass Bands," co-organized by Javier Léon (IU Bloomington) and Juan Eduardo Wolf (University of Oregon).
These symposia were coordinated by the Local Arrangements Committee, which also organized various other special events: film screenings at IU Cinema of Buck Jumping (2018), directed by Lily Keber, and Los Sonidos Invisibles (2007) and Velo qué Bonito (2014), directed by Ana María Arango; several pop-up concerts by IU ensembles; and tours of the Archives of Traditional Music and the Media Digitization & Preservation Initiative.
Two special invitees to the Annual Meeting were George Clinton, the legendary front man of Parliament/Funkadelic, and Boukman Eksperyans, the world-renowned misik rasin band from Haiti. Clinton delivered the keynote Charles Seeger Lecture, while Boukman Eksperyans performed a concert and participated in a week-long residency at IU (organized by Rebecca Dirksen). SEM also supported several other campus events during the conference: the Showalter Fountain First Thursdays Festival; the grand re-opening of the Eskenazi Museum of Art; an exhibition titled "Sacred Drums, Sacred Trees: Haiti's Changing Climate" at the Mathers Museum of World Cultures; and the African American Arts Institute's 26th Annual Potpourri of the Arts Concert, featuring the African American Dance Company, the African American Choral Ensemble, and the IU Soul Revue.
At the heart of the conference were the scholarly presentations from November 7 through 10, organized by the Program Committee. These included 62 paper sessions, 54 organized panels, 12 roundtables, 3 lecture/performances, and 6 films, which collectively captured the vast scope of ethnomusicological research and public activism at present. When a massive power outage plunged the Indiana Memorial Union into darkness for much of November 8, the conference participants did not miss a beat. They pulled out their laptops and cell phones and proceeded with their presentations, as audiences huddled around them. Many attendees commented later on the resourcefulness and community spirit of ethnomusicologists.
Copies of the program book and abstracts book for the SEM 2019 Annual Meeting are available on the conference website. Interviews with 19 attendees (including several IU alumni) can be found on the SEM YouTube channel: Conversations in Ethnomusicology and World Music. SEM thanks the Local Arrangements Committee, the Program Committee, the many student volunteers, the Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology, and Indiana University as a whole for their generous contributions to this conference.