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Public engagement as a musical ethnographer

Sam Murray, Second Year PhD Student at our School of Music, relates how he engages in public engagement to connect with the people he studies.

Man playing a guitar on a busy pavement.
Singer Lukas Borstein leads the tour Sing a Long © Know Your City 2013. Used with permission.

"For an ethnographer public engagement has become a blessing in disguise, a perfect way to articulate the ethnical responsibilities we have as people who study other people.

Here at Cardiff we have a wonderful collecting of ethnography and ethnomusicology researchers studying a wide variety of musical cultures from Welsh Language Popular Music to music of Albania and we all have responsibilities to those we study to ensure we don’t misrepresent them and assume things about their cultures.

Public engagement offers us a way to connect with the people we are studying during our fieldwork and inform them how we are using their contributions be it their musical performances, words spoken in interviews or experiences we share with them.

This buzz-term does what it says on the tin and asks us to share our work with the field of study, but it also invites us to share our work outside the constraints of the academic world, to bring the core essences of our studies to anyone who may be interested.

The focus of my PhD has been to conduct a popular music ethnography of the music scene in Portland, Oregon in the USA. This may seem straight forward; I go to the US with a recorder and talk music with musicians, record shop owners, label managers, producers and fans. Yes in majority this is the essence of my study but I have to be considerate of several factors."

Read more about Sam's experience in his blog post.