As an ethnomusicologist, I am always thinking about new ways to share my work and engage with the public. Together with a nonprofit called Classical Revolution RVA and Pat Healy, a game designer and PhD student of Information Sciences at Pitt, I am working on an interactive website called soundscape.social, which brings music to audiences in fresh way. soundscape.social allows listeners to move through a sonic space, enjoying music from a range of styles and backgrounds. Each listener has an avatar, and they are able to interact with other listeners and musicians in real time throughout this virtual space.
Classical Revolution RVA is the Richmond, Virginia chapter of a nationwide organization which aims to make classical music more accessible to audiences by holding performances in non-traditional venues such as cafes and art galleries. The nationwide organization has over 30 chapters and aims to attract new listeners and involve the audience in performances as much as possible. The Richmond chapter of the organization has expanded beyond the typical musical palette of the nationwide organization and also offers jazz, avant garde, and music from global traditions outside of Western art music. The pandemic has made providing accessible performances more challenging, as the organization is not currently able to offer in-person concerts. Classical Revolution RVA has been able to record and post videos of remote performances, but this does not afford the same opportunities for direct interaction, both with musicians and other audience members, as a live concert. The concept for soundscape.social resulted from conversations on how to potentially address this need for direct connection in an inventive way
My main point of contact for Classical Revolution RVA is Andrew McEvoy, who serves as Artistic Director. Andrew and I met while studying classical guitar performance at Virginia Commonwealth University, well over ten years ago. Over the past decade, we have done a number of musical collaborations, and Andrew has hosted my music and theater ensemble, Rumput, at several events for Classical Revolution RVA. Rumput draws on musical traditions from Indonesia like kroncong and explores parallel threads from other traditions, especially old-time string-band music of the United States and British Isles. We are both excited for this most recent opportunity to collaborate through Humanities Engage, and Andrew sees it as a unique way to continue furthering the goals of Classical Revolution RVA during the pandemic.
I am currently in my third year of the ethnomusicology program at Pitt, and my research focuses on a type of Indonesian string-band music called kroncong and the way it intersects with modernity and nostalgia. While my the immersive departs considerably from my research topic, it could not be more in line with my goals of fostering discourses around music with diverse audiences. This project is not an applied ethnomusicology project, but it develops many of the skills I will need to pursue my goal of working in this growing subdiscipline of ethnomusicology. Applied ethnomusicology aims to put ethnographic work and music to practical use. The work I have done on soundscape.social so far is helping me build skills in public engagement as well as website management and promotion. Furthermore, the ethnographic work I have been doing with the project is being applied towards improving future iterations of the project by tweaking aspects of design and accessibility to better suit the needs or participants.
The second launch of soundscape.social will be on March 25th from 7:30-8:30 pm EST. Anyone with a web browser will be able to follow the url soundscape.social to enter an interactive soundscape featuring music from a solo cellist, a jazz trio, a percussion ensemble, and a trumpet player. We encourage listeners to use headphones for the best listening experience and to highlight the spatialization of sound as one moves through different “rooms.” After this launch, the website will remain available until the next iteration of the project which will feature a new set of musicians. Please email me at email@example.com with any questions, and we hope to see you there!