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Title: The social biography of ethnomusicological field recordings : eliciting responses to Hugh Tracey's 'The Sound of Africa' series
Author: Lobley, Noel James
ISNI:       0000 0001 4003 3112
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2010
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This thesis is an ethnographic analysis of a collection of field recordings of music from sub-Saharan Africa: The Sound of Africa series made and published by Hugh Tracey between 1933 and 1973. I analyse the aims, methods, value and potential use of this collection, now held at the International Library of African Music (ILAM), in order to address a gap in the ethnomusicological literature and to begin to develop a critical framework for an evaluation of field recording and aural ethnography. An archival analysis of the collection enables me to trace the scope and intended uses of Tracey’s recordings. Identifying a primary intended audience that has not to date been engaged, I argue for the need to develop a new way to circulate recordings among a source community that has never before been reached through institutional archival practice. I use a small sample of Tracey’s archival Xhosa recordings and develop a method of sound elicitation designed to take the recordings back to urban Xhosa communities in the townships located near ILAM. By circulating archival recordings using local mechanisms in township communities, rather than institutional archival methods, I assess the potential relevance of historical recordings to an urban source community more than fifty years after the recordings were made. Having collected and analysed contemporary Xhosa responses, I consider the limitations and the potential for the recordings to connect with indigenous audiences and generate value. I argue that non-analytical responses to historical recordings may contribute to ethnographic understanding, to people’s own sense of Xhosa identity, and to archiving practice in future. Such responses may help increase our understanding of the relationships between music collectors in the field and the people recorded, whether fifty years ago, today or in future.
Supervisor: Morton, Christopher ; Stokes, Martin Sponsor: Arts and Humanities Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Music ; Anthropology ; Ethnographic practices ; Material anthropology ; Social anthropology ; Africa ; History of Africa ; Ethnomusicology ; field recording ; sound archiving ; Hugh Tracey ; Xhosa music