Digital Humanities and/or Music

The 2012 Canadian Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences took place at Waterloo, Ontario’s Wilfrid Laurier University and University of Waterloo from May 26 to June 3.  In the past, I would have exclusively attended music society sessions, but this time about two-thirds of what I attended had to do with the digital humanities.  I have very good reasons for that!

For my ongoing attempts to find the correct path forward for (free/open/public vs. partially monetized vs. closed/publisher-based, etc.), the Society for Digital Humanities (SDH) does quite useful work.  So, from May 28-29 I attended various SDH papers and events (including a paper on MOOCs: massive open online courses; and several papers on copyright issues), and on June 1 I mostly attended inter-society, panel-like symposiums about public knowledge and open-access.  The June 1 meetings largely involved new methodologies and infrastructure concepts being explored for research projects, scholarly societies and journals, academic publishing, and (to a lesser extent) teaching.

On June 1 and 3, I attended some sessions of the Canadian University Music Society (CUMS), especially ones involving film music, Canadian music, and jazz (and even papers involving Canadian jazz film music), plus a symposium on the future of music in the academy.  Music is still trying to break down traditional music-department silos, such as achieving a balance among such things as performance, theory, and history; classical, popular, jazz, and world music; majors and minors; and core requirements, electives, and general education courses.  However, it is my impression that it would be at least as useful to break down the silos separating music itself from the wider humanities, such as history, art history, and English.

Although the theme of the Congress was “Crossroads: Scholarship for an Uncertain World,” it is rather telling that I (developing an independent project and currently without an institutional home) was the only person in evidence both at SDH and CUMS.  So, for 2013’s Congress at the University of Victoria, I will propose a music-related joint session between SDH and CUMS, and I may also participate in UVic’s annual summer digital humanities workshop.  A leader in the field is Ray Siemens, who is a professor at UVic and also an old undergrad friend of mine.  He and his wife Lynne (also an old friend) introduced me to a lot of people, and I look forward to building a greater level of understanding and collaboration between the digital humanities and music–especially music history and culture involving a wide spectrum of 20th-century music.


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