Intergenerational Knowledges: Change and Continuity in Music Transmission and Ethnomusicological Praxis
ABSTRACT: Intergenerational knowledges have long preoccupied music researchers and scholars in allied fields, particularly in relation to the persistent theme of musical transmission and studies of age-based cohorts. Intergenerationality also permeates research praxes, especially in participatory disciplines such as ethnomusicology. In research and praxis, complex issues arise when individual musicians and listeners, members of communities, and/or researchers in academic fields value intergenerationality in differing ways. This article considers how attention in music research to gender, kinship, place, and changing institutions has transformed ethnomusicological characterizations of intergenerational music transmission. Rejecting heteronormative assumptions about gender and lineages as well as the notion that musical knowledge is necessarily passed along in a vertical manner, scholars in the field have come to see processes of music transmission as complex and changing. The article draws on the extensive literature on music transmission in Indigenous musical contexts in Australia with some consideration of musical transmission in South Asia and elsewhere. It considers the enduring topic of transmission and musical change and examines the targeting of intergenerational transmission as a tool of coloniality. Written by a non-Indigenous ethnomusicologist who studies Indigenous musical practices in Australia, the article finds that contextual and historical perspectives on intergenerationality have implications for ethnomusicological praxis, with regard to the ethics and techniques of participant-observation fieldwork, applied ethnomusicologies, and approaches to music sustainability, resilience, and vitality.
How to cite this article: Treloyn, Sally. 2022. “Intergenerational Knowledges: Change and Continuity in Music Transmission and Ethnomusicological Praxis.” Music Research Annual 3: 1–27. https://doi.org/10.48336/0ffa-th60
About the author: Sally Treloyn is Associate Professor of Ethnomusicology and Intercultural Research in the Faculty of Fine Arts and Music at the University of Melbourne. As an ethnomusicologist, Treloyn’s primary area specialism is song and its associated dance practices in the northern Kimberley region of northwestern Australia. Treloyn has recorded and published extensively on the Junba genre, and in particular the musical, poetic, and spiritual aspects of the compositional practice of composer Scotty Nyalgodi Martin and Ngarinyin, Worrorra, and Wunambal contemporaries. This research is based on fieldwork in the region conducted since 1999.
Treloyn has since 2010 investigated strategies for sustaining Junba and associated genres using community-led participatory research methodologies. This work has focused on intergenerational knowledges and the modalities of their transmission, including new digital technologies and institutions for teaching and learning. Made possible by collaboration with co-author and Ngarinyin/Nyikina scholar Rona Goonginda Charles, this research direction has been shaped by critical reflection on ethnomusicological research and informed numerous publications on applied ethnomusicological praxis and ethics. Supported by an Australian Research Council Future Fellowship award, Treloyn has since 2015 been engaged in large-scale, multi-site research on the effectiveness of access to archival collections, processes of repatriation, technologies of dissemination, and sound recordings themselves for music vitality. At the University of Melbourne, Treloyn co-founded and co-directs the Research Unit for Indigenous Arts and Cultures, which is associated with the Wilin Centre for Indigenous Arts and Cultural Development.