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Graduate Student David Fossum Wins Charles Seeger Prize

Congratulations to David Fossum for being awarded the Charles Seeger Prize, an honor that recognizes the most distinguished student paper presented at the Society of Ethnomusicology Annual Meeting.

At the meeting, Michael Frishkopf, Associate Professor of Music at the University of Alberta, praised “Musical Canons in Ethnomusicology: The Case of Turkmen Instrumental Music, stating:

Fossum’s paper, building on work by Rachel Harris, Carys Wyn Jones, Katherine Bergeron, Bruno Nettl, Harry Powers, and others, extends the concept of musical canon from the paradigmatic case of the Western art music canon to Turkmen dutar music. While situating his work in larger disciplinary conversations about musical canon, he arrives at the specificity of his own project through careful ethnographic and musicological engagement with Turkmenistan performance. Fossum illustrates how a canon has coalesced around individually developed variants of traditional instrumental pieces, especially as preserved in classic recordings that are treated as models by subsequent musicians.
In his nuanced analysis of the complex interplay of modernist nationalism and indigenous musical ideals, Fossum intervenes in an understanding of canon as a static collection of exemplary works, instead characterizing the Turkmen canon as reliant on local practices of memory and performance that predate the nationalist project. He explores the senses in which this effective canonization is at once a modern and traditional phenomenon, and in doing so he provides an interpretive framework that can serve as a model for further studies of other music traditions. This paper makes an important contribution to ethnomusicology by pointing to the efficacy of canon as an analytical construct across a range of modernist nationalist contexts while insisting on the specificity and musical agency of local practices of canonization.