Research Report 2008

Something to sing about

Newfoundland and Labrador is known for rich music traditions. Almost every house has a guitar, accordion, fiddle or piano. Our local musicians are prolific producers of albums and concerts. And our folksong heritage is a dream come true for folklorists. Five years ago the Research Centre for the Study of Music, Media and Place was founded. It quickly expanded and needed to be more accessible.

What better spot than the largest cultural centre in the province?

Since moving into the St. John’s Arts and Culture Centre, concerts have become more frequent, more researchers are using the facilities, and ethnomusicologists are coming from all over. The new MMAP centre is working to help bridge the gap between academia and our thriving traditional music scene.

The Research Centre for the Study of Music, Media, and Place (MMaP), which is affiliated with the School of Music and the Department of Folklore, unveiled its new home during a two-day reception in January.

The centre, which was established in 2003, has moved from a small suite of offices in the annex of the St. John’s Arts and Culture Centre to part of the space of the former Art Gallery of Newfoundland and Labrador. Although staff and faculty will still be located in the same building – the Arts and Culture Centre is adjacent to Memorial’s main campus – MMaP now has more room to spread its wings and grow.

Thanks to $250,000 in funding from both the federal and provincial governments for renovations, the new MMaP now includes production stations, library and meeting room, offices and a performance area. It all adds up to be a much more dynamic space for researchers, musicians and the general public, said Dr. Bev Diamond, Canada Research Chair in Ethnomusicology and director of the MMAP.

“It’s good to have a presence for traditional music in the Arts and Culture Centre,” she said. “The new space provides research resources and production tools for faculty, staff, and graduate students in ethnomusicology. We’re happy to have community researchers drop by however, and delighted that our new performance space has been useful for several of the traditional music ensembles from St. John’s diverse communities.”

The centre’s broad mandate includes supporting academic and community-based research focused on traditional music from this province. In the past five years, it has produced archival CDs, websites, publications and regularly hosts lectures.

“Along with our partners in the Department of Folklore, the School of Music is delighted with this new ‘street front’ location for MMaP,” said its director, Dr. Tom Gordon. “With neighbours like the public library and the performance facilities in the Arts and Culture Centre, MMaP has great opportunities to encourage dialogue between researchers and tradition-bearers close to the public eye and ear.” Meanwhile, the new MMaP facility is already being put to good use. Dr. Diamond said in addition to the open house, the centre has already hosted a series of musicians and performers and more will be coming through in the coming weeks and months.”

“Community groups such as the Women’s Accordion Circle and the Shape-Note Singers have been rehearsing in our gallery space,” she noted. “We have done consultations with a number of community researchers or institutions including the Town of Placentia, the Cowhead Museum, the Flatrock Museum and the Burin Folk Arts Council.”

“These connections are a modest beginning to what I hope MMaP can become as a centre that links university music researchers with communities and mobilizes wide-ranging research on traditional and popular music in Newfoundland and Labrador.”

Copyright © 2008 Memorial University of Newfoundland