Daily Archives: December 3, 2015

PhD Alumni News from Mark Porter

Mark Porter, who completed his doctorate at City in 2014, has been awarded postdoctoral funding to pursue research at the Max Weber Center for Advanced Cultural and Social Studies in Erfurt, Germany. His project, entitled “Axes of Resonance in Christian Congregational Music”, builds on the work of Hartmut Rosa, Jean-Luc Nancy and Veit Erlmann, among others, in order to explore sonic and social concepts of resonance in relation to congregational singing. Mark is interested, in particular, in the potential for concepts of resonance to supplement ideas of authenticity, which has become an increasingly stretched analytical category in recent writing, and for research on congregational music to help to explore conceptual travelling between metaphorical and literal usages of ‘resonance’ in the literature. He is the first musicologist to be accepted at Max Weber, and whilst there he will engage in interdisciplinary dialogue with scholars from a wide range of contemporary and historical areas of social and cultural enquiry.

Since graduating, Mark has obtained a book contract with Ashgate publishing in order to publish his doctoral research in monograph format. The book, entitled “Contemporary Worship Music and Everyday Musical Lives” is due out in 2016 and will appear in Ashgate’s Congregational Music Studies series. An article focusing on Mark’s investigation of marginal musical spaces at St Aldates, Oxford, meanwhile, has also been accepted for publication in the Journal of Contemporary Religion. His previous article “The Developing Field of Christian Congregational Music Studies”, published in the journal Ecclesial Practices, has proved remarkably popular and, since publication has received over 1,500 downloads.

Mark has continued to be active in organising the biennial Christian congregational music: local and global perspectives conference at Cuddesdon, outside Oxford (http://congregationalmusic.org). The conference, which met for the third time over the summer, has now become an established institution, and has even received its own entry in the Canterbury Dictionary of Hymnology. Earlier in the year Mark also received an invitation to speak at Oxford University’s Music and Theology seminar on the relationship between ethnomusicology and theology – a paper he hopes to work up for publication over the course of the next year.


West Africa at The British Library – A Personal Experience

Peter Morrell, First Year BMus Student

On Tuesday 3rd November 2015, the first year BMus students visited the British Library exhibition: ‘West Africa: Word, Symbol, Song.’ This was an illustrated history of how song and dance has been formed in West Africa. It also told us how the musical language generated in certain regions of West Africa has spread to and informed music in other parts of the world; it showed this across a broad historical chronology.

We were presented with a display of many different musical threads, all of them connected to West Africa. For instance, a history of ritual was told by some artefacts connected to tribal dances and religious ceremony, different types of drum and some costumes. Another thread told the varied stories of how men and women have interacted with music differently, for example with different roles in carnival dance teams; and also how gender narratives are being told by the British Library to its London-based audience of tourists, visitors and scholars. I have a recently-awakened interest in the origins of jazz and blues music. Parts of this exhibition told the story of African slaves and what interested me most was to see how, in the face of diaspora, the slaves kept their identity thanks to song. Listening to the music through headsets in the exhibition was fun!

After an hour and a half of walking around, most of the class could be discovered on cushions in the reading corner! We looked at some of the African-generated literature on the bookshelf. I was interested to rediscover the work of Chinua Achebe, distantly reminding me of an A-Level encounter with this author and with another portrait of Africa I had studied, Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. Then it was time for a fascinating discussion with Janet Topp Fargion, one of the two Curators of the exhibition, who spoke to us in depth about how she had spent four years creating this exhibition. It seems a huge range of people were involved in the consultation process.

This was a really quality field trip, giving us plenty of food for thought and so inspiring for our ‘Music in Oral Cultures’ module at City.