Foreign Sindhen in Practice: New Teaching Strategies and the Impact of Practice-Led Research on Javanese Female Singing
Practice-led research has a long history in ethnomusicology and is currently reconsidered in many academic contexts all over the world. There has not been much literature written on the effects that a long-term active immersion in the music culture investigated can have on the “researched”, the “researcher” and the “research” itself. I experienced some of these effects as a native Italian who spent seven years learning, performing and researching in Java, Indonesia. I conducted my research led by the practice, inspired by the bi-musicality approach. Learning, performing and researching are approaches interrelated with each other and determine some interesting developments of investigation, not only within the research context, but in the research methodology itself. In this paper, I discuss the pros and cons of the practice-led research experience within the Javanese singing framework, considering the following specific aspects—new teaching strategies adopted by Javanese teachers to transmit knowledge to a foreign researcher; challenges encountered by a foreign singer on a shadow puppet theatre stage; the way in which local artists and audience take part in the research process and how the fieldwork might affect the researcher’s mentality and shape her/his approach. This article reflects on new outcomes produced by the encounter of practice and research, opening a debate about the possible collaborations and methodological exchanges between teachers, artists and researchers. It suggests that performing and understanding music should be heard and be included in the debate based on personal experience as performer and researcher.
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