Iowa City, Iowa
Double Major in Music and Educational Studies
Laurel Tippe received a Richter Scholarship to conduct research for her
Honors project, which examines the variety of ways women use music as a means for social and political action. She attended two large women's music festivals, interviewed musicians, and combined the information with her study abroad experience in Guinea. Laurel tells us more about her research experience.
Tell us more about your research.
I attended two large women's music festivals: the National Women's Music Festival and the Womyn's Music Festival. I collected interviews of the musicians, as well as attendants of the festival. I took the information and stories gathered and combined it with my study abroad experience in Guinea. Ultimately, the project will be a cross-cultural comparison of female musicians using music to make themselves heard about important social and political issues.
Describe your interviews.
My interviews were incredible. Everyone was very willing to talk about the way they choose to make music and the way they feel they can change things for the better with their music. I wanted the interviews to be very conversational, as if the musicians were talking to a member of their family. The questions I created allowed the musicians to be honest and open. The festival atmosphere allows for a very trusting environment in which everyone feels like they share something in common. (Photo: Laurel Tippe '13, center, interviewed musicians from Emma's Revolution)
How did you learn about this opportunity?
I learned about the Honors project opportunity while at Knox. The Gerald and Carol Vovis Center for Research and Advanced Study was instrumental in making this research a reality for me. I applied for a Richter grant and received money to attend the festivals, as well as money for traveling. My advisors were also very helpful in encouraging me to pursue independent research and to hone in on my final topic.
What inspired you to pursue the research?
I was taking Professor Nikki Malley's Music of the African Diaspora when I initially got the idea for this project. We were talking about female musicians in Mali who had reappropriated hunter's music and turned it into a musical tradition that often speaks out against women marrying too young, men having multiple wives, etc. in a way that would not be possible through just spoken word. I applied for a study abroad program to Mali. Circumstances caused the trip to be to Guinea instead, but the musical tradition is very similar throughout the region. After learning about wassalou music (the tradition in Mali), I knew I wanted to incorporate female musicians doing similar things with music in my final research project at Knox.
Can you give an example of how your classroom experiences benefited you during your research?
My music classes at Knox have contributed greatly to the research process. My experiences working with so many different musicians at Knox exposed me to a number of different music making methods, and I have come to realize that the way a person creates his or her music and the motivation behind the music says a lot about the person.
What was the coolest part of your project?
The coolest part of my project was getting to talk with so many musicians in a really in-depth and personal way. I had some very philosophical conversations about the fundamental reasons why music is so incredibly powerful and life changing. It was amazing to get to honestly speak with musicians who have made it their life to make a difference with music.
How do you think this experience helped in terms of your education and future career plans?
I eventually hope to pursue a graduate degree in ethnomusicology. This research is my main preliminary experience with field research and ethnographic writing. The experience is incredibly beneficial in preparing me for graduate work. Ultimately, I would love to continue the project beyond just a compariso n of female folk musicians in America and female musicians in Guinea. It is my hope to collect stories and recordings from female musicians from as many different places as possible. The female voice in the music world needs representation, and I hope to play some small part in that.