Music Department Colloquium: Aaron Bittel—“Archival Doings, Participatory Collective Remembering, and the CFA’s 100th”

Thursday, February 1, 2024 at 4:30pm
Adzenyah Rehearsal Hall, Room 003 (Daltry Room), 60 Wyllys Avenue, Middletown


Broadly speaking, as a culture group we tend to think of encounters with archives as discoveries of fixed records—flawed, incomplete, and contested, but nonetheless fixed at some point in the historical past. On the other hand, professional archivists speak in terms of an archival life cycle: one which classically followed a cradle-to-grave trajectory, but which in more recent tellings includes conceptions of reincarnation, feedback, or simply ongoing exchange. Archives – by which we might mean individual documents, collections of those documents, the institutions tasked with sustaining them, or the socio-cultural experiences they embody – are constantly and continually being created, collected, organized, preserved, consulted, disseminated, and recreated. They allow us to engage with memory and remembering across time, a kind of trans-chronological dialogue among past, present, and future interlocutors. Our role in this conversation need not be restricted to hearing from the past. So, in the year that we’re celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Center for the Arts, this presentation is an open call for anyone and everyone to get archivally engaged with both the CFA’s beginnings and it’s eventual (we hope!) centenary. I’ll lay out the projects already planned or underway for this year, opportunities for participation, and a bigger vision for how we as a creative community can have ongoing exchange with our past and future.

Aaron M. Bittel is Director of the World Music Archives and Music Librarian at Wesleyan University, where he works to promote creative ways of engaging with a diverse collection of cultural heritage materials, from unique to common. Previously, he served as Archivist-Librarian and Head of Digital Projects at the UCLA Ethnomusicology Archive, and was also an adjunct faculty member, teaching courses on audiovisual archives and oral history at UCLA. He has regularly contributed to the cultural collections field, especially in the areas of education and training, and research archives, as part of the Association for Recorded Sound Collections (ARSC), the Music Library Association (MLA), and the International Association of Sound and Audiovisual Archives (IASA). Aaron is also an active musician with scholarly and performing interests in free reed instruments and traditional musics of Quebec, Ireland, and the Balkans.

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