|a picture I took of an oud this summer
before I knew what an oud was
I think it was a little over a year ago that I first learned that Ethnomusicology was a real thing, and something that I could learn. At that point, I was fairly convinced that I was not going to go to graduate school, and that I was going to stay in Birmingham and try to be a freelance musician. I was writing my undergraduate thesis, so of course I was fed up with school. But the idea of ethnomusicology, and the idea of using music for missions, stuck with me, and grew…and thus a year later I find myself working toward an MA in Ethnomusicology.
I feel compelled to mention here that spell check does not even recognize ethnomusicology as a word. That is because it is a pretentious sounding and made-up word.
I don’t really know the details of how I got here, silly as that sounds; when people ask me “What brought you to Cardiff University? What do you plan to do with that degree?” I feel much the same as when people would ask me “What brought you to Samford University? What do you plan to do with that [history] degree?” I could trace the sequence of causation, from one decision to the next, or I could just shrug and say “God only knows,” because that’s really the best answer I can give. I could list all the billion ideas I’ve had for what I want to actually do with my life, or I could say God knows, because I don’t.
I had this idea in my head that studying ethnomusicology was going to involve a lot of chilling around playing cool instruments from around the world. That’s not the case (Well, it is at UCLA, but I don’t really regret not going there). There’s a lot of reading. And writing. And discussion. And while those are three things that spent 4 years of undergrad honing, I get disillusioned sometimes. The more academic jargon I swallow, the more people ask me “what are you going to do when you graduate?”, the more it seems like all roads lead to PhD (which is not a place I want to be spending the rest of my 20s), the more I wonder what I’m doing here.
I’ve been asking that question for a couple weeks now. God, why am I here? What’s the point of this? I don’t feel like I’ve made a mistake, but I can’t see the purpose of it.
After writing two embarrassingly bad papers, I was Googling around with “ethnomusicology” “careers” and “missions.” That’s when I stumbled across another pretentiously long word, ethnodoxology, and this quip about it. Basically, ethnodoxology is ethnomusicology, but for worship music. That quip led me to the International Council for Ethnodoxologists and, maybe even better, Heart Sounds International, which is a branch of Operation Mobilization that focuses specifically on worship music in other cultures. I also found the blogs of people using ethnomusicology for missions.
Regardless of what I end up doing when I graduate (if I graduate, sheesh), finding out that there actually is a use for ethnomusicology in missions, that people are actually DOING it, is a huge encouragement. Heart Sounds has a YouTube channel, on which you can watch recordings they’ve made of worship songs around the world. Clicking around on the “related videos,” you can find even more. These videos make me so happy – watch them and try not to smile.
I have no idea where I will be a year from now. I look forward to the unknown with the excitement of knowing that God’s plan will be the best. I know that what I am learning now can be used for his purposes. I know that my being here in Cardiff can and will be used for his purposes. I know it might be a long time before I know what those purposes exactly are, if ever. I’m okay with that. I can learn to wait patiently for the sovereign God who loves me.