Nathan Hesselink

 
Prospective Graduate Students / Postdocs

This faculty member is currently not actively recruiting graduate students or Postdoctoral Fellows, but might consider co-supervision together with another faculty member.

Professor

Research Classification

Research Interests

ethnomusicology
music analysis
entrainment
rhythmic play and social meaning
Anglo-American rock music
African American popular music

Relevant Thesis-Based Degree Programs

Research Options

I am available and interested in collaborations (e.g. clusters, grants).
I am interested in and conduct interdisciplinary research.
 
 

Research Methodology

Ethnography
Fieldwork
music analysis
historiography

Graduate Student Supervision

Doctoral Student Supervision

Dissertations completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest dissertations.

Chunhyang-ga as pansori-style opera: a guide for performing pansori with classically-trained singers outside of Korea (2019)

My love of Korean traditional vocal music stemmed from my two years of living and working near Seoul as an English teacher. Upon returning to Canada, I entered a Masters program in music which required the performance of a recital. Choosing a Korean art song cycle for this recital sparked my research into other Korean vocal art forms. From this, I discovered changgeuk, which is commonly referred to as “Korean Traditional Opera,” and subsequently pansori, a traditional form of Korean sung storytelling on which changgeuk is based. A continued curiosity in these two traditional art forms during my UBC doctoral studies inspired me to question whether there was an in-road for classically-trained singers in North America to perform them, and led to this creative-interpretive thesis project. The purpose of this thesis, which includes a dissertation and performance project, is to provide an example of a possible guide and template for individuals or institutions interested in presenting an opera production of pansori material. It provides an overview of pansori's theory, historical background, and repertoire; the basics and history of changgeuk; details of the production process for my Lecture-Recital performance (singing Korean, transcribing a vocal score, arranging full scores, directing the drama, and presenting suitable visual aspects); and a distilling of the successes and challenges of this project into suggestions on how future productions of pansori-style opera may bepresented effectively. A great deal of the experience I gained from this project involved navigating the adaptations necessary for performing this traditional Korean source material with the resources available to me in a non-Korean location. I plan to expand this thesis project into a full opera production and hope that my efforts may encourage others to experiment with similar hybrids using traditional musical-theatrical material.Ultimately, the goal is to establish such cross-cultural experiments as a more frequent source for opera productions, increasing exposure and interest in the traditions on which they are based.

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Vodu is a human being to me: society, songs, and drums in the Torgbui Apetorku shrine of Dagbamete, Ghana (2019)

For adherents of West African vodu, music and spiritual practice are inextricably intertwined. Through music and ritual, mythology and cosmology are reified, ancestral ties reaffirmed, and memories of historical episodes are brought to life. The life of the community worshipping at the vodu shrine of Tɔgbui Aƒetɔku in the southern Eʋe community of Dagbamete, Ghana illustrates this dynamic process. Since the early period of colonial contact, and continuing into today’s post-colonial Ghana, traditional religion has been reduced to an anachronism that is assumed to be antithetical to progress, modernity, and “civilization”. Yet this shrine and the community it serves has reacted and adapted to these threats and thrives into the 21st century. This study examines the social and historical factors that led to the establishment and growth of the Tɔgbui Aƒetɔku; it catalogues and analyzes aspects of its musical repertoire; and explores its current status as a traditional socio-religious institution and its relevance in modern-day Ghana as it relates to community development and resilience against external agents of cultural change. The shrine of Tɔgbui Aƒetɔku has played an integral role in the preservation, continuation, and progression of indigenous belief systems and musical practice in Ghana. This has occurred despite efforts of denigration, conversion, and repression from the forces of the colonial encounter and its aftermath: missionary activity and the resultant mushrooming of evangelical Christianity in the country, globalization, and Western-influenced cultural imperialism. Despite social pressures against indigenous religious practices such as vodu, dozens of individuals of various ethnic groups across West Africa “eat the vodu” every week and become new members in the shrine of Tɔgbui Aƒetɔku. Aside from the perceived spiritual efficacy that the deity bestows upon shrine members, I suggest that the shrine (as well as its membership and community in which it exits) have thrived due to two main factors, 1) accessible music and dance forms, whose associated meaning strengthens an indigenous spiritual identity; and 2) a unified extended family who serve as leaders of the shrine and guide its development as a significant institution that serves the social, spiritual, and cultural needs of its membership.

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The resounding body: Epistemologies of sound, healing, and conventional and alternative medicine on Canada's West Coast (2014)

The main claim of this dissertation is that practices of sound healing are driven by a skepticism towards how conventional medicine conceptualizes and treats the body. Therefore, sound healing in thought and practice may be seen as revolving around an implicit desire to redefine the body, health, and listening. I refer to this as “negating the biomedical body” and show how it is underscored by frequent recourse to medical concepts adopted from complementary and alternative medicine.This dissertation illustrates how practitioners’ negating of the biomedical body as well as their deeply embodied conception of listening and sound bear surprising consistency across a variety of sound healing practices. In this sense, sound healing is caught up in changing values regarding health, medicine, and healthcare delivery in the contemporary west. Notwithstanding its antithetical stance, however, sound healing can also be further understood when its dialectical relation to science and medicine is considered. In practice this unstable and problematic relationship is most pronounced in the contradiction between practitioners’ negating of the biomedical body (rooted in embodiment and indeterminacy) and popular appeals to science (rooted in representation and objectification).Ultimately, I argue that in lieu of recognition from established medicine, a distinguishing role for sound healing rests on resolving this dialectical tension. This it accomplishes through the formulation of a new vernacular— hinging on terms such as “vibration,” “frequency,” and “resonance”—and a privileging of the body’s immaterial and energetic dimensions (a process I term the “naturalization of energy”). I suggest that one outcome of this dialectic is the new “body-as-vibration,” a conceptual model of the body that is believed to be amenable to science but that still preserves sound healers’ need to formulate a new epistemology for the body and health.

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The emergence of the Chinese Zheng: Traditional context, contemporary evolution, and cultural identity (2013)

The zheng is a Chinese long zither that was developed from a five-string folk instrument over two thousand years ago to become a concert instrument with approximately twenty million practitioners around the world today. The opposing forces of metamorphosis and continuation have dominated the evolution of the instrument with the most rapid and drastic changes to its conception and practice witnessed in the twentieth century.This dissertation is a musical and cultural study of the zheng’s living tradition from traditional practice to contemporary evolution, with an emphasis on the transformation of its musical and cultural identity. The studied areas include composition, dissemination, performance technique, and aesthetics. These discussions reveal an underlying ancient Chinese aesthetic principle drawn from both Confucian and Taoist philosophies that applies to all developmental periods of the zheng––the relationship between sheng (generated sound) and yin (cultivated sound).In addition to being a researcher, the author combines her four-decade long experience of performing and studying the instrument with the voices of four generations of zheng performers and those of Chinese and non-Chinese zheng composers and scholars to reveal the core musical and aesthetic elements of traditional zheng practice. Crucially this includes analyzing contemporary changes in Mainland China and North America since the twentieth century in the context of political influences, Westernization, and globalization. The author argues that the fundamental values of traditional zheng practice are still pertinent to the contemporary development of the instrument.

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Master's Student Supervision

Theses completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest theses.

Nuancing the 2:3 ratio: microtiming analyses of dance music from the transnational Macedonian region (2022)

Balkan meters are traditionally perceived in the ethnomusicological literature through a 2:3 ratio underlain by a series of isochronous subdivisions. Through beat inter-onset-interval (IOI) analysis I show how this conception obscures and neglects timing nuances, using examples of dance music from the transnational Macedonian region. Chapter 1 analyzes two songs from the Pirin-Macedonia region of Bulgaria featuring a 3-beat “long-short-short” meter. IOI analysis demonstrates that the beat proportions of these songs do not align with that governed by a 2:3 beat ratio underlain by a series of isochronous subdivisions. Chapter 2 analyzes the song “Daoulari Tsalar” of the Zurla/Tapan tradition in Greek-Macedonia. This tradition features a characteristic metric progression from a slow and loose treatment to a fast and strict treatment of a beat cycle. This analysis articulates how sections featuring slow and loose cycling, when beats are coordinated by the steps of the lead dancer, are non-isochronous, yet do not conform to any isochronous subdivision layer nor a 2:3 beat ratio. In addition to quantitative timing discussions, this thesis also addresses emic musical conceptions and the political contextualization of such dance musics, demonstrating how analysis and ethnography can act as mutually informative methodologies.

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Gender Wayang in Twenty-first century Bali: new music and a growing performance tradition (2020)

This thesis explores current trends in the gender wayang (four-instrument metallophone ensemble) performance tradition of Bali. Themes include performance contexts and repertoire, pedagogy, accessibility, recording technology, and new music. My findings are prefaced with a detailed survey of the current literature written on gender wayang. The research reflects my experiences studying gender wayang in Bali in 2016-2017, and 2018. Traditionally, gender wayang is best known for its role accompanying shadow-plays, or wayang. In twenty-first century Bali, however, gender wayang has penetrated beyond wayang such that the shadow-plays are no longer the primary context for the ensemble’s performance. Through participant-observation, reflection, and analysis, this thesis explores the effect gender wayang’s growing popularity and presence in both ritual and non-ritual performance contexts have had on pedagogy. As well, this thesis looks at the development of new music for the ensemble, and includes analysis of three new gender wayang compositions. By looking at current practices in comparison with past research, this thesis proposes ideas about modern changes, and contemporary practices in the tradition.

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Not an isolated event: a survey of Korean drumming in North America (2020)

No abstract available.

Seist chorus sections in Scottish Gaelic Song: an overview of their evolving uses and functions (2020)

This thesis examines the use of seist chorus sections in the Scottish Gaelic song tradition. These sections consist of nonsense syllables, or vocables. Although lacking semantic meaning, such vocables often provoke the joining in of the audience or listening group. The use of these vocable sections can be seen to have evolved in both their physical (sonic) characteristics and their social use and function over time while still maintaining a marked presence in Scottish Gaelic music across many genres and generations. I briefly examine theories surrounding seist vocables’ inception, interview three practitioners of Gaelic song about seist choruses’ inception and evolving function, examine four songs dating from a period spanning 1601-2016, and relate my findings to Scotland’s constantly evolving social and political climate.

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"We are not a conquered people": expressions of resistance, resurgence, and reclamation through electric pow wow (2018)

This thesis examines the work of Indigenous DJ collective A Tribe Called Red, namely their reimagining of the contemporary pow wow. Dubbed “Electric Pow Wow,” the event showcases urban Indigenous culture, centered around music that layers elements of hip hop and electronic dance music with samples of First Nations vocals and drumming. Born out of the “Indigenous music renaissance,” A Tribe Called Red stands among a new generation of artists who are working alongside resistance movements like Idle No More in order to push back against colonial narratives of erasure and illuminate the voices of Indigenous communities the world over. Prioritizing contemporary Indigenous perspectives, this study seeks to engage with core themes of identity, community, representation, and decolonization, and discusses the essential role of musicians and culture-bearers within these spheres. Through an examination of A Tribe Called Red’s live shows, music videos, and social/political presence, I investigate Electric Pow Wow as both a physical and virtual gathering place where Indigenous identities are reclaimed, articulated, strengthened, and celebrated within broader movements of decolonization in North America and around the globe.

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Seist chorus sections in Scottish Gaelic Song: an overview of their evolving uses and functions (2020)

This thesis examines the use of seist chorus sections in the Scottish Gaelic song tradition. These sections consist of nonsense syllables, or vocables. Although lacking semantic meaning, such vocables often provoke the joining in of the audience or listening group. The use of these vocable sections can be seen to have evolved in both their physical (sonic) characteristics and their social use and function over time while still maintaining a marked presence in Scottish Gaelic music across many genres and generations. I briefly examine theories surrounding seist vocables’ inception, interview three practitioners of Gaelic song about seist choruses’ inception and evolving function, examine four songs dating from a period spanning 1601-2016, and relate my findings to Scotland’s constantly evolving social and political climate.

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Adaptation and creativity in Montreal's West African music scene (2014)

This thesis is an ethnography of Montreal’s West African music scene. Through participant observation, interviews, and research I provide a view of how African musicians have adapted their music to a new environment. Special focus is given to how African music was constructed and perceived by African performers, though attention is also paid to their Québecois counterparts. I discuss how an array of interpretations about the meaning and form of African music co-exists, forming part of a larger musical discourse that gives shape to a style of African music unique to Québec.I first provide an overview of the African music scene, describing its major venues, events, and performers. Next, I describe the style of African music that takes place there, an adaptation of Malian and Guinean popular music. I also describe the efforts of Québecois musicians to reimagine African music for their own use, offering up a very different interpretation than that given by Africans in Montreal.Through collective interpretation, African and Canadian musicians in Montreal have built an innovative and interesting music scene that is still developing. This scene relies on a productive discourse between African musicians, Québecois performers of African music, and the larger audience for African music in Montreal.

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A singing sanctuary : identity and resiliency construction in underserved youth through vocal expression (2013)

In this ethnography of a youth choir I demonstrate the relationship between youth cultural identity construction and increased resiliency by providing stories and reflections about individual and group expression through voice. I have discovered through my research that it is not only vocal expression through song that supports identity construction and resiliency, but also the space of shared intimacy that is created through musical/vocal agency. I also revealed an underlying tone of youth resistance through voice.Working within the framework of Teacher Action Research I set out to use my findings to aid and inform my teaching practices in support and empowerment of youth in my community. The research methods employed were audio recording, class observation, personal journaling, and interviews (group and individual). I understood that as a participant and as the subject’s teacher that I entered this research with certain biases and assumptions, but at the same time I knew that my proximity to the subject would give me insight in ways that would not be accessible to an outside observer. I was also cognizant of the fact that I was conducting “fieldwork at home,” recognizing through the literature review and research that this methodology also comes with challenges in terms of objectivity and clarity of subject and roles.I drew inspiration and direction from Lila Abu-Lughod, a Palestinian-American professor of Anthropology and Women’s and Gender Studies at Columbia University in New York City, who works in the tradition and methodology of what she calls ethnographies of the particular. Abu-Lughod argues for “the effects of extralocal and long-term processes [that] are only manifested locally and specifically, produced in the actions of individuals living their particular lives, inscribed in their bodies and their words” (1991: 150).

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Cross-Cultural Pedagogy in North Indian Classical Music (2012)

This thesis is an investigation of pedagogy in North Indian classical music. Historical, cultural, and philosophical elements of pedagogy in the Hindustani musical tradition are addressed in an overview of music education in traditional Indian contexts, the twentieth century, and in cross-cultural contexts. Themes include orality in Indian culture, the traditional guru-shishya parampara, the role of nationalism in twentieth century educational reforms, and the impact of technology in the latter half of the twentieth century. Trends in music education in India are then compared and contrasted with the state of education in Indian music in cross-cultural contexts in the West. From this data a model of the essential elements of Indian pedagogy is synthesized. This model accounts for pedagogical devices utilized to impart musical information as well as methods of transmitting cultural and social values. This model is applied to the experiences of five North American students of Hindustani music interviewed during the research process for this thesis.

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