PhD Research Abstract

Compositional Ethnomusicology and the Tahitian Musical Landscape:
Towards Meta-Sustainability through Creative Practice Research Informed by Ethnographic Fieldwork

Taking the contemporary musical landscape of Tahiti as a case study, this thesis jointly in ethnomusicology and composition combines an ethnographic and ethnomusicological enquiry with a practice-based artistic research applied to ethnomusicology. It contributes to a greater understanding and appreciation of issues surrounding contemporary indigenous cultural identity and musical change, and includes scholarly and field-informed collaborative musical works.

This research contends that the creative exploration of musical syntheses represents an effective alternative to processes of cultural revival through engagement with an indigenous community. It relies on the concept of a sustainability extended to the global cultural environment, which is termed meta-sustainability. In allowing aspects or elements of Tahitian music to be transmitted by way of a repository of global intangible culture, it enacts a proactive and cosmopolitanist response to perceptions of out-of-control globalization processes.

The first volume of the thesis introduces compositional ethnomusicology, an emergent paradigm aiming to contribute to the meta-sustainability of musical tradition, and which articulates ethnomusicological methods with creative practice. Subsequently, this volume sets out an ethnographic description of the contemporary Tahitian musical landscape and its dynamics of change, depicting it as a broad, complex system of overlapping fields.

Grounded in the related findings, the second volume delivers substantial artistic research outcomes. These fieldwork-informed musical fictions demonstrate the possibilities of a new aesthetics for the meta-sustainable development of Tahitian musical tradition. They include on the one hand a folio of six pieces for small ensembles bridging Tahitian musical heritage with jazz and improvisation, on the other hand an operatic work in Tahitian language.