Summer Community of Scholars

Who's immersed in other cultures?

A music session at the Cobblestone Pub in Dublin A music session at the Cobblestone Pub in Dublin.

AMY LEVINE

My parents are both musicians, so I was raised around lots of music and I began classical violin lessons at the age of four. Alongside my classical instruction, my father began teaching me around the age of seven how to fiddle, taking me to Old Time string band festivals in North Carolina and West Virginia. It is from these festivals that I came to recognize an intimate cultural relationship between people and music. As an oral tradition, Appalachian string music has been passed down through multiple generations, principally by ear, and every tune has experienced reshaping through the hands and ears of the people who transmit it. This music is a cumulative history of the people who play it. The same is true for traditional music in Ireland, which I have always loved listening to and playing.

My studies as a Communication and Culture major at Clark have inspired me to examine the traditions in which I participate as culturally significant. I began to look at roots music in its sociocultural contexts and to examine the meanings behind the traditions that keep music alive. During my junior year, I received a Steinbrecher Fellowship that enabled me to pursue my own creative research project about Irish music and culture. I decided that Ireland was a great subject because traditional music is still very alive presently, and many of the Old Time tunes I know have derived from Irish origins.

In the summer of 2008, I traveled through different regions of Ireland for three weeks, studying and experiencing the cultural significance of traditional Irish music through an ethnographic lens. Originally, I was interested in traditional Irish fiddle and the general fiddling culture of Ireland, but my research developed into a study of the pub session, as that was a main vehicle through which I experienced the music. I conducted interviews with local musicians, recorded pub sessions with a digital audio recorder, took extensive photography, and integrated myself into the strong network of Irish musicians to learn about the music from the people. I have written my honors thesis about the pub session as a significant site of cultural and social interaction, through which identities and cultural meanings are transmitted and reinforced. Traveling to Ireland allowed me to see the variety of pub sessions and their meanings on several levels: as beautiful expressions of modest Irish identity, as a struggle to maintain tradition in times of increasing globalization and industrialization, and as a spectacle and pervasive symbol of Ireland for tourists. The one thing that connected every musician I met was love and passion for the music of Ireland, and it was truly inspiring to hear the stories of the people who hold this tradition in their hands.

Other Interests

I have a love affair with food (both cooking and eating), and I love to explore Worcester restaurants in my spare time. Last fall, I wrote restaurant reviews for The Scarlet, which gave me the chance to share my food adventures with other Clark students and find the delicious hidden gems of Worcester. I hope to some day work for the Food Network. I also play violin in a rock band, which is a fun and creative outlet for all of my musical energy.


Amy (third from right) on Inis Mor, a small island off the west coast of Ireland, during an outside pub session playing and exchanging tunes from various origins: traditional Irish music, Appalachian string music, and British pop songs.

Awards

Presidential Scholarship 2005-2009

Steinbrecher Fellowship 2008-2009