UCSB Department of Music Alumnus, James Revell Carr, wins Society for Ethnomusicology’s prestigious Alan P. Merriam Prize for Outstanding Book

James Revell Carr, UCSB Department of Music alumnus and Associate Professor of Ethnomusicology at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro (UNCG), was recently awarded the Alan P. Merriam Prize for Outstanding Book (2014-2015) by the Society for Ethnomusicology. Dr. Carr’s book, Hawaiian Music in Motion: Mariners, Missionaries, and Minstrels, explores Hawaiian music aboard American and European ships and in the islands, revealing the ways both maritime commerce and imperial confrontation facilitated the circulation of Hawaiian popular music in the nineteenth century. The book, published in 2014, is Dr. Carr’s first, as well as the first publication in the University of Illinois Press’ Music in American Life series to discuss the music of Hawai?i.

The Merriam Book Prize was announced by Dr. Harris Berger, former Society for Ethnomusicology president, last December in Austin, Texas, at the Society’s Annual Meeting. Praising the book as “a sophisticated social history of Hawaiian music and globalization, as told through carefully researched, evocatively drawn, and richly interpreted discussions of Hawaiian performance, both at home and abroad,” Berger went on to marvel at the scope of Carr’s research. “An extraordinarily diverse set of sources, topics, genres, and settings are discussed in the book. From the early colonial encounters of the late eighteenth century, to interactions between Hawaiian, American, European, and African sailors in the whaling industry, to the performances of Hawaiians in North America, and struggles among American missionaries, American sailors, and native Hawaiians that played out in theatre and song, Carr reveals the complex ways in which situated actors with contrasting identities struggle for meaning in a world shot through with power relations...Gender politics and colonial dynamics are mapped out with insight and sensitivity in the book, as Carr explores how missionaries and planters, aristocrats and commoners used music as a tool for struggles over identity and power in nineteenth century Hawaii.” In this age of globalization, Carr argues convincingly that “nineteenth century maritime culture [was] a crucial but neglected phase in the history of globalization, giving the book a contemporary resonance and significance that will interest scholars for years to come,” according to Berger.

The original research for Hawaiian Music in Motion was accomplished when Carr was a graduate student here at UCSB in the Department of Music’s Ethnomusicology Program. Carr’s dissertation advisor, Professor Timothy J. Cooley, recalls his work as exceptionally ambitious in geographic and historical scope. “Revell’s subject centered on ephemeral musical events aboard wind-powered ships sailing between New England and Hawai‘i, and really anywhere in the world’s oceans in search of whales. The time-frame spanned more than a century from the late eighteenth century to the early twentieth,” Cooley notes. “His research took him to archives from Boston to Honolulu, and there among ships’ logs and seamen’s letters, this wonderful and surprisingly modern story emerged. It was an excellent dissertation that has since been greatly expanded and refined into a truly wonderful book,” concludes Cooley.

As Associate Professor of Ethnomusicology at UNCG, Dr. Carr teaches courses in American vernacular music and non-Western music cultures. He is also Director of Undergraduate Studies for the UNCG Department of Music Studies, and directs the UNCG Old Time Ensemble. Dr. Carr's research focuses on the importance of travel and commerce in the development of hybrid music and dance cultures around the world. His major interests include sea chanteys, Hawaiian music, Anglo-American balladry, folk music revivals, and improvisational rock.

In addition to his book, Hawaiian Music in Motion, Dr. Carr has published articles and reviews in the Journal of American Folklore, The Yearbook for Traditional Music, The Oxford Encyclopedia of Maritime History, The Journal of British Studies, American Historical Review, Voices: The Journal of New York Folklore, and others. His essays have also been included in numerous books about the legendary rock band, The Grateful Dead.

Dr. Carr served as the president of the Southeastern and Caribbean Chapter of the Society for Ethnomusicology in 2010-2011, and is currently the chair of the Historical Ethnomusicology Section of the Society for Ethnomusicology. He was an educator at Mystic Seaport Museum, the Columbia River Maritime Museum, and the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, and has held research fellowships at Brown University, the Massachusetts Historical Society, the Boston Athenaeum, the Peabody Essex Museum, the New Bedford Whaling Museum, and the Interdisciplinary Humanities Center at the University of California at Santa Barbara. He was the original music supervisor for UCSB’s English Broadside Ballad Archive, an online database of seventeenth century British ballads funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, where he can be heard singing many of the ballads to their historically accurate melodies. He presents his work at the conferences of the Society for Ethnomusicology, the Society for American Music, the Southwest Popular Culture Association, and the International Council for Traditional Music, as well as other national and international symposia.

Dr. Carr holds a BA (creative writing) from Hamilton College, an MA (folklore) from the University of Oregon, and a PhD (ethnomusicology) from the University of California, Santa Barbara.

For more on Hawaiian Music in Motion, please visit the University of Illinois Press website.

James Revell Carr at Westminster Cathedral, London, in front of a memorial to James Cook, who figures in Dr. Carr’s work.