Music from the "Ends of the Earth"
“Five times have I been torn away,” Emily Pinkerton sings in Spanish.
Image courtesy of emilypinkerton.com.
Pinkerton explores her dual homelands of Chile and the United States in “Cinco Veces,” a song in the style of a Chilean tonada. It was written as an answer to the oft-asked question of how many times she has been to Chile and was recorded for her latest album, “Ends of the Earth.”
Pinkerton performed a guest recital Tuesday, collaborating with Resident Ethnomusicologist, Michael O’Brien and Ted Olsen (‘14).
She played several songs, some in Spanish and some in English.
“I draw a lot of influence from both North and South America,” Pinkerton said.
A multi-instrumentalist, Pinkerton played songs on the guitar, banjo and the guitarrón, a 25-string Chilean guitar that is typically used to accompany poetry.
Pinkerton began her ethnomusicology journey in Chile with a yearlong exchange program in 1996.
She had heard about an instrument called the ravel, a nearly extinct three-stringed fiddle found only on a South Chilean island.
“I started reading all I could about it,” Pinkerton said. “It opened up so many questions and mysteries, and that’s really what made me want to be an ethnomusicologist.”
Upon receiving her degree in ethnomusicology from the University of Texas at Austin, she began touring, integrating both Chilean and American folk music into her performances.
“She’s one of the [ethnomusicologists] who could have made a career out of academic work,” O’Brien said. “But she’s a phenomenal musician, so she decided [to] let [her] research inform [her] performing career.”
Katherine Mohr / Chips
O’Brien finds Pinketron’s songs reflect his own experiences researching in a different country and finding it to be a second home.
“She is very honest about making sense of herself as a person who is caught between these two homelands,” O’Brien said. “I think it’s the best musical representation about what it means to be a field researcher.”
Pinkerton finds that ethnomusicology provides a learning opportunity, especially in conjunction with a liberal arts education.
“It’s so easy to say ‘it’s just music,’ or ‘it’s just cultural entertainment,’” Pinkterton said. “But ethnomusicology is repositioning music and our understanding of the world to the front of our minds.”
O’Brien’s courses in ethnomusicology draw on music theory and performance as well as ideas from anthropology, sociology and political science perspectives.
“Music is a cultural universal,” O’Brien said. “We have yet to find a society who isn’t doing something that looks like music. That, like language, is one of the things that makes us unique as a species.”
O’Brien says he feels comfortable here because of the liberal arts mindset and especially the emphasis on the music program.
“This is a place where students strike me as broadly intellectually curious,” O’Brien said. “There’s a sort of mindset of ‘why not?’ that makes this a really exciting place for me to teach ethnomusicology.”
Pinkerton played to such an audience Tuesday night—one that was engaged in learning more about her influences and types of music.
Her song, “Cinco Veces” sung in Spanish closes, “From the heights, you draw close to my land—to my land and my love.”