CURTIS CARLISLE BOUTERSE, PhD
Cross-Cultural Studies World History. Anthropology. Folk Art. Ethnomusicology
My initial training was as an archeologist. The requirement was that most courses be in anthropology, but that a wide range of history, art, and other subjects should be included. This suited me just fine. I ended up with majors in history and art history in addition to anthropology, with minors in geography and music. It took five years. My interests in archeology were the early Aegean, pre-Incan Peru, and Central Asia, all fields which have taken off in the intervening years. I spent most of my energy on Central Asia, knowing full well there was little chance I would ever get to go there. In the 1960’s the Russians were extremely sensitive about their inner Asian frontiers and “China,” as far as the United States was concerned, was a small island between Japan and the Philippines.
My second degree was in music and I was fortunate to spend several years of intensive study with David Ward-Steinman, a dedicated, talented, and charismatic polymath. But I continued with all the world history courses I could fit in: the Middle East, the Soviet Union, the Far East, Africa, early Europe. One memorable year I was studying medieval music, medieval history, medieval art, medieval philosophy, medieval literature (with Jerry Farber, yes: That Jerry Farber), and the history of libraries. The university didn’t have Latin or I probably would have taken that too, though I had studied it for 2 years in junior high school, back in the Dark Ages. They did offer Arabic, in which I did poorly.
After a decade of working, mostly in a bookstore, studying, and occasionally teaching, I returned to get my master’s in World Music. I studied a wide range of areas, including American Indian music, Korean court music, Sumatran Batak music, and Indian classical music. But my main emphases were Bali and Africa. The department at San Diego State brought master native teachers from around the world and I was able to study gamelan with I Wayan Sinti, I Wayan Rai S., I Komang Astita, and K.R.T. Wasitodiningrat (Pak Cokro), among others. I studied African music with J.H. Kwabena Nketia, Ghanaian drumming with Kwaku Ladzekpo, and Senegalese drumming with Zak Diouf.
I had a genuine World Music Moment when, during a summer study in Indonesia, I watched a session with the rare Batak nine-drum ensemble at Lake Toba. They asked if anyone wanted to try, so I picked up the sticks and astonished them, and myself, when the breakneck, interlocking parts were channeled through Zak and Kwaku.
I presented my M.A. lecture-demonstration to a special meeting of the Southern California branch of the Society for Ethnomusicology. Mantle Hood was the honoree and he came up to me afterward, offered to publish my work, and invited me to come back to the University of Maryland Baltimore County to study with him. He had maintained for years that ethnomusicology was an approach and technique which could, and should, be applied to any and all music, not just “exotic” musics. My work had been about using world music styles and techniques to inform and understand medieval European music, so he was excited about the possibilities. It didn’t take me long to say “yes.”
While at UMBC I studied gamelan theory with Mantle, but most of my research was with Jozef Pacholczyk, my mentor and immediate friend. I often say that I walked into Jozef’s office the first day on campus, sat down, and we talked nonstop for the next three years. I did find time to have wonderful academic experiences, including studying kora with the late Djimo Kouyate. And Wayan Rai came back to UMBC to study and we got our PhD’s on the same day.
I believe, more strongly than ever, that everything is related and that no knowledge is ever wasted. My interests become broader with each passing day and each bit of information. I know my insights have deepened precisely because of the widening scope of my experiences, and I wish to share this understanding with all.