Lauren Steinert ’20
“Exploring the Influence of Australian Politics, Environment, and History on Aboriginal Music and Storytelling”
Major: Vocal Performance
Hometown: Mount Bethel, PA
Project Advisors: Dr. Hilde Binford, Ms. Suzanne Kompass
Describe your project.
The goal of the project was to use my research and findings to show the impact of Australian heritage and culture on the Australian aboriginal peoples who are not widely known here in the States. This project allowed me to shed light on the progression of a culture and explore what the influence of Australian politics, biology, environment, and history has been on aboriginals, their music, and their storytelling. My work was also to inform the proposed 2019 May Term on the same topic, led by Dr. Binford. Looking ahead, I hope to include an aboriginal work in my junior/senior recital.
How did your project come about?
Through some of the music courses taught here at Moravian I have developed curiosity and an admiration of ethnic music, instruments, and history. One professor who has always inspired me through her drive, excitement, and inquisitive passion for ethnomusicology is Dr. Hilde Binford. Being someone who is very easy to sit down and talk to, I told Dr. Binford of my interest in proposing a unique ethnic-music SOAR project and she was more than happy to discuss ideas. After we had settled on aboriginal ethnomusicology in Australia, we knew we needed another mentor, Suzanne Kompass, who is educated on the specialty of aboriginal ethnomusicology, on the ground in Australia to guide my research.
What has been the best part about working with your faculty mentors? What valuable insights have they brought to your project?
The best part about working with Dr. Binford and Ms. Kompass is that they are both so passionate and driven in everything they do, not just working with me, but in the classroom and behind the scenes with all of their students. Their hard work does not just stop at the end of the workday; they have brought valuable insights to our project because they are perfectionists and experts in their respective crafts. They have and continue to inspire me as a student, musician, and person.
What was your biggest obstacle?
The major obstacle I experienced was that I was unable to make the field recordings for which we had originally planned. I had arranged in advance to visit aboriginal villages with a guide, and we worked to ensure that I would have appropriate permissions to record for academic purposes. I instead used recordings (both field and commercial recordings) and shifted the analysis to looking at how the music, particularly the texts, has changed over the past two generations.
What has been your biggest takeaway from this experience?
In Australia, almost everyone is educated about their country’s history and their entire concept of cultural appreciation and cultural appropriation is strictly enforced. It was amazing and refreshing to me how the Australians were so tied to their roots and truly respected and appreciated their heritage and the aboriginal culture. While I was in Australia researching this fascinating culture, I found it important to be observant and open to learning from native Australians and aboriginal descendants because there has to be a trust factor for field research, and that it has to be developed over a long period of time.
Overall, how do you feel about being awarded this opportunity? Why should other students take advantage of the SOAR program at Moravian College?
I am very grateful and honored to have been awarded the opportunity of a SOAR project. It has allowed me to research in such a unique and specific field of Australian aboriginal ethnomusicology; travel to the most breathtaking places; and experience once-in-a-lifetime memories through my research. The SOAR program has allowed me to take my educational interests to the next level. I would urge any willing student to take advantage of this amazing program and all that it has to offer. It truly has made the largest and most positive impact on my educational career.
Any plans to expand upon your research?
Dr. Binford and I are expanding our research by now researching song poems and lyrics of aboriginal texts. I am preparing to have a portion of my research in my junior/senior recital, as well as present my project in the Music of the Worlds course in the spring semester.