Published: May 11, 2017

At the end of the spring 2017 quarter, Tim Rice will retire after thirty years as a professor of ethnomusicology at UCLA. In addition to teaching and research, Rice has served as chair of the Department of Ethnomusicology (1995-2005), associate dean of the School of the Arts and Architecture (2005-2008), and inaugural director of the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music (2007-2013). In honor of his contributions, the department is sponsoring a day-long symposium “Ethnomusicology in Theory and Practice” on May 19, 2017. Staff member Donna Armstrong recently interviewed Professor Rice to discuss his contributions to UCLA and to the field of ethnomusicology.
    Distinguished Professor Timothy Rice (2017).







Badema Pitic (Ph.D. '17) speaks about her recently filed dissertation, "The Sound of Genocide: Music, Memory, and Commemoration in Postwar Bosnia,” in a spring 2017 seminar taught by Professor Rice.  

[1.]  Ethnomusicology Theory and Practice symposium and spring 2017 graduate seminars.
[2.]  Discovery of ethnomusicology; fieldwork in Bulgaria; University of Toronto; Ethnomusicology.
[3.]  May it Fill Your Soul; Mantle Hood, Alan Merriam, and Robert Garfias.
[4.]  Innovation in ethnomusicology; Music in Bulgaria: Experiencing Music, Expressing Culture.
[5.]  Ethnomusicology department chair.
[6.]  Bringing Bulgarian musicians to North America.
[7.]  Female polyphonic singing tradition in Bulgaria and its impact on the world.
[8.]  Inaugural director of the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music; national task force on undergraduate music
[9.]  Plans for post-retirement; The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music; links.



Interview with Professor Timothy Rice

Q. Please tell us about the upcoming May 19th symposium and about the classes that you're teaching this quarter.

A. The symposium on May 19th is one that's very meaningful to me. I am very pleased that Dean Judi Smith and our colleagues here at UCLA agreed to support, both morally and financially, this day-long symposium which is currently titled "Ethnomusicology in Theory and Practice." It reflects one strand of my career in ethnomusicology, which has been to write not only about Bulgarian traditional music, which is where I go and do fieldwork, but to write about the field of ethnomusicology itself. And it coincides with the publication of a new book of mine called Modeling Ethnomusicology, in which I collect together eight essays that I've written over a thirty-year period, from 1987 to the present, about ethnomusicology. In that book, I collect the eight essays and I write a new introduction to the book which surveys why I wrote each of those articles and what the response to them has been and how I think about them today. And I conclude that introduction with some new thinking that I have been doing about what I call "ethnomusicological theorizing," which is the process by which ethnomusicologists go from collecting data in the field, working in the field, working with musicians, taking music lessons, interviewing them, attending concerts and other kinds of events, and how they go from that data collection to theorize, to get to the kind of results that they eventually get to.  The seminar I'm doing this quarter, which I am calling "Ethnomusicological Theorizing," is about that process. The symposium is in some sense the culmination of that, inviting some of the leading thinkers in ethnomusicology to come to UCLA to help me and help our students think about theorizing in ethnomusicology. I'm really delighted and I think it's going to be an important event and a very fun one and I think it will make a big splash in the field of ethnomusicology, nationally and internationally.

Q. Do you know how many people might attend?

A. I don't really. I assume that students and faculty from around California might come. To what extent people will come from farther afield I don't know. But I do hope to have it streamed live and then archived so that it will be available broadly.

Q. That's great, thank you. Now, tell us how you discovered ethnomusicology, about your fieldwork in Bulgaria, and about your professional employment before coming to UCLA.

A. Well, I suppose the seeds of my career as an ethnomusicologist really began with my enjoyment of music as a child. But in terms of encountering the field of ethnomusicology, I encountered it through an extracurricular activity when I was a college student. It was called “international folk dancing.”  I just fell in love with that as an activity and every Sunday night couldn't wait to go to the dance and dance these dances where “international” really meant Eastern European or Southeastern European with a little bit of Israeli dancing and couple dancing from Scandinavian countries thrown in. It was totally fascinating to me. One of my friends in that group told me that at Wesleyan University there was going to be a guy coming the following year who would teach Greek clarinet, and teach people to speak Greek, and take people on a field trip to Greece, and I thought, "That sounds really interesting," because I played the clarinet and I was learning to play this Balkan music that we were dancing to. So I went up to Wesleyan University and they showed me a gamelan and a whole set of African drums and I said, "What is this?" and they said, "It's ethnomusicology." And I said, "I don't know what that is but that's what I want to do."   So then, I went off to the University of Washington where I had grown up and gone to high school, near Seattle. It turned out they had a program in ethnomusicology. In those days, the late 60s, there were only seven graduate programs in ethnomusicology in the United States and one of them happened to be in my hometown. So I started there in 1968, determined to go off and study music in Bulgaria, which I discovered through the dances. So I did that. I wrote a dissertation on Bulgarian polyphonic singing which is very interesting because it uses intervals of seconds, rather than intervals of thirds, which we're used to in the West, and I just thought it was a fascinating sound. My first job was at the University of Toronto, in their school of music there.

Q. What year was that?

A.   I went there in 1974, even before I finished my Ph.D. I was hired ABD, “all but dissertation,” as they say.  I finished my dissertation in 1977. It was a very good experience because they expected me to teach not only courses in world music, which ethnomusicologists are trained to do, but in European classical music as well.  That was a very important part of my formation as an intellectual and as an ethnomusicologist. I taught there for thirteen years—from '74 to '87. And in the middle of that period, I got a call from the president of the Society for Ethnomusicology, asking me if I would like to become the editor of the journal Ethnomusicology. I was amazed in the first instance and of course instantly accepted what was really a terrific honor. He called me in 1980. I had finished my Ph.D only three years before. And in 1980 I published my first two articles. So I wrote to my family and friends about this honor. I said, "I'm the only person on the editorial board I’ve never heard of." So it was just a fantastic opportunity, which I think would be completely impossible today.  It is a kind of testimony to how young the field was and how few of us were in the field. I had been going to meetings of the Society of Ethnomusicology for almost ten years, so in those days I was like an old hand, even though I was very junior. One of the most important results of that was it allowed me to see ethnomusicology in the making. Because people would submit their articles and I would send them off to two referees to evaluate—experts in the topic of whatever the paper was—and they'd write back to me with their evaluations, and it was just very interesting to see what they said about it and to see how they positioned it in the field of ethnomusicology. Sometimes they would write back and say, "Well, this is not ethnomusicology."  And in those days, none of us actually knew what ethnomusicology was, so for someone to say what it was not actually got me thinking.  After that, all these ideas I had gotten from being the journal editor rattled around in my mind, and in 1987, thirty years ago, I published an article called "Toward the Remodeling of Ethnomusicology," which was my first salvo, as it were, in writing about the field of ethnomusicology as a discipline. So since that time I've mainly written about Bulgarian music. I wrote a monograph on Bulgarian music in 1994 called May it Fill Your Soul: Experiencing Bulgarian Music. Every once in a while I would write a paper on the field of ethnomusicology. I'd written about eight of them when I decided it might be worth collecting them into a volume and that was just published this year.

Cover of May It Fill Your Soul: Experiencing Bulgarian Music, by Timothy Rice, University of Chicago Press, 1994.  

Q. May it Fill Your Soul — didn't you also discuss fieldwork and some of your theoretical ideas in that book?  

A.  What May it Fill Your Soul represented for me was this: in those days, from about 1978 on, perhaps…. Well, in all my time growing up in ethnomusicology, there had been a tension in the field between people trained in musicology, who thought that the most important subject of the field of ethnomusicology was music, and people training in anthropology, who thought that the most important subject was the behavior and the social organization and the culture of music, of which music itself was just one element. And there was a great deal of tension in the field which was slowly in the early 1980s getting melded together and merged and the field was becoming mature, I would say, as a discipline that could unite these two projects.  My thinking with May it Fill Your Soul was that if I wanted ethnomusicology to be read outside the field of ethnomusicology, and when it came to writing about Bulgarian music I knew there were all these folk dancers and other people who enjoyed Bulgarian culture and music and dance, and they’d probably want to read this—what would I be writing about—and I decided that a focus on either of the two prongs of ethnomusicology, the musicological or the anthropological, probably wouldn't be of interest to them. What people are really interested in at base are people and May it Fill Your Soul in some sense puts two people —a couple, a married couple —at the center of the narrative. At one level, it is a story about them and they are the center. From that center, we learn about the musicological aspects of the tradition on the one hand and the cultural and social aspects of the tradition, but through the experience, really, of two human beings. And I thought that's what ethnomusicology should be about; it should be about people. And that feeds into the seminar I'm doing now, which is called "Musical Experience." It really is about people and their bodily experience of things, and that has been a strand in ethnomusicological research, that's for sure, and I realize now that it exists a little bit in parallel with an emphasis that would be called properly anthropological or sociological. The social life of music on the one hand has been very important, but in some sense, the psychological or physical life of people making music has been very important as well. And I think in my career overall I have tended to emphasize that part of ethnomusicology, not to the exclusion of, but a little more than the sociological side.

Q. But you also emphasize the importance of the sound itself. Is that what makes you an innovator?  You came to UCLA, a place where Mantle Hood's philosophy of "bi-musicality" formed the foundation. How were you thinking about "bi-musicality" in 1987?

A. I think that Mantle Hood's notion of bi-musicality.... I think he wrote that in 1964, and that was the year that Merriam published "Anthropology of Music," and both, I think, are absolutely fundamental to the field. So that even the people who want to follow in Alan Merriam's footsteps, although not Alan Merriam himself, would, as they went out and did some of the research in the field that Alan Merriam was advocating for, would probably be trying to become bi-musical. It's just the way into a culture that we're going to study a music —taking music lessons and becoming bi-musical. It is one of the fundamental features of our fieldwork. So I don't think I was in any sense innovative in that. I think the thing that made that book May it Fill Your Soul pretty well-liked in the field of ethnomusicology was that it was so human. Instead of being a book about Bulgarian music, it was really a book about a couple of Bulgarians and then all of the people that surrounded them.  If you ask me who might have been influential in that respect, I would say it might have been my teacher Robert Garfias. Because I realize in retrospect that in his classes he did a wonderful year-long survey of musical cultures of the world which he had learned from Mantle Hood, that we have continued at UCLA all those years. And he was a fabulous teacher of that course. I realize in retrospect, something that didn't dawn on me for a long time, but we were learning about... let's say we were learning about Chinese music, in one week for example, but we would really be learning about the best Chinese musicians, many of whom Garfias knew personally, and had met through his fieldwork. And if we studied Japanese music, we would be studying about the best Japanese musicians. I didn't consciously absorb that but I think now in retrospect that emphasis on these two wonderful musicians from Bulgaria, is, in some ways, I can see that as linked to the kinds of lessons that I was learning from Robert Garfias.

Q. The interesting thing to me about the book is how the society evolved in Bulgaria and how musicians viewed those changes. To look at their view of their own music over time, was that innovative?

A. It's part and parcel of the field of ethnomusicology. But that's a good example of a social theory that ethnomusicologists use, without actually articulating it as a social theory. Ethnomusicologists believe that music is fundamentally social, probably in a culture that believes that music may be fundamentally an individual expression of an emotion, whether you yourself express an emotion, or you listen to it and it touches you emotionally, it is something about you as an individual. But ethnomusicologists are more interested, typically, in the social nature of those experiences. If we ever posited, like in physics, a thermodynamic law of music for example, “for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction,” our theory would be that if something in the society or culture changes, the music will change too. And that is what I was able to observe in Bulgaria. So the book of mine has two parts: the part that is the traditional society and the way the music worked in the traditional society. And when the communists came along and changed that traditional society and changed everything about it — its economic organization, its social organization, its cultural values — the music changed as a consequence, to deal with those changing things that were going on in economics, society, and culture. And then when the communist regime fell, ethnomusicologists would predict that the music is going to change again. We can't necessarily predict how it's going to change, but we certainly can predict it will change. And sure enough, it did change in many many respects. So I documented that in a second book that I wrote called Music in Bulgaria: Experiencing Music, Expressing Culture. I had a last chapter in that book that was what had happened in Bulgaria since the previous book that I had written, in which, again, state support for music was on the wane, people had much more freedom to do with music what they wanted to do, and they actually reacted.  It was like the equal and opposite reaction: if the communists said we should do it this way, now we're free of that communist regime, we're going to do it the opposite way. That was pretty interesting to document. I think those are all things that ethnomusicologists are doing all the time in the particular cultures that they're working on.

Q. You have had a long history as an administrator at UCLA. It was only a few years after you arrived that you became chair of the Department of  Ethnomusicology. Could you tell us about some of your successes as department chair?

Rice in Department of Ethnomusicology chair's office (1997).  

A. I can't always remember everything that we did, but I would say that the most significant change that I made as an administrator was simply to figure out a way for students to go through the program in a reasonable time. When I came here, there was a student in the program who was an outstanding student and who has gone on to a distinguished career, but I believe she was a student at UCLA for more than ten or fifteen years, and that was because there wasn't a very clear path for her, when she was here, through the program. When I was here, it wasn't that bad, but students were spending way too long on their master's thesis. They could spend three years or more writing a master's thesis, and I advocated to the faculty that we not require a master's thesis any more; that if we regarded the Ph.D. as a kind of proto-book, let's regard a master's paper as a kind of proto-journal article, which could be written within the framework of a two-year master's program. And ever since that time now, all of our students have gone through the master's program as a cohort. They’ve all graduated and gotten an M.A. in two years. They have gone on to their Ph.Ds and everybody has pretty much finished in a timely fashion. So I think administratively that might have been my main contribution. I don't know if there was a contribution intellectually, really.  We have so many faculty members here, all of whom are making their contributions. It is one of the greatest strengths of UCLA: that we all work on the curriculum together. That was a revision that the faculty got together on. I think it's been very successful from the point of view of students and getting them through the program in a timely manner, and getting them out there onto the job market.

Q. You also made sure that students had a role in the process when the department had to make important decisions. Is that something that you consciously thought about?

A. Absolutely. I characterize myself, although I don't look like it now, as a child of the 60s. But in the 1960s I looked like a child of the 60s, with my long hair and beard and so on. (Laugh) In the 1960s the students tried to take over the university and I've always been very sympathetic to students and the idea that they should have a prominent role in their education and in administering their education. So, I've always advocated for their membership on committees and other kinds of things. That's just a part of who I am.

Q. The other thing, of course, is that you had the opportunity to bring a number of master musicians from various cultures to teach at UCLA. That includes the Varimezovi.  Could you talk a little bit about bringing the next generation of Varimezov family members to UCLA to teach?

Photo courtesy UCLA Ethnomusicology Archive (1987).  

A. My bringing of Bulgarian musicians to North America began at the University of Toronto. I always felt an obligation to all those musicians who helped me during my fieldwork in Bulgaria. They did so at some personal risk in the Communist period, hanging out with an American, a capitalist, a fascist, a member of a despised foreign group.  I was very grateful for all the time that they put in teaching me. So I invited my principal teacher, who was Kostadin Varimezov and Todora Varimezova who I wrote about in my book, I invited them to the University of Toronto in 1978-79. And then when I got to UCLA, obviously we had this amazing legacy from the Mantle Hood days of all of these performance ensembles.  So for a while there, from 1987, I taught. There was some tradition of faculty teaching ensembles, and I taught a Bulgarian music ensemble. And then we had some graduate students who were interested. I remember one year we had Valeriu Apan teach a year-long course on Romanian music. But then Communism fell in Bulgaria and all of a sudden Bulgarian musicians could leave the country, and many of them did. Because they didn't feel that their art was really going to be supported much any more by the Bulgarian government, so many many musicians and their families emigrated to the United States, and when that happened, I began to hire those musicians here. Before the Varimezovi came, we had three different musicians, each of whom taught here for one or two years. And so we began that tradition, the faculty supported it, and that was wonderful.  And then the Varimezov family informed me that they would like to emigrate. This was the year 2000, which was already six or seven years after we had already been hiring Bulgarian musicians. I of course supported that; they were almost like family to me. And they came here. They are, without question, the best and the most successful of all these Bulgarian musicians. One of the things that I have always looked out for when I ask people to come and teach was that they should be good human beings as well as good musicians. They are all good musicians, and they are all good human beings but the Varimezov family is like, from another galaxy or something. They are just amazing human beings, amazing people. They've been wonderfully successful here.  And I've been happy to just have them continue, which is one of the traditions at UCLA: that people come and they often stay for many many years teaching. It is one of the strengths of the program.

Q.  It has evolved to them taking students to Bulgaria and you made a film...

Scene from the film May It Fill Your Soul (2012). Left to
right: Ivan Varimezov, daughters Tanya and Radka, and Tzvetanka Varimezova.

A. Among their successes have been three trips of the UCLA Balkan Music Ensemble to Bulgaria to perform there and those have been wonderful trips because the Varimezovi know everyone, all the musicians in Bulgaria. These students get to go to Bulgaria and meet the greatest traditional musicians in the country, travel around and see the history of the country and its architecture, and perform in major concert halls. They've done it three times and it has been very very successful. And then I ended up making a film that I call May it Fill Your Soul. I call that the next chapter in the book that I had written. It's a lovely documentary, not least because they are such lovely people, and their story is really interesting. I take their story as a kind of metaphor for the immigrant experience in the United States: people who sacrificed a lot in their home countries—high positions, respected positions in their home country—to come to the United States and just start completely over, often doing manual labor, for the sake of their children and their children's future. That's what the Varimzovi did. That's what many immigrants from Latin America, from the Middle East, and from all over the world do: they come here, sacrificing their own life's project for the sake of their children. So that is what the film is about at a broader level, rather than just about Bulgarian music and the Varimezov family.

Q. A question I'd like to ask has to do with women. I see a thread, a connection, between your fieldwork with women singers in Bulgaria, the role of women singers in Bulgaria broadly, and Tzvetanka's presence here at UCLA. Is there anything that you want to say about that?

A. That's really interesting. At some point in the field of ethnomusicology, women ethnomusicologists began to notice that in our reports from the field, there weren't very many women in them. Even women had gone off and studied music that was essentially male traditions. You can imagine, say, in a Muslim culture, for example, almost all the musicians would be men, and women had gone off to study them, and reported on them and it became this kind of critique from the point of view of feminism: "Where are the women in our studies?"  We started to get essays in our collections on women in music, gender in music, and so on. I guess I could put my study of Bulgarian women's singing in that tradition, although I have to say, that was not where my mind was; there was no political reason behind a man studying a woman's tradition. For me it was a musical tradition that was just really interesting and that it happened to be made by women was not a political feature of it. It was just the fact of it. So that's on the one hand. Then simultaneously with that, of course, was the fact that in the world outside of Bulgaria, the kind of music that was making a big impact on people when they heard it was actually not the instrumental music of the Varimezov family, which I think is brilliant and wonderful. It was the singing, the arranged polyphonic choral singing of women who had come from villages: had come to the city, and had been trained to read music and sing solfege (do-re-mi-fa-so-la-ti-do), and with their peasant vocal production, to sing three- and four-part harmony, composed by composers. That kind of music had made a huge impression outside of Bulgaria, starting in the 60s. In the 60s Nonesuch [recording company] released an album of these kind of songs and people of my generation, including me, heard the music and were just totally taken with it.

Q. Do you remember the name of those recordings?

Cover of the 1987 Nonsuch CD by Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares (translated as "The Mystery of Bulgarian Voices").  

A.  They were called "Music of Bulgaria." I can't remember the title of it.  I remember in college we sang, a few of us—men and women—got together and sang these songs. Just like there were folk dancers, some of those folk dancers who were women began to form choruses and sing this music, starting in the 60s. And then there was a huge efflorescence of interest, again in the late 1980s, when this Swiss record producer released a set of three recordings called Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares ("The Mystery of the Bulgarian Voices"). And young women heard that and went nuts. They just loved that sound. My theory of that is that it is linked in these young women's values; the sound of this powerful singing is a metaphor for them of powerful women.  And this is the way a powerful woman might sound, rather than like an American folk singer who has this mousy little voice, but these Bulgarian women just BAM! singing incredibly loudly and incredibly focused. They took that as a symbol of powerful women, and then if you have a women's choir, conducted by women, you have a social organization that's entirely female, that has no dependence, really, on men. It feels good, I think, for women to be in that kind of context together. I think that accounts for some of the popularity of Bulgarian singing. And then Tzvetanka is this brilliant pedagogue who many groups all over the world invited to teach them. And so at the end of the movie, for example, she does a concert on her 50th birthday in Bulgaria in which choirs from Denmark and France and the United States and Greece, come to Sofia [capital of Bulgaria] to sing with her because she's been teaching them now for almost twenty years. She's been traveling around the world, including to Japan, to teach women to sing in this style.

Q.  In addition to being chair of the Department of Ethnomusicology, you also served as associate dean of the School of the Arts and Architecture and inaugural director of the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music. Could you talk a little bit about those experiences?

A. I was invited by Dean Christopher Waterman to be the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, which was a wonderful experience and got me to learn about all of the different departments and all of the different artistic disciplines in our School of the Arts and Architecture.  It was a fantastic learning experience, and after I had been in that position for about two and a half years, Dean Waterman asked me if I would be director of the new school of music. And I agreed to do it because I was very excited about the concept of the new school of music. We really have a unique situation at UCLA where we have three strong departments, which are sizeable enough that it means that all of the music that young people in North America would encounter today are being taught here, at UCLA, in something like an even-handed kind of way. So we have great devotion to European classical music, a fantastically strong world music teaching apparatus, we teach jazz here, and we teach American popular music here in its many forms. And when you put that all together, it doesn't look like a traditional school of music, not least because all of those fundamental areas to North American musical experience are given respect and there is a certain kind of intellectual and performative power behind each of those genres. Whereas in most schools of music in the United States, European classical music is at the center and all those other kinds of music are either absent or they're there on the periphery, and by implication, they are less important than this fundamental mission that most schools of music and departments of music have, which is to teach European classical music. So I told the faculty when I came on that I would never have wanted to be the dean of that kind of school of music in the United States. But being the director of a school of music at UCLA made complete sense to me because it corresponds exactly to my musical values which are that all the kinds of music of North America and the world should be treated with respect and there was no single kind that should be at the center with all the other kinds on the periphery. So I was very excited to do that.

Administratively, I was able to convince the faculty—and it didn't take a lot of work, they were open to this—that if we were going to have a school of music we ought to have a few courses that brought the school of music together and I thought first-year undergraduate courses in music history and music theory would be the place to do that. What I was very anxious to do in those courses, ideologically, was to get students in their very first year here to take all these kinds of music seriously, no matter which kind of music they were taking most seriously at that moment in their lives. So I recognize there are going to be violin students who want to listen to violin and think of violin twenty-three hours a day, if they could, and the jazz students just listen to jazz, and maybe the world music students just listen to Korean music or Persian music, or whatever they were most interested in. In a university environment they should back up a little bit and think about the nature of music generally, and the way that musicians could be and are citizens of the United States, and really, of the world. And to do that they had to take seriously the music of all the people of the United States and in some sense, of the world. And so that was the ideology behind that class, and so we went through all kinds of different versions and variants of that class and are still working on the project today, as far as I know, through some courses in music theory, more than courses in music history. But I think it's really important for the next generation of, not only our own music students, but music students around the United States, to take a respectful look at all the music of all the people of the United States.

When I began to attend meetings of the National Association of Schools of Music and the College Music Society, which deals with administration and pedagogy of schools and departments of music, and I began to talk with people about what we were doing at UCLA.  My colleagues were usually very interested: they thought it was amazing and wonderful that we were doing this kind of thing, but they didn't know how they could do it at their school. And a few years ago, when a music educator named Patricia Shehan Campbell became president of the College Music Society, she formed a national task force to look at the future of undergraduate music education, and she is a specialist in multicultural music education, and so a kind of ethnomusicologist at heart, and she appointed a number of us to a commission to write a report on that. We created a radical manifesto that has been very controversial, but has gotten a lot of notice out there, in which we argue that the very foundations of college-level music education have to change in the United States. And I believe that at the Herb Alpert School of Music we have changed the foundation of music education.

We now have a foundation... I draw a picture of it in my mind, let's say, of the traditional school of music in the United States, and it looks like a castle in Germany. And in the foundation of the castle are Bach and Mozart and Beethoven, and there is a moat around this thing, and all of the music of the United States is outside the castle. And that's what a traditional school of music in the United States, more-or-less, looks like. And they've let Duke Ellington in in some places, and they might have let Bruce Springsteen in in another place, and maybe a Chinese musician in another place, but it is all tokenism, and it is all haphazard, and it's all peripheral to the central mission of being a German school of music in the United States. In my new imagination, I have a sleek modern American building, I use the new African American museum in Washington DC, which is a beautiful building in my view, and very American, even though it was designed by say, an architect from Africa.  I use that building, and in the foundation of that building is Bach, and Mozart, and Beethoven, and Duke Ellington, and a Chinese musician, and some mariachi musicians, and all of the music of the United States—they all are in the foundations of that school of music. I believe that's what the Herb Alpert School of Music looks like. We haven't quite built the beautiful building on top yet. That's for the future. That should be our goal. But we've built the foundation there. What I have been advocating as I give presentations around the country is we've gotta get all that music of the United States into the foundation of what we do. And I make the argument that there's a link between aesthetics and ethics and what I argue is that in most schools of music they begin with what I call "exclusionary aesthetics." They argue that one kind of music is better than all the other kinds of music. And this leads to an exclusionary ethics. All of the people who make the kind of music which have been excluded from European classical music, because somehow we know that it's the best kind of music. All of those people are excluded, not just their music.  What we have to redo in our schools of music is we have to start with an inclusionary ethics. We have to have an ethic that all of the people of the United States should be able to come and study in our school of music. And then we would have an inclusionary aesthetic, where all of the music will be in our schools.

Q. I have one more question. What are your plans for post-retirement?

A. As I tell people, I am going to retire from my job, but I'm not going to retire from my identity. Being an ethnomusicologist is part of my identity, one aspect of my identity. And so I currently have two book contracts. One is a contract to write a textbook that flows out of the course that I have supervised for so many years here, in which we taught the history of all music to our students. It's going to be a history of all the world's music, which I'm going to co-write with Dave Wilson, who just got his Ph.D. here. And we have a contract with Routledge to write that book. It's going to be called "Gateways to Understanding Music." Those gateways are going to be pieces of music drawn from all the traditions, European classical music, world music, jazz and popular music. And then I have a second contract to write a book with the amazingly broad title "Music, a World History." A book like that, I don't believe has been written for 50 or 60 years. And I'm going to try write a book which flows a little bit, going back to my first job at the University of Toronto, where they asked me to teach the history of European classical music, and that opened me up. We talk about world music, but very often when ethnomusicologists say that, they mean everything but European classical music, jazz, and American popular music. (Laugh)  Having to teach European classical music put me in touch with that repertoire. It makes it possible today for me to think that broadly about music.

Q. The Garland gave you experience as well?


Vice-rector of Sofia University Professor Reneta Bozhankova confers the high distinction of Doctor Honoris Causa to Professor Timothy Rice. During the solemn ceremony, Rice pointed out that the distinction was particularly personal and emotional to him since it was linked with his love to Bulgarians and Bulgarian culture and music. He delivered his academic address "An American Life in Bulgarian Music" in Bulgarian (2016).


A. That was truly ethnomusicological. The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music was, in some sense, an interesting point in the history of ethnomusicology. In the 1990s we started designing that book. At that time ethnomusicologists had developed enough knowledge of the world's music that we could put together our own encyclopedia in our own way, which was not alphabetical (gaida comes in the “g” volume and China comes in the “C” volume), but organized like we tend to think, geographically, into regions, and then around issues and processes and culture, and keeping everything together. You didn't have one entry on the "kaval" and one entry on the "gaida," and then one entry on "Bulgaria."  You just had an entry on Bulgarian music. Everything was together.

Q. Thank you, Professor Rice, for your contribution to so many people over so many years, and thank you for this interview.

A. Thank you for doing it. I really appreciate it.





Rice performs on saxophone with
(left) Russell Schuh (1941-2016) on clarinet and (center) Ivan Varimezov on gaida. Photo by Todd Cheney (2007).


Timothy Rice faculty page, UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music

Timothy Rice Conferred a Doctor Honoris Causa Degree at Sofia University (2016)

10 Questions for Timothy Rice: The beauty of Balkan song is a prime focus for School of Music director (2009)

Rice Receives Award from the Bulgarian President (2008)

Artists House Music: Music Educator Profile: UCLA Professor of Ethnomusicology Timothy Rice (2007)

Interview: May It Fill Your Soul: Central Europe Review talks to ethnomusicologist and author Timothy Rice about Bulgarian folk music (1999) Ethnomusicology Music_of_Bulgaria Bulgarian State Television Female Vocal Choir

YouTube: Varimezov Family Band-Nestinarsko/Trite Pati-San Francisco, May 2015 Le Mystere des Voix Bulgares