Visitors to UCLA:

Pete Seeger

From the Fall 1988 edition of the Ethnomusicology Newsletter

David Harnish reports:

Pete Seeger spent the week of May 9-13, 1988, at UCLA as the Regents' Lecturer. During his stay, Pete was engaged in a wide variety of activities meant to bring him into contact with as many groups of music and non- music students as possible, both formally and in more casual settings. Pete was given a room in the Music Building where, over three days, he held "office hours," during which people came to talk (and to play music). Ethnomusicology students soon discovered that Pete had learned songs from various traditions in many different languages, some of which he asked students to translate for him. Pete was also quite clear in his philosophy that music functions to bring people together and that musicians versed in numerous traditions can facilitate mutual understanding and respect among peoples and cultures worldwide.

Pete's formal activities included two colloquia, attended mostly by ethnomusicology graduate students and faculty, and an appearance before Amy Catlin's undergraduate class. Admitting that he does not normally act in a scholarly capacity, Pete did not present any lectures, but was inclined to make a short opening statement about some aspect of music of his life as a musician and then to open the session to questions. Not surprisingly, much of what Pete stressed was the political role that music has had, in his own life and in the life of the United States (the importance of songs in union activities, for shared musical activities in order to prevent the total collapse of family and community life). Pete is actively involved both in organizing music festivals as well as in performing at such events. Toward the end of his visit, he appeared before a packed audience at the coffee house of the student union. Unlike his days with the Weavers, Pete rarely performs with more than one other person, often time Arlo Guthrie, whose ability to improvise Pete openly admires. Rather, he prefers to play solo, to have the ability to choose his repertoire spontaneously, and to establish the intimate kind of rapport with the audience that Pete finds so necessary for a successful performance.

In addition to receptions for Pete held at the Ethnomusicology Archive and at the Folklore and Mythology Library, two lunches were held, to which students and faculty were invited. Pete was also honored with a dinner at the house of the Chair of the Music Department, William Hutchinson, which was attended by faculty from various departments who had been familiar with Pete's father, Charles Seeger. At this dinner, Pete became a member of the audience in watching the first-ever house concert presented by the youngest members of the Cambodian Dance and Music Project of Van Nuys. Considering how infrequently Pete comes to the West Coast, the Department of Ethnomusicology is proud to have hosted his visit.