Music faculty member launches two SSHRC-funded research documentary films
In the last three years, you would have been just as likely to find Michael MacDonald, assistant professor in the Department of Music, holding a video camera as one of the many instruments he plays.
This week, Michael is unveiling the results of that work with two videos funded through Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Public Outreach Grants.
Pimachihowin focuses on the research of David Lertzman, assistant professor in the University of Calgary’s Haskayne School of Business, and looks at how the Cree philosophy of Pimachihowin, which roughly translates into “living with the land,” might contribute to the environmental discourse between indigenous communities and oil companies that is often dominated by political protest.
The Genius of the Violin features a project led by Guillaume Tardif, associate professor, Music, at the University of Alberta, and explores the diverse identities of the stringed instrument that is sometimes called a violin, and other times a fiddle. The film brings together players, including MacEwan University Music faculty member Daniel Gervais, to explore the spaces where different cultural traditions overlap, and where tensions and conflict emerge.
While the two films could not seem more different on the surface, Michael says that both, at their hearts, are about dialogue between cultures.
“My own research is focused on cultural sustainability, and that’s really what both of these projects are about,” says Michael, adding that he used his background in ethnographic film—documentaries that tell the stories of people—rather than his role as a researcher to contribute to both projects.
“The research findings in both cases are important, socially relevant and culturally significant, but are difficult to share in traditional ways that research is disseminated,” he explains. “As valuable as academic writing is, film provides a different way to reach a wider audience—and it’s increasingly being recognized as scholarly activity. As a researcher myself, I’m still publishing in books and journals, but video is the medium I want to use to articulate what I have to say next.”
Join Michael for the launch of both films on Thursday, January 28 in the CN Theatre.
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