Ethnomusicology PhD candidate Benjamin Pachter is currently in the midst of a busy travel schedule while conducting fieldwork for his dissertation. A current recipient of the Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship, Pachter has rarely been in one place for very long, traveling to a wide variety of places as he conducts research on the transnational nature of contemporary Japanese taiko performance and how this has affected conceptions of tradition. His travels started this past summer when he spent two months in Honolulu, Hawaii conducting interviews and taking classes and workshops at the Taiko Center of the Pacific. He then traveled to Stanford University in Palo Alto, California to participate in the 2011 North American Taiko Conference, the largest gathering of taiko performers and enthusiasts in the world.
After a brief stopover back here in Pittsburgh, Pachter’s next destination was California, where he spent two months traveling between Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area. In addition to seeing a number of incredible concerts, he was able to conduct interviews with some of the top performers of taiko in the United States, delving into the history of the art form in this country and how it is evolving today. He was also able to visit a number of taiko groups and observe their rehearsals, allowing him to see the breadth of taiko activities happening today in California.
The next stop on Pachter’s research journey was Japan. Based in Tokyo, Pachter not only continued many of the activities that he had been doing on his travels – conducting interviews and attending concerts – but he was also able to acquire a large amount of CDs, DVDs, books, and journals that will prove vital to his research and are only available in Japan. One highlight of his time in Japan was a visit to the Chichibu Night Matsuri, an annual festival held in early December featuring music that has come to be performed by taiko groups around the world.