Saturday, March 24

Burning Desire


Thursday, February 18, 1999

Burning Desire

MUSIC: UCLA’s eclectic

Anglo-American Ensemble


the folk music

tradition with


instruments and



By Cyrus McNally

Daily Bruin Contributor

These days, it seems like more and more students are coming to
college in hopes of obtaining only one or two things: money and
beer. For your average ethnomusicologist whose schedule might
include four classes in the same division of scholastics, the work
is the payoff, not the beer. Is the possibility of enjoying your
education while you receive it a reality? Freshman ethnomusicology
student Christie Burns seems to think so.

A native of New Jersey and a musician at heart, Burns does what
she loves while taking advantage of the nation’s only undergraduate
ethnomusicology major. Performing next Tuesday evening in
Schoenberg Hall as part of the UCLA Anglo-American Ensemble, she
describes her experience at UCLA thus far as "much more than I
could have expected."

Burns is currently enrolled in two ethnomusicology courses and
two musical ensembles, and she practices her main instrument – the
hammer dulcimer – every weekend on Santa Monica’s Third Street
Promenade for a source of regular income. Needless to say, she
can’t be too disappointed with the given situation – getting paid
to do homework – which she thoroughly enjoys.

"Musically, I just exploded," says Burns. "I got really busy and
really involved really quickly. It happened immediately."

The opportunity to play in the various ensembles has opened her
up to new genres of music that she previously knew very little
about. By the time she graduates, Burns figures she’ll have "such a
variety of a musical background, (she’ll) be able to communicate
with all different sorts of musicians."

She agrees that music itself is an underappreciated language and
says that although she has performed with musicians who didn’t
speak her native tongue, "the music is always a common ground."

One of Burns’ troupes is the traditional folk-based UCLA
Anglo-American Ensemble, which performs a genre of music based
around the retelling of the human experience. Before the growth of
mass communication, all stories were told through tradition, and
folk music serves to embody these traditions in the form of

The Anglo-American Ensemble is comprised of over a dozen members
bearing such diverse instruments as an accordion, a penny whistle,
a saw, spoons, fiddles, banjos and a bouzouki – a stringed Greek
instrument resembling a guitar. Also played are multiple guitars,
dulcimers, violins, various percussion elements, mandolins and an
upright bass.

All these instruments might seemingly lead to clouts of
confusion and polyphonic pandemonium, but ensemble director and
coordinator Amy Wooley insists otherwise.

"If it seems like we’re chaotic, we’re actually just being
democratic," Wooley says.

Currently a graduate student, she has led her group to many
distinguished honors including a first-place finish in traditional
singing at a folk music festival last year.

"We’re an eclectic group," she says of the bunch – almost all
graduate music and ethnomusicology students, save Burns and a
couple of others. "And it’s part of the culture that everyone be
involved. We’re culture bearers."

Indeed, everyone is involved as Wooley constantly stops the
rehearsal to gather opinions from multiple sources. As the music
plays throughout the auditorium, one is reminded of the past; a
time before radio and television, when word-of-mouth was the
dominant source of information.

The culture that Wooley describes is very different, however,
and is still part of the present. She points out that even if all
the material played by the ensemble was written in past times, folk
culture lives on because the material is still being played. It is
not only being played, but played with a sense of enthusiasm which
might rival your average ska band on speed.

All of the ensemble’s musicians seem to be there because they
deeply enjoy doing what they do. Through various interplay and
instrumentation rearrangements, a sense of versatility is detected
among them, and they are more like a group of pals than an
instructor and her students.

In the future, Burns hopes to further explore different musical
genres by means of travel. She also might like to teach – of course
without sacrificing the ability to play her hammer dulcimer on a
regular basis. Burns, Wooley and the others might not be in it for
the money, but they’re definitely happy being in it.

MUSIC: The UCLA Anglo-American Ensemble will perform its winter
concert next Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. at the Jan Popper Theater in
Schoenberg Hall. Admission is free, and parking is $5. Music to be
performed includes American folk, old time and bluegrass music, as
well as Irish and Celtic music.Photos by MARI NAKANO

The UCLA Anglo-American Ensemble will be performing their winter
concert next Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. They will be singing and playing
a variety of folk songs at the Jan Popper Theatre in Schoenberg

The ensemble uses a wide array of instruments, including
guitars, dulcimers, violins, various percussion elements, mandolins
and an upright bass.

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