MSU College of Music professor Michael Largey was honored at this year's national conference of the Society for Ethnomusicology in Columbus, Ohio in October. Largey was the co-winner of the Society's 2007 Alan Merriam Prize for his book “Vodou Nation: Haitian Art Music and Cultural Nationalism.” Drawn from his field work in Haiti, Largey analyzes historical and musical texts, explores the role of Vodou in Haitian culture and examines how Haiti is perceived in the Caribbean and the United States.
The Alan Merriam Prize "recognizes the most distinguished, published English-language monograph in the field of ethnomusicology." The award is given to a book published within the past two years. This year, 34 books were considered for the prestigious award.
Largey is an ethnomusicologist and an associate professor of music at Michigan State. He is a specialist in the music and culture of Haiti. His book examines mizik savant ayisyen—Haitian art or “learned” music—as it connects to issues of national identity, political sovereignty and cultural nationalism.
Largey initially became interested in the music of Haiti after performing with a Haitian orchestra when he was a teenager. Since then, Largey has devoted his efforts to dispelling negative associations U.S. audiences have with Haiti and to promoting understanding of Haitian culture abroad.
“Music means something to people and they attach value to it,” Largey said. “Haiti had a very different way of attaching that value that I had never experienced before. I started shifting over from being a performer to studying the field of ethnomusicology.”
Largey is currently working on a book about Haitians in Michigan projected to be published in 2009. He has completed the research for a study of the Haitian communities in Lansing, Grand Rapids and Detroit.
“The people I’m writing about have been extremely cooperative and excited to know someone is writing about them and their experiences,” Largey said.