Dr. Sarah Eyerly Receives Major Research Award


June 12, 2017

The College of Music is pleased to announce that Dr. Sarah Eyerly, Assistant Professor of Musicology and Director of the Early Music Program, has been awarded a Collaborative Research Fellowship from the American Council of Learned Societies — the preeminent representative of American scholarship in the humanities and related social sciences – to support her work on Songs of the Spirit: The Collaborative Hymnody of the Mohican Moravian Missions. The ACLS, a private, nonprofit federation of 75 national scholarly organizations, advances scholarship by awarding fellowships and strengthening relations among learned societies. The 2017 Collaborative Research Fellowship program is funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and supports small teams of scholars as they research and coauthor a major scholarly product. 

Eyerly will share the Collaborative Research Fellowship with religious studies scholar Rachel Wheeler (Associate Professor, Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis) as they investigate how native Mohicans and German-Moravian missionaries developed a Mohican-Moravian hymn tradition in eighteenth-century North America. Eyerly writes that several small booklets of hymns dating to the 1740s (and now in the Moravian Church Archives in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania) have titles announcing that they are written in Mohican. At first glance, the hymns appear to be simply popular German-Moravian hymns of the time, translated for use in Moravian missions to the Mohicans. But a more careful look reveals that a number of the Mohican stanzas are attributed to Native residents of the community, and an analysis of their content demonstrates that the stanzas are not translations, but new creations.

Songs of the Spirit explores the adaptation of the German-Moravian hymn tradition in North American mission contexts by focusing on the collaborative process that brought the hymns into existence and the Native and European musical and religious traditions that informed their creation, performance, and use. This project provides new insights into the ways music functioned as a site of cultural encounter between European missionaries and Native peoples in early America. Wheeler and Eyerly combine their respective expertise in Native American religious history and musicology to investigate the musical, cultural, and linguistic significance of these hymns. Their research will result in three coauthored articles, supported by digital and spatial humanities modes of research and publication, as well as historically-informed recordings and modern arrangements of these hymns, done in collaboration with members of the Mohican community. 

Denise Von Glahn, Coordinator of the Musicology Area in the College of Music, celebrated Eyerly's accomplishments, noting, “Today’s musicologists are more aware than ever of the need for the relevancy of what they do. Gone is the assumption that scholarship for scholarship’s sake is reason enough to invest personal and institutional time and resources; our age requires that our scholarship matters beyond our ivory towers. Sarah’s work does that in musicology and beyond. Her project on Moravian and Mohican interactions has the potential to return a once-lost language to its people. It’s hard to imagine a more broadly resonant and meaningful undertaking for any scholar. The Musicology Area is thrilled that Sarah Eyerly’s work has been recognized for its power to impact one small corner of our world.”

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