World of Music, shorter version, 3rd ed. New York: Schirmer

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The essay should be based on your experience at a live musical performance during this quarter, or a
substantial recorded interview with a culture bearer of a particular music tradition. A key goal of this
assignment (and this class in general) is to introduce you to music with which you are not already
familiar. Consequently, concerts or performances of Western art music or popular music, or
interviews with performers of these musical genres, will not be accepted for this review. Find
something new – explore the rich cultural and musical diversity of southern California! Some concert
options will be posted on the Blackboard website or announced in class as I learn of them, though I highly
encourage you to find a performance other than those that happen on concert stages – those at community
festivals, religious rituals, even backyard barbecues. If you have questions regarding whether a particular
event would be appropriate for this review, please check with the instructor or TA before going.
As you know, a big part of the ethnomusicological approach to studying music is evaluating sounds and
performances within their cultural context (review chapters 1 and 11 of the Titon textbook for more on
this approach). Consequently, if reviewing a performance, your paper should include information on
where it took place, for what reason, who attended, who performed, for how long, how the audience
reacted, and your thoughts on what the performance meant for all of these people involved. To the extent
that you can, you should also provide some historical or background information on the type of music
and/or the musicians. For instance, if you go to see an Argentinian tango performance, explain why that
music and dance are so important to people from that country. If you don’t know much about the history
of the music you choose, spend some time in the library researching its background. The Garland
Encyclopedia of World Music or New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians are good places to start.
You should have at least three bibliographic references to published academic works in the essay;
additional sources may be drawn from online resources.
If possible, even if doing a concert ethnography rather than a formal interview, talk to the performers!
Ask them about the music they play, how they got started, if they make their living doing it – whatever
you are curious about. I understand that not everyone will have this chance, depending on the kind of
musical event you attend. If you do have the opportunity, though, it will make the performance that much
more interesting and give you a clearer idea what to write your paper about.
Though context is clearly important, the music itself is equally so. Be sure to describe and name any
instruments that were played, or discuss the kind of vocal textures used if the music is sung. What were
the songs about? What genres of music were performed? Was just one musical style used throughout the
performance, or were many mixed together? Was the volume loud or soft, and why? Use your musical
vocabulary – if it was heterophonic, mention that; if drones were involved, tell me about them. Dartmouth
University has put up a terrific website that discusses what to aim for and what to avoid in writing about
music; check it out: http://www.dartmouth.edu/~writing/materials/student/humanities/music.shtml. These
points hold for those conducting interviews as well – ask questions about these matters, perhaps by jointly
listening to a musical example from the appropriate tradition and discussing it with your interviewee.
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