Overview of Course
Our intimate engagement with music, alongside its ubiquity in the world, supports the familiar notion articulated by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow; “music is the universal language of [hu]mankind” (1833). But it’s not so simple. While music, like language, is a universal feature of human societies, musical styles and approaches (like languages) are often unintelligible across cultures. And while music always has meaning, its meanings vary dramatically among populations. Even the term itself is not universal; one community or culture’s definition of “music” may be dramatically different from another’s.
In the ports and regions we visit, we will directly encounter the multiplicity of musical lives that humans embody. Our explorations of these diverse music cultures—as ethnomusicologists, ethnographers, and as music makers (no previous experience required)—will focus on musical praxis, on the lives and experiences of artists and audiences, and on music’s varied cultural and social meanings. The joy and intimacy of musicking with others, and the deep connections it fosters, resides at the heart of our journey. Over the semester, we will discover how music cultures intertwine, where they overlap, and in what ways they inform our understanding of music as a human endeavor and, perhaps, as a human imperative.