The official catalog description of this course is: Global aspects of music and its meaning with connections to the environment, sound, and world cultures.
Why does the music of Cochin sound so different from the music of Hawaii? Does the difference lie in musical instruments, the organization of sound or the cultures of people? How does one navigate musical cultures cross-culturally? This introductory course in musical cultures of the world will give you practical tools and concepts to understand the sound and cultures of the world’s people. We will take an ethnomusicological approach by considering not just the sound but also the cultural context of music performance to understand what makes performing music meaningful for people in a given context? We will delve into the regions covered in the voyage including Africa, South Asia, East Asia, North America as well as Middle-Eastern, Caribbean and Indigenous cultures of Americas and discover musical practices related to religious rituals and courts that people continue as “traditional music” as well as popular music and musicians from these contexts that show how sounds of modern genres reflect cultural identity of the place. We will learn about many musical contexts, from Beijing opera within theatres of China to rituals in temples of India and maidan (square) in Morocco as sites of modern political aspirations of people.
The classes will consist of practicums where you will learn the fundamentals of music as they apply to musical cultures of the world including local terms such as raag, maqam, taal, polyrhythms and more, and gain experience in singing songs and clapping rhythms from the given contexts. (No prior musical knowledge required). We will listen to musical pieces from different parts of the world as well as watch excerpts from documentaries to see the context of these performances. As a result of this course, you develop an ethnomusicological lens to understand music and musicians and gain an inter-cultural understanding of musical cultures we encounter on the voyage.
Field WorkCountry: Malaysia
Date: February 19, 2020
In this field-class, we will experience Muslim rituals and its sound within the Islamic sacred space of mosque and Sufi shrine. The field class will discuss ritual as a practice that connects internal beliefs with movements of humans within sacred spaces. We will discuss how the organization of Muslim spaces and its architecture impacts the observance of rituals within these spaces with special attention to the sonic production of azaan (call to prayer) and the space of minbar from where it is vocalized. The muezzin that is the person who calls out azaan will talk to us about his training in reciting the Quran and his experience as a muezzin at the Hassan II mosque. He will lead us into a Muslim prayer cycle, where we will listen to and observe the vocalization of Muslim salat with the prayer movements of the Muslim believers. After lunch, we will meet a Muslim Sufi community called the Gnawa and participate in a lila (a spiritual ceremony) that invokes and exorcises locally known spirits by singing to the accompaniment of gimbri (string instrument) and qraqab (iron castanets). With these observations, we will learn about the diversity of beliefs about
spirit possession and the perceptions of rituals such as the lila in contemporary Moroccan society. You will be assessed on your ability to recognize different genres of Muslim sounds that are shared cross-culturally such as the azaan and those that are cultural-specific such as the sounds of Sufi singers in Morocco. By developing an inner ear for Muslim prayer and chants, you would recognize Muslim practice as cross-culturally diverse and appreciate the lived experience within a Muslim locality.
1. Develop ethnographic sensibility through participant-observation in religious rituals of different traditions
2. Understand categories to describe “religious sound” in different world context and cosmology of sound
3. Identify the musical elements, musical instruments and local categories describing musical emotions within the religious ritual
4. Apply concepts from class readings to the experience of observing a religious ritual
5. Describe symbols and spaces of engagement within religious sites and the role of music within the ritual enactment of these symbols