This course investigates the sound and sentiment of traditional and contemporary music in each region and port-of-call on our journey. Distinctive sounds in unique places reflect and resonate meaningful characteristics and concerns in cultural contexts. As the voice of society, music echoes ideology, behavior, rituals, values, aesthetics and history. We will discover why music serves as a universal language of harmony, a regional declaration of individuality, and an unsurpassed vehicle for cross-cultural communication.
We will explore the styles and significance of global music forms as we travel around the world. Music reveals how unique sounds of unique places reflect and resonate the particular character and concerns of cultures, and the individuals belonging to those cultures. There are innumerable creative ways through which musicians fashion their craft to articulate their beliefs and express their cultural norms. Unique configurations of melodies, harmonies, rhythms, timbres, textures, instrumentations and lyrics reveal colorful identities and articulate complex ideologies. We will contrast the sounds and structures of the various musical cultures of our travels, exploring the cross-cultural similarities and differences between styles, and determining the motives and functions of each form; whether as entertainment, narrative commentary, expression of feelings, forms of worship or accompaniment to rites of passage. Finally, we explore the imperative development of global styles from traditional to popular, as global influences and internal predicaments affect the boundaries of style and cause worldwide hybridizations. These forms include Hawaiian hapa haole, Japanese enka and j-pop, Chinese canto-pop, Southeast Asian dangdut, Indian Bollywood, South African kwaito and Ghanaian highlife. Through an investigation of their music, we will reveal both the strong influence of creative individuals in reflecting and shaping the history of their societies in particular, and the enormous importance of global music in ‘sounding culture‘ in general.
Field WorkCountry: Ghana
Day: 2 - Tema (Accra) - 11 April
Students will have the privilege of participation in a unique and transformational experience: the Drumming and Dance Worship led by the esteemed Fred Tay, Artistic Director of Ayekoo Africa Arts affiliated to the University of Ghana. Revealing the relevance of Farris-Thomson’s description of the irrevocable connection between music and dance, and consequently, the bond between body and sound, students will learn about the complexity of African rhythms while tying them into the resulting challenge and pleasure of corresponding movement. Drumming and movement are central to means of communication and expression in this area, and students will be shown the value and pleasure of the use of these methods in communities where music is not just ‘optional entertainment’ experienced in isolation, but central to the fabric of the community. The workshop will be assisted by local artists, including some who perform with the Ghana Dance Ensemble; the internationally-known, state-funded performing arts group that in residence at the University of Ghana. The lab will also include a tour of the university and overview of its important role in the preservation of local culture and traditions in Ghana after independence. Ghana’s first president, Kwame Nukrumah, opened the Center shortly after independence as a way to institutionalize the study of local culture. He also instated a music requirement for all majors in the university to ensure that all students would have a basic understanding of how to perform some aspect of traditional music. Finally, he also helped create the Ghana Dance Ensemble as a way to perform, celebrate, and preserve musical arts of some of Ghana’s largest ethnic groups. Students will also have an opportunity to explore the university grounds on their own and see how local college students live, study, and socialize. Academic Objectives:
- Students will receive a firsthand understanding of the complexity of African cross-rhythms/polyphony/syncopation, and drumming styles and playing methods.
- Through participation in performance, and learning the basics of kpanlogo hand drumming and dancing, students will experience the intricate connections between movement, music, narrative and the cultural context/functions of music in Ghana in particular, and in African cultures in general. Students will learn how African dance involves every part of the body from the perspective of both choreography and interpretation/improvisation, and how drama permeates every performance.
- Students will explore the University of Ghana and the Center for African Studies in order to appreciate it’s seminal told in the preservation of local traditional music after independence.