Music Cultures (section 1)

Discipline: Music
Instructor: Ferguson
Credits: 3
Day: B
Start: 1540
End: 1655
Field Work: Day 1 | Ghana Download Syllabus

This course is an overview of traditional and contemporary musics from selected nations,
peoples, societies, and cultural groups representing almost every region of our world, with
a special focus on the ports-of-call of the Semester at Sea Spring 2013 itinerary. Music is
CULTURE – ideas, behavior, values, interaction, social organization – and our goal will be to
examine the ways in which music embodies, reveals, reflects, comments on, opposes, or
buttresses the cultural practices and values of the people in each particular locale we will visit
in the course of our voyage. Music is OBJECT, and we will become familiar with the sounds,
structures, and elements of particular musical styles and attempt to compare and contrast
sound, structure, and stylistic features cross-culturally. Music also employs objects of material
culture, and we will be introduced to an amazing variety of musical instruments that we will
encounter in our ports-of-call. Music is TOOL, and we will look closely at the uses and functions
of music in differing cultural contexts in order to understand music as entertainment, music in
religious ritual, in rites of passage, as a vehicle for narrative, as a partner to dance, as a ‘casualty
of war’, as an expression of individual or group identity, as a facilitator of self-cultivation, and as
a tool for protest and dissent.

Field Work

Country: Ghana
Day: 1

The Field Lab for the Music Cultures course will be a participatory workshop on the traditional dance and drumming arts of West Africa, to be held at the University of Ghana in Accra. It will be led by Fred Tay, artistic director of Ayekoo Africa Arts, and Charles Odoom of the University of Ghana’s "Ghana Dance Ensemble." In Ghana, as in other parts of sub-Saharan Africa, there is a unity of music, dance and drama, and the workshop will demonstrate the intimate connection between drumming and dance traditions. West African drumming and dancing ensemble pieces are intended to be performed by all members of society, not just trained, professional musicians. As such, they are very accessible performance works for experienced and inexperienced musicians and dancers alike. Yet the music and dance is complex and sophisticated in the use of polyrhythm, polymeter, and syncopation. The objective of this field lab is to allow students to develop a deeper understanding, through performance, of a non-Western musical tradition from a dancer’s and a musician’s conceptual and performance perspective. (The workshop will conclude with an opportunity for students to purchase drums used during the workshop. Purchases are to be made in cash in local Ghanaian Cedis.) Academic Objectives Through participation in this workshop, students will be able to observe first-hand how music is 'culture', 'object', and 'tool', and to document and report on their experiences. Students will be able to actualize, with their own bodies, the principles of West African percussion music that we cover in class. Above all, students will have the opportunity to acquire a deeper sensitivity to, and genuine appreciation for, the amazing variety of musical sounds and music-related values and behavior that they experience during their stay in Ghana, and will be better equipped to distinguish, appreciate, compare, and discuss musical sounds from many different parts of the world.