Global Music (Section 3)

Discipline: Music
Instructor: Merrill
Credits: 3
Day: A
Start: 1425
End: 1540
Field Work: Day 2 - Friday, 27 November | Trinidad and Tobago Download Syllabus

The study of global music is never a benign act; no matter how we attempt to be objective, when we are studying the music of any culture we are always doing so from our own culture; we encounter ethnomusicological studies, we are experiencing cultures as shown through particular cultural lenses.

In addition,the development global culture industry sees cultural artefacts becoming detached from their source and exported into other markets where their contextual understanding is different. This presents challenges to how the role of the ethnomusicologist is perceived; are they observing or preserving musical cultures? How do the methods of observation or preservation affect the people and cultures which they study?

This course explores both how the traditional musical practices of different cultures interacts with the global culture industry, and the ethical issues around ethnomusicological understandings. This will be supported through undertaking field research at ports on Semester At Seas itinerary so as to actively explore the issues presented but to global music cultures and ethnomusicologists studying them.

Field Work

Country: Trinidad and Tobago
Day: 2 - Friday, 27 November

Over the past century the Steel Pan has grown from a rebellious instrument of the street, associated with gangs and violence, to becoming Trinidad’s national instrument. This field lab creates an opportunity to spend a day at the Pan Yard of The Melodians, a steel band from Arima.  A pan yard has many facets; it is where the steel pans are beaten and crafted from oil drums into a range of differently pitched instruments, whilst also being the rehearsal space for the bands and social centre for the communities that form around them. As such – this is a visit to the heart of the steel band. The morning will feature presentations the leaders of both Trinidadian Melodians, Robbie Thompson, and their London leader Terry Noel O.B.E., creating a unique opportunity to understand the global spread of this distinctive form of music making, through encountering two of the leading figures performing the music on different continents. This will be followed by two workshops in which masters of the Steel Pan will teach the Semester at Sea participants to collectively play music on the pans. These workshops will sit either side of a traditional Trinidadian pan man’s lunch. These workshops  provide an opportunity to reflect on the different forms of understandings that can be gained through different forms of interaction in an ethno-musicological study. After the workshops The Melodians will give a performance on the steel pans. Dancing is highly recommended. Finally, before returning to the ship students will receive a demonstration on the construction of the steel pan from one of The Melodians Tuners (the name given to the skilled workers who make the pans). Academic objectives:

  1. To become familiar with the music, culture and history of the Trinidad’s national instrument, the Steel Pan.
  2. To explore ethnomusicological theories through discussion and interview of Steel Pan tuners, arrangers and players
  3. To practically explore the merits and challenges of applied musicianship within the practice of ethnomusicological study.