This course will start by asking: What defines popular music? What influences it? Where is it rooted? And how do we listen to it? As we answer these questions, we will follow the intersecting, entwined, ever shifting paths of people and music as they move across continents and through oceans. The course will begin with a brief tutorial on basic music skills (rhythm, melody, harmony, timbre, texture, etc) as a way to inform the critical listening that we will practice. Course topics will be selected based on the regions we visit, to take advantage of the unique opportunity we have to experience the music that we study firsthand. For example, before arriving in Dakar, Senegal, we will listen to and critically engage with Senegalese hip-hop; before arriving in Yokohama, Japan, we will listen to and critically engage with Japanese metal. With our extensive listening assignments, we will read critical writings on popular music cultures from the fields of history, musicology, sociology, ethnomusicology, cultural studies, and journalism. In addition to reading and listening critically, students will be expected to form and articulate written arguments and opinions of their own in response to listening and readings. At the end of this course we will have become better cross-cultural listeners and we will have dealt with issues of appropriation, authenticity, genre, technological effects of production/consumption, ritual, gender, identity, migration, ethnicity, social relationships, cultural identity, global economics, politics, and ideas of the sacred. When we leave the boat, we will have an enhanced, deepened enjoyment of cross-cultural popular music, and we will be able to think critically through listening. No prior musical experience is necessary.
Field ClassCountry: South Africa
Day: 6 - Monday, 30 March
This field lab will extend concepts and field tasks that we will have explored and developed during the semester. One of the main questions that Listening to Popular Music Cultures is founded on is: how has sound recording technology changed the way we listen to, perform, and compose music? This question will be explored acutely amid the vibrant musical life of Cape Town. With local guide chaperons, we will start the day by visiting a local recording studio to gain a behind the scenes perspective of what goes in to making a recording. We will then follow the trace of these recordings by perusing LPs, tapes, and CDs at a local record store before visiting a popular radio station. We will end the day at a local concert with the goal of thinking about the differences between recorded music and live music. As we commute to each field site we will discuss their threads. Each team will be responsible for exploring one of these field sites in-depth. Each team will collaboratively produce a 7-page response paper and a 20-minute presentation. Each group’s final project will come together to form an ethnography of listening that focuses on recordings, transmission of recordings, and live performance of Cape Town popular music. The use of media is strongly encouraged (sounds, videos, and pictures). Our learning objectives for this field lab are two-fold: Academic Objectives:
- To become aware of the impact that sound recording technology has on music and culture
- To connect to Cape Townby listening. In preparation for this field lab we will break off into collaborative teams.