Music in Human Life: The Individual, the Community, and the Planet

Discipline: Music
Instructor: Ferguson
Credits: 3
Day: A
Start: 0925
End: 1040
Field Work: Day 5 | China Download Syllabus

Music is more fundamental to human life and to our identity as a species than most of us
realize. Yet music is often treated as trivial, as non-essential, as mere ‘entertainment’, and
countless musical traditions in our world – and the cultures of which they are a part – are
endangered and dying. The global discourse on ‘sustainability’ rarely involves discussion of
culture and the arts. But, the long-term ‘health’ of a community, a society, a nation involves
much more than just ecological or economic concerns. In this course we will explore a number
of issues and topics that highlight: (1) music’s centrality and indispensability to human
existence; (2) the relationship of music and the arts to the physical, spiritual, intellectual,
social, cultural, economic, and organizational health of humans and human societies; (3)
music’s embattled and endangered status and the urgency of the work of preservation and/
or revitalization of musical traditions, practices, and communities; (4) the interrelatedness of
various music-related practices and the health of our earth; and (5) the place of music in the
diverse and constantly morphing “soundscapes” in which we find ourselves in our day-to-day

Field Work

Country: China
Day: 5

** NOTE: This field lab will take place on Thursday, February 7th beginning at midday.  This is the first of our two Hong Kong days, i.e. the fifth of our six China days.  For this reason, and because attendance at the field lab is mandatory, students are advised to make their China travel plans carefully to allow them to be in Hong Kong no later than mid-morning on February 7th. Students in the "Music in Human Life" course will participate in a field lab focusing on Cantonese opera, one of China's most beloved forms of regional music-theater as well as one of the music traditions included in UNESCO's "Intangible Cultural Heritage" list. In the early afternoon we will walk from the MV Explorer to the nearby Tsim Sha Tsui East 尖东 station of Hong Kong's famous MTR (Mass Transit Railway) where we will catch the train for the roughly twenty minute ride out to the New Territories town of Shatin 沙田. We will then walk a short distance to the Hong Kong Heritage Museum 香港文化博物馆 where we will tour the Cantonese Opera Exhibit. After the museum visit, if time allows, there will be the opportunity to taste some unique Hong Kong snacks, such as Shatin chicken congee 沙田鸡粥 (OOPEX). We will then return to Kowloon on the MTR and stroll to the corner of Austin and Canton Roads in the rapidly developing West Kowloon District (most of which is built on land reclaimed from the harbor) where the government has erected a unique performance venue called the West Kowloon Bamboo Theatre 西九大戏棚, a recreation of the traditional bamboo theaters built in small towns and city neighborhoods expressly for staging Cantonese operas for ritual and festive occasions. At 1600 we will take a tour of this venue, including the backstage area where performers will be making preparations for that evening's performance.   After the tour we will then take a dinner break (OOPEX) for a uniquely Cantonese meal at a nearby Kowloon restaurant (TBD). At 1900 we will return to the West Kowloon Bamboo Theatre for a performance of the Cantonese opera Zhou Yu 周瑜, based on the semi-historical tale "Zhuge Liang Thrice Enrages Zhou Yu" 三气周瑜, taken from the classic Chinese historical novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms 三国演义. (An English translation of the story will be provided to students well before our arrival in China so that we can prepare for the performance.) After the performance we will stroll through some of the older neighborhoods of Kowloon on our way to the Temple Street Night Market 庙街夜市. At the far northern edge of Temple Street, near the Tin Hau Temple 天后庙 compound, we will observe late-night performances by members of Hong Kong's many amateur Cantonese Opera Song 粤曲 clubs, who set up stalls in the area and perform into the wee hours most nights of the year. If students wish, we can then sample more of the unique cuisine of Hong Kong by trying dishes from open-air food stalls called "Dai Pai Dong" 大排档.  Students can then independently explore the Temple Street Night Market looking for shopping bargains before returning to the ship. [Please be advised: Be sure to wear good walking shoes and to bring enough Hong Kong currency to cover out-of-pocket expenses ("OOPEX").] Academic Objectives:

  1. Students will learn about the history of Cantonese Opera in Hong Kong through touring the exhibits in the "Cantonese Opera Heritage Hall" at the Hong Kong Heritage Museum in Shatin (New Territories)
  2. Students will attend a traditional, authentic performance of Cantonese Opera at the West Kowloon Bamboo Theatre in order to experience first-hand the local world of Cantonese Opera performance
  3. Students will be introduced to the tradition of amateur Cantonese Opera Song performance at the bustling late-night, open-air Temple Street Night Market in Yau Ma Tei, Kowloon
[Students will be prepared extensively for each facet of this field lab through class lectures and readings.]