We begin by asking: what does your aural world consist of, how do you hone this sensibility and how does it shape who you are? We will question the idea of a boundary between what might be narrowly defined as “music” versus the sensory experiences of “life” and “soundscape” broadly conceived. Do you sing or dance with your family or your friends, tap a rhythm or hum a tune quietly to yourself? What does it mean to find your voice? How do children’s songs and games, camp songs, musical advertisements, scout songs, snippets of radio hits, and the sounds and experiences in nature shape us as we grow up? How does the background music in your favorite clothing store affect what you buy, and, more importantly, how you think of yourself in the world? What drives our choices of popular music and our listening and consuming practices? Readings and class discussions will guide our explorations of concepts of taste, play, improvisation, and the poetics of everyday life, serving as an introduction to the intersecting fields of ethnomusicology, folklore, and performance studies. As we explore the soundscapes at various Atlantic ports of call we will compare our experiences of music in everyday life at home with the contrasting new cultural environments we encounter, throwing into relief what we may have taken for granted about the nature of everyday experience, while learning something profound in each port via a process of deep listening. During class meetings we will also develop a repertoire of collective music making that forms a core of our intellectual and creative community.
Students will prepare two main writing assignments: First a mini-lifesounds autobiography that explores your own sound world as you have become who you are today. Second, each student will choose one or several of our ports of call (all those before and including our group field lab in Dakar, Senegal), and will prepare and evocative, descriptive, and thoughtful essay that addresses concepts of your choice that we have addressed in class, woven with your soundscape observations from the site(s) of your choice. A five-minute version of these essays will be prepared and presented orally during a class mini-conference that comprises the last section of the course.
Field WorkCountry: Spain
Day: 1 - Monday, 20 October
The objectives of this lab include several focused sound walks around the city that give us a sense of the cultural sensibility, both in individual spots and more generally as part of Barcelona/Cataluna. We will conduct sound walks in both large and smaller groups, interspersed with singing, writing, and sharing. The sound walk in the large group will include chances to make our own music within particular settings. Lunch will include exchanges with restaurant family members (with translation help from several students). After lunch a sound walk at the seaside, and a participatory performance at La Rumbeta. Return to the port will include reflection. Students will turn in a 2-3 page essay at our next class meeting that addresses their particular experience during the field lab, as connected with the issues and themes of the course.