Soundscapes-Music as Human Practice [CRN 17860]

Discipline: Anthropology
Instructor: Hemani
Credits: 3
Day: B
Start: 1540
End: 1700
Field Work: Day 1 | March 18, 2020 | South Africa
Prerequisites: None Download Syllabus

The official catalog description for this course is:  Musical communities and soundscapes from around the world provide exploration points for how music and sound inform human life. Study everything from playlists to music of distant lands. Ability to read notated music not required.

Additional Description:

Do your memories of growing up in a certain city filled with the sounds that were specific to that city’s life and people? What makes a soundscape of a city different from that of another and how may these soundscapes shift as one moves from one part of the city to another? Does difference in class and status of a neighborhood reflected its soundscape? How do people who inhabit the city influence its soundscape and in what ways do states and government seek to control the soundscape of a city? We will explore this broad range of questions connecting soundscapes with city-life by studying music ethnographies that document sonic cultures of a city. With a particular emphasis on understanding modernity and its impact on pre-industrial cultures within cities, we will also learn to extend our imaginative ear to hear the city’s past within its present soundscape. In order to hone our theoretical tools to study soundscapes, we will examine Habermas’ concept of “public sphere,” Nancy Fraser’s work on gender and public sphere, Arjun Appadurai’s work on global cityscapes, Akhil Gupta and James Ferguson’s work on culture as power and resistance; John Thompson’s work on media and the internet, and music scholarship that differentiates “musical scenes,” and music sub-cultures or “micro-music” of urban cities (Mark Slobin).  From the call to prayer (azaan) in Muslim cities to coffee houses in old Morocco, and from devotional sounds to street parades and festivals, we will study how the city deals with its past and continues its traditions in modernity while investing in cultures that reflect its present. The course follows the voyage while giving students tools to analyze sonic practices within a city as a reflection of the political and social life of the city dwellers. Throughout the course, the students will maintain sound diaries—expressive and reflective journals that combine their reflections on the readings with their experiences of cities they visit. The final project of this course requires designing a creative soundscape composition that combines the sensory experience of the city’s sonic culture with analytical reflections about its politics, culture, and identity of the sounds from an intersectional perspective using live recording samples from the voyage.

This class is also offered as MU 232, through the CSU School of Music, Theatre, and Dance.

Field Work

Country: South Africa
Day: 1
Date: March 18, 2020

This field class seeks to link contemporary soundscapes of South Africa with its socio-political history and the making of contemporary cultural identity. We will experience soundscapes of Cape Town and analyze the significance of musical creolization within the present musical scene(s) and discourses. We will begin our journey with a visit to the Field Band Foundation and listen to a social advocate talk about Foundation’s work for South African youth and the role of music for socio-economic upliftment. Next, we will visit the University of Cape Town to understand how the history of Apartheid in South Africa impacts the structures of music departments today. We will attend a workshop about sounds of social protest in Cape Town on a local issue referred to as: “Rhodes (statue) must fall” and its impact on the soundscape of South African Higher Educational Institutions since 2015. Next, we will hear a local musician and a faculty member discuss the evolution of music in Cape Town shedding light on the following musical styles: Cape Town Jazz, Brass Bands, The Kaapse Klopse, and Cape Town Croons. and then proceed to watch a show of one of these styles in town.

Learning Objectives:
1. Recognize distinctive elements within Cape Town’s diverse soundscape;
2. Identify “musical creolization” in contemporary soundscapes of Cape Town;
3. Analyze career highlights of musicians from Cape Town’s diverse communities in context to South Africa’s socio-political history;
4. Hear soundscapes of the city as not constituting a “cultural essence” or “fixed,” but continuously evolving with the constitution of the public sphere;
5. Discuss issues of race and identity in South Africa in comparison with the US or any other country on the voyage;
6. Facilitate ethnographic sensibility with critical reflection and deep listening with soundwalks; v7. Analyze the role of music in modern formations of locality within cities on the voyage;
8. Creatively express experiences of soundscapes.