With the click of a mouse, now more than ever we are able to access sounds made by people from all around the world. And yet, most of us don't listen to the wide diversity of music available to us, probably because it sounds so strange. This class will open up the world of music to you. We begin with a brief history of recording technology, the music industry and the place of world music in that narrative; you are introduced to keywords for talking about music cross-culturally; and then proceed to half a dozen musical cultures around the world. In each of these musical cultures, we examine the ways in which music works in those distant cultures, how it sounds, what it means, who may perform it; and then we ask ourselves where this music has traveled and entered into the Western popular culture as entertainment, political discourse, or artistic purpose.
Week One: Introductions with an overview of recording technology history and ties to world music and cultures; vocabulary for talking about world music and global cultural encounters, and a case study of “Chant,” the 1990s Gregorian chant recording that crossed over into the popular music market.
Week Two: Graceland, Paul Simon's "collaborative" album. We reflect on the two opposite meanings of the word "appropriate," examine multitrack recording, and consider the "collaborative" process in world music production.
Week Three: Tuvan Throat Singers, we examine how nomadic pastoralists from the Russian republic called Tanna Tuva have become world music superstars because of a single field recording made by an ethnomusicologist in the late 1980s.
Week Four: Pygmy Pop? We discuss "pygmies" in the western imagination, and uses of "pygmy" music in northern hemisphere popular culture to ask about the ethics of recorded music appropriations.
Week Five: Australian Aboriginal group Yothu Yindi embraced a discourse of cultural and musical reconciliation, and mixed the language of rock with traditional sounds as a successful political strategy in the 1990s.
Week Six: Kalahari Bushmen or Khoisan, are perhaps the oldest existing human communities. We discuss their traditional music, the 1970s Gods Must Be Crazy commercial film, and appropriation and reclamation of Khoisan heritage by South Africans in post-apartheid South Africa.
Week Seven: Cuba, the 1990s Buena Vista Social Club sound recording and documentary film, and a brief discussion of Cuban contemporary history and music are the subject of this final class.
It's not really about music; it may be in the anthropology department? There was little discussion of tonality, instrumentation, scales etc. It was superficially about the role of music in the cultures studied, most of which were marginal or disappearing...
It's not really about music; it may be in the anthropology department? There was little discussion of tonality, instrumentation, scales etc. It was superficially about the role of music in the cultures studied, most of which were marginal or disappearing cultures -- pygmies, for example. No music from major cultures in the world like China. It really was not about listening to music, some of the homework questions were not about music at all. Lectures contained a number of factual errors, corrected by students in the forum, the staff even had to change a question on the final exam because it was factually incorrect, simple facts that are easy to look up but apparently the professor never did. I'm not used to such a disinterest in factual accuracy from a good university! The professor was uninvolved in the ongoing course, did not participate in the forum, although one of the TAs was very active and helpful there. But if you are not looking for a music course and don't care about factual accuracy, it was fun. (The accuracy should improve next time after so much correction by students! But what errors did they not catch?)
Bruce Pohlmann completed this course.
I really enjoyed this course, not as a musician but as an anthropologist. The lectures got me thinking about music and its relationship to culture, technology and politics. Generally I stay away from classes that use the peer evaluation model, but I liked this one enough to stay the course and I'm glad that I did.