Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Critical Review #2: Berger 2008; Miller 2007

Berger's proposition of a phenomenological ethnomusicology is clearly a convoluted one, if not one of platitude. Perhaps the joke (the platitude) is on me because I'm far off from beginning to understand the idea of "phenomenology"--I did a touch of google-research/reinforcement to walk away with this conception: "An experience is directed toward an object by virtue of its content or meaning (which represents the object) together with appropriate enabling conditions."

OK. I'm not quite sure if I buy Berger's argument that phenomenological ethnography is that distinct from how "the new ethnographers" value experience anyways. Maybe the step back to separate experience from object (from content/meaning) takes the next step in ethnographic reflexivity? This could very well be the case, but I can't help but think this added philosophy burdens the discussion of musical and cultural content that are contained within ethnographies.

Did we read Kiri's piece because her case study is representative of a phenomenological tact? This piece was fun and seemed to push the limits of anthropological and ethnographic work just in that the world of GTA has so many layers of cultural significance and experience. As a piece of mass-media, Kiri's fieldwork with the GTA games is interesting in how all of her experience with the game and it's community is perhaps made up most of content and meaning (and maybe not "object" because the game is the common denominator regardless of locale/community).

Thursday, February 18, 2010

SEM History Post

Perhaps what is more astonishing than how much Ethnomusicology (and Ethnomusicology) has changed in the past year is simply how young the journal is. 50 years is merely an infancy for any discipline--that is if we take Ethnomusicology as a formal substantiation of the discipline being codified and called "ethnomusicology". Even today, the field is still enduring intense growing pains, hence the focus on definition, theory, and method. What surprised me about the 1950s issues was how small they were (initially), and how few case studies there were. Most of the writing in the early articles (once the subscriptions creeped past 500 or so) is littered with titles like "A Dialectical Approach to Music History", "On the Subject of Ethnomusicology", and other field, historical, and research method type articles. 1958 seems to be the year when the journal shifted to include a consistent number of case studies and special topics.

Nevertheless, this writing is far less anthropological than one would expect them to be, even by today's standards. Most of the articles that weren't theoretical concerned African, Asian, or South American subjects, but instead of revealing an expose of music in these specific cultures, the articles took a much more technical and historical tact. I was expecting an old-fashioned, over-exoticised, anthropological attempt that centered on music, but instead the "musical culture" seems to take a backseat to the proper analysis of the notes, rhythms, and instruments. Many of these articles amounted to aural archaeology than it did any sort of cultural study.

"The Shak-Shak in the Lesser Antilles" (Sep., 1958) is a prime example: it describes the historical and religious significance of this instrument (the Shak Shak), describes how they are made and what their function is in music. The framework here is the instrument, and the author doesn't include any personalized accounts.

In "The African Hemiola Style" (Sep., 1959), the author presents this comparative discourse on this particular African rhythm in relation to a similar Western/European rhythm. The article is full of very specific transcriptions of the different styles of hemiolas, and is representative of this acute deconstruction of music (not just the African but the Western art music as well). This focus merely describes a particular sound--the musical and cultural implications or significance has not yet emerged, and the performers and composers are not wholly accounted for or explained.

All in all, it seems as if the journal in its earliest stages was still more focused on the music rather than the music and the culture around the music. In a way, I didn't find most of what I read too unsettling (much in the way early anthropology can seem callous and Western-centric) because these early studies were most focused on the musical content for what it was and what it sounded like. This diligent analysis can clearly be valuable to a study that would later become a much more deeply involved cultural dialogue.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Fieldwork Project

I plan on doing my fieldwork project on worship music in Christian churches around Providence. I have yet to determine a site in which to engage in any sort of participant observation, but I am aiming to study the pop-styled worship music is non-liturgical. This means music that is considered "contemporary" and has been written recently (within the past 50 years), and can be found in church services as well as youth groups, Sunday school, and other extra-service religious activity. As such I'm going to steer clear of Catholic and Episcopalian congregations as well as styled choirs. More to come soon.

Critical Review #1 James Clifford 1988

The most salient takeaway points for me in this article was the dialogue between "heteroglossia" and irreconcilably incomplete and relative ethnography/anthropology, and this idea of "textualization" from Paul Ricouer . Clifford's subtitle to his article, "Twentieth-Century Ethnography, Literature, and Art", does well to situate ethnography and attempts at anthropology amongst artistic endeavors. As Clifford traced the history of ethnography and authority, I kept returning to the question, not of what lends ethnography "authority", but what the purpose and place of ethnography is in the first place. In other words, what's the point. The realist, cultural-tableau-vivant approaches don't approach scientific or even historical legitimacy, and the one tact that rectified that for me was the "textualization" theory. Behavior, culture, and discourse, taken as a text for reference and understanding seems to be the best attempt at a hands-off approach. Clifford says "text, unlike discourse, can travel", and I think as such quantifying culture not as experience or interpretation or even history is as clean and distinct as quantifying culture as a text.

The slippery slope here is there is nothing that can't be "textualized"--how much of the process/author/audience etc. gets swept up along in the process? For whom does this all end up being? What do we choose to or need to "textualize" in order to understand? If our discourses end up as texts anyways, what's the purpose of operating under the pretense of authority at all--why not just use art instead? What is the point of being real..?

Monday, February 8, 2010

24-Hour Log

This is a log of all of the music I heard over a 24-hour period. Here are a few points to preface:

a) I got home later than expected last night while logging, but had an interesting night full of sound (consider this a listening log of 24 waking hours)
b) I didn't include specific song titles for the live music I witnessed/performed. Most of it I didn't know, and for the bands I played in, it would be most likely be overly detailed (is there such a thing?).
c) All locales in Providence, RI or on the interweb--naturally.
d) I listed a specific time for when an identifiable song took place, otherwise, I listed a range for a longer sonic experience.

This 24-hour log is listed as fully as possible and as such:
Time/Artist-Song-Genre or description if unknown)/Place-Heard/Source

10:40PM Wanda Jackson - "You Know That I'm No Good"; rockabilly/home/iTunes
10:43PM Wanda Jackson - "Shakin' All Over"; rockabilly/home/iTunes
10:50PM David Rawlings & Gillian Welch - "NPR Tiny Desk Concert"; roots/home/
11:10PM Ludacris - "Blueberry Yum Yum"; hip-hop/home/Youtube
11:12PM Ludacris - "Move Bitch"; hip-hop/home/Youtube
11:13PM Louis Armstrong - "various songs"; jazz/home/roommate's computer
11:20PM - 11:40PM boppin' jazz/home/roommate's computer

2/8/10 (through the wee hours of 2/9/10)
1:28AM "Tunak Tunak Tum"; Indian/home/roommate's Youtube
1:30AM Michael Jackson - "They Don't Care About Us"; pop/home/roommate's Youtube
1:35AM Michael Franti - "Say Hey"; pop/home/roommate's Youtube

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz I slept for a while zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

10:48AM semi-audible generic rock/Salomon lobby/in the air
11:23AM unidentified coffee-shop "indie-rock"/Brown Bookstore Blue State/most likely an iPod

11:41AM unidentified rap/Brook and Power St./passing automobile, car stereo
2:20PM - 2:30PM loud rock/car/radio - WBRU
2:32PM - 2:35PM muzak/CVS/in-store speakers
2:38PM Beirut - unknown song; "indie"-folk/Eddy St. Antique store/iPod
2:48PM NPR "indie-rock" between segments/B-Sharp Music/ old fashioned radio receiver
3:00PM U2 - "With or Without You"; rock/car/radio - WBRU
3:05PM Rod Stewart - "Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For"; rock/car/radio - WBRU
3:09PM U2 - some song off Joshua Tree; rock/car/radio - WBRU
8:15PM - 9:25PM barely audible generic rock. maybe some Strokes/Trinity Brew-House/ceiling speakers
9:40PM - 9:55PM noise-rock type music/AS220 bar/stereo
9:56PM - 10:05PM in-house music, also noise-rock-esque/AS220 performance space/house speakers
10:06PM - 10:30PM Performed a set with "Tallhassee"; folk/AS220 performance space/live band
10:31PM - 10:39PM more unidentified in-house music/
AS220 performance space/house speakers
10:40PM- 11:05PM Performance by "The Detroit Rebellion"; bluesy rock/
AS220 performance space/live band
11:06PM - 11:38PM more AS220 bar background music/AS220 bar/stereo
11:39PM - 11:50PM remainder of "Pepi Ginsberg's" set; rock/AS220 performance space/live band
11:51PM - 12:03AM
yet more unidentified in-house music/AS220 performance space/house speakers
12:05AM - 12:55AM Performed a set with "Last Good Tooth"; rock n' roll/AS220 performance space/live band

Friday, February 5, 2010