Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Hail and farewell

Folks:

Let me just reiterate one last time how very pleased and impressed I was by the work that many people did this semester. As I said, this is possibly the first seminar at TTU I've been able to teach at the level of intellectual discourse and scholarly analysis which it was my good fortune to experience as demonstrated by my teachers (no braggadocio there: I couldn't do it myself, but I knew it when I saw it). I truly believe that this kind of scholarly, investigative, and interpersonal research makes us better people: more open, less judgmental, more sophisticated, less conservative, more musical, less prejudiced.

I was very moved by the efforts and insights that many teams provided for seminar colleagues. In my opinion, this is the best justification for the academic study of music: because of the insights, enrichment, and expanded horizons we can give to one another.

Let me encourage you all to consider continuing to work in these areas (either formally or informally); virtually everyone supplied crucial and wonderful contributions. You all made the seminar what it was. Well done!

(see you Thursday noon at Cricket's)

all the best,

cjs

Salsa presentation

All:

Please read and respond (via "Comments") to at least 3 of the following observations/queries arising from this presentation. Both team members and other class members should comment, and should particularly focus on ways in which insights from this presentation reflect, nuance, or contradict insights from your own fieldwork. Make sure your comments address this latter point.

Website at http://www.angelfire.com/planet/ethno-salsa/

1. Note the idea of analyzing “time,” “space,” and “place” as organizing principles for understanding social communities—and music’s role in the creation and maintenance of same. Please provide concepts of time, space, and place as they were articulated and/or created by your informants. NOTE: this does not simply mean describing the site of your fieldwork, or the time of day at which it occurred—rather, describe the conceptual or cognitive “spaces” which music, in your target sub-community, was used to create.

2. Note ways in which music plays into issues of social connection, economic and social status and IDENTITY. We spoke, over the course of the semester, about identity (like “class,” or “ethnicity,” or “gender,” for that matter) as “constructed”—that is, not an objective quantifiable phenomenon, but rather a mental/emotional/spiritual selective creation, and ways in which music played a role in such creation. Give an example from your own fieldwork of music used as a tool for the construction of identity: preferably, give an example of an informant who used music to recreate or transform his/her cultural identity.

3. How/why do informants develop/articulate/”use” history to create sense of community identity? Give an example (perhaps from your fieldwork interviews) of an informant who provided a “history” of the community, and provide an interpretation of the meaning of the particular historical factors that informant chose to emphasize—or even mythologize.

4. Note the interesting, revealing comments by insiders using “us” and “them” constructs; what does it mean when one “insider” uses such constructs about another “insider”. Does this nuance our (admittedly very simplistic) binary designation of “insider” and “outsider”? Please provide at least 2 examples of individuals (suitably anonymized) from your community whose perceptions of “insider” and “outsider” were contradictory, and interpret the significance of these contradictions.

5. Are there personal, musical, experiential, pedagogical, or other behavioral patterns that emerge from bios? Provide at least 2 examples, from your own fieldwork and informants, of behavioral patterns that seem to be relatively common among your target sub-community. Do these patterns play into the group’s shared sense of cultural identity?

6. Note the sense of a local community and the various “maps” overlaid upon that landscape. “Landscape” as we know is a cognitive construction; what do your informants have to say about such landscapes, and what do those landscapes reveal about identity and community priorities? Describe at least 3 locations in your sub-community’s “cognitive landscape” and interpret the meaning of those locations to your informants.

Mariachi presentation (I, K, S)

All:

Please read and respond (via "Comments") to at least 3 of the following observations/queries arising from this presentation. Both team members and other class members should comment, and should particularly focus on ways in which insights from this presentation reflect, nuance, or contradict insights from your own fieldwork. Make sure your comments address this latter point.

Website at http://www.geocities.com/superawesomemariachiproject/

1. Issues of CONFLICT: the reality is that one of the principle functions which underlie various human communicative art forms is the resolution (e.g., “negotiation”) of conflict. Humor does this, music does this, debate does this, ritual does this, etc. In the absence of these communicative forms, conflict is irreconcilable. In the case of your own team’s individual fieldwork, what sorts of conflict arose: between informant groups? Between informants and fieldworkers? Between fieldworkers? Provide an example (anonymized if you wish) and articulate ways in which these various communicative arts did or did not play into conflict’s resolution.

2. Further to the above: think about the tensions that emerge via mis- or incomplete information. In the fieldwork situation, there are many more things that you don’t know than that you do. In what ways can observing conflict—or even participating in its resolution—help you understand complex social dynamics? What are the implications of this? Can you use “negative” reactions from informants or other persons to understand various types of social sub-texts? Of social priorities?

3. Excellent commentary about “comments”; confirms the unavoidable reality that, in cross-ethnic situations, racial tensions are present. They are unavoidable and they will impact the situation. Therefore, it is necessary to recognize their presence and think with some sensitivity and some insight about how to cope with them. Sometimes this will entail explicitly articulating the “elephant in the room” (e.g., the tension of which all are aware but of which no one has spoken yet) and sometimes the opposite: finding indirect ways of signaling that you are aware of and sensitive to these issues. Sometimes it is a product of using or not using certain words, body language, tones of voice, and so on. Provide and describe at least one example of a situation encountered in your own fieldwork in which you consciously chose a strategy to address the conflict.

4. Note the strategy, in presentation, of one-speaking while one is surfing through the site. This gets at an issue: the practical implications of presenting your material. If you were to present your website on your own, what would you need to do to streamline and maximize the impact of your presentation? If it is helpful, ask yourself what you would do in a future presentation of the material?

5. Use of setlist as a way of getting repertoire “maps”. In your particular fieldwork, how did musical repertoire map ways that informants saw their musical world? How did it map responses of musicians to changing contexts? Provide specific examples.

6. Note this team’s nice description of performance practice and behavior (and diagrams for same). How can you use analysis of physical layout to get at relationships, priorities, social connections, etc? Give at least one example, from your own fieldwork, of ways in which physical space map social organization.

7. Note Seong’s good observations about his attendance (at River Smith’s) and the audience’s focus upon band, and also the roles of certain “guest singers,” who appears to attend purely for the purpose of participating in the music. What does that reveal about the relationship between musicians and their audience? Are there gradations of “intimacy” between audience and musicians? Provide at least one example, with commentary, of the observable behaviors which diagram these relationships.

8. What would be the role of commentary about the demographics (ethnicity, age, economic class, etc) of audience, and what would be the best way to present this commentary? Provide examples of “demographic analysis” of your own target audiences.

9. This team made observations about the impact of certain songs upon certain “insider” members of the audience; what tools could get at and help the fieldworker understand the impact of specific texts or pieces upon “insider listeners”? Provide example from your own fieldwork.

Mariachi presentation (R, T, J)

Mariachi presentation (R, T, J)

All:

Please read and respond (via "Comments") to at least 3 of the following observations/queries arising from this presentation. Both team members and other class members should comment, and should particularly focus on ways in which insights from this presentation reflect, nuance, or contradict insights from your own fieldwork. Make sure your comments address this latter point.

Website at http://www.freewebs.com/joshttu/

1. Good description about strategies for adapting fieldwork to what was schedule-feasible and how that might have evolved. As I have said in class, sometimes, when we’re “handed lemons, we make lemonade.” In other words, sometimes we have to take the necessary strictures of schedule/hours/etc and work within them—but it is important to “work smart,” and try to turn those limitations into advantages. How did time- or schedule-limits impact on your own team’s work? Give examples.

2. The comment was made that mariachi’s functions seem to include “remembering one’s heritage”; this in turn would seem to implicate issues of the construction of cultural identity. At the end of the semester, can we make observations across fieldwork situations about music’s use in the construction of identity? Each seminar member: please cite at least one (1) example of “music as a tool for constructing identity” from your own fieldwork, cite at least one (1) example of similar usage from at least two (2) other team’s work, and explain why the “identity-construction” in your fieldwork is similar to the “identity-construction” in the other two teams’ work. Be specific.

3. How can a fieldworker employ the subjectivity of informants’ “versions of history” versus the “factual” record? What role does “history” play in a community’s musical construction of identity? Provide at least 6 lines summarizing your own target group’s “community history” or “community myth.”

4. What does the ubiquity of mariachi in a very wide range of sub-community situations reveal? What are the implications of this “soundtrack” for this part of the Hispanic community? Articulate a comparison to the target music’s role in your own fieldwork: give at least 3 examples of the target music’s use in your informants’ lives, and compare/contrast to that of the mariachi community’s.

5. Issues of adaptation of outside repertoire into the insider style: how can a style “stamp” or “re-brand” a song originating with one culture with an Hispanic cultural activity? Can a song from outside Hispanic community culture be thus “re-stamped”? What about “appropriation” (meaning: the symbolic acquisition of cultural materials, the “claiming as one’s own” materials that might formerly have been alien)?

6. Good observations about ways in which fieldwork can the fieldworker’s own growth and cultural enrichment. In the best of all possible fieldwork situations, both informants and fieldworkers conclude that they have gained by the experience; this is how ethnographic fieldwork is transformed from being “only” scholarship, growing to also encompass communication, relationships, mutual enrichment, and a better world. What have you gained from your individual experience of fieldwork?

7. Good commentary about shifting repertoires in different contexts or for different (ethnic) audiences. Please provide examples from your own observations about ways in which your informants adapted musical repertoires, styles, or behaviors to fit within (or to transform) contrasting situations.

8. Insights about musicians’ (and music’s) cross-cultural adaptability. Almost by definition (and as we have seen from numerous readings) musicians have to be especially skillful at moving across cultural boundaries which non-musicians may experience as much more problematic. Please provide examples from your own fieldwork of ways in which your informants used (or didn’t use—and if so why not) music to move across such social/cultural boundaries. Did their strategies provide strategies which you think you could use in your own life and career? Describe these, and explain how they might play out.

9. Excellent use of glossary as heard in rehearsals. “what people hear” is a crucial indicator of how they experience the world. Please provide at least 3 examples of specific dialect, terms, adjectives, or other jargon, unique to your sub-community, which your informants used repeatedly to describe certain desirable or undesirable results. What do these specific words imply about how your informants saw the world, the music, and their own individual places within both?

Ballet folklorico presentation

Ballet folklorico presentation

All:

Please read and respond (via "Comments") to at least 3 of the following observations/queries arising from this presentation. Both team members and other class members should comment, and should particularly focus on ways in which insights from this presentation reflect, nuance, or contradict insights from your own fieldwork. Make sure your comments address this latter point.

Website at http://members.cox.net/robvela1/WWW/

1. Good description of original research construct and how that evolved, and good articulation of necessity of scaling-down scope. In what ways might the (necessary and inevitable) scaling-down of a project’s original parameters help to focus that presentation’s goals? Give examples from your own team project

2. Did language skills or ethnicity play a role in this research? Do language skills or ethnicity (or other markers of group identity) play a role in various teams’ research? What roles do they play? Please make specific reference to various “markers of identity” which you observed your informants to be using towards you the fieldworker. In other words, how were your informants identifying you, and what impact did that have on the nature of your work together?

3. Nice comment: in presenting research, fieldworkers can choose to “go through our individual experiences”. Excellent observations about the differing (but complementary) perspectives of 2 different fieldworkers. What does this make possible? ALG spoke in an earlier comment and presentation of the ways in which having both (or all) fieldworkers present in a situation enriched their observations. It would seem that threads of both continuity and discontinuity might emerge from different fieldworkers’ accounts. How can you allow for this and exploit those threads to aid your analysis?

4. Good observations about evolution of insights, observation of patterns, and the way they shaped subsequent research and fieldwork. Please articulate how the interaction of these factors shaped or evolved your own team research.

5. Good observation about overlap between informants: that is, different fieldworkers encountering the same informants in different environments. Did this occur for your team as well? What was the impact of this overlap? Did it enrich your team’s insights? How?

6. Good observations about presumptions w/ which fieldwork began, and how they changed (especially about the target community’s desire for outreach versus lack of such desire). How do you do fieldwork with a group that doesn’t particularly want it done? How do you win over informants? Give examples from your own fieldwork.

7. Use of keywords: “family”, “heritage”, “authenticity”, “competition.” What would be the shortlist of your fieldwork’s “keywords”?

8. How/why is this idiom ethnically specific? Is there something about its function that tends to make it ethnically specific? Please express an opinion backed up by comments made by the presenters.

9. What are the implications of informants’ self-identification as “insider” versus “outsider”? How might that impact the fieldworker’s assessment of that informant’s insights? Give examples from your own fieldwork of informants supplying these “insider versus outsider” constructions, and articulate possible motives.

10. Does this contrasting self-identification reflect informants’ contrasting perceived roles as “historian” versus “teacher”? Might these two roles entail different agendas or goals? What methodology would let you investigate, model, and interpret these agendas or goals? Who were the “historians” in your team fieldwork? Who were the “teachers”? Who got more respect? Why?

11. What is the relationship, in this idiom or others, between “authenticity” and “place”? Does place confer authenticity? Must one come from that place? Merely visit that place? Own (physical or communicative) artifacts of that place? Unpack this in light of your own fieldwork.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

"Lubbock Asian Worship" presentation

All:

Please read and respond (via "Comments") to at least 3 of the following observations/queries arising from this presentation. Both team members and other class members should comment, and should particularly focus on ways in which insights from this presentation reflect, nuance, or contradict insights from your own fieldwork. Make sure your comments address this latter point.

Website at http://www.freewebs.com/lubbockasianworship/
  1. Good commentary about definitions: it is (a) both a good practical strategy at the beginning of a musicological work (so that misunderstood definitions are not used against you) and (b) an intriguing glimpse into the ways in which definitions shape and reflect cognitive models. All students (in "Comments"): in what ways do definitions shape or reveal how people think about music and music's role in communities. Cite examples from your own fieldwork.
  2. Very good observation about the ways music can be a means of "getting ready for" liminal experience; how does music "open the path" for religious experience? In this fieldwork project? In other ethnographic situations? Larger question: what are the shared cognitive functions of (a) music and (b) religious ritual? What human experiences are each art form intended to produce? How do they do it? Are there parallels between the two?
  3. Issue of communitizing role for music: that is, music as a tool to create the experience of community (within either a single specific event, or in a chain of ongoing shared events). All students: is/are certain musics used consistently across multiple events to invoke similar reactions each time it is used? Please comment and provide specific examples from your own fieldwork.
  4. This is a good example of a presentation which, while making superb usage of fieldwork, graphics, images, and website design, is nevertheless “prose-based”; that is, we could imagine this presentation making the transition to the printed page relatively easily. What other different models for presentations have we seen so far? Into what sort of "presentational model" does your own team's project fall? Describe in "Comments."
  5. Issues of bilinguality (that is, between American English and other spoken languages): notice this team's effective use of audio evidence to demonstrate this bilinguality. What sorts of other patterns and relationships does this conscious use of bilinguality reveal?
  6. (All class members): Can you draw comparisons between this project's outline, procedures, and insights and to some of our readings? Provide specific discussion (in "Comments") of ways this presentation provides insights into issues of borrowing, synthesis, and diaspora (please both cite and explain relevance of specific readings).

Bluegrass presentation

All:

Please read and respond (via "Comments") to at least 3 of the following observations/queries arising from this presentation. Both team members and other class members should comment, and should particularly focus on ways in which insights from this presentation reflect, nuance, or contradict insights from your own fieldwork. Make sure your comments address this latter point.

Website at http://freewebs.com/spcbluegrass/

  1. Nice layout; how does the organization (visual or conceptual) of the final presentation (web, conference paper, lecture-demo, or other) impact upon the clarity and deeper insights you want audience members to derive?
  2. Note the very effective strategy to use differing team assignments (e.g., "you do this, you do that, I'll do this"), not only to save on hours allotted, but--much more importantly--because it presents different types of fieldwork experiences. No two fieldworkers will experience a situation similarly, it is true--and therefore it is nice if (as with some teams) 2 team members experienced the same situation in 2 different roles. However, "chunking out" assignments, informants, or fieldwork situations to different team members does permit each team member to meet with the same people multiple times, thereby building a deeper, subtler, and more nuanced interaction with informants.
  3. What are the implications, within a given musical tradition of particular notational and/or pedagogical tools? How do pedagogical tools reveal musical priorities and aesthetics? Can you summarize the implications of these contrasted methods? Axiom: every musical tradition develops its own indigenous pedagogy, designed to accurately and efficiently transmit those musical characteristics that the tradition itself believes to be important. For example: African percussion music has developed very sophisticated oral/aural means for teaching and conveying subtle and complex polyrhythmic concepts, whereas Irish traditional music has developed similarly subtle and complex means for honing melodic recognition and retention. To each idiom its appropriate pedagogy. What are the implications if someone from an outside musical tradition, unfamiliar with the indigenous pedagogy, tries to teach that music using a non-traditional method? What things are lost?
  4. Heavily dependent upon outside listening for issues of appropriate performance practice
  5. What are the implications, in this project, of the diversity of student profiles? Clearly students at SPC are involved for a wide range of personal reasons; what is the impact of this diversity on the overall community? How does it compare to other musical sub-communities?
  6. What are the implications of verbacl narrative in presenting such material effectively?
  7. Mitch (and others): You described buildings, decor, and physical objects. Clearly you believe this is significant information (and I agree) but can you articulate for us what are the implications/interpretations you can build from the material-culture descriptions?
  8. Similarly, what about the implications of the various performance strategies and procedures.?

"Early Rock 'n' Roll" presentation

All:

Please read and respond (via "Comments") to at least 3 of the following observations/queries arising from this presentation. Both team members and other class members should comment, and should particularly focus on ways in which insights from this presentation reflect, nuance, or contradict insights from your own fieldwork. Make sure your comments address this latter point.

Website at http://www.webpages.ttu.edu/cpeoples/
  1. You mentioned that the “Majority of building is not taken up with Buddy Holly”, despite the fact that it is named after Buddy Holly. Why might this be? What are the issues of "cultural ownership" and "cultural power" that are involved in the naming of things? If the building entails a number of other functions, what does that reveal about community and/or cultural priorities?
  2. As I said in class, this is an excellent example of “urban ethnomusicology”. What sorts of tools does this require? What is the impact of presentational choices (e.g., how, using what methods, and with what sort of structure) upon your presentation's clarity and impact? How can an ethnographer make sure that the format in which the data is presented avoids distorting (and ideally clarifies and deepens) the insights implicit in the data?
  3. Good observation about the necessity of timely attendance at crucial events, regardless of their convenience. What are other examples, from other teams' experience and from our readings, in which an ethnographer found him/herself unexpectedly provided an opportunity for fieldwork? How do you, as fieldworker, make sure you're prepared?
  4. Issues of “identity,” “appropriation,” and “ownership”; who owns a cultural legacy?
  5. Unpack nature of your own interactions;
  6. Nice observations about future work; eg. “so what and who cares”?
  7. Good question about generational stuff and “passing on” of cultural value

"Lead guitar" presentation

All:

Please read and respond (via "Comments") to at least 3 of the following observations/queries arising from this presentation. Both team members and other class members should comment, and should particularly focus on ways in which insights from this presentation reflect, nuance, or contradict insights from your own fieldwork. Make sure your comments address this latter point.

Website at http://leadguitar.group.googlepages.com/
  1. Very effective use of website layout. What are all the ways in which data format and linkage help to set up, reveal, or clarify relationships?
  2. Great commentary about physical location/neighborhood/environment. How do such "material culture" factors reflect or reveal your target communities' "social landscapes." Remember, "landscape" is a cultural/identity idea, not a physical entity.
  3. How do musical style characteristics, like song texts, and their selection, help to reveal not only musical aesthetics but also social, cultural, or identity beliefs? What tools do you need to link the two? How do they apply in each of our examined situations?
  4. Notice the team's good commentary about enhanced insight as result of this seminar: even in a situation which may be somewhat familiar (e.g., in which you or a team member may be a quasi-insider), it is possible to use ethnographic approaches to gain new, fresh, or different insights on that familiar situation. In other words, just as it is possible to use ethnomusicological approaches to "find a way in" to an alien situation, it is also possible to use the same approaches to make a familiar situation more alien, thus enhancing your ability to observe previously-unnoticed factors.
  5. I was glad that team members spoke of the human relationships that you both discovered and developed. These relationships between informants and fieldworkers, like the relationships between sub-community members, are real (even if often ignored by conventional scholarship) and they should be valued and respected.
  6. Great phrase “transit of property” – can you relate this "passing of the torch" to concepts of lineage, as discussed in class?
  7. How do patterns of genres studied or valued reveal the sociology and/or demographics, of both musicians and of audiences?

"Visions of Light" gospel presentation

All:

Please read and respond (via "Comments") to at least 3 of the following observations/queries arising from this presentation. Both team members and other class members should comment, and should particularly focus on ways in which insights from this presentation reflect, nuance, or contradict insights from your own fieldwork. Make sure your comments address this latter point.

Website at http://www.taskstream.com/main/?/peacock7/GospelProject/VisionsOfLight.html

  1. Comments/more information about the subjective as well as objective experiences of participation vs observation
  2. Interesting comment about presence or absence of racial discourse: you mentioned it only in passing, but surely the issue of informants' versus observers ethnicity was a factor? Comments, either about its presence, or strategies for negotiating this?
  3. Very effective use of camera angles (note unobtrusive placement of camera, but how effectively it captured key interactions)
  4. Very nice contrast of video-documented situations--the diversity of rehearsal vs repertoire session vs performance gives us a much wider sense of the community
  5. Team members experienced a range of behavioral interactions (observation versus participation, etc): further to (1) above, can you discuss useful/not-so-useful aspects of each type of interaction?
  6. We spoke about this in class but I would be glad to have more comments, both from VoL team members and also from members of other teams whose informants might have expressed similar ideas: what is the role of a community's "self-mythology" (about its creation, its history, its makeup, its values)? Can observing, documenting, and analyzing a community's "myths" help us understand the music they make? Conversely, can ethnographic investigation of the music they make help us understand the community's "myths" and sense of collective identity? This question would be a priority for class comments!
  7. Kinesthetics: there were interesting comments about "body knowledge" and "body learning" in the presentation. Can team members (and members of other teams) unpack the significance of this kind of learning? What are its unique benefits, if any?
  8. Nice observation about the (stylistically-different but nevertheless very real) virtuosity required of teachers in this idiom; does this resonate with other teams' investigations?
  9. Good comments from team and class about analysis of song texts (and their selection by members of the community) as tools for understanding community's "constructed identity". Class members: what are the "identity texts" employed by your target subcommunity?
  10. More about pedagogical approaches: what is the impact of oral/aural learning? How does this particular set of pedagogical tools integrate with the community member's diverse musical backgrounds?
  11. Comment upon the sense of (historical, autobiographical, sociological) contextualization which informants tend to provide when asked about their experiences. How is music a "tool" for informants to make sense of their lives and experience?
  12. Good comments on the limited response you received to surveys. It is good, as you did, to report upon total number distributed versus total number received; this “sample-size” is crucial in determined the applicability of the survey results.
  13. Great use of “conclusions” format; other teams take note.

(by and large) I am very pleased!

The subsequent posts will address themes, issues, and follow-up questions for each of the presentations we heard on 11.30.06. But, as a general comment, I am (by and large) very pleased. I am delighted that various teams and members really took the initiative, did more than the minimum that was required, and threw themselves into this research.

As it happens, an unexpected side-benefit of the presentation groupings is that Tuesday's class will all be focused on various Latino/Hispanic dance styles. I expect that we will discover lots of connections between and across those presentations.

Everyone: please arrive promptly so that all four teams can receive their full allotted time. I realize that the weather was an issue today, but it should not be on next Tuesday.

Your reading assignments should now all be done. That being the case, I will ask you to turn your attention to reading, and commenting upon, the issues/themes/questions I articulate for each presentation--I will expect to see each class member's response in each of the posts for the individual presentations.

Also, please continue to comment, if you have not done so, on the various readings--I am still reading and tallying individuals' comments on those readings. For purposes of grading, comments for the Jones-Bamman will be counted up until Tuesday 12.5.06, 11am.

Jury is still out as regards Final Exam/no Final Exam. If it happens, it will be on the University-mandated day/date/time: Wed Dec 13 7:30-10:00am (yes, I know that is an unhuman time).

Thanks for the great work by everyone today.

cjs

As I'm linking, I'm realizing I didn't post these

10/26

Today was a rehearsal just like the one I observed before. P1 explained that they choose tunes/songs to perform by bringing in recordings and then making a chart. Each member of the ensemble is responsible for bringing in a piece that is "theirs," even if they say, don't actually sing the songs or are featured on the tune. They start rehearsal on a Bela Fleck tune, which is new. I noticed that P1 gives cues with his eyebrows. The form of this one is difficult and the fiddle part is technically demanding as well as improvisationally demanding. P1 makes some interesting comments:
"All music is made up."
In reference to making a fiddle solo work.
"Make the sounds good fiddle players make."
In reference to how you should decide what to play, again to C the fiddle player.

I noticed the form of all of these pieces is basically the same. Two part tune, and the melody is then played as a solo by each member in turn. Not really much new information this time, but just getting to see them interact in their normal environment.

11/2

This session was really interesting because of two reasons. I guess my informants are getting used to me coming by now, because they started talking about their lives and their families. NOTE: See informants page for information.
I also got to hear the ensemble before this one talking to a prospective student. From what I overheard, many of the players at SPC come to school without really knowing how to play anything. SPC teaches them the basics and beyond. Most of the students are encouraged to pick up several instruments while they're there. Students tend to "pick" with each other on the weekends, with one or the other of them "hosting" the session. This year, most of the students who host the picking sessions have graduated, so it doesn't happen too often.
The ensemble spends much of the time today talking about doctoring the bridges of their banjos. There are several new things on the board, which I think are referring to class presentations on the Banjo, Lloyd Lear, Jason Carter, Delmore Bros, Vassar Clements, and the Dobro. The one place where the professors gig in town is Larry's Smokehouse, an older place that just moved across town. I'm also invited to a gathering in Meadow. R explained that they play bluegrass in a back room and country on the mainstage. It's the second Saturday of every month.

11/14 Meadow Gig

Mitch and I drive out to Meadow. The directions I was given are few and far between--> Just drive around till you see a lot of cars. So I mapquest the place, and find out where main street is. We drive around for a little while, and once we find main street it's fairly easy to find the gathering.....as it had all of the cars there. The place looks like an old dance hall/church. There are pews instead of chairs, but there's an area for dancing anyway and a snackbar. The mainstage country is more of a gig, with people dancing in the back. D sees me, he is dressed in a black stetson and cowboy boots. He has just finished playing mainstage country, and shows me where the bluegrass guys are playing. It's a small unheated back room with abour 15 people crammed in, plus us now. Two of the guys from SPC are there, R and D. A said he would try to make it, but he doesn't. Two main guys call the songs/tunes: R and G (guitar and vocals). R is playing banjo exclusively instead of his usual guitar/dobro/banjo mix. Some of the songs I recognize: Fox on the Run. Two of the musicians in the middle are related (young man and his father). They switch between mandolin, guitar, and upright bass several times in the evening. This gathering serves several purposes. 1) Teaching the tradition to other people (as we left we were told to come back and pick with them) 2) Learning appropriate social interaction in this setting (Young girl was desperately trying to get her brother to pass a note to the young mandolin player, and was told to behave several different times by various musicians.).

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Rob's Fieldnotes from Nov. 14

Nov. 14 Fieldnotes
Today I visited Cavazos Middle School again to sit in on the Mariachi class. My guitar skills have been improving slowly and I was able to make it through “Faliz Navidad” with them today. I arrived a few minutes before class started and E.C. let me go on in to find a seat on stage. The group has an upcoming performance on Dec. 8 so they have been rehearsing with their concert set-up on stage. They are again set up in an arch with two rows but E.C. rearranged them so the trumpets were on the end of the back row and violins and Vihuelas in the front row. Also, E.C. put the Guitarons in the middle of the back row to have the “bass in the center of the group” as E.C. put it. The guitars were spread out a little bit, split on either side of the Guitarons.
After the students came in, E.C. rehearsed some of the harder tunes such as “La Valentina” and “De Colores.” I just sat out on these tunes because I don’t have all the chords or strumming patterns down yet. “De Colores” happens to have lyrics so I tried singing along with them. One thing I found interesting is that none of the students sang loudly so it sounded very thin and empty. E.C. had to get on to them several times about singing out, especially the boys. From my experiences with professional Mariachi bands, singing is a very important aspect of performance where everyone fully participates. At Cavazos, even though singing is incorporated, it isn’t stressed as much as I think it might be in other groups.
We then rehearsed my favorite tune (mainly because it’s the only one I can play straight down), “Feliz Navidad.” I tried singing and playing but it didn’t work out so much so I just focused on getting all the chords this time. It was kind of cool both last time and today how the students sitting next to me would move their stand so I could look on, or when I got off, they would point to where we were in the music. Also, they had changed the strumming pattern in the closing section of it last week, but we ended, E.C. was kind enough to explain to me what it was during class. He said they changed it to a down-down-up-down-down-up-down-up pattern which was a more traditional “son” pattern.
They then went on to rehearse “Cielito Lindo” and “Volver Volver” which are two of the tunes they are learning by “Rote.” I again had to sit out due to the lack of familiarity to the pieces but tried singing along just to stay engaged.
Most of the lyrics were sung in thirds- the boys on bottom and girls on top. Many of the girls struggled hearing the harmony but still did a good job of trying to sing out.
During the rehearsal, E.C. talked about how all the songs needed to be memorized for their upcoming concert. He later changed this to just apply to the chordal accompaniment and that the melody instruments would not have to have everything memorized because “the notes of the song melodies are harder to memorize than chords.” I began to wonder what other performance practices they group might incorporate for their concert. Such as, will they be standing or sitting like they have been in rehearsal; or will E.C. be playing/singing along like he does in rehearsal?
After the class ended, I asked E.C. a couple more of my groups interview questions. I asked about how Mariachi came to Lubbock and he responded that “It migrated with the people with Mexican background and that many of the early settlers were Mexican ranchers.” Also I asked if he could think of any common words or phrases used in Mariachi. I think he misunderstood my question to be specifically song lyrics, so next time I go out there I have to try to re-word my question. I also asked if there is any historical aspects of Mariachi that he tries to emphasize to his students. He said the he usually stays away from it but there is a really good short background on the music in the method book.

Rob's Fieldnotes from Oct. 31

Rob’s Fieldnotes Oct. 31

This afternoon, I was able to sit in on the Cavazos Middle School Mariachi class. Unlike my last visit, I brought a guitar and was able to participate in the class as a student. I arrived to the class the same time the actual students were and was able to get a seat in the middle of the guitar section. The band was set up in a small arc with the “rhythm” instruments on the back row (from left to right: guitaron, vihuela, guitar) and the melody instruments on the front row (from left to right: violin, trumpet). The class met on the stage of the school auditorium, behind the closed curtain.
We rehearsed “Faliz Navidad” first and I was able to strum through most of the chords. As Mr. Cornelsen told me our last visit, much of the music is based around simple harmony but the strumming patterns are what can be difficult. This became obvious to me as I played and tried to keep up with the accented strokes. The class also sings with all the music that has words. I tried this since I am familiar with the English text in this song and struggled quite a bit with trying to keep up with the playing too. One performance tip that Mr. Cornelsen said to the violins was to not put the violins down all the way when singing. They needed to have them ready to play again once the melody came back to their part. He also mentioned that in a live setting where professional Mariachi use amplification, FM microphones will sometimes be placed in the violin in order to pick up the violin part, but the violin players will often sing into the violin and use this mic for vocal amplification too. For “Faliz Navidad,” the students didn’t have music, they had a sheet with the text on it but just had chords scribbled in. I later asked Mr. Cornelsen about this and he said that he likes to incorporate learning songs by rote which is the traditional way Mariachi musicians were trained.
We went on to play “DeColores” and “LaValentina” which are both Ranchera Valseada style tunes that are included in the method book. Mr. Cornelsen pointed out the use of “Contratiempo” (counter tempo) which is a hemiola within the music that goes against the meter. We also practiced a piece called “Volver Volver” which is another tune learning by rote in this class. On all the tunes with singing, Mr. Cornelsen encouraged the students to sing out. Like many students at this age, they were timid when it came to singing.
Throughout the rehearsal, the students sitting next to me were very open and helpful in getting me back on track when it was obvious I was lost in the Music. I was also able to speak with them a little bit about their experience. Some of them are beginners at Mariachi or even their instrument while some in the class have been playing for 2 years already.
After class I asked Mr. Cornelsen about how Mariachi music in Lubbock differs from its original context. He responded that much of the music is the same but as you travel, due to the music being learned by rote or imitation, little things change such as the key that tunes might be played in.

Discussion Questions for Jones-Bamman

Discussion Questions (please respond, as usual, in "Comments" below):

1. What is the goal of this article? How do types of evidence, sources cited, and conclusions drawn help us understand what Jones-Bamman is seeking to accomplish? Hint: ask yourself the “So What?” and “Who Cares?” questions: that is, what is the significance of this article and for whom (which areas of scholarship) might it be useful and/or enlightening?

2. What is the impact or relevance of colonialism in the case of Saami culture and music? What was the historical impact of the colonial experience on Saami? What was the cultural impact? In the “post-colonial” period, what are the legacies of colonialism?

3. It seems to me that “appropriation” is a key term/concept in the case of both this article and in the case of those modern Saami singers who combined joiking with other and/or modern styles. Be prepared to define “appropriation” as it operates in this specific article, and to discuss its application and/or relevance to understanding the issues that these musicians faced. Moreover, can you think of parallel examples, perhaps from other readings?

4. Be prepared to explore the issue of “authenticity” in this case. The term is not necessarily employed, but I would argue that joiking, in the case of the Saami and of this article, came to represent “authenticity.” What were the prior associations of joiking? What strategies did Saami singers and cultural advocates employ to try to shift or “flip” these associations?

5. (further to 3 & 4 above) In light of this historical case, what is the relationship between minority ó majority; subordinate ó dominant; “primitive” versus “authentic”; and appropriation ó assimilation ó syncresis ó acculturation. I believe it is possible to relate all of these dichotomies, thereby building a model, applicable across cultures, which helps us understand and perhaps even predict the ways in which these interactions may operate.

6. What is the relationship, as laid out in this article, between joiking, cultural identity, and liminality? Be prepared to describe and explain. Moreover, be prepared to relate cultural identity, subordinate status, appropriation, and liminality. As with Question #5 above, I believe it is possible to build a model relating all four of these factors, and applicable across cultural situations.

7. What is the role of music in “cultural revitalization” initiatives? (Hint: see pp357ff) What are the nationalist motives driving cultural revitalization initiatives? What are the ethnic or minority motives? Do nationalist versus minority motives clash? Do they align? When and for what reasons? Cite examples from this particular case study.

8. Be prepared to summarize and describe the debates held by various Saami cultural advocates: governmental, academic, Saami, and Saami-in-the-Diaspora. All of these parties believed in the value of joiking as a tool in redressing the post-colonial legacy (see 2 above), but at various points in the debate (detailed by Jones-Bamman) all found themselves in disagreement about how, whether, and in what ways to employ it. What were the terms of this debate? What do those terms reveal about the issues that often arise in post-colonialist cultural-revivalist situations? (cf Dr Smith’s comments about many analogous situations elsewhere)

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

On Mitchell Street...

Met up with Lauren at the MB and followed her out to Meadow, approximately 30 miles west of Lubbock. Even with Meadow being a small, small town it still took about five minutes of driving around before we found the Meadow Musical, and as the title of this blog suggests it is on Mitchell St. The main structure looked well constructed and large from the outside. The only exception was the addition on the left side (when facing the front of the building), which appeared to be pulled from an old house and stuck onto the larger building in a hasty manner.

As you can tell from the crude rendition, the room where the bluegrass music was being played is quite small. There were between 15 and 20 people in the room, 9 of which were playing instruments. Instrumentation: 2 banjos, 4 guitars, 1 bass, 1 violin (fiddle), and 1 mandolin. The gentleman in front of me playing guitar sang on the majority of the songs, with the gentleman to my left, playing banjo, singing harmony and occasionally melody. Songs were chosen at random, if enough people knew the song, someone would start and everyone else would join in. If the song selected wasn’t well known but seemed interesting, a key was chosen and again someone started playing/singing. The age range of the majority of both performers and audience is 50-70 approximately. The youngest performer, on bass, is probably in his mid 20s. Based upon the looks he received from the other performers and the lack of sound I concluded that he did not have much experience with bass. This conclusion was reinforced when the gentleman playing mandolin stood up and exchanged instruments with the younger musician, they remained this way for the remainder of the evening.
The evening was certainly entertaining, which I believe to be the main purpose of the gatherings. The performers did not worry over missed notes, they played, sang, and enjoyed the music making process. Smiles were worn on every face in the room, whether it stemmed from the music, the musicians chiding one another, or the young girl (10 years old) trying desperately to get a note to the young mandolin player, all while being pestered by her younger brother (8 years old).
Harmonically things were kept simply, I, ii, IV, V, and maybe an occasional vi were used. The violin player improvised finishes and fills for the more melodically lacking sections of songs. He also declared a number of times that he could not play and invited anyone else to take the instrument.
When leaving, we were thanked for coming out and invited to return to the next gathering and to bring instruments. We assured them that while we would love to play our instruments would not fit in, to which we were told that there were always extra instruments.

Josh, Tony, & Rob website

Our website is at:

www.freewebs.com/joshttu

Even more belated than Stefan's and Jordans!

And yes, this is the past 6 field works notes that I have. Leave it to me to wait until the last minute. I know that is definately not proper ethnographic technique, but nevertheless, I am going against the grain.

Brian Gravelle Fieldwork Notes 10/14
1:30-3:30

I arrived early to see if the room was open. It was not. This is only my second time to sing with the VOL choir. I saw my informant R. and struck up some conversation with him. We waited until someone came and opened up the Soap Suds room so that we could go in. I walked in and immediately surveyed the room to see where the best spot would be to put the camera. Luckily, the chairs this time were arranged so that they were facing away from the windows on South portion of the room. An upright piano was situated also on the south wall near the door. I sat down and waited for everyone to arrive. I asked R. if he thought it was ok if I taped the rehearsal and he said it wouldn’t be a problem. I then asked the other choir members if they were fine with me taping the rehearsal. Some were less than eager, but they were ok with it. I tried to find a plug near the piano because I figured the piano would yield the best vantage point in the room. I set it up and pressed record and let the camera run in the same spot the entire rehearsal.
In hindsight, I would want to make sure that I had the entire choir in the shot, but after viewing the tape, I realized that I did not. Live and learn.
I sat down in the back row and waited for rehearsal to begin.
I was glad to have Bob there because he was a familiar face and it was nice to have another teammate there for another perspective on the rehearsal process.
We learned a new song that I believe was called Enter In. We went over the lyrics before we even started learning the melody or parts.
I still find this very difficult as a trained singer because I don’t have any lyrics or music in front of me. I have to learn the melody on the spot as well as remember the lyrics. Sometimes it’s difficult.
We then went over the Blessing of Abraham. We had previously practiced this song at the last rehearsal I attended, so I had a better grasp on this song. We also went over these lyrics to refresh our memories before getting into the music again.
I am amazed at the talent that D possesses. He is able not only to know all three parts of the harmony, but he also sings them. I alone have a tough time picking out the tenor line, let alone knowing the alto part and the soprano part and having the falsetto to actually sing these parts.
We also rehearsed the song Giants. D went over the lyrics before we rehearsed with the music.
I like the fact that we sing not only sitting down but standing up as well because standing up is always good for good vocal production.
The altos were having a difficult time with their part in Giants, so D stopped and played the cd to make sure he knew the right part and then sang it to them and they all practiced until the altos had their part learned. We also went over another song called In the Fellowship. At that time I did not have a cd so I was having a tough time with this song. I struggled with the rhythm along with the lyrics, but after repeating a couple times, I managed. We ended rehearsal by gathering in a circle and a girl, who is the groups chaplain, saying a prayer for everyone.
The rehearsal was a lot like my church choir rehearsal in these respects. We pray for everyone before we leave as well. It was a comforting feeling to know that other groups go through the same things.

Brian Gravelle Fieldwork Notes 10/16
3:10-3:50pm
I arrived at C’s office at 2:45 for our 3:00pm appointment. I waited in the lobby outside his office. I was eager to speak with him because he was the first person that showed interest in talking to me about gospel music. He showed me into his office and I welcomed him with a handshake. We sat down and I had my questions all ready, as well as a tape recorder. I asked him if it was ok and he said it was fine because he was going to talk for a while. He wasn’t kidding. This man knew a lot about gospel music. I was eager to listen to all that he knew and what he could offer me in terms of a background in the field as well as other things about gospel music. He gave me a cd that had gospel choirs and performers from the late 70’s and early 80’s. I was eager to listen to it because I wanted to see the differences in the music then and the gospel scene now. We talked about the history of gospel and how it came from slavery and made its way into mainstream music. The interview is transcribed fully, but I wanted to write this for my opinions on the interview itself. I felt very comfortable around C. He is a very approachable man and is willing to give you the shirt off his back. He has been in this choir for over 14 years. He was one of the founding members. As I talked to him, I could tell that he loved gospel music and loved to sing and direct in this choir. He knew of different performers that paved the way for gospel music as well as performers today that have changed the genre. It was hard to get a word in edgewise, to be honest. That is a good thing in an interview I guess. I did manage to get the questions in that I wanted to ask and I learned some interesting things about C as well. Overall I was very pleased in the interview and he gave me more than enough information.

Brian Gravelle Fieldwork Notes 11/3
6-7:30 pm
I immediately started off the evening by searching for the Lubbock room for over 20 minutes. I could not for the life of me find out where it was. I walked upstairs around all the conference rooms at least 3 times. I continuously searched until I saw someone who was in the choir. Of course the Lubbock room was the only conference room that was not labeled. I walked into the conference room and again searched for the best place to set up my camera. The chairs were facing the wall opposite the door, and there was nothing high in the room for me to prop my camera on. I ended up taking one of the chairs and placing it in the corner of the room, facing the rows of chairs. I positioned it so that I could gain the best perspective from the room by making sure I could see the choir as well as the directors. I did wish that I had a better view of the whole choir but I would have needed someone to be filming the whole time or have a tripod to gain better access to the whole choir. I did good with the resources that I had I think.
VOL starts off every rehearsal with some time of worship and the chaplain gets up and quotes a scripture and talks about how that scripture affects everyone’s lives. She might also just explain something and how the members can be more in tune with God and Christ. This lets me remember that this rehearsal is very deeply rooted in religion and in worship. One rehearsal she talked about a relationship with God is like a marriage with God. There is also what Dr. Smith would call “class business.” There if VOL business that happens during each rehearsal. C asked the members if they would be able to perform at The Edge that next Friday. The Edge is part of the Trinity Church and is part of the youth ministry at Trinity Church. There were enough people that could make the performance, so it was settled that VOL would give a performance on that following Friday. I was very happy that I could attend because I wanted to perform with this group and see what it was like.
Rehearsal also did not start till 6:20. Most times there are people who are late during every rehearsal that I have attended. We did not start singing until about 6:40. We were going to run through all the music that was to be performed the following week. The music that would be performed would be Giants, Blessing of Abraham, and Grateful. We also incorporated the choreography that we would use during the performance. In the Blessing of Abraham we clapped and swayed and during Grateful we slowly swayed back and forth. During Giants we also swayed and clapped to the beat.
I was surprised how a simple clapping on the beat and swaying really got me into the music. It is true that you have to put your whole body and soul into the music. I felt the clapping and swaying helped merge the choir into a more tightly knit group. It was an experience. I also like the fact that we could also have fun while making music at the same time. There was a time in the rehearsal where the song splits into three parts and when we were done a girl asked, “What is ham?” She was of course asking about the last note of Abraham, but C took the time to inform her about the deliciousness of this ham product and how it goes well with rolls. Everyone had a good laugh about that. C also informed us on the right and wrong ways to clap because some people look lackluster in their performance and others…just shouldn’t clap.
The rehearsal ended with C telling us when and where to show up for next Friday. It was a successful rehearsal.

Brian Gravelle Fieldwork Notes 11/17
6-7pm
The last rehearsal was in the Mesa room in the UC. I got there early as usual and met R and D.I. They were waiting for everyone else to show up. I sit down and begin to write some notes as people come in. I noticed that people were getting more and more comfortable with me being there. I no longer felt like an outsider, but someone who belonged in that choir. We moved the chairs so that we would have more room to put the chair in two lines. I took my seat in the back behind the tenors. D told us that we would learn two new songs today. I was eager to learn something new because we had been practicing the same songs for a while now. The first new song that we learned was called My Worship is for Real. We went over the new lyrics one line at a time and then went over the melody and parts before we put it to music. It was hard to write down the lyrics and listen, so at times I just had to listen first and then write down the lyrics.
C said that this song reminds him of the story of David and the arc of the covenant and when he came back his wife was angry with him and he was sad because she would never know why he had to go find the arc of the covenant. It was just what he had to do. The harmony was fairly simple. The sopranos had the hardest part to learn. We went through the lyrics and the music a couple of times and stood up and sang through the whole piece before moving into another piece. The other piece that we learned was called Incredible God. We went through the lyrics with this song as well. D taught us the harmony part by part, throughout the entire song. It was good because we knew exactly what was going on and then he put all three parts together.
I had to leave early because I had a dress rehearsal for my Junior recital, but I did stay more than halfway through the rehearsal. I thought this rehearsal was successful because we learned two new pieces, seeing as the concert for VOL is December 3rd. I am looking forward to seeing and maybe participating in it.

Brian Gravelle Fieldwork Notes 11/10
VOL Performance 9:45-10:30
The night begins with Bob and me driving together to the performance. We pull into the parking lot of The Edge and immediately notice that there are not many cars. I myself am not sure if this really is the place, but nevertheless we exit the vehicle and make our way to what we suspect as the door. The Edge, for all good reasons, was once a shopping center. The Trinity Church must have purchased it and used part of it as this hang out for young teens. I am also carrying two cans of beans, because to gain access into the place you have to either bring three dollars or donate a canned item. I walk into The Edge and notice an information center near the entrance. A girl walks up and asks us what we need. I tell her that we are here to sing and she politely takes our cans and says that we can walk around. Bob has my camera engulfed in his enormous hand as we walk around, taking The Edge in.
I notice ping pong tables, foosball tables, and air hockey tables near the entrance. I walk near the stage and notice the chairs arranged in a crescent pattern in front of the stage. There are about 100 split into 4 rows with an aisle down the middle. I notice the movable walls in either side of the stage, along with an elaborate microphone system and lighting design. Behind the chairs is a mixing station complete with computer and mixing board. To the left of the mixing platform are tables where people are setting up food. I walk around some more and then R and I show up. They are dressed in their VOL shirts. I am in a black shirt because I have yet to get a VOL shirt. Bob and I wait around until more VOL people start to show up. We are then informed that we won’t perform till about 10. So Bob and I decide to pass the time with some ping pong and air hockey.
I find out that I am not good at air hockey, but I am pretty good at ping pong. I finish my game and then the other choir members wait behind one of the movable walls. We got into a circle and prayed for a good performance. Then we all lined up and went out on stage.
By this time I was nervous and excited because I was finally getting to perform with this group.
We start out by singing Giants. We all try to find a spot that is suitable for clapping and so we can hear each other. The clapping goes well, but somehow I manage to bump into the tenor in front of me, but we laugh it off and keep singing.
The next song that we do is Grateful. The mood definitely changes. I notice the slow swaying and the change in everyone’s persona and voice. It is a different feeling that I get from the song.
The last song we sing is Blessing of Abraham. I think it is a good ender because it is upbeat and it gets the crowd involved and excited. I really got into the music and the words.
After the last song, we smiled and left the stage. I was happy that I got to perform with the VOL gospel choir. I enjoyed making the music and having an audience respond as well as they did. I left shortly after we were done. It was a success.

Brian Gravelle Fieldwork Notes 11/11
1:50-2:45pm
Today we were in the Knapp conference room in the Horn/Knapp dorms. It was hard finding this room as well because I had not been there before. I again found some girls in VOL and they showed me in the right direction. There were only 8 people that showed up to rehearsal. I had to leave early because of an engagement, but I did manage to show up for half of the rehearsal. We talked about VOL business and the shirt design for the semester. The shirts are going to be black and red. There was a possibility of going with blue and gold, but more people wanted black and red. The chaplain also talked about being Christ-like and being holy. That you should always strive to be better and be conscious about what you do and not to be complacent. She also said it is good to have conviction and that conviction is a fixed or formed belief. I had to leave before we even rehearsed any music, but I am glad that I showed up.

Brian Gravelle Fieldwork Notes 11/17
6-7pm
The last rehearsal was in the Mesa room in the UC. I got there early as usual and met R and D.I. They were waiting for everyone else to show up. I sit down and begin to write some notes as people come in. I noticed that people were getting more and more comfortable with me being there. I no longer felt like an outsider, but someone who belonged in that choir. We moved the chairs so that we would have more room to put the chair in two lines. I took my seat in the back behind the tenors. D told us that we would learn two new songs today. I was eager to learn something new because we had been practicing the same songs for a while now. The first new song that we learned was called My Worship is for Real. We went over the new lyrics one line at a time and then went over the melody and parts before we put it to music. It was hard to write down the lyrics and listen, so at times I just had to listen first and then write down the lyrics.
C said that this song reminds him of the story of David and the arc of the covenant and when he came back his wife was angry with him and he was sad because she would never know why he had to go find the arc of the covenant. It was just what he had to do. The harmony was fairly simple. The sopranos had the hardest part to learn. We went through the lyrics and the music a couple of times and stood up and sang through the whole piece before moving into another piece. The other piece that we learned was called Incredible God. We went through the lyrics with this song as well. D taught us the harmony part by part, throughout the entire song. It was good because we knew exactly what was going on and then he put all three parts together.
I had to leave early because I had a dress rehearsal for my Junior recital, but I did stay more than halfway through the rehearsal. I thought this rehearsal was successful because we learned two new pieces, seeing as the concert for VOL is December 3rd. I am looking forward to seeing and maybe participating in it.

And yes, this is all the fieldwork that I have completed up to today. And yes, it will be all the fieldwork that I do. Sorry for the horrible delay.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Even more belated than Jordan's!

Yep. I'm posting three fieldwork observations from two different dates.

SP Celtic Ens.


While waiting outside the classroom I noticed that a lecture class was watching and discussing a video about Elvis. I also overheard a couple of female students being interviewed by what seemed to be a reporter from the student newspaper. Interestingly, the girls were stumped by the question “Where do you see yourselves in the future?” . It didn’t seem as though they had ever really thought about that. This brings up an interesting point about the range of student goals at the institution. All the former students I spoke with at their gigs entered the school with a very clear objective in mind.

Today there was no playing as it was the class meeting immediately after a performance. Instead they watched a video of their performance. I didn’t write as much as I would have liked to since the lights were off. Unfortunately some of the stuff I “wrote” (more like scribbled) looks more like Arabic than English so those few comments are lost.

Interestingly, but upon reflection not surprisingly, most of the instrumentation is interchangeable with a country or bluegrass group: vocals, guitar, 2 fiddles, upright bass. The instructor played box and bouzouki and another older student played bodhran, guitar, and bouzouki. For one tune they even added in a mandolin. One of the reels they played was done with variations in sort of a bluegrass style. One tune was just solo male vocal. The style he used was very different from the standard American vernacular. It wasn’t quite bel canto, but it definitely had a more “European” sound. The instructor pointed out that the singer transferred there from another university where he studied classical voice.

Although one of the goals of the group was clearly to learn the Celtic style, it also seemed to be geared toward increasing the students’ faculties on their bluegrass/country instruments. This also fits in with one of my other observations about our target community: that they seek out ways to enrich their country playing by trying to implement non-country techniques (like the country guitarist who was able to assimilate Ynvie Malmsteen into his picking solos!)

Another interesting facet of the performance was the fact that the instructor was also a member of the group. This fits in with our apprenticeship model. There is something to be said for sharing the stage with accomplished performers. This way, the students experienced professional levels of performance firsthand. One way this concept manifested itself in the performance was through stage presence modeling. The group had a sizeable problem starting off one tune. The instructor defused the problem with wit, charisma, and a comfortable stage presence. This is the sort of thing one does not learn in private lessons.

I talked shop with the bodhran player for a while. He (like pretty much every one else I spoke with) seems to be really excited about his attendance at South Plains.






SP Western Swing Ensemble

After I attended the Celtic rehearsal and spoke with some individuals, I sat in on the Western Swing class. I didn’t write so much because the students’ eyes were on me more (now that I was out of the cover of darkness). There was a prospective student from Chicago observing too, so I felt I would try to impact the environment as little as possible (for now).

The instrumentation was as follows: 2 fiddles (one absent), drums, male and female vocalists, pedal steel, two older guys on bass and piano (not sure if they were students or instructor or sit-ins or what – I’ll have to ask), and the instructor on a telecaster (he took no solos in this class or the Celtic class). It had been pointed out to me by several people that this is sort of a rebuilding semester for this ensemble. The students did seem a bit less confident than most others I had seen from here.

The players seemed to have notebooks with Nashville number charts for their tunes. I didn’t want to shove my face in them for a closer look, though.

When they started, they just jumped right into full tunes – sort of like every rock or jazz rehearsal I’ve ever been in. Then the instructor would make a few comments and they would hit a spot or two and move on to the next one. He would ask them which one they wanted to do next.

The sound of the group is what I’d call “old school country.” The form is verse-chorus with solos. The rep struck me as the country version of jazz standards. The instructor told me that there are only a couple of tunes added to the canon (my word, not his) every ten years.

Since they are preparing for a concert and the set list is set, I will get some more in-depth information on the tunes next time.



SP Western Swing Ensemble -- second visit

While I was waiting for the class to begin, I ran into the Scottish guitarist from the Doug Moreland Show. He was in town and visiting so he borrowed a guitar and found a practice room. After greeting each other, he proceeded to show me (unprompted) what he was working on. His technical faculty really is amazing. He showed me an acrobatic string bending lick that he uses when going from 1 to major 3 where he bends a string toward the ground a whole step and then, when it meets the adjacent string, he adds it to his bend and bends both back the other way so the new one goes up a whole step while playing both. There are other strings involved in the chords, but I wasn’t able to determine their relative pitches. I tried it on my guitar when I got home and only wound up feeling like a fumbling buffoon. Apparently, every year the faculty designates two students as best vocalist and best instrumentalist of the year. I was told by one source that this guy was best instrumentalist last year. If this guy’s work ethic is even remotely indicative of the level of commitment of the student body, it is no wonder that they are so successful after they leave.

Anyway, I tend to lose track of time when paired with another extrovert, so when I looked at the incorrectly set clock in the hall, I thought I was already 35 minutes late for the class. I was, of course, still 25 minutes early. When I got to the room, the older guy who was playing piano last time was there. He was very friendly and we filled the 25 minutes with conversation. He is a retired school teacher. By this time I have discovered that he and the bassist are students and their involvement seems to be at least somewhat recreational. In fact, I continued to speak with them after the rehearsal and they invited me out for drinks. I’m not usually one to decline an offer for social interaction (not to mention additional insight for this project), but I had to pick up a muffler for my ailing vehicle, so I reluctantly declined. For some reason, it is still bugging me but that’s a personal problem.

Anyway, the class began the same way as the last – a short speech from the instructor and right on to the tunes.

The fiddler from last time is gone and the other fiddler is here.

The rehearsal is very relaxed. In fact, random students not in the ensemble periodically come in and leave.

I sat next to the pianist and looked onto his charts.

The tunes, most with their numbers:

Texas Playboy Rag

Deep Water

Verse

1 17 4 1

1 1 5 5

1 17 4 1

1 5 1 1

Chorus

5 27 5 27

5 27 5 57

1 17 4 1

1 5 1 1

Baby, it sure would go good

A little walk with you sure would be good 1 1

A little talk with you sure would be good 1 1

A little table where the candle glows 4 4

Down at that little place we used to go 1 1

And hold your hand in mine, just like old times 5 4

Baby, it sure would go good 1 1

(the male vocal harmonizes the 6th scale degree on the last 1 effectively turning it into a 67 in first inversion)

Baby, baby – Baby, baby 1 1

Why don’t you come back where you belong? 1 1

I miss you in the morning, miss you when the day is gone 4 4 5

And all night long 5

Take me back to Tulsa

1115

5551

Bob Wills is Still the King

(see sheet scan)

Right or Wrong

6 6 2 2

5 5 1 1

1 1 5 5

2 2 5 5

--------

6 6 2 2

5 5

6 6 2 2

1 5 1 1

Heart To Heart Talk

(see scan of my chicken-scratch)

The amps used on everything but drums (she used hot-rods the whole time) seemed to take care of the balance except during the fiddle solos when the pianist would really thin out his texture.

At the end of the rehearsal, the instructor announced that there is an increased interest in the class for the Spring semester so they will all have to reaudition instead of simply keeping their spots for the year. In addition, a rotating sectional time will be added to the normal demands of the course. Competition within the school seems o be a big part of the educational process. This, I am told, is a reflection of the “real world of country music.”

It’s too bad this project is almost over. I like this environment and especially the people. I may wind up going to a concert every once in a while to say hi.

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Discussion Questions for Polak

Just a very partial list of factors referenced in Polak’s conclusions upon which you could/should comment:
  1. Impact upon Bamako musicians of having taught foreigners
  2. The mobility of musicians across classes, physical locations, or performance contexts, and what this mobility might reveal
  3. Transformation from leather to iron jenbe and what it might reveal
  4. Impact of globalization upon jenbe design, technique, music, aesthetics, economics, and so on; e.g., be prepared to use jenbe to explain globalization, and be prepared to use globalization to explain jenbe
  5. Homogenization, conceptualization, and their relationship(s)
  6. Net “advantages” to jenbe’s globalization? Problems? Losses?
  7. Generational perspectives on jenbe and what they reveal; what comparable generational perspectives might reveal in your own fieldwork
  8. Commercialization and “decadence”: define, relate, problematize
  9. “blame” versus “fame” equation
  10. “integration” and “ambivalence” and their relationship