Writing about World Music

Davidson College, Spring 2016

Author: daspear

Ethnomusicology

Before every baseball game, home or away, both teams line up, remove our hats, move our attention to the waving flag, and listen to the National Anthem.

I have grown to really appreciate these two minutes of focus on our flag as we pay our respects to our country and those who protect her. I think the song is beautiful. Not because I like the beat, or tone, or lyrics, but because I was raised to embrace it. After learning about the beginnings of our country, I have found the song to be the most universal representation of the perseverance of Americans to become an independent nation. And baseball being America’s pastime, the song is so perfect for every game.

When I hear the song, I become very locked into the flag. Often times, the flag seems brighter to me while the song plays than the rest of the surrounding area. In this moment, I am so thankful to be alive, to be at the field with my teammates, and to be a part of the country. This song is also a time in which I connect with my faith. This often is a time for prayer, thanking God for the opportunity to play. I connect religious worship with hymnals and other worship songs, but the National Anthem serves the same purpose.

The song is also a method of preparing our team before the game. It is played before each game, so our routine is built around it. After the anthem, we gather as a team, and a captain gives us some sort of pep talk to get us ready for battle.

This Friday, when we played St. Louis University, we didn’t hear the National Anthem because their speakers blew out. We ended up losing the game 2-1, but I am not attributing the loss to the lack of the song. What did result was a lot of uneasiness and frustration in the dugout as the respect for that song by SLU was questioned by my teammates. The song really does have an impact on my entire team, and it should be the same for all those listening to it.

Music Therapy

It is a point in the semester where a lot of stuff is just thrown onto our plates. School work, extracurriculars, ethnomusicological observations, and leisure time all need space in my day, but I only have 24 hours. I found a common denominator in all this stuff: I listen to music through all of them. The last on the list, leisure time, is the most interesting to me because music has become a bit of a therapeutic device. I never thought of music in this light, but some songs really clear my mind and allow me to slow everything down. When I decide to take a 15 minute break, I have compiled a few songs that I play in my room to allow me to catch my breath as I power though this busy time in my life.

My first semester ended with a very stressful week. an exorbitant amount of work blindsided me, and I shut down. I sat in my room, quiet, and calculated how low my GPA could get depending on how poorly I did on my 4 exams and 3 papers in the final week. In my second semester I realized I needed a new approach. I do my best to live stress free, and it seems the biggest change I have made is my short decompress sessions accompanied by my favorite songs.

The playlist I have been listening to consists of a wide range of genres. “Volare” by Dean Martin, “2 phones” by Kevin Gates, Bruce Springsteen classics, “Hay al Amanacer” by Nicky Jam, and “3 Peat” by Lil’ Wayne make for a well rounded grouping of songs. I won’t do work while I sit on my futon, I just listen.

I did a little research to find out if music is actually used in practice to be a therapeutic device, and I was pleasantly surprised that many have used it to settle down. I found that

  1. Music can decrease pain through sensory, attentional, and emotional/affective

    sytems

  2. Music can enhance initiation of movement through innate responses to the

    rhythmic elements of music.

    These are just the technical reasons behind why music can work in this way, but I highly recommend just chilling out, and listening to some great tunes at this time in the year.

Works Cited: “Therapeutic Uses of Botulinum Toxin.” (2007): n. pag. Web. 23 Apr. 2016.

Walk Up Song

Baseball is a passion of mine, and I am blessed to play for Davidson. We are a unit of 35, each with different abilities and weaknesses, and we often mix together to seem as “one.” When I realized this, I found a way that we separate ourselves- through music. Each player has a “walk up song” that is played as they walk out to the pitching mound, or into the batters box.

When picking the song, each of us have different priorities in what the song is going to do. Some want it to pump them up, some want the song to help them focus, and others need the song to calm them down. After the first few games this season, and I heard almost everyone’s songs, I began to see differences. Our right fielder listens to “Joy to the World” which obviously is a feel good song that he uses to settle in as he begins to hit. On the “pump up” side is our catcher, who listens to a Andy Mineo song called “In my city.” I am very intense when I pitch, and in the past I have found that adrenaline takes over, and I forget what I am doing on the field. To conquer this issue, I chose “Thats Amore,” a Dean Martin classic, to calm me down. Coming from a guy that listens primarily to rap music, a song makes you feel like you are in an Italian restaurant surprised my teammates. Now every time I am warming up to pitch, I hear this song, smile, and remember why I chose it.

The songs also create a routine for the players. Many of us need a routine in order to perform at our highest potential. This is probably more of a mental thing, or superstition,  but I prefer the same atmosphere when I pitch. I have the same warm up routine, put on clothes in the same order, so changing the music I hear when I walk out onto the field would truly put a wrench in things. Not only would I lose confidence in how I am going to throw, but I will be constantly thinking of how my routine was not perfect as the game starts.

Since we did not have a reading to go off of this week for blog posts, I was challenged to see how music changes my day. This is just another example of how powerful music can be, and without it, a baseball game would not be as exciting.

America’s music

Alex brings up a great example of “unionsance” when listening to the the National Anthem. This is the best example of a song respected by American people, but I think that Americans take ownership of music produced in the country. Just as there is a Eurovision competition, there is certainly a level of pride in having some of the most popular musicians in the world today hail from our country. I think this can be taken to a more local level, such as New Yorkers favoring Jay-Z and Biggie, and Jersey residents making it clear that Fetty Wap is our very own. It also becomes exciting and flattering when an American artist in any genre takes over charts all across the world.

I think music should be available to everyone to enjoy, but sadly music has become more of a business venture than anything else. Kanye West’s latest album, “The Life of Pablo” was only available on the music streaming service “Tidal,” which comes with a minimum of $10 monthly fee. I completely understand making a living on music, but this album, which is quite good, was made exclusive and difficult to listen to. I think making music more about the money is detrimental to who it is perceived by fans. A large group of people could never come together and appreciate at song because it just simply isn’t available to them. Take Kanye’s strategy, and compare it to Lil Wayne’s 2009 release of “No Ceilings.” This is arguably his best work, and it was free. Since its release I have listened to the album countless times with friends and it never ceases to sound great. Pulling a move like Kanye has not only takes away from the music, but also from his image. I know people will not look at him the same way because it seems as if he is more about the financial reward, than rewarding his faithful fans. It is impossible to exhibit any type of unionsance over “The Life of Pablo.”

The art of listening

What I found most impressive about this chapter is how the act of listening is the most important. “As the miraculous word of God, the divine message convinces, not via an articulate artifice of persuasion- the rhetorical labor of skillful human speakers- but by its own perfect unification of beauty and truth. When humans fail to be convinced by this word, the fault lies not in the words but in the organ of reception, the human heart” (134). I have connected this piece of the chapter to Leante’s chapter we read last week, except this is not pertaining specifically to music. Listening is also a very important aspect of a musical and in this case, religious experience. From personal experience in my own religion (Christian), many pastors or preachers use the art of persuasion to get the message of God across to the congregation. It becomes very much like a performance, and enthusiastic preaching, along with the involvement with the audience, sometimes proves to be an effective way of enlightening people.

This article had given me a new perceptive on this point. The art of persuasion, or beautiful preaching, should not be needed for the listeners to comprehend the material. If the word of God is that strong and powerful, it is only on the listener to understand the word. “Hearing, in other words, is not something one passively submits to but a particular kind of action itself. For this reason, what a divine message requires in this tradition is not so much a rhetor as a listener, one who can correctly hear what is already stated in its most perfect, inimitable, and untranslatable form” (134). I do agree an excited pastor certainly has an affect on me, and I get grabbed into what he is saying. Looking back on it, I feel as though i may have been more focussed on the act of him speaking than he message he was preaching. I have also found that I get the most out of reading the Bible when I am alone, or when it is plainly spoken to me.

Metaphor and Sound

Leante has an interesting approach to her piece on the meaning of Indian music. Jalen described it almost as a lab report style. She presents what she is going to talk about, and then gives evidence to support her claim which is made in the conclusion. An important point that is presented early on is the “trait d’union” (163). I find this very interesting because in this Indian classical music, Leante finds a direct relationship between the sound of the raga, and the metaphor it carries along with it. When dealing with the audience, she finds “a limited number of themes, including those of high location, devotion and surrender, reaching out for something or temporary separation” (168). I think this is amazing that people become emotionally attached to a piece of music. It truly is an experience for them. Leante says that each person creates their own picture of a raga, and the experience is very personal. In American pop music today, I do not see any of this type of response to music. Listening to music on the radio (often the same top 10 songs) is a routine activity, and car rides or workouts are not the same without pop music playing. I find that people are not connected to the music, and I have never heard of someone in a mode of “devotion and surrender” when listening to Fetty Wap or Adele. Through Leante’s article I have found a new respect for Indian music, even though I do not find it to be great sounding.

Unwritten Rules

In the Sardinian Chronicles, it is clear that there are some unwritten rules behind the playing of the “guitar song” at a seranade.  Allen makes some good points about unwritten rules in today’s society surrounding the etiquette that must be followed at certain types of musical events. I would like to explore another unwritten rule I see in this book. It seems that every time Lortat -Jacob meets a new musician, and wants to play the accordion, a glass or two of wine must be had first. It comes across clearly to me that there is an expectation to drink with someone first before the music can be enjoyed. “It was already ten o’clock at night, and when we arrived at Peppino’s house, my first instinct was to wait in the car for the accordion to be brought to me. But naturally, that was not how things were done. I had to go in and sit down. Peppino brought out some wine and cheese…(24). He could not simply just go get the accordion, but he had to launch into a conversation with Peppino, and also drink his wine. A little later, while with Attilio, he says that the wine was no offered, but “imposed” (40) on him.

I find this point very interesting, and it provides some insight about Sardinian music culture. Music is clearly very important to them, and the sharing of it is quite an experience. To me, it seemed like the Sardinian musicians were screening Lortat- Jacob to see if he was even worthy of playing with them. Even when he did not have any desire to drink any wine, he knew it was the only pathway to playing the accordion with these special people.

Bless Up

I call appreciate all types of music, but I do favor hip hop/rap. The school I attended through the 8th grade exposed me to rap as many of my peers were from inner cities. Early on I was only attracted to the sound of the music, but as I listened more and more, I began to appreciate the lyrics, and the meaning behind them. I value what the purpose of the song is, and the message behind it. Biggie, Jay Z, and 50 Cent, became my favorites. The music meant so much to me and I began to research where these people came from and how their life story has influenced the music. My clothing and footwear was even influenced by rappers. As I moved to a different school in high school, I was exposed to country music for the first time. The demographics of the school were way different, and many listened exclusively to country music. I can take this genre in small doses, but I am not attracted to the lifestyle of the artists or even sound of much of country music today. My mom is a big fan of not only rap, but also classic rock. To me these songs have stood the test of time, and still are listened to today. Led Zeppelin, Cream, and CCR can be found on my playlist. The music I am listening to is often reflective of my mood, as some songs in any genre are more appropriate in certain situations.


The song I have chosen to share is Gangstas Paradise by Coolio. I first heard this song when I watched the movie Dangerous Minds. The movie was eye opening for me to see the position some kids were in, and the song really stuck with me.