Writing about World Music

Section F, Fall 2016

Music and Images

Some of my favorite things to listen to are soundtracks. I really enjoy particularly the classical aspects of the soundtracks of movies and this tends to be what my study music is. However, I also like to just listen to the soundtracks and picture in my mind a particular scene from the movie where this melody is heard. Surprisingly to me, when I focus on the music and connect it to the scene, the scene tends to have the words muted as I focus on the background music and what the characters are doing. It has also happened to me, in two different forms, that after having heard the soundtrack by itself and then watching the movie I recall the differences between the recorded soundtrack by itself and how it sounds when combined with the movie. This is for movies I had watched before listening to the soundtrack by itself. There have also been movies, however, that I have watched based on having first listened to the soundtrack. In this case, I enjoy recognizing specific parts of the soundtrack within the movie and I am sometimes able to recall something I was doing while I listened to it without watching the movie.

Something related that I have experienced recently is listening to a classical song that does not come from a soundtrack and picturing in my mind scenes of imaginary movies to which the particular song would fit as a soundtrack. If I am listening to a sad melody, I tend to picture a sad scene in a movie and base it off of movie scenes I already know. I find this is a good way for me to relax as I listen to the music and give my mind a rest by creating scenes and inciting my creativity.

The Perfect Studying Technique

Well it’s that time of the year again boys and girls! We’ve been through finals periods before, but nothing like this. One great thing about this that will (hopefully) help us with the transition is the process of self-scheduled finals. This is extremely encouraging because we’ll have so much time to study for the finals we will be taking. The biggest X factor when going through the process is using the best studying techniques. Even though we were all admitted into Davidson so for the most part we had to find an effective studying technique at one point or another, studying for anything at  Davidson has been something brand new for all of us this semester. Everyone has different ways of studying, but I think I have finally found the best method of studying (for me at least). In relation to the class, this of course includes music.

Different subjects and studying techniques constitute different songs and styles. When writing papers, I need something with a beat, but not fast enough to get me hyped up. Most of the time I turn the music down and just try to let it be background noise so that my thoughts will flow. Silence is ideal when writing papers, but there are very few silent places where I usually write papers and no matter the atmosphere, silence or no silence, I have a bad tendency of getting distracted. This environment, because I have kept it constant throughout the semester, has really benefitted in helping me to concentrate on the papers that need to be written and not to worry about outside noise and activity.

When working on things that do not require at much critical thought and are characterized more on the analytical side (like some parts of math, science, or a foreign language), I find myself using more upbeat music that will get me pumped and ready to knock the work out. Because I don’t have to think about my personal analysis of the situation or bring in personal thoughts or feelings, this music has proved to benefit me the most; I can just listen to the music and get into my “Let’s get everything done” zone. I go into a similar zone when cleaning up around the house back at home or just polishing up the room.

Studying is an activity that is not normally fun; it is something that you have to bring energy and thought into in order to show the results that you want to be shown. In relation to Connor Huh’s post, I can’t really listen to music during a test. It is a little too distracting for me, but for finishing papers, studying, and tearing up some homework, music is definitely the key in true concentration and focus.

The End?

Well, the end is near. I can honestly say that before this class, English and Music had never been a favorite class of mine, but this class definitely was the exception to that. It made both of these subjects much more interesting, and allowed me to study different sides of the subjects that I never really knew existed.  I enjoyed every minute of our class discussions and will definitely miss them. Before this class, I never really noticed the meaning behind music. To me, music had always been some kind of background noise that played in the car, restaurants, etc. However, it is much more than that. Each song has a certain culture, or in some cases a fake one like Adiemus, and I never realized how we sometimes cut that from a song. This class allowed me to delve deeper into subjects that I never really knew existed in the first place. I never thought, nor knew, about ethnomusicology, or schizophonia, yet throughout my study of them, I have found them to be really interesting topics. They touch on many different subjects besides music and English, like politics, history, etc. Without this class, I never would have known how much music was tied to other subjects. This is partly why I chose to observe the different cultures and interactions that are on display throughout Live Thursday Events.

 

Finally, I would like to say thank you to everyone that made this class so enjoyable to me, and especially Dr. Weinstein, for making these subjects interesting and fun to study. I truly have not had an English class that, as a whole, was so devoted to the topics, books, etc. that we studied before this one. Throughout this class, I feel like I learned more than just English, but history, politics, music, ethnomusicology, and in some cases geography.  So, now as I study for finals while my headphones play music into my ears, I’ll no longer just think of it as a white noise, but something much more. Even though for some of us this may be the end of studying ethnomusicology and schizophonia, we will never forget what we learned in this class. So, maybe this is not the end after all.

Farewell etc.

The course is nearly over. We’ve had our run,  friends. We discussed a mountain of things, from Sardinia to ethnomusicological sailboats, and in the process we’ve listened to a great deal of music and written a great number of words.

I should have learned not to write in generalities like that, but I wanted to capture a bit of what this course was aside from writing assignments and being up by 9:40 on Tuesdays and Thursdays. We actually did engage with material separate from writing method, and oftentimes that material was fused into our learning. I constantly asked myself how exactly this was, that we could simultaneously be learning about a new subject and learning about the process of writing, and came to the conclusion that we must only have learned a tiny fraction of what ethnomusicology truly is. That’s ok, I think. The style of writing demanded by the subject is appropriately meticulous, honest, forthright, and, in a way, quite bare. While it, like many subjects, asks a great deal of one’s analytical skill, it asks in a way that omits unnecessary detail and challenges one’s ability to truly observe a situation rather than simply describe it. I found it quite strange. I’m used to looking at works of art like films or novels and weaving the author’s intention into my analysis of what exists and why it does. However, in the style we’ve used in this course, I did precisely the opposite. The things that happened served as evidence for the purpose of that which I described. And my paper’s not done, of course, but it is truly bizarre to think that one could draw any knowledge from the limited observations we make about the world every day, the kind that make up that paper’s research. Narrative story building, such as that in media, becomes all the more clear, at least to me, as something unsure and questionable. The style of writing that we studied had its limitations. The research process puts a boundary on knowledge, and, as my old high school history teacher said, even if you know the facts, you may still not really know much of anything at all. Even things that we are absolutely sure of about the musical contexts we look at could change at any moment–someone we observe just has to want to change them.

The class, too, is a human context subject to volatile change. It had its consistencies: certain people talked more than others (sorry! the boat metaphor was great though), the pedagogical circle stayed loose, and we always had fun with any strange gadgets or ideas that Dr. Weinstein brought in to be played with. Actually, I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed something quite so much as I enjoyed the phonograph; there was something fascinating about hearing music stored so very long ago. However, that music is truly gone, and the strange sort of nostalgia it inspires seems impossible to satisfy. Moreover, the music is, I think, no longer ours. We are a generation made separate by time from that music. If the old music there can be anything, it must first by alien; perhaps that’s what allows it to be “academic,” as it were.

On that note–in high school, I discussed the idea of an “intellectual” or an “academic” knowing that it would be a person educated moreso than others, but I was unsure of how that was. I think I understand now. It comes in nuance of expression, in technique and style, and the careful way in which one organizes an argument not only for themselves, but for others. I don’t think I want some snooty form of intellectualism, but rather one which adheres to the “for others” part of that sentence. I want to make the arguments I make accessible to more than myself, and my experience in this course has conducted my mind towards that end. There’s a lot of learning left to do; that said, this blog post probably qualifies as disorganized and difficult to follow. For that, I apologize. I have a distracted style. I’m working on it, and I will probably continue to work on it. For now; consider me reflected, at least somewhat, in this post.

Have fun writing, everyone.

 

 

The Georgia Flood

If anyone is looking for some new music, a new band, or is really into alternative music, some friends of mine in a band called The Georgia Flood released an album today. The Flood cut their teeth in blues bars all over the south, but also play rock, R&B, roots, and soul music and weave it all over a base of alt rock. The band is comprised of two brothers who are some of the most musically devoted people I know. They listen to and will play any music made with “real instruments”, but they also have incorporated synth and electronic elements before. The album is called People Like Ourselves and can be found on Spotify, iTunes, Napster, or whatever platform you use.

The Ville

For my field report I attended some church services at Jonahville African Methodist Episcopalian Zion Church. The music experience there is very different than what I am used to. I attend a very traditional Episcopalian church back home in Texas. We have a strict order of service with all our hymns preplanned and posted in the service program. Our only instrument for most services is a large organ and our choir is very formal and consists of about ten people. Music does not play near as large of a role at my church. At Jonahville, a lot of the music appears impromptu, they have a three person band with a large choir, and music is extremely prominent.

Music plays a huge role at The Ville. It takes up more than half the over two hour service even. Songs of praise each lasts a good few minutes with some extending as long as people will keep singing or until the pastor cuts them off. The band consists of three members: a guitarist, a drummer, and a keyboardist. The choir seemed to grow as the service went on and swelled to over twenty people of all ages and genders at one point. As songs began to play the congregation would instantly recognize them and join in. They have hymnals at Jonahville but they are rarely picked up. Everyone just seems to know all the songs by heart. It would take me a few verses in before I would catch on to the words, but I would stand up and clap along regardless. Also people in the pews would stand to dance or raise their hands in praise as they pleased. There was no instruction to rise or sit for certain songs. Throughout the service, the energy was abundant and contagious all across the sanctuary. It was certainly hard for me to stand still during the worship.

Contrasting that with what I am used to made me wonder if there is some sort of middle ground offered. At my church, we sit and stand as directed (I call this pew aerobics) and read out of hymnbooks to sing. The music is very pleasant, but the energy and excitement feels rather low. At Jonahville, the music is blaring and everyone is up and moving for the vast majority of the songs. There is a certain excitement that comes with every song, but it can be a bit much for someone who is not used to taking part in that in the early hours of Sunday morning.

 

Finals Music

Due to the honor code and the flexibility that we all have with testing, I find myself taking a lot of exams in the comfort of my dorm room. Something about the silence of my dorm room and me and just the problems I find unsettling, as if the silence is taunting me, daring me to get something wrong. Because of this, I always have to listen to music when I’m taking tests or the silence gets in my head and it adversely affects my testing.

The type of music that I listen to is always pretty consistent, I don’t like to mess with any of my mojo beforehand so I don’t really listen to too many new songs and I don’t listen to anything that will cause me to become uncentered or on an emotional tilt. Usually this consists of some light EDM or rap, something with a good beat, but not something that I’m going to get distracted by trying to analyze or pick out the lyrics from.

If my focus is really high and I don’t need any music to break the silence, I might turn on some alpha brain wave music, my secret weapon.  There are no lyrics to this type of music, no real beat, but there is rhythm and I think it helps. How much of this is actually placebo and how much of it actually helps me, I have no idea, but I find it stimulating to the point where I can take my tests. I also don’t know whether or not listening to this “music” actually helps me better than my traditional  music choices, but I’m willing to try anything new that’ll make me do better. Point is, and I don’t know about everyone else, but I need something to break up the silence when I’m taking tests, and I will be doing that a lot come this finals season.

Green Inferno

Over this Thanksgiving break, I watched the 2014 horror movie “Green Inferno.” I think this movie is extremely relevant, specifically in regards to our class discussions on the use of world music in popular culture. The movie takes place, for the most part, in the Peruvian jungle. A group of young activists find themselves being held hostage by a group of cannibalistic natives after a plane crash.

A couple things about this movie caught my ear, specifically in the intro and the later scenes. The first part of the is a sort of credits scene that is presumably shot from a helicopter as it flies over the dense jungle. In the background, drums play to a very pronounced beat that sounds like it has been used in every Jungle movie. Modern, professional drums were clearly used. I could tell that the music was certainly not authentic to any native culture; it was much too banal and typical of a movie of this sort. However, the real shocker came later in the film, when the group had already been captured by the natives. The same drumbeat was playing, even as the camera focused in on a very specific group of native musicians playing native instruments.

After doing some research, I discovered that the tribe portrayed in this movie is completely fictional. Even so, I am not sure it is completely ethical to portray any indigenous peoples as they were in this film. A number of things were completely incorrect. For example, there is no evidence that cannibalism is ritually practiced in any Amazonian culture. Most reports of cannibalism come from Papua New Guinea and other related tribes. Second, the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) plays a large part in the film. Again, FGM is only practiced in the Middle East and in Africa, not in South America. The incorrect music that is played during this film is only icing on the cake; with all the other incorrect assumptions uneducated viewers might make about Amazonian peoples after watching this movie, the music only adds yet another. In addition to being poorly made, this film really reflects the failure of the producers to do even basic research on indigenous peoples in Peru. Let me know what you think, but please refrain from watching the movie.

Musical Inspiration

One of the questions I have always asked myself is why did I become interested in music? When I was four years old I told my dad I wanted to play the piano, so he signed me up for lessons and after taking lessons for a while my parents bought me a piano. I know that once I began playing the piano, I fell in love with music and wanted to keep learning new instruments. This led me to starting guitar when I was 8 years old and violin when I was 10. I have always wanted to play classical music, which may be the strangest part of my musical inclination. When I was 8 years old and learning to play the guitar, I didn’t want to play pop songs. I wanted to learn how to play classical guitar. The same applied to piano. While I have played modern composers, I have never had any desire to play pop music. I enjoy listening to classical music, as well as playing it. Before I went to boarding school, my dad would often take me to see different symphonies in North Carolina perform. I would have much rather attended a symphony than a concert with my friends. I can never be certain what made me want to play the piano at such a young age, but my mom has always joked that maybe it is because she played me classical music before I was born. Maybe this isn’t a joke though, because I have heard about studies done on the effect of what a baby in a womb is exposed to and their later preferences. I think that these studies will be nearly impossible to draw any conclusions from because of the endless debate of nature vs. nurture. While nurturing the baby with classical music may impact the child’s musical preference, biology will always play a factor. The child could become a musician because the child’s parents are musicians. There are countless factors that could lead to children’s interests in music, so I suppose I will never really know why I wanted to play the piano.

The following is an article I found on the Mozart Effect: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/fact-or-fiction-babies-ex/

Deaf Perception of Music

Many hearing people have the notion that deaf people are unable to enjoy music. However, this notion is false. Deaf people experience music in a non conventional way–visually and physically. There is a physical aspect to all music as you can feel the rhythm and the vibration which allows deaf people to experience the music. There are several Deaf organizations that facilitate the music experiences. One such organization is the Chicago Deaf and Hard Of Hearing Cultural Center, which aims to network and connect the communities of the hearing, the hard of hearing, and the deaf. Music in general is felt physically–the booming of the bass, the drums. In places where the music is loud, one can feel the ground vibrating and the body pulsing with the music. For deaf people, these sensations are even more developed than for hearing people ans this is how they “tune in” to music and what comprises their musical experience. The Deaf community also expresses songs visually in order to enhance the experience of those who cannot hear the music.

This article delves deeper into music in the deaf community and discusses an interesting story of a particular musician.

http://gapersblock.com/transmission/2010/07/22/beyond_vibrations_the_deaf_musical_experience/

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