Writing about World Music

Section F, Fall 2016

Month: December 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.