Writing about World Music

Section X, Fall 2016

Author: wimessner

Mood in Live Music:

My interview with Jacob Ball was very insightful. We discussed Catfish Disco’s performance at “Live Thursday’s” last week, and ended up with a lot more than Catfish Disco. Instead of just focusing on the group, we rather discussed the relationship between performers and audience members in a live setting.

It seemed like everything we talked about came back to the mood of the performer. Song choice, musicality, stage presence and energy all come back to the mood, which is then transferred into the audience in reciprocation. Jacob said:

“I think that the mood of the performers really sets a precedent over       everything else because if the performers are willing to get lost in the music and forget about everything else that’s going on, then the audience follows suit. And I think it’s hard to say ‘oh each person has their own mood in the show’ because it’s hard to go into the show where everybody’s high energy and happy and be down on yourself because I think you would be lifted up by everyone else”.

Therefore the mood of the live music depends on the performer, as it is then transferred to the audience which is reciprocated.  And there is a mob mentality that brings people to the same mood in the audience.

There is also a cyclical relationship between the audience and the performer.  Jacob said ““the performer lets the audience in, which increases their mood, which feeds back to the performer, whose mood is increased by the audience being happy”.  This cyclical relationship adds onto each of the components’ mood until the end.  For example, this interdependent relationship fueled Catfish Disco’s courage to do an encore at the end because the mood that Catfish Disco gave the audience throughout the concert was returned to them and they fed off of it.

I think this is some of the appeal of live music.


Non-musical connections with the Crowd

My observation this week was “Live Thursday”, which featured androgyny.  One of my main observances was how they connected to the crowd in a non-musical way, which I honestly think holds a lot of value in a musical scene.  If you think about all of the musical performances you’ve ever been to, the good ones probably have a mix between music and verbal communication between the performer and audience.  The best concert I’ve been to, Paul McCartney, had a nice mix of this.  Paul always spoke to us after a song.  And it was great, it let us know that we were in the same place.

I think one of the main reasons non-musical communication between the performer and the audience is an emotional thing.  As a performer, you want your crowd to feel like they’re part of the music.  This is akin to how in the “Soul of the Mbira”, everyone is taking part in the music.  Even though it is to a lesser extent, and in the mbira the music requires the crowd, good live music in a western sense is communal which I think is key to understand the difference in “World Music” and Western Music.

I spoke about this communal aspect in my first paper with Lortat-Jacob about how Sardinian music is basically de-facto communal music with the “guitar song” and the Serenade they had.  This lends to how much a community can make the music in a specific environment that much better.

I’ve heard many times and seen in videos about how Bob Dylan plays for himself and not anyone else.  Even though people say that’s his style, and that’s okay, that would repel me from going to one of his concerts just because I want to feel included in the music; I don’t want to be just an outsider looking in.

This lends itself to a large degree to our ethnographic research projects, in which we can’t just be outsiders looking in.  It is more difficult, if not impossible to conduct good research in an environment that is not inclusive.  Fortunately, my first observation was interactive and energetic and had the right means to get good research and have a good time too.  I think that might constitute some problems in my future observations: how inclusive the atmosphere is in order to conduct research.

Shameless Plug- See me play in a Jazz Combo during Parents Weekend… Probably

That’s right… I’m probably going to be playing with one of the jazz combos this Saturday.

There is a story that goes along with this I swear.

So I was voting early in Cornelius with my roommate when I got a text from my friend in my Jazz Class asking me if I play Bass.  I don’t really play bass but I could get around so I said “sorta y?”  He said come to Sloan B9 as soon as possible.  I thought, damn this is awesome maybe I’ll be playing with some of his friends, and low and behold it was his combo.  I played with my friend from the Jazz class once (he plays drums), and I told him about how I wanted to do combo or even the big band next year.  I guess he liked my playing!

So I get back from Cornelius, Tony calls me again and tells me to hurry.  So I get my stuff and speed walk to Sloan.  I get to B9 and I find the Combo.  I see a pianist, sax, and my friend from Jazz on drums and I just know it’s the combo.  So I get myself setup while introducing myself… but I can’t find my guitar pick!!  I’m like shit! where’s my pick.  I end up switching off using my fingers, and my CAT CARD of all things.  But they were chill so it was all good.

We started with Chameleon by (none other than) Herbie Hancock.  Although we’ve been roasting him for not giving credit, and I have a problem with that too, Hancock is a great musician.  Hands down.  Anyway, I got the baseline and we started playing.  And this is my first time playing with a full band [minus bass 🙁  but still].  It was awesome!  We were all in feeling the groove and it was tight.  We were all pretty good musicians (in our own right lol), and it was funky!

Then we played a tune called Mr. PC.  I’ve never heard of it, but it was all good because I played the changes which I had in my Real Book.  It was good, but I’m biased towards Chameleon.  It was a minor blues, which is not hard at all.

Then after a couple more tunes we got to Cherokee, a Charlie Parker tune.  Kill me now!  Anyway the changes were all over the place and it was hard to keep up and I’m pretty sure the sax was the only one who knew what he was doing.  The whole session the sax was sort of controlling it, which I thought was sorta egotistical, but that’s all good because he was nice and there was to a good degree order in the tune.

Anyway, I called the last two!!  Blue Bossa, and Blue Monk.  Two fairly easy tunes that I’ve been playing basically since I picked up jazz guitar.  It was cool and the guys seemed to like my playing on it.  And then we were ready to go.

It didn’t even seem that long.  It was amazing.  It was a moment when I realized that I need to join a combo next year and maybe should’ve joined one this year.  Anyway,  I really hope my Writing About World Music family comes out, even if I don’t play it will be a fun night of music.  I think it’s at 7:00, but if anyone’s interested I will gladly fill u in with the deets.

This has been a PSA, thank you for reading.

Practice in India

Upon reading the Neuman chapter, I was inspired.  As a guitarist who hasn’t been practicing, I was inspired to practice again because of the chapter because of the spiritual virtue that Neuman learned that practice had on Sitar music.

The sheer dedication that the people had toward practicing was enough to inspire me.  I can’t imagine practicing for 2 hours straight much less 10, but the concept of the whole thing got me going.

Some of the things I already related to and agreed with were that practice was what made a performer successful, although I still think other things go into it, such as dedication to playing everywhere you can as well as dedication to your craft; I also agree with the fact that dedication to practice helps: practicing how you practice is key in practicing efficiently.  For example practicing the right way for a short amount of time is better than practicing for a longer amount of time with poor technique.

One thing that I disagreed with was the physical proof of practice in the nails and the fingers.  Although that does happened to experienced players, it can happen to various degrees in players of the same experience.  In short: I don’t think that it is valid.  Another thing I don’t agree with is the extreme lengths to which people kept themselves awake such as tying a chord to the hair in order to keep from sleeping or dosing off.  I think this is too radical.

I agree that practice should be personal because practice shouldn’t sound like a performance, and therefore shouldn’t have an audience because the music wouldn’t be good.  Although the chapter says that lack of time has made it harder and harder for people to practice in North India, chapters like these are what inspire people like me to practice.

Cover songs and “Plagiarism”

This post is inspired by Evan’s prior post:

I think covers are one of the few forms of ‘schizophonic mimesis’ that are acceptable, if qualified to be called ‘schizophonic mimesis at all’. While a cover song is a recorded imitation of a song from another source, many covers are made to sound different to the original and therefore is not mimicked at all.

In most covers, credit is given to the originator and all is good. One of the few examples I’ve heard in which there has been law suites involved is the case of the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Dani California” and Tom Petty’s “Mary Jane’s Last Dance”.  I have a quick video that explains this concise depth, and points out some things that I didn’t even know, such as the (single) producer of both songs(!):

Anyway,  I believe the Chili Peppers ended up giving Tom Petty a large sum of money because as the video says, it is practically plagiarism.  But that is so weird that the two songs were made by the same producer.  I never heard that, but I guess some advice would be to make songs that are not too similar, at least not in the same key or tempo!!!

In my post last week about “Schizophonic Mimesis in Jazz”, Fletcher Henderson literally took Dippermouth Blues and increased the speed two-fold.  I do not know how that worked out- if it did- because it was in the twenties.  Here are the videos again:

Dipper mouth Blues

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BEF9QeHxrYw?version=3&rel=1&fs=1&autohide=2&showsearch=0&showinfo=1&iv_load_policy=1&wmode=transparent]


Sugar Foot Stomp:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hjEiyhESlh4?version=3&rel=1&fs=1&autohide=2&showsearch=0&showinfo=1&iv_load_policy=1&wmode=transparent]

I’ve also heard a lot about Led Zeppelin plagiarizing many of their songs, but never really looked into that… Until now.  The video posted below has 10 examples of copied songs by Led Zepplin.  Some of them are less audibly copied, but some of them are WORD FOR WORD.  There was even a Stairway to Heaven Trial in which people thought Led Zepplin ripped the intro off of another artist (which is not in the video but posted here: http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/led-zeppelin-prevail-in-stairway-to-heaven-lawsuit-20160623).  Here is the video on the plagiarism:

I feel that all of these problems with ‘Schizophonic Mimesis’ and the more specific example of covering music/ plagiarism is of crucial importance- especially in the music industry because of the fact that music is art, and it is out of merit that one comes to appreciate it.



“Schizophonic Mimeses” in the World of Jazz and Cover Songs

I find it puzzling when Feld says
“all [jazz texts] tend to nonchalantly note or defensively argue that this is just “in the tradition,” which is presumably similar to Herbie Hancock calling it “a brothers kind of thing” (Feld 261)”.
It’s unsettling because in the world of jazz, players steal licks from each other all the time in solos, in which they use it in different ways. That’s how artists build off of each other and we’re not stuck trying to reinvent the wheel in improvisation. Music in general would be so primitive for the lack of a better word if nobody took from other people and built off of it.

In jazz improvisation there doesn’t have to be any copyright, which I feel makes Feld’s statement not necessarily true because jazz music copying the “processes” (260 Feld) of other jazz music doesn’t necessarily mean the whole entire song. What I’m trying say is that copying improvisational technique without copyright is not plagiarism while whole songs is.

This is why I find it hard to agree with the statement that it “is presumably similar to Herbie Hancock calling it “a brothers kind of thing” (Feld 261) because it is not. Herbie Hancock copied a musical phrase and used it in his song “Watermelon Man”, which is not the same thing as copying solo techniques or even solos quite frankly. We all know that the intro to “Watermelon Man” is a direct imitation of Hindewhu in the Enthnomusical LP pu out in 1906, but we can’t say that copied jazz solos are quite like this because jazz is jazz, and copying music without credit is copying music without credit given.

1906 LP:

“Watermelon Man”


However, there are sketchy forms of “Schizophonic Mimesis” which Feld’s statement would make sense in.  In my Jazz class, “Dippermouth Blues” by King Oliver’s Creole Band was taken by Fletcher Henderson, changed the key, and made faster and the name was changed to “Sugarfoot Stomp”, this time by Fletcher Henderson and His Orchestra.  Back in the 20s the copyright laws weren’t that tight, and I don’t even know what went down about it,  although Louis Armstrong was in both bands, so Joe Oliver might have been okay with it in a weird sort of way.  But back to the main point, this would not fly in today’s day in age where copyright laws are tight, and rightfully so (because I don’t think credit was given).

Dippermouth Blues:

Sugarfoot Stomp:

Feld, Steven. “The Poetics and Politics of Pygmy Pop.” Western Music and Its Others     Difference, Rpresentation and Appropriation in Music. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000. 254–277. Print.


Communication through music

“From a Western standpoint, it often seems as if the ontologies of world music are untranslatable” (Bohlman 6).

I have always held the notion dear to my heart that music is a universal language.  But taking this class has gotten me to think about the validity of this statement.  While Bohlman does acknowledge this statement, most of his book World Music: A Very Short Introduction have many ways of saying the same thing: that because ontologies differ from culture to culture, it is not very possible to get a clear representation of what others think about what makes music music, and therefore music is a stretch as a universal language.

Cue Ethnomusicology!  This study for me shows the way through social sciences and investigation, we can get a better glimpse into what others might think music is and how it is used in their own culture, instead of look at it through the lens of our own Western  ontologies.  But that in and of itself seems challenging and in some instances close to impossible; this reminds me of the example in class where Greg spoke about how in his Ethnomusicology class he and his classmates had to write a fugue in the style of Bach, which is nearly impossible given the fact that none of the students were Bach.  So aside from the fact that it is impossible to write exactly like Bach, everyone is going to write a fugue like Bach in a variation of what they might think Bach style fugues write like.  The fact that everybody writes different is analogous to the fact that it’s really difficult to imitate the ontological ideals of different cultures because every culture has their own ontologies.

This also makes me think about metacognition.  My 4th grade teacher believe it or not taught us about this idea, and said it would be helpful in college.  Anyway, metacognition, or thinking about your thinking, is what this whole idea is really about.  Ethnomusicology is all about thinking about how to think about music, with the intent of looking at music through the lens of another ontology or epistemology.

I did mention this idea toward the end of my paper to underly my inner struggle with thinking about the ontologies of Sardinian music because I feel that while it is hard not to impose our own Western ontologies to Sardinian Chronicles, it is possible not to.  Being a student who is new to Ethnomusicology, the fact resonates with me that practice will make progress when it comes to the metacognition with respect to Ethnomusicology.  I hope that as the course progresses, it will become easier to think about different ontologies while being able to separate it from my own ontologies of music.

Works Cited:

Bohlman, Philip V. “1-2.” World Music: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2002.    1-46. Print.

Lortat-Jacob, Bernard. Sardinian Chronicles. Trans. Teresa Lavender Fagan. Chicago: U of Chicago, 1995. Print.


“This Land is Your Land”

While Listening to this song in class, specifically the last verse, like many I was surprised.  I’d never heard this verse in my life.  But once we discussed why this verse possibly wasn’t taught in class, I realized that music really does have power.  It can be used by Woodie Guthrie to promote socialist viewpoints in his music while most of the United States pubic school system uses it for the complete opposite viewpoint.

I remember learning the song in Ms. Li’s class in 2nd grade music class.  I thought about how patriotic the song was.  Now I know that it is actually a protest song, and I can only imagine what the rest of America thinks when they listen to the song.  It’s interesting because either message you take away is progressive, one simply ideal, and the other more real.  I can elaborate but it’s about to be 11:00pm and that’s my fault.

Sardinian “World Music”

Just on a quick side note, as a musician, live-music enthusiast, and a fan of everything music, I can strongly agree with the overarching idea that  music is one of the only art forms where most people can’t not feel something.  Whenever I listen to music, whether it’s getting from place to place, in my room, or in our class before we start, I always feel something and it’s hard to not feel anything because of how much music has an effect on people.

While listening to the tracks from the Sardinian Chronicles, I couldn’t help but connect it to what I wrote about for my first draft, which is basically about the link between Sardinian music,  and drinking, being together, and having a good time.  It’s not that that doesn’t happen here with music, but it feels like the drinking and the parties at “guitar songs” are what “fuel the community machine” of the music-making process, as it has been said with regard to fetes.  This has to do with the tracks from the Sardinian Chronicles because those tracks are what really illustrate the togetherness of the music-making process in a literal way.  I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the singers on the track stay together in harmony, and a lot of the music making process in Sardinia is essentially made around fetes, drinking and good times.

I also want to briefly touch upon how different the music I (and most of us) listen to, described as Western Music, is from Sardinian music, and how we can use that to learn about Sardinian culture.  First of all, there is a freer rhythm than what Western Music has.  Specifically in the a capella songs but also in some of the instrumental songs.  The a cappella songs are not just arhythmic, but they are also some of the most harmonized songs I’ve ever heard (Track 6).  I’ve heard some harmonies close to the energy of this Sardinian song, for example Crosby Stills Nash’s Suite Judie Blue Eyes, but it’s the harmony that the Sardinian singers have that is so strong that western music like Suite Judy Blue Eyes just can’t imitate accurately.


The contrast is so striking that the song by Lortat-Jacob (Track 5) on the CD is so different because it is more recognizable as Western Music.

Lastly I’d like to hit upon the idea that Sardinian music is considered World Music, hence the title.  It’s easy to for recording engineers and labels in the West to classify music like that of Sardinia as World Music, but I’d just like to express my thoughts on this idea of “World Music”.  Although I understand the surface value of World Music, isn’t all music World Music?  I think I know the answer to the question, but I’d like to pose that to make all of us think about all music as World Music, because I’d like to think we’re all really just one world.

Intro- Will

Hi, I’m Will Messner.  I’m taking this course because I’m interested in the study of World Music, and music in general.  I’ve been playing guitar since I was ten years old, and Violin since 4th grade.  I love listening and playing blues, blues rock, and some jazz.  I’ve recently been introduced to hip-hop and rap such as Kendrick Lamar, Drake, The Weekend and Frank Ocean.  It can be said that I’m trying to branch out in the world of music, and I think for that reason this class will be perfect for me.  Also my band recently released an EP check it out: