Honors World Music & Culture


IDSC 480-0 CRN Honors World Music & Culture
Spring 2013 – M 2:55-4:35 BEC 111
Professors: Chris Kachian (Music Undergrad) and Bob Werner (Geography)

This course will analyze how the histories and cultures of various societies in the world use music in their cultural contexts or as rituals, and contrast it with the Western perspective of music as a cultural product, or as entertainment.

In this course, you will learn how to connect music with the culture that produces it.  What is the function and context of a culture’s music?  On what occasions do people play it?  What religion or ideology or history does their music express?   Do the materials they use in their instruments reflect the physical surroundings in which they live?  Who participates in the music?  Are gender roles different?  Is the music accompanied by other activities like dance, dress, or ceremony?

For example, consider the music of the Andes.  It is traditionally played by all village men and older boys on instruments made of local materials, including armadillo shells, cane, wood, bone, and animal skin.  It is much more important that all men and boys play, rather than playing the “right” notes.  It is a communal activity that bonds people together, so is played at carnivals, weddings, and funerals.  Women dance modestly to the side, in regalia woven from two of the four camelid animals who live there (llamas or alpacas) in colors that represent their local village.  The music can be sad, lamenting the loss of land and culture at the hands of the conquistadors; it often expresses their heartfelt bonds to Pachamama; or can simply pine for a girl away at college.

The teachers will model this inquiry in the first six weeks of the course, relating music and culture in five case studies: Native American plains Indians, Jamaica, West Africa, the Hmong, and the Asmat of western New Guinea.  During this time, you will chose a culture and plan your own such synthesis through a prospectus discussed in and evaluated by the class.  Thereafter, you will individually investigate the music and culture you chose, culminating in a paper you present to the class. This presentation should teach your peers, and include clips of representative music, and use of graphics to show the music’s context.

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