Here’s the first post in the Spring 2018 Best of Podcasts series or simply BOP! The name of the blog Flaunt the Gauntlet was inspired by a group that presented in our class. Thanks, ladies and gents!!
About our music course
It’s not everyday non-majors take a course to learn more about music since business, sociology, and biology are much more popular majors at the moment. But the study of music as culture from the discipline of ethnomusicology has much to offer that translates into real-world applications.
In my What in the World Is Music? Course (aka Music Matters AMUS 218), 25 students learned to podcast their homework assignments and eventually do some digital storytelling about some aspect of music in context. Among the many definitions of music, the one found in our textbookWhat in the World Is Music? by Kramer and Kramer (2014) is this: music is “humanly-organized intended for musical purposes.”
Let me give two curious examples to help readers understand how nuanced this definition can be. One example is from a competition in Indonesia and the other stems from a religious context.
The sound of canary birds singing is “musical” but in and of themselves it is not considered music by our definition. Except when the sounds of birds are organized by their owners to perform in a canary birdsong competition. Then ethnomusicologists would study it as something intended for musical purposes — a musical competition of sounds.
This example above as well as the one below points our attention to the role of context in defining music. Context–understanding the human environment in which a live, recorded, or digitally-mediated performance exists, along with meaning–investigating the feelings, ideas, and values assigned by composers or improvisers that communicate what was intended musically– are both critical and decisive. They help students or ethnomusicologists determine what is and what is not music.
This is from a religious context. The call to prayer sung by an imam in the Muslim mosque is not considered music though ethnomusicologists may study it as such, The melody or the series of notes strung together or organized by singers in the tradition in a certain way and in a certain language meets the definition of organized by humans but not the part about intended for musical purposes.
BUT … If you set a recording of the call to prayer in the introduction of a composed jazz song, as my friend artist Somi does in the song “Holy Room,” then that melody is organized by a songwriter intended for musical purposes. Here Somi translates the sounds of an imam into something magical and political as her song confronts Islamaphobia in New York City’s Afrique Petite (“Little Africa”) in Harlem. Her song is a call to love one another.
Understanding our definition of music matters, right?
The Final: A Podcast not a Paper
Each student was expected to demonstrate terminology and lessons in music in a 6-10 minute podcast episode. The podcast as a final project replaced a term paper or exam. I believe the final for a course in music and culture should be practical and applied. More than just turning in a paper that a professor grades that a student finishes and forgets about when done.
When you turn a final into content creation, students and the professor get the benefits of digital media literacy and higher levels of critical thinking And students never forget the learning experience.
In other courses I’ve taught, students compose a Wikipedia article of 1500 words or edit existing ones. They might make collaborative YouTube videos, too. But this spring, it was all about podcasting. The episode lives on and has the potential to influence not only their peers but also distant and unknown others in colleges and universities or beyond across the web. Content creation is win for everyone; grading them is much more fun!
The prize podcast
Of all the podcast episodes I received this spring, one titled “Rhythm in Context” by Nick Rivelli was exemplary. It outshined any other. Featuring excellent scripting, a great story, and great transitions with music interspersed, Nick incorporated high quality recorded interviews found online with Questlove sharing about working with J Dilla and learning to drum in a new way. Nick even composed the intro and outro himself on keyboards.
It stood atop several excellent episodes from other students but Nick’s work was by far the best. With his permission, I share it here. In the coming days, I’ll share 5 or 6 others, some from my hip-hop couse. But for now, enjoy “Rhythm in Context” by Nick Rivelli.
Stay tuned for the next BOP! post. And thank you for visiting my new blog. Thanks for reading and listening. Please like or share any content (esp. the student work) that you find engaging and/or educational!
Until next time…