Community Musicology – Class 1

Report by Douglas Farrand

On April 9th at 7 pm seven musicians who live and/or work in Orange NJ gathered at the HUUB for the first community musicology class. Casual introductions were made between all who were present before the class began. To begin formally, the two musicians who are also facilitators of the class explained the intentions behind the community musicology class- that we work together to develop 1. a musicological framework to help us think about the role music plays in Orange, 2. a map of musical assets in Orange, and 3. individual fieldwork projects that involve each participant choosing another musician that lives or works in Orange to interview.

At the beginning of the first class discussion a statement about music by the ethnomusicologist Thomas Turino was read out loud to the class. The statement talked poetically about the diverse roles music plays in diverse societies and between diverse groups of people, the idea that music is not one thing but many things that function very differently in different contexts, and the resultant importance and vitality of studying music because of this multifaceted dynamism. Each musician was then invited to answer the question “What role does music play in your life?”. A self-nominated ‘scribe’ started to write down key words, ideas, and a few direct quotes from everyone’s answer on a large sheet of chart paper. Each person went in turn, answering the question in some length. The individual answers sparked several conversations, in particular around issues of identity and memory, ‘passive’ listening and ‘active’ participation, and music’s omnipresence in our society at large.

Once everyone had answered the group talked briefly about how the ideas mapped out on the chart paper could be used to distill a smaller number of themes that in turn could generate questions for participants own fieldwork/interviews. With only 10 minutes left to spare the class decided not to start mapping musical assets in the city, but to make a list of all the ways we couldĀ map musical assets. The class came to an end and participants started to leave, amidst excited conversations about who they were thinking of interviewing, and about the abundance of themes we had generated during the ‘what role does music play in your life’ discussion.

This report was created as a part of theĀ Community Musicology Project

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