Field Research Project

Field Research Project

(100 points each)

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This assignment is intended to promote active listening and a better understanding of the meaning of a musical performance in its broader context.


· A 2-page paper, double spaced

· Evidence of a previous performance attendance, such as a concert program, ticket stub, photographs, livestream recording, etc.

· Bibliography, including any references cited, interviews, Internet websites, etc. Check a style guide, such as Chicago Manual of Style for format.


This project is an opportunity to explore your musical world from an intellectual

perspective. Music is a cultural product and is by nature interconnected with many facets of its cultural environment. Your task is to form an opinion about what a music event means to the people who experience it, both performers and audience, and to discuss your interpretation of how the music reflects its cultural setting.

Brief example, what can you say about a street musician on a crowded city block

in New York City? Taking ten minutes to observe their musical activity, will lead you to many questions. Most people might not pay attention. Why? Too busy? Superior attitude? Fear? Some people may drop pocket change into the saxophone case, but continue walking. Why? They don’t like pennies in their pocket? They like the music? They feel guilty for walking past the last time? Others will stop and listen, perhaps clapping at the end of the performance. Why? Tourists? Friends? Impressed by the music?

These kinds of questions are just the tip of the iceberg when you start to analyze a music event. How about the perspective of the street musician toward their “audience?” What about the music? Are they playing blues, jazz, pop tunes? Perhaps they play one tune repeatedly. Why? Are people more apt to give money when the musician plays “When the Saints Go Marching In” versus “Amazing Grace”? If it is Christmas time, perhaps they find “Jingle Bells” more attractive to their audience than “Silent Night.” What happens when a policeman walks by? Do they stop playing, or continue? Why? Many questions can be answered by asking the musician directly. Inevitably, interviews lead to more questions, but you will learn much about the musician, the music, the context for

performance, and consequently the meaning of the musical event.

How you get the information is dependent on you. You may merely observe an

event and find much to discuss. You may interview performers, audience members, concert promoters, bar owners, etc., to gain broader perspectives. You may do outside research in the library or on the Internet. Maybe you’ll even join the music ensemble or learn a new instrument in order to understand the musician’s experience directly. Anything is possible!


Your grade is based on how thoughtful and well-written your report is. You should describe the music event as well as discuss its meaning. The format of your paper is flexible, but the content should include the following:

· Description of event, including instruments, performers, setting, etc.

· Performer’s perspective, either based on own observations, from interviews or outside literature.

· Audience’s perspective, either based on own observations, from interviews, or outside literature.

· Discussion of the meaning of the music event as a cultural product.

You may select a specific music event, or broaden your understanding of a

musical phenomenon by attending more than one event. These can be bar bands, church choirs, concert performances, recitals, etc. Anywhere you find music activity is acceptable, as long as it is live/livestream. Much can be, and has been, written about MTV, Muzak, the recording industry, etc., but not for this project. Do a little pre-research to find something of interest to you that will be enjoyable to examine in the field. If you find a world music event, all the better.

The goal is for you to think critically about musical activity in your world, not to

“critique” it with biased opinion. I encourage you to seek out music events in the

surrounding area, especially those related specifically to the course, i.e., world music.

IMPORTANT: Be mindful of appropriate behavior. For example, writing notes and constantly turning pages in the middle of a “classical” recital is inappropriate behavior. Observe and write notes AFTER the concert is finished or during applause. Likewise, snapping photographs in the middle of a Sunday church service may be frowned upon, so check with the minister first! Observe, don’t intrude!

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