Music and Everyday Life (MUSC 2631)
Semester 2, 2020 – ONLINE
Lecturers: Charles Fairchild and Catherine Ingram
If we take as our starting point that the primary goal of musicological analysis is to draw out
reasonably grounded and credible meanings from music, then what can we learn from nontextual approaches to understanding music? What distinct kinds of knowledge do fieldwork
and ethnography produce? The primary goal of this subject is for you to study music not as a
composer, producer, performer, listener or audience member, but as an ethnographer. That
is, you will analyse music through an observational, experiential and intellectual
understanding of how people make and take meaning from music. You will do so in three
ways. First, you will complete several weeks of critical readings about the history of
anthropology, ethnomusicology and ethnography and you will participate in extensive class
discussion of the practicalities, possibilities, problems and frustrations involved in fieldwork.
Second, you will also be required to complete one description of a live musical event you
will attend as an observer. Finally, you will undertake a small-scale musical fieldwork project
of your own design.
• Analytical Essay • 30% (2000 words) • September 28
• Weekly Diary of Musical Experiences • 20% (1000 words) • Weekly submission
• Final Project: Proposal, Reports, Essay • 40% (3000 words) • November 30
• Class Participation • 10% • Attendance and responses to readings in your contributions
to class discussion and in-class activities.
• You must submit all work in order to pass this subject.
• It will remain an instructor’s prerogative to reserve the right to interview students about
their work in the case of any ambiguity about the origins and status of that work. All
assistance you receive with your assessments must be declared. This includes translation,
proofreading, and use of any services such as Gramerly or similar. If you do not declare
assistance, you will fail that assessment.
• ALL WRITTEN WORK MUST BE SUBMITTED VIA CANVAS AS ATTACHED WORD FILES. NO
PDFs, NO ‘PAGES’ FILES WILL BE ACCEPTED. DO NOT PASTE YOUR TEXT INTO THE
You will be required to undertake a small-scale fieldwork project which you will design and
implement yourself. The goal is to choose a musical phenomenon appropriate to a smallscale fieldwork project, documenting and analysing this musical phenomenon in relation to a
clear and specific set of goals and ideas. You will need to choose a topic fairly early in the
semester and complete a research proposal which concisely explains your research aims and
plans. You will submit a project proposal first. Your project proposal will explain the aims of
your project and how you plan to complete these aims. You will undertake fieldwork
including observation and interviewing informants. You will need to keep adequate field
notes and keep an ongoing log recording all of your interviews, documenting all fieldwork
activities, including interview dates, important events and contact information. You will make
a short class presentation during the last few weeks of class during which you will summarize
your research proposal and present your findings and conclusions.
• You are NOT doing survey work nor are you trying to assess any form of public
opinion on a music related issue.
• You are NOT trying to demonstrate the statistical validity of a hypothesis.
• Above all else, you are trying to find out how people make meaning from music by
asking them about it and observing what they do to make these meanings.
You will turn an analytical essay based on the readings from Weeks 2-6. You will write you
essay in answer to this question: How does ethnographic writing 'construct the subject'?
This essay should deal with the ways in which the authors of the readings argue for their
ideas and against others. The main task is to present an understand of what ethnography is
and how its helps to ‘create’ a type of ‘other’ we call the ‘research subject.’
Weekly Diary of Musical Experiences
You will maintain a diary of musical experiences you have during the semester. Think of this
diary as a set of micro fieldwork projects and reflections on how you can understand music
using ethnographic description. It is not a set of reviews of music, but penetrating
descriptions of the context in which the music you experienced is made and becomes
meaningful. You are to describe such things as where you heard the music, or where a
musical experience happened, the kind of music that was heard and how the two are
related. Your goal is to extract and express specific, organised meaning, both musical and
social, from your experiences. The goal is for you to write a creative, interpretive set of
entries based on direct observation, of the purpose and use of music you have experienced.
This work should not read like an extended review of music you have heard. Instead, your
written description is intended to act as an analytical bridge between your fieldwork and the
readings. The description of the music you have heard should be detailed and analytical. You
should make a strong attempt to draw specific connections between the music and context
in which it was performed. It should have an analytical focus and structure roughly similar to
the one you will find in many of the weekly readings.
Ethics and Rules of Conduct
One of the most important aspects of your fieldwork project is how you behave as a
researcher. You will need to act in an ethical manner, protecting the confidentiality of your
informants and behaving in a responsible way. You must do three things with every person
you speak to directly during your research:
1. You must give them a short document explaining to them what you project is about, what
will be expected of them and you;
2. You must explain to them that they are under no obligation to you whatsoever and that
they can withdraw from the project at any time;
3. You must give them my University contact details;
4. You cannot do any research with anyone under the age of 18; and
5. You must conduct all interviews in a safe, public space.
Class Schedule and Readings
Week 1–August 25: Introduction – What Are We Doing? (cf/ci)
1.) Sahlins, Marshall. (2013) ‘Human Science.’ London Review of Books, 9 May.
Week 2–September 1: Inventing the Musical ‘Other’ (cf)
2.) Ames, Eric. (2003) ‘The Sound of Evolution.’ Modernism/Modernity, 10(2): 297-325.
Task: Reflect on and make a list of as many of the most basic assumptions about what music
is and what music does as you can. We like to think we know what music is. However,
when we read the story of two researchers from the early 20th century try to define
music by their own standards, they discovered they had a lot to learn. What can we take
from their story?
Week 3–September 8: Observing the Social Life of Music (cf)
3.) Beaudry, Nicole. (1997) ‘The Challenges of Human Relations in Ethnographic Inquiry:
Examples from Arctic and Subarctic Fieldwork.’ In Shadows in the Field: New Perspectives for
Fieldwork in Ethnomusicology, New York: Oxford University Press, 63-83.
4.) Behar, Ruth. (1999) ‘Ethnography: Cherishing Our Second-Fiddle Genre.’ Journal of
Contemporary Ethnography, 28(5): 472-484.
Task: Start to develop your fieldwork project. Write down a set of ideas about who you
might wish to talk to and what musical practices you may want to observe. You need to
start thinking about how you will go about ‘observing music.’
Week 4 – September 15: How to Speak to People About Music (ci)
7.) Smith, Gavin. (1999) ‘Politically Engaged Social Enquiry and Images of Society.’ In
Confronting the Present: Towards a Politically Engaged Anthropology. New York: Berg, 19-49.
8.) Heyl, Barbara Sherman. (2001) ‘Ethnographic Interviewing.’ In The Handbook of
Ethnography. Thousand Oaks, Ca.: Sage Publications, 369-83.
Task: This week you need to develop you interview agendas. You need to work out who to
talk to and what you talk to them about. You also need to develop interviewing
strategies. How do we listen, watch and speak when we are studying music
‘ethnographically’? What are we listening for? What are we trying to learn?
Week 5–September 22: Having a Personal Relationship With Music (cf)
5.) DeNora, Tia. (2000) ‘Music as a Technology of the Self.’ From Music in Everyday Life.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
6.) Lincoln, Sian. ‘Feeling the Noise: Teenagers, Bedrooms and Music.’ Leisure Studies. v. 24, n.
Task: Choose the musical practice you wish to study for your project. Work out what this
music does music for the people who take part of it in their everyday lives. How can we
think about music through the experience of other people?
Week 6–September 28: Watching People Make Music (ci)
9.) Nash, Jeffrey. (2012) ‘Ringing the Chord: Sentimentality and Nostalgia Among Male
Singers.’ Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 41(5) 581–606.
10.) Burnim, Mellonee. ‘Culture Bearer and Tradition Bearer: An Ethnomusicologist's
Research on Gospel Music. Ethnomusicology, vol. 29, no. 3, 1985.
Task: You need to start working out a research agenda for your project. The first thing you
need to do is figure out what activities you want to observe and what you will be looking
for. What can we learn when we watch people make music? How can we watch
‘analytically’? What do we look for? How can we know what might be important?
Week 7– October 13: Understanding Musical Places (ci)
11.) Prior, Nick. (2015) ‘“It’s a Social Thing”: Popular Music Practices in Reykjavik, Iceland.’
Cultural Sociology, 9(1): 81-98.
12.) Cohen, S., and B. Lashua. (2013) ‘Liverpool Musicscapes: Music Performance, Movement
and the Built Urban Environment.’ In B. Fincham, et. al. (eds.) Mobile Methodologies.
Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave, 71-84.
Task: This week you need to start to understand the places in which the music you are
studying gets made. You need to look very closely at them, describe them, and explain
how they may shape the musical practices you are studying.
Week 8– October 20: Listening to Music in Public (cf)
13.) Novak, David. (2008) ‘2.5 x 6 Metres of Space: Japanese Music Coffeehouses and
Experimental Practices of Listening.’ Popular Music, 27(1): 15-34.
14.) Walsh, Michael. (2013) ‘Musical Listening at Work Mainstream Musical Listening
Practices in the Office.’ In Baker, S., et. al. (eds.) Redefining Mainstream Popular Music.
New York: Routledge.
Task: Listening is what academics call a ‘situated practice.’ This means that listening is shaped
by the circumstances in which we approach, experience, and recall our musical experiences.
Make some detailed notes about the typical circumstances in which the people you are
studying will listen to the music you are studying.
Week 9–October 27: Listening to Music in Private (cf)
15.) DeNora, Tia. (2002) ‘The Role of Music in Intimate Culture: A Case Study.’ Feminism
and Psychology, 12(2): 176-81.
16.) Hennion, Antoine. (2001) ‘Music Lovers: Taste as Performance.’ Theory, Culture and
Society, 18(1): 1-22.
Task: Listening to music alone in private may not seem to be an anthropologically rich act,
but it is. These readings explain how and your task is to link them to your own experience.
Week 10-November 3: Experiencing Live Music (cf)
17.) Cavicchi, Daniel. ‘Does Anybody Have Any Faith Out There.’ In Tramps Like Us: Music
and Meaning Among Springsteen Fans. New York: Oxford University Press.
18.) Drew, Rob. ‘Once More, With Irony: Karaoke and Social Class.’ Leisure Studies, v. 24, n.
Task: Both readings this week are about ways in which people claim a sort of ownership
over music through the ‘authentic’ experience of their favourite music. Seek out these sorts
of claims in your fieldwork.
Week 11– November 10: A Model for Personal Writing About Music (ci)
19.) Diawara, Manthia. (1997) 'The Song of the Griot.' Transition, 74: 16-30.
Task: As we know, music can be intensely personal. It can also be a kind of ‘public resource’
people use to help the events of their lives make sense. This essay is a personal essay about
how music tells the ‘national story’ of the West African country of Mali. What can we take
away from this reflection to guide in our own uses of music to narrate our lives?
Week 12– November 17: Feedback on Fieldwork Project Proposals. (cf/ci)
Submission of Work
1. You must complete all of the assessments in order to pass this subject.
2. You must submit all work on this subject’s Canvas site in 'doc' Word format. No other
format will be accepted (i.e. no pdf, unix or ‘pages’ files.) Do NOT paste your writing into the
submission box on Canvas. I won't mark work submitted that way.
3. You must put your surname at the top of your essay and in the document file name.
4. You are required to keep a copy of all of your assignments.
5. If you expect a response to an e-mail query, it is in your interests to send it before 2pm
on Friday afternoons. I will not reply to your e-mails over the weekend or on public
Completion of Written Work
1. All of the essays you will complete for this subject are research essays. Therefore, you will
need to do research for them. This means you need find and examine sources. You will be
marked on the quality of these source as well as your use of them.
2. You must acknowledge all sources used in your writing through precise referencing of
anything that you quote, summarise, refer to, mention in passing or draw on to complete
your essays and analyses. You need to provide sufficient information to allow the reader to
find the passage that you are using including the page number. You will lose marks for
2. You must make your own judgments about the number and quality of the sources you use
to complete your assessments. The goal of any assessment is to thoroughly examine and
analyse some prescribed set of materials. In order to do so you need to have a some idea of
what ideas already exist out there in the world about these materials. This applies not only
to the materials you have chosen to analyse, but also to the ideas and interpretations you
are using to complete the analysis.
3. Read each assessment task you complete carefully. You will lose marks if you have too
many easily correctable errors in formatting, spelling and punctuation.
4. You will lose marks for lack of clarity, ineffective structure, poor grammar and confusing
5. You are expected to spend about six hours each week outside of class time working on
your readings and assessments.
6. Plan your arguments by breaking your assignment into sections. Work up your topic
sentences that will head up each section and each paragraph. Work out what evidence you
need to present to the reader, and in which order. Consider whether the evidence you have
presented sufficiently supports your propositions. Consider how to build a mass of evidence
to make your argument convincing. You will lose marks for poor essay organisation.
Requirements for Written Work.
The most important requirements for the assessment tasks are:
• You must acknowledge through precise referencing the sources that you quote,
summarise, refer to or mention in passing. Providing references serves the pragmatic
purpose of allowing a reader to follow up your sources to check them, to contextualise
the material, or simply to pursue something that interests them. You need to provide
sufficient information to allow the reader to find the passage that you are using-including
the page number. You will lose marks for inadequate referencing.
• Assemble an argument. This means asserting a proposition, providing evidence to
support that proposition, and leading the reader through that material in a way that is
logical and convincing. You will lose marks if you do not establish a clear argument.
• Plan your arguments by breaking your assignment into sections. Work up your topic
sentences that will head up each section and each paragraph. Work out what evidence
you need to present to the reader, and in which order. Consider how best to present
that evidence. Consider whether the evidence you have presented sufficiently supports
your propositions. Consider how to build a mass of evidence to make your argument
convincing. You will lose marks for poor essay organisation.
• Write clearly. Do not try to write in a manner that you think is ‘academic’. Write simple
declarative sentences that express one idea and link your sentences together in a logical
way. Use sub-headings where appropriate. Always read your work out loud to check
that it makes sense. Remember the reader, and imagine that you are trying to engage
with that reader as you write. Your main obligation as a writer is to explain something
about which you have developed an understanding to someone who may not share that
understanding. Help them to move towards your understanding. You will lose marks for
lack of clarity, poor grammar and confusing syntax.
• Make sure that you re-read your essays and analyses carefully. You will lose marks if you
have too many easily correctable errors in formatting, spelling and punctuation.
Assessment Criteria for Written Work.
• High Distinction (85%+): Work of exceptional standard.
Written work demonstrates initiative and ingenuity in research and reading, pointed and
critical analysis of material, innovative interpretation of evidence, develops abstract or
theoretical arguments on the strength of detailed research and interpretation. Properly
documented; writing characterised by creativity, style, and precision.
• Distinction (75-84%): Work of a superior standard.
Written work demonstrates initiative in research and reading, complex understanding and
original analysis of subject matter and its context; makes good attempt to ‘get behind’ the
evidence and engage with its underlying assumptions, shows critical understanding of the
principles and values underlying the unit of study. Properly documented; writing
characterised by style, clarity, and some creativity.
• High Credit (70-74%): Highly competent work.
Evidence of extensive reading and initiative in research, sound grasp of subject matter and
appreciation of key issues and context. Engages critically and creatively with evidence, and
attempts an analytical evaluation of material. Some evidence of ability to think theoretically
as well as empirically. Well written and documented.
• Low Credit (65-69%): Competent work.
Written work contains evidence of comprehensive reading, offers synthesis and critical
evaluation of material on its own terms, takes a position in relation to various
interpretations. In addition, it shows some extra spark of insight or analysis. Demonstrates a
coherent and sustainable argument, some evidence of independent thought.
• High Pass (60-64%): Work has considerable merit.
Written work contains evidence of a broad and reasonably accurate command of the subject
matter and some sense of its broader significance, offers synthesis and some evaluation of
material, demonstrates an effort to go beyond the essential reading, contains clear focus on
the principal issues, understanding of relevant arguments and diverse interpretations, and a
coherent argument grounded in relevant evidence, though there may be some weaknesses
of clarity or structure. Articulate, properly documented.
• Medium Pass (55-59%): Work of a satisfactory standard.
Written work meets basic requirements in terms of reading and research, and demonstrates
a reasonable understanding of subject matter. Offers a synthesis of relevant material and
shows a genuine effort to avoid paraphrasing, has a logical and comprehensible structure and
acceptable documentation, and attempts to present an argument.
• Low Pass (50-54%): Work of an acceptable standard.
Written work contains evidence of minimal reading and some understanding of subject
matter, offers descriptive summary of material; makes an attempt to organise material
logically and comprehensibly and to provide scholarly documentation. There may be gaps in
• Fail (50% and Below): Work not of an acceptable standard.
Work may fail for any or all of the following reasons: unacceptable levels of paraphrasing and
quotation; irrelevance of content; presentation, grammar or structure so sloppy it cannot be
understood; submitted very late without extension.
Aims and Outcomes
After successfully completing this unit of study, students will be able to use a range of skills
to understand the innate connections between the aesthetics and social attributes of a range
of musical styles based on a range of analytical methods.
Contribution to University of Sydney graduate qualities
The above aims and learning outcomes relate to the following graduate qualities:
• Depth of disciplinary expertise.
• Critical thinking and problem solving.
• Communication (oral and written).
• Interdisciplinary effectiveness.
Minimum learning commitments
Minimum expected student commitments are laid out in the Learning and Teaching Policy,
though these can be adjusted by individual faculties as required. As this is a 6 credit point
unit of study, it is expected that the student commitment is 9-12 hours per week, averaged
out over the semester.
As per the Sydney Conservatorium of Music resolutions, http://sydney.edu.au/handbooks/
conservatorium/rules/faculty_resolutions.shtml (Item 12): Students are expected to attend a
minimum of 90% of timetabled activities for a unit of study, unless granted exemption by the
Dean, Head of School or professor most concerned. The Dean, Head of School or
professor most concerned may determine that a student fails a unit of study because of
inadequate attendance. Alternatively, at their discretion, they may set additional assessment
items where attendance is lower than 90%.
All assessed work in this unit of study is subject to the University’s Academic Honesty in
Coursework Policy. Any breaches of this policy will be investigated and followed through
according to University policy and procedures. Please also see the University’s page on
Academic Honesty for Students, which includes links to the online academic honesty
module. If you are unfamiliar with academic honesty requirements, please contact the
Educational Integrity Coordinator of the Conservatorium, Dr. Narelle Yeo
All text-based assignments at the University of Sydney must be submitted through the LMS
using Turnitin. Text-based assignments may only be submitted online. Such assignments
may not be emailed to lecturers, nor printed out and handed in. As listed above, students
must not put their name or any other identifying features on their assignments – only their
student number. Students should note that all written assignments in this unit of study will
be submitted to similarity detecting software and scrutinised for academic honesty by
markers. The software and the markers will detect material taken from published sources or
the internet, other external sources, other students, or the student’s own work previously
submitted for assessment in this or another Unit of Study, or at another institution.
The University's assessment system is designed to ensure that conditions are fair to all
students, are as consistent as possible and that individual students are not disadvantaged by
adverse personal circumstances beyond their control or by the activities of other students.
Generally, serious illness, injury or misadventure will be taken into account when
considering a student’s performance in a course or unit of study. More information on
Special Consideration, including the online form, is available through MyUni or at:
Simple extensions are an informal arrangement between a student and a unit of study
coordinator to permit late submission of work. The Unit of Study coordinator may approve
a request, though it must be in writing, and for a maximum of 2 days. Please see the
Late Submission of Work
As per the Sydney Conservatorium of Music resolutions,
http://sydney.edu.au/handbooks/conservatorium/rules/faculty_resolutions.shtml (Item 11):
(1) It is expected that unless an application for Special Consideration has been approved,
students will submit all assessment for a unit of study on the due date specified. If the
assessment is completed or submitted within the period of extension, no academic penalty
will be applied to that piece of assessment.
(2) If an extension is either not sought, not granted or is granted but work is submitted after
the extended due date, the late submission of assessment will result in an academic penalty
(3) For every calendar day up to and including ten calendar days after the due date, a penalty
of 5% of the maximum awardable marks will be applied to late work.
(4) The penalty will be calculated by first marking the work, and then subtracting 5% of the
maximum awardable mark for each calendar day after the due date.
(5) For work submitted more than ten calendar days after the due date a mark of zero will
be awarded. The marker may elect to, but is not required to, provide feedback on such
Student appeals against a grade for assessed work should be made in relation to the
University of Sydney (Student Appeals against Academic Decisions) Rule
in particular, Part 3: Procedures for Undergraduate and Postgraduate Coursework Students.
As per clause 3.1.1, any student who believes that there are genuine grounds for
contesting an academic decision should first discuss his or her concerns with the relevant
teacher or unit of study co-ordinator.
As per clause 3.1.2, any such discussions should most usually take place within:
|15 working days of the student being advised of the academic decision; or|
within 15 working days of the result being posted by the University in the case of