Introduction to Musical Ethnography

MUSI 3070 | Introduction to Musical Ethnography

Why and how does music matter to human beings? What does musical experience look / sound / feel like to particular people and communities? And how can these stories be told ethically and creatively? This course introduces students to the study of music as a fundamentally social practice, through the research method of ethnography.

In music, this approach looks beyond notes and musical structures to think of music as part of everyday human life. Our discussions will address key debates in anthropology and ethnomusicology surrounding the ethics and politics of doing research with and representing the experiences of people and communities. The ethics of listening – to sound and to each other – is at the heart of these discussions.

As a class, we will develop a year-long ethnographic project, working collectively and collaboratively with a small number of musicians in Charlottesville. Together with the artists, we will design a project that creatively represents the stories of their musical lives. We will also work with WTJU radio to learn recording and production techniques for creative and ethical story-telling.

Professor Nomi Dave

Student Work

Reflection: Look Back, Move Ahead

I believe learning about the histories of Charlottesville and how all of these social, cultural, and economic issues have impacted this area for such a long time will be super helpful in guiding our research for this project.. Read more…

Reflection: Musical ID

It is really interesting how physical space plays a role in maintaining the music scene in
Charlottesville. It seems pretty obvious that if there are no places in which to play music, then of
course the musicians and music will be impacted for the worse. No space and no play means no pay. Read more…

Reflection: Race & Space

Charlottesville being a hub for refugees is something that I had honestly been totally oblivious to until learning it in this class. And the fact that Vinegar Hill had ever existed and even simply the idea of a place like Vinegar Hill being possible in Charlottesville was another thing that had never crossed my mind. Read more…

Reflection: Deep Roots

In the city of Charlottesville, race, immigration, physical space, and urban planning have extremely deep roots in its people and cultural scene. Read more…

Related Links
Music Library in Old Cabell Hall, University of Virginia
Music Library in Old Cabell Hall, University of Virginia

Department of Music

The Music Department is the center of musical life at the University of Virginia and a vital part of the Charlottesville community. We offer students opportunities to study music performance, composition, technology, musicology, theory, and ethnomusicology.

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Culbreth Theatre, University of Virginia
Culbreth Theatre, University of Virginia

UVA Arts

The Arts are an essential component of the University, its mission, and are a leading presence in the Charlottesville community. The Vice Provost for the Arts catalyzes and facilitates research, creative production, and service in the arts departments and schools, with The Fralin Museum of Art, Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection, the Virginia Film Festival, Heritage Theatre Festival & WTJU Radio, and by student-driven arts organizations.

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