Group Music Making


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"Whatever form of music making or listening we care to engage in, we may be sure that we are taking part in some way in a ritual which affirms the values we ourselves hold. Unless we grasp the essentially ritual nature of all (our musical life), we shall not begin to understand the forces that make it as it is."

This quote, from Christopher Small, who coined the term "musicking", is the springboard for yoru second essay.

A very important insight to be gleaned from this class is the importance of self-awareness in our approach to familiar musical rituals. Our rituals--musical and other--are an important guide to the values we hold. In every area of our lives, including listening to music, we affirm the values we hold by the rituals in which we engage.

Rituals are not themselves entirely culturally determined. We do have choice in how we listen, what we seek in our contact with music; but our choice is very much bound up with broader social and cultural attitudes that we may not even realize we hold. Conversely, the choice of music which celebrates values to which we aspire serves to reinforce those values, and can be an important means of establishing our values.

Indeed, music itself has the power to shape us in modes that reach beyond the aesthetic to include the social; how we understand ourselves as relating to each other and to the world around us is modeled by, and mirrored in, what we listen for, and find, in music. It is this power of music to project, reflect and evoke our deepest sense of being, both as individuals and as a part of society, that makes it matter so much to us.

Your second Personal Essay asks you explore your own most practiced music ritual--that is the way you use music most commonly and most intensely. A short and very incomplete list of possibilities: performing music either by yourself or with others; practicing music; listening to music in any venue--at home, on a walkman, in church; on the radio; working out to music; studying to music; going to conerts; dancing to music at a club; listening and singing in the car--the list goes on and on.

Write a detailed description (3-4 pages typed) of your most practiced musical activity--that is, the way you most commonly are involved actively with music. Choose ONE activity to explore, not a range of activities.

As a point of departure, use the following questions as a basis for describing the details of your ritual and the values it celebrates.


In what sort of surroundings does the ritual take place? Can its location be anywhere? What special spatial or technical requirements are there for the ritual to occur?

What limits your ability to take part in this ritual? Are their any restrictions which limit participation to those meeting certain criteria? (For example, you must be able to afford certain overhead expenses; you must be a certain age; you must possess certain skills, etc.)

What 'hidden' support is required for the ritual? Do you perform the music yourself or is it 'provided' for you? If provided, how?

How predetermined is the scheduling of the ritual? Do you control this? If not, who does?

How old is this ritual? Briefly trace its roots and its development to its present form, and speculate on ways you think the ritual will evolve.


How much control do you have over the choice of music? What kinds of restrictions exist? If you make the choices, describe your criteria and standards; if others do, describe their criteria and standards, as you understand them.

Is the music composed prior to the ritual or is it created by the performers during the ritual? Is it a live performance or is it a recorded performance?

Do you hear the music live, or is it recorded?

What kind of performing forces are required?

Discuss briefly the style, or styles, of the music. What are the most prominent features of the music? What makes it appropriate to the ritual?


Describe your behavior in the ritual. How do you show your involvement in the ritual?

What prior knowledge or experience, if any, is required for full participation in the ritual?

Are there other participants in the ritual besides your self? What is their role? What is your relation to them? How is that relationship expressed? How do you collectively relate to the music?


What values does this ritual celebrate? How is that celebration projected by the music? by the participants in the ritual?

What areas of human experience are explored by the music of this ritual?

In what ways doesthe ritual you describe grow out of the concert ritual we experienced and discussed in class as characteristic of Western European classical music? How does it differ from the classical concert ritual?

To what extent does the music used in this ritual conform to the classical notion that the deepest musical involvement comes from intensive listening to music which has no other function than to be listened to? In what ways does this ritual deny that notion? What other approach to musical value does this ritual embody and project?


Include your essay in your second Journal submission.to be submitted in an e-mail by Thursday May 24.