Concert Report Guidelines
This paper will be a detailed analytical description of a cultural setting or cultural event based on field research. Field research means that you will attend and/or participate in a live performance, and your observations will be the basis of your paper.
Please note: Plagiarism means quoting someone else’s idea without acknowledging the source. If you do this in your paper you will fail the class!
In your paper you should include careful observations and descriptions of sounds that are used and considered meaningful in that social setting. Music is often part of social and cultural processes. It may function as a focus of cultural and national identity as in national anthems, or counter-cultural identity. It may have a spiritual connection as in a church, synagogue, or temple. It may reflect social solidarity as in African or calypso drumming. Or it may be a symbol representing other things or ideas as in music of the Kaluli people of Papua New Guinea. Your ethnography should move beyond mere descriptions of sound qualities to an analysis of the social and cultural dynamics of which music is a part.
When describing or analyzing a cultural setting, try to be as detached and objective as possible. We all have assumptions and biases that influence our impressions and conclusions. However, good social scientists refrain from making subjective statements. Rather, they collect as much evidence as possible to support their interpretation of an event. In your own project, rather than judge a sound by your own standards, find out all you can about the artistic and cultural values of the audience or musician so that you may better understand the background for this musical event. Learning to put aside your own assumptions and biases is an important step in becoming a better observer of other cultures.
Your paper should be 2-3 pages long, typed, double-spaced, and grammar/spell-checked. It should be carefully written with full citations of any sources you use for background, using footnotes or endnotes and a bibliography. Failure to submit a professional-looking paper will result in a lower grade.
Ethnography paper guidelines
Your paper must be based on a live performance but not necessarily a public concert.
2-3 pages, Times New Roman or similar,12-point font (no larger!).
Take the time to spell, grammar check and express yourself clearly. Don’t lose points because of this!
Any references to published material to be footnoted/included in a bibliography. (see guidelines).
No more than a third of the paper to be taken up by background information. The purpose of the paper is to describe all the elements of a specific live performance, and put it in its social context.
Aim to describe the details and atmosphere of the performance in such a way that the reader of your paper would be inspired to go and see that performer themself. Use of metaphorical language makes your paper more colorful and helps tremendously in describing the effect of the music. Eg “the swirling music of the Turkish instrumentalists enhances the hypnotic effects of the whirling dervish performance”;
Above all, this is a music class, so write about the music that you heard.
Other ideas to help you write the paper:
You may only be used to describing music in a personal way (I love it; I heard it last Tuesday on the radio; it reminds me of the sound of my cat crying; it makes me feel relaxed). By all means record your personal response to the performance: was it inspiring, beautiful, annoying, boring? But give reasons for your reactions.
And as best as you can try also to describe the music in an analytical way (what kinds, combinations and varieties of melody, scale, rhythm, texture, form, tone colors etc).
An interview of the performer is always useful in giving you a particular angle for your topic, but it is not always possible and not a required element of the paper (unless writing about classical, jazz or rock music)
Questions to think about (use only the ones that apply to your subject):
Why does this music exist? What is the value of this performance to the community at large? Does it bring disparate groups or people of like mind together? Is it primarily for relaxation or entertainment? Or does it have educational, religious, ritual, ceremonial, political, historical significance? What does the music tell you about the audience for which it is written/about the performer? What kind of people play or listen to this music? What are the performers/audience wearing? What does this say about the event? How is the performer treated by the audience-with great respect/as one of the crowd? Is the performer being paid/ just doing it for fun?
Is there a clear separation between performer and audience or does everyone contribute to the performance (by dancing, clapping etc)? What is the setting of the performance-in a bar/concert hall, formal/casual? Does the audience talk during the performance or pay silent attention?
What is the difference between listening to recorded music/watching a DVD and attending a live performance?
Is there variety in the performance, if so how is it achieved? How many instruments, how do they sound as a group, how do the performers interact with each other, is there a soloist or are they all equally important?
How loud/soft, slow/fast, and are there many changes in volume/speed during the performance? Why?
Can you tell if the performer is improvising, playing pre-composed music or a mixture of the two? How can you tell the difference? What is the effect?
What is your/the audience’s reaction to the performance? Is it different from the goal of the performer?
Is the performance successful? Is the performer talented? Why/not? Does it matter? What do you think the music is expressing?
You may make analogies between the music that you hear and other art forms from that culture (visual arts, literature, dance, food, clothing) eg just as Middle Eastern cooks add spices to food to make it more tasty and complex, their musicians also add many ornaments to the melodies to give them more beauty and depth.
If this is a production including words/dancing/costumes/make-up etc, imagine the performance without music and then describe how the music complements/enhances the other elements. This point is very important if you are reviewing a dance performance-make sure you write a paper about the music primarily and describe the dance as one of the elements in the performance, not the only element in the performance. Or if there are songs-what is the effect of the poetry by itself/what does the music add to the words? Include examples of the lyrics in your paper and explain why that kind of music is sung to those particular words.