At a pancake breakfast hosted by the Columbia Land Conservancy in Hudson, New York, on March 22, 2013, music was provided by a soloist and helpers calling themselves The Cattle Drivers. Guitar and banjo accompanied solo or harmonized song with various helpers, some of whom were on the staff of the CLC.
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The genre of music was not limited to bluegrass, despite the prominence of the banjo, and the spirited picking and strumming. The musicians performed some country and western songs without announcing their names. They also, to an enthusiastic response, performed some popular soft-rock ballads from the 1960s, including several now popular with small children, such as the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine, John Lennon and Paul McCartney.
They also offered several protest songs, including If I Had a Hammer, by the locally prominent environmental activist Pete Seeger, and Lee Hays. Another unnamed piece mourned the disappearance of family farms. They also invited requests.
The lead guitarist carefully avoided overwhelming the appreciative audience with volume. When one of the volunteer singers was unfamiliar with the song, they improvised, and did so very competently. The result was not perfect but unembarrassed and pleasant.
There was a mix of fast and slow songs, mostly in the common 4/4 rhythms of rock-and-roll. The bluegrass pieces were in either 2/8 or 6/8 and involved a lot of fast finger work. When the director of the CLC picked up the banjo, everyone paid attention to his picking.
The physical space was a very simply decorated high ceilinged room in the 9th-century brick building known as Hudson’s Mansion, formerly used by the Elks Club, and now much renovated. It is just off the main street of the town of Hudson which is the county seat and boasts several hundred antique dealers.
The outside of the structure is very handsome and striking, with towers and battlements of brick. The room was very hot, but the attendees seemed pleased to be out of the cold. The smell of pancakes, maple syrup, ham, and sausage filled the air. The Cattle Drivers played on a tiny, barely raised stage.
The crowd was made up of supporters of the organization, apparently both from the local small town rural agricultural community as well as from New York City. Some were very fashionable, and some were dressed as though they were going hunting. There were a great many small children there as well, some with parents and others clearly with grandparents.
There was a constant movement of people greeting each other table to table, which is one reason that some of the songs’ announcements went unheard.
This did not mean that no one was listening to the music, but rather that the Cattle Drivers were not yelling between songs when they shared the titles of the pieces (if they shared the titles at all). Rather, the audience was there for food and companionship. Volunteers shared stories of birds, beavers, and fish sighted. The music was an extra joy, but the main event was getting together.
This was explicitly a chance to get volunteers and donors and together and build cohesion around issues of open lands preservation. There were several announcements of honors received by the organization, and new pieces of land acquired for preservation from development. The staff mingled with the guests and explained their plans for new hiking trails and educational programs.
The concert was lively without intruding on the conversation, eating, and fund-raising. The mix of bluegrass, country, vintage pop, and protest offered something for every listener. The playing was workmanlike, and the volunteer helpers were cheerful about their errors. The audience was entirely supportive and forgiving of any mistakes. This was a colorful and warm experience in every sense of the word.
Instructions: Your task is to attend and observe a music event, and analyzes it as part of a music-culture; then to share your experience in a short talk, as well as create a brief ethnography (written documentation) of the musical expression.
Select a performance of live music this semester, at either an event sponsored by the university or off-campus. We will discuss your topic in class during February. You may attend any type of event in which music is performed, including but not limited to religious services on or off campus, cultural shows, sporting events, dances, weddings, karaoke, performances by the Music Department’s ensembles, street music, etc.
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Decide soon what performance you will attend, including: the date and location, genre of music, names of performers (if known). Also, think of and write out (at least) six preliminary questions — about the performance, the music, and the community/culture — for which you hope to find answers in the course of attending the performance. You do not need to list these in your paper.
Attend this performance of music. Be sure to arrive early and stay until the end of the performance. NOTE: You must attend a live show after reading this assignment (that is, you cannot watch a video, and you cannot write about something you’ve already seen).
Observe various aspects of the performance, try to answer your Preliminary Questions, and include summaries of both of the following areas in your report:
Genre, Musicians, Music, Ensemble
- What is the genre of music?
- What are the names of the composers of the music? When did they live?
- Who are the musicians, and what is their group’s name?
- What instruments are being played? In what textures?
- Are there solos? Solos with ensembles? The only ensemble playing?
- How long are the pieces of music? How many pieces?
- Is there much repetition?
- Do the musicians improvise or play composed music or both?
- What rhythms can you count? What are the tempos? Is there variety?
Context, Audience, Interaction, Behavior
- What is the physical space where music happens? Describe it.
- What is the setting and context of the performance?
- Is there anything unusual about the performance?
- How does the audience behave? Are they all doing similar things?
- Describe the behavior of musicians and audience – imagine your reader has never been to any concerts and has no way of knowing how people act.
- What do some of the musicians and audience members and/or event staff have today to you? Interview them if possible.
- How do musicians and audience interact?
- What is the purpose and meaning of the performance?
- Is a community formed because of the show? Is it re-affirmed by the show?
UNH Mu 111 — Introduction to Music — Prof. Getter p.2
Paper and Presentation
Give a short (1 to 2 minutes) talk in class about your concert, in which you tell us about the musical and social aspects of your performance. Please do NOT plan to use any audio, visual, handouts or computer aids in your presentation.
Type a 2 to 3-page Report on the event, answering as many of the above questions as possible. Describe the concert for someone who has never heard this type of music; that is, assume that your reader does not know the performance genre or community.
Notes on writing style and format
- You must use correct citations for quoted materials, interviews, recordings, books, articles, websites, and all sources consulted. Plagiarism is a serious academic offense.
- You must type your report, and submit it on paper.
- It should be about 2-3 page in length.
- Use 1 1/2 or double line spacing (do not use single line spacing).
- Use a standard 10-12 point plain font such as Verdana, Arial, or Times New Roman.
- Use standard margins.
- Proofread your work, and use a spell checker.
- In your document, be sure to include your name, the date, the course and section numbers, and the name of this assignment.