Assignment and Guidelines: You are an anthropologist from a culture (or perhaps a foreign planet) where there is no such thing as “popular music.” Your leaders have sent you to Halifax to attend a live “popular music” performance and report back with an anthropological analysis of the event. Your leaders have informed you that the best place to observe such an event is at venues that locals refer to variously as “clubs,” “concert halls,” “bars,” or “arenas.”
There is no such thing as a music venue or live popular music where you come from, so approach the event as though it is the first time you’ve ever encountered such a thing. This is an anthropological study of a wholly foreign culture and the ritual they call a “popular music performance” or, for those in the know, a “club gig,” “show,” or “concert.” Your main objective is to ascertain just what this ritual means to the participants. In order to do this, you will have to assess a number of things: what kind of people attend the event; the nature of the venue in which the event takes place; the sounds that are produced at the event; and the behavior of the participants and how they relate to each other. How do all of these factors contribute to the meaning of the event?
Your leaders have informed you that attending a live performance of popular music is an important experience to many Canadians. Your job is to ascertain why. What do the participants seem to get out of it, and what seems to be the social meaning of the event? To prepare for this assignment, your leaders have enrolled you in MUSC 2019: The Rock and Roll Era and Beyond at Dalhousie University. Draw on what you have learned from this preparation in your discussion of the event and what it means to the various participants. They have also instructed you to do research in the field of “popular culture studies” to inform your analysis.
This is to be primarily an anthropological essay; however, you must also comment on the actual sounds that you hear at this event, particularly those sounds that seem to contribute most significantly to the meaning of the ritual.
DO NOT write a review. Your leaders are not interested in whether the performance was good or bad. Rather they are interested in the social function of the event, how the participants (including the performers and the audience) interact, what the event means to the participants, and how those meanings are conveyed by the behaviours and sounds that characterize the event.
Assignment: Select a popular music artist active between 1950 and the present who is NOT represented in the required listening for this class. Select one song by that artist that came out after 1950 and make a case for why that artist and song should be covered in a class called “The Rock and Roll Era and Beyond.” You may discuss more than one song by your artist, but you should select and focus on ONE song and argue why it should be required listening for this course. This requires that you think about what constitutes historical significance and demonstrate that your selection has it. In doing so it may be useful to link your song to the musical movements it is associated with (e.g., soul, heavy metal, funk, teen pop, disco, hip-hop, etc.), and, if possible, explain how it relates to broader social, historical, political, and/or cultural issues.
You should provide relevant background information on your selected artist; however, this is NOT a biographical essay assignment, and your coverage of the artist’s biography should be limited to information relevant to her/his/their historical significance.
Be sure to discuss musical details and how they contribute to the significance and/or impact of your chosen song. Explain how the song works and what kinds of meanings it offers, and to whom. What musical elements are important to this particular song? How do they contribute to the meaning and effect of the song?