Music 650
Field Methods in Ethnomusicology:
West Philadelphia Gospel Music—
Communities of Faith, Faith in Community

Timothy Rommen

Course Description
This course explores various methodological problems and theoretical constructs that confront us during the course of ethnomusicological fieldwork. How can we approach writing about our ethnographic work without silencing the voices of those who should be heard? In what ways might transcription and notation complicate power structures and reinforce our own musical values? What special challenges need to be negotiated in the process of documenting ethnographies on film? How do ethical and economic dilemmas inform our approach to making sound recordings? A series of readings in ethnomusicology and anthropology will suggest some answers to these questions-answers that will, in turn, be tested by means of several interconnected fieldwork projects focused on gospel music in West Philadelphia. Our readings and fieldwork experiences will shape our classroom discussions, leading not only to a better understanding of ethnomusicological methods, but also to a deeper appreciation of the "shadows" that we cast in the field.

During the first few weeks of the semester, classes will follow a lecture and discussion format. These discussions will necessarily take as their point of departure the listed readings for the week. By week four, we will begin exploring research and representational methodologies ranging from photographic essays to interviews, from video and audio recordings to ethnographic writing. You will apply these methodologies in the field and, in so doing, acquire not only the technical but also the interpersonal skills required for successful fieldwork and, by extension, for sustainable community partnerships. By the end of the semester, each of you will have contributed a significant body of fieldwork to a collaborative research project that we will use to produce a CD-Rom documentary. This documentary will, in turn, serve as a first step toward creating an accessible, internet-based archive of West Philadelphia gospel music.
Download complete Fall 2003 syllabus (PDF)