West Philadelphia Music

By Dueck, Jonathan | Yearbook for Traditional Music, January 1, 2008 | Go to article overview
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West Philadelphia Music


Dueck, Jonathan, Yearbook for Traditional Music


West Philadelphia Music. Produced by Carol Muller and Tim Rommen.

URL: http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/music/westphillymusic/

The University of Pennsylvania's West Philadelphia Music site asserts that community service is its primary reason for being. It is part of a broader effort to serve local communities at Penn through what are called "Academically Based Community Service" courses. The site presents a wealth of ethnographic material produced by Penn students in collaboration with members of West Philadelphia music communities: audio and video recordings, transcribed interviews, and edited ethnographic films and writings. This material should be of interest to teachers (and students) of ethnomusicology, fieldwork, and urban anthropology; to researchers of Philadelphia and other urban music-cultures; to scholar-practitioners of applied or public ethnomusicology; and, significantly, to community members in West Philadelphia.

The site's content is presented in an easily navigable layout, with media and textual content on the left and an outline list of links to all of the site's content, organized by course and research project, on the right. These projects are centred on local African-American musicians and musics, including jazz, gospel, and the music of a local Muslim school and mosque. Each of the projects offers rich content: for example, the impressive jazz project presents nine lengthy, detailed transcripts of interviews with older West Philadelphia jazz musicians. These transcripts are laid out vertically, and interspersed with photos, video, and audio recordings related to the text immediately adjacent to them, much like a newspaper; each piece of media works as a kind of audiovisual quote that greatly enriches the text. Further, the choice to present interview transcripts highlights the (quite literally) dialogic partnership between Penn students and community members. The ethnographic films on which other sections of the site focus are similarly reflexive and rich in detail.

Each section of the site also includes the syllabus for the course which generated its content, ranging from general and topical undergraduate ethnomusicology courses to graduate fieldwork courses.

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