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Course Syllabi

Graduate Seminars

Fieldwork and Laboratory Methods: Tools, Approaches, and Ethics

This course prepares participants for conducting fieldwork and using fieldwork data in social-science research. By 'fieldwork' we mean data collection through face-to-face interaction with people in their daily lives, using participant observation, interviews, recording, and experiencing music in context. The sessions roughly follow the chronology from pre-fieldwork planning to post-fieldwork representation of data, and address both practical and principle concerns at each stage. Discussions of ethical challenges are integrated throughout. Rather than attempting to provide blueprint answers, the course seeks to help participants reflect upon the dilemmas and challenges of fieldwork and make informed decisions for their own research.
Helbig -Fieldwork and Lab Methods (Spring 2013).pdf


Music and Social Change in the Balkans

This course takes the Balkans as a case study, and with a particular emphasis on former Yugoslavia and today's independent countries of Southeastern Europe, analyzes the complex relationships between music and politics. Specifically, this course is designed as a practicum to inspire thinking about cultural policy and to analyze different approaches to issues surrounding policy formation and implementation. The basic points of departure are that "policy" is a particular type of intervention and mediation, and that policy formation involves a particular type of cultural awareness, foresight, as well as range of activities and techniques – e.g. observation, assessment of a problem, formulation of ideas regarding possible outcomes and solutions, and implementations of proposed policies, whether through government, civic, cultural, educational institutions. Policy studies came to ethnomusicology by viewing music not only in terms of its sonic elements, but also in terms of its functions and uses, meaning in terms of concepts people have about music and the ways people express their views through music. Growing out of policy studies in the context of the Balkan wars in the 1990s are concepts of applied ethnomusicology that reposition ethnomusicological research and practice as a means through which musicians work to overcome ethnic and other tensions in society. In Eastern and Central Europe, applied ethnomusicology focuses on using music to mediate differences between ethnic groups, as a way to help victims of war deal with trauma, and as a process through which to "save" certain traditional music genres from the forces of Westernization, globalization, and local popular music. In relation to performers and researchers, actors participating in the mediation of musical expression include local governments, institutions, international organizations, UNESCO, and NATO. The readings and class discussions focus on in-depth theoretical and descriptive analyses regarding the relationship between governments and music production, the music industries and political regimes, and the complex relationships between music and identity in times of peace and war.
Helbig - Music in the Balkans Syllabus (Spring 2010).pdf


Music, Gender, and Sexuality

This seminar provides an introduction to issues of gender and sexuality in musicological research and examines representative writings on music that address issues of masculinity, femininity, transexuality, gay and lesbian identities. Discussions are contextualized within analyses of various expressive genres such as traditional music, Western art music, and popular music. Attention will be paid to historical and theoretical examinations of gender and sexuality in musical performance, participation, and listening practices. This course aims to understand how social, economic, and political processes influence gender-related behavior and formulate differing understandings of gender and sexuality within a variety of musical contexts. It analyzes global music and media industries, cultural economies, and social institutions as pivotal sites for the maintenance, reproduction, and change regarding gender and sexuality in contemporary and historical perspective. This seminar will help students develop a deeper understanding of how their own musical experiences, views, choices and behavior have been shaped by the relationship between their own identities, the musical environments they inhabit, and the structure of opportunities they encounter through a variety of listening and musical performance practices. Class readings incorporate anthropological, psychoanalytic, Marxist, feminist, poststructuralist, and queer theories and draw on a variety of scholarly perspectives, including those of, but not limited to, Judith Butler, Suzanne Cusick, Susan McClary, Robert Walser, and others. There are no music prerequisites for this course. All graduate students, regardless of discipline, are welcome to participate.
Helbig - Music, Gender, Sexuality Syllabus, Fall 2010.pdf


Undergraduate Courses

Gypsy Music

This course looks at the broad phenomenon of "Gypsy Music": what it seems to be (as defined by those who play and study it), where it came from, and how its musical features manifest cultural and historical aspects of the lives of the people who created it. Concurrently we will look at "Gypsiness" as it has been understood and (re)imagined by white European society, embodying qualities of virtuosity, exoticism and "natural" expressivity. Our exploration will range from the relationships between Bartok and Hungarian/Gypsy music research to the marketing of Gypsy music today; and from ethnographic approaches to Romani performance to the philosophical and ethical considerations involved in studying it. Throughout the course we will consider the various ways Roma and related groups have created a range of sound worlds in such places as Russia, Hungary, Spain and the Balkans under considerable social, political and commercial pressure. As part of the inquiry we will take preliminary measures to learn linguistic expressions in Romani that will help students translate and analyze song texts. We will also explore representations of Roma/Gypsies in a range of cinematic genres ranging from blockbuster films to documentaries. Additional readings and discussions will engage political issues and musical materials related to Porjamos or the Roma Holocaust.
Helbig - Gypsy Music Syllabus (Spring 2011)


Global Hip-Hop

Popular music from the United States has had a major impact on the development of popular musics throughout the world. Hip-hop, in its association with African-American culture, has had a profound influence on many civil rights movements in Africa, Latin America, and Europe. Through its promotion of Black power and identity, it is a genre that many minority groups use to promote their civil causes. Hip-hop's roots complicate the routes of its appropriation. The technology available, the political climate, and the ethnic, racial, and class relationships among musicians and their audiences add to the vibrant development and the multitude of meanings "hip-hop" has come to hold in the world today. This course examines the genre through the lenses of geography, history, politics, and socio-cultural factors that lead to its creation and dissemination as one of the most dynamic genres of popular music in the past thirty years. It examines how diverse communities, groups of musicians and listeners use hip-hop to express local, national and transnational claims of belonging through the appropriation of a musical genre identified with the West and with African Americans in particular. A closer reading of global hip-hop practices offers insights into the genre's artistic significance and its social profile in a variety of contexts. Through analyses of locally distinct musical contexts, marketing trends within national and global music industries, and state-sponsored policies relating to hip-hop, this course sheds light on hip-hop's role in constituting cultural, political, racial, religious, class, and gender identities among diverse groups of people in the U.S. and abroad.
Helbig - Global Hip-Hop syllabus Fall 2012.pdf