MU 275


This course has been focused on taking an ethnomusicological approach to studying and understanding different musical traditions from around the world. It should be clear by now that the ‘context’ of music making is paramount to understanding new musical traditions. This is also one of the most difficult aspects of ethnomusicological investigation. With that in mind, many different approaches have been developed to help with examining these various contexts in an effective way. One approach that is useful to examine the context of music making is called the ‘Cultural Prism Model.’ I have adapted this model for your final assignment.

Below, you will find an adaptation of the Cultural Prism Model with a list of questions that you can use to complete your final assignment. You do not need to answer ALL of these questions; they are there to help guide you in discussing the context of the assigned musical tradition. Use the questions that are most relevant for your discussion.

Cultural Prism Model*

Musical Beginnings

Who created the music? When was it created? Where? What inspired the creation of this type of music? Are there gender rules or norms around its performance? How was it performed: with expectations of quiet listening, dancing, marching, or ‘background’?

Musical Transmission

Who performs it now? What qualifications do the performers have? Does it always sound same or is there flexibility in the tradition for personal interpretation? Who teaches it? How is it learned? Are there gender rules around who is allowed to learn it? Are there recordings?

Meanings and Associations

Are there social or cultural themes to the music? What use or function does it fulfill? Are there differences in historical and contemporary meanings in its performance? Do particular groups of people as defined by age, gender, ethnicity, religion, nation or region identify with this music?

*Adapted from Campbell, Patricia Shehan. 2004. Teaching Music Globally: Experiencing Music, Expressing Culture. New York: Oxford University Press.

Apply the adapted Cultural Prism Model above to the musical genre referred to as the ‘blues’ which is discussed in Chapter 4. Your discussion should be between 500 and 1000 words. Use the three subheadings to present your answers. Do NOT use direct quotations from the textbook. Paraphrase your answers.

*Please submit your assignment in a Word format (not PDF or any Mac docs).

Grading Key (10%)

Musical Beginnings                  3%

Musical Transmission               3%

Musical Meanings                              4%


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