Field methods in Ethnomusicology (Winter 2009)

From CCE wiki archived
Jump to: navigation, search

Classes: Mon 9:00-11:50 Music Library RN 2-109A

Instructor: Prof Federico Spinetti

Office: 3-65 Fine Arts Building; office hours: Tuesday 10:00-12:00am, or by appointment. Tel. 492-7534;

Course description

This course is an introduction to ethnographic fieldwork in ethnomusicology. It aims to provide students with theoretical and practical tools to undertake field research and ethnographic writing in preparation for their graduate theses. The course entails the exploration of fieldwork techniques and technologies, and active engagement with theoretical debates and critical perspectives on fieldwork and ethnographic representation involving ethnomusicology, anthropology, sociology and critical theory.

Prerequisites: the course is for graduate students only.

Aims and objectives

- To become acquainted with a variety of practical fieldwork methods and develop or refine skills in participant observation, fieldnotes, interviewing, data organization and analysis.

- To develop familiarity with the possibilities offered by a variety of multimedia technologies and introduce basic principles of use.

- To develop an understanding of fieldwork as a site of both practical and theoretical concerns, and to develop familiarity with and critical interest in theoretical issues, the ethics and politics of the ethnographic enterprise, reflexivity and advocacy.

- To carry out a small fieldwork project as part of a larger ethnographic project design which may or may not be related to the students' graduate research proposal.

- To regularly monitor and report on the methodological and practical steps taken during your fieldwork project, and to produce a final short piece of ethnographic writing.

Course requirements

- Regular class attendance

- Participation in discussions and presentation of readings. You will be asked to do weekly readings and discuss them in class and, occasionally, to present on one or more individually assigned readings

- End-of-term paper (2,000-2,500 words): critique of an ethnographic book or film of your choice. The book or film to be chosen must be relevant to ethnomusicology (due on Week 13)

- Fieldwork project, including:

1) Submitting a field-research proposal (due on Week 3).

2) Conducting fieldwork with individuals or a community of your choice in Edmonton or surrounding areas

3) Completing step-by-step fieldwork tasks, including design and planning, interviews, fieldnotes, audio-visual rough edits, etc. These need to be submitted to me as well as presented in class for discussion and feedback

4) Final, oral class presentation of your fieldwork enterprise (Week 14)

5) Submission of final ethnographic piece, due April 20th, including text and audio-visual materials. The text should not exceed 5,000 words

You should be familiar with the Code of Student Behavior as published in Section 26 of the 2008-2009 Calendar and available online at “Policy about course outlines can be found in section 23.4(2) of the University Calendar”. (GFC 29 SEP 2003) “The University of Alberta is committed to the highest standards of academic integrity and honesty. Students are expected to be familiar with these standards regarding academic honesty and to uphold the policies of the University in this respect. Students are particularly urged to familiarize themselves the provisions of the Code of Student Behaviour (online at and avoid any behaviour which could potentially result in suspicions of cheating, plagiarism, misrepresentation of facts and/or participation in an offence. Academic dishonesty is a serious offence and can result in suspension or expulsion from the University.” (GFC 29 SEP 2003)


Each assignment will be marked according to the numeric scale of evaluation given below. Individual assignment marks will be combined to obtain a final numeric grade, which will be translated into the correspondent final letter grade.

A 4.0

A- 3.7

B+ 3.3

B 3.0

B- 2.7

C+ 2.3

C 2.0

C- 1.7

D+ 1.3

D 1.0

D- 0.7

F 0.0

The relative weight of each assignment on your overall grade is as follows:

- Attendance, participation in class discussions and presentation of readings: 20%

- Presentation and submission of partial fieldwork results: 30% (7.5% per submission)

- End-of-term paper (critique of a chosen ethnographic book or film): 15%

- Class presentation of fieldwork project: 10%

- Final ethnographic report: 25%

Your field-research proposal will not be graded. However, it is essential that you work carefully on your proposal and submit it on time, so that you may receive useful feedback before undertaking your fieldwork project.


- There are no required textbooks for this course. All class readings will be on reserve at the Music Library. Some of the readings are available online as well through the UofA Library database. Relevant bibliographic or audio-visual materials that may not be available in University Libraries will be handed out in class, included in the course mediawiki ( or made accessible in my office.

- The course mediawiki ( will be an important resource for reading assignments, bibliography, media and other materials. I will use it also to communicate changes of schedule, further assignment details or other messages to the class.

- Audio and video equipment at the Canadian Centre for Ethnomusicology / Folkways Alive!, 347D Old Arts Building.

Class schedule & readings

In the list of weekly readings for this course, Reference indicates readings that must be done and prepared by everyone for class discussion; Assigned indicates readings assigned to individual students for short class presentations. Additional indicates suggested readings for students who wish to expand on a particular weekly topic: additional readings are not part of course requirements.

Week 1 - January 5: Introduction to the course

Week 2 - January 12: Fieldwork and ethnography: an overview of approaches, methods and critical perspectives. Planning fieldwork

Week 3 - January 19: Fieldnotes & participant observation

Week 4 - January 26: Ethics 1: Research with human participants. Emic / Etic issues in ethnographic research

Week 5 - February 02: Interviewing

Week 6 - February 09: The uses of film and video in ethnomusicology

Week 7 - Reading week

Week 8 - February 23: Film and video: equipment and editing software

Week 9 - March 2: Audio recording: equipment and editing software

Week 10 - March 09: Fieldwork and ethnography: critical perspectives 2. Film and video: philosophy and representation

Week 11 - March 16: Analysis and Writing

Week 12 - March 23: Ethics 2: Ownership, repatriation and dissemination of ethnographic materials

Week 13 - March 30: Course review and open discussion

Week 14 - Monday, April 06: Class presentations of fieldwork projects

Final ethnographic report due on April 20.


FM bibliography

FM videography