Music 650-250
Field Methods in Ethnomusicology: Music and Islam in West Philadelphia

This is a syllabus in modification through the course of the semester as we creatively respond to the requirements of our community partners – this kind of flexibility is supported by web technology, rather than paper, because updating is pretty easy. So the syllabus is different from the start of the semester. What you see is literally reflective of where this project is now on March 21, 2008!

Blackboard is an indispensable tool in this class.
To access use the following url:
To login you need your own Penn net username and password.
Quba Institute is located at 4737 Lancaster Avenue, and on the web at 215 473 8589
Our primary liaison is Saida Aziz
Her email address is

Course Description
This graduate/undergraduate seminar is part of a series of Academically Based Community Service classes that examine the relationship between music and spirituality in West Philadelphia. The 2008 version is the second iteration of the Field Methods seminar that has a focus on the Islamic community. Previous classes have had the history and contemporary practice of gospel music as their subject.

The purpose of the course is to give you a condensed version of the field research experience as required for doctoral dissertations in ethnomusicology or the anthropology of music. We begin by doing the kinds of reading a student might undertake prior to taking special field examinations; we speak to community members to establish the parameters of the research – expectations, norms, values, limitations – and then proceed to do the field research in a collaborative, partnership-building and increasingly mentoring manner. Each week you are given both required and recommended (for your interest) reading – both technical and theoretical – that should be reflected on in journals and in the seminar environment. The larger goal of these seminars is for you to learn how to use editing software and to workshop particular projects – thick description, fieldnotes, photographic essays, recorded interviews, the recording of a musical event, and videography all in the context of the Quba Institute services, classes, and related events.

One of the major outcomes of the course is that you will produce a series of ethnographic documents/representations in a variety of media: edited file of an ethnographic interview; edited recording of a musical event; a photographic essay; and a short ethnographic film. These will all be posted to the publicly accessible archive we have of these projects on the worldwide web. Our site is currently housed at The films will be shown to the partnering community at an event hosted at Penn on May 4, 2008.

Part of what you will learn through this research process ties into the increased scrutiny that field research is confronting in the contemporary world. This includes issues of representation, ownership of cultural documents on one hand, along with the challenges we face in ensuring that these projects are not one-sided i.e., Penn students dropping in to gather data and then parachuting out again. We have to find ways to make this project sustainable, mutually beneficial, and ultimately, to build a strong sense of connectedness between the University of Pennsylvania, and in this case, the Quba Institute – the school and the masjid community. Finally, it is vital that copies of the final documents produced in this seminar are given to the Quba community at the end of the semester. Even though these will all become available online, leaders and families of school kids treasure their own copies, and do not always have internet access in their homes.

Finally, you are required to provide copies of the videos produced to the community, and even to particular individuals featured in the videos. All original research materials are to be carefully labeled and deposited in Van Pelt Library so that they can be accessed by community members, future researchers etc., at a later date.

Reflecting on the partnership and research process as a whole is also a key dimension of the field methods seminar, and should be included in the journals you keep through the course of the semester.

It is going to be busy, so fasten your seatbelts and get ready for the ride!

Field methods in Ethnomusicology is taught as an Academically Based Community Service Project, which means that you will learn field research methods in conventional ways – by reading and discussing secondary literature – and then in more service learning kinds of practices: a learning-by-doing, and learning by teaching/mentoring process. At the outset we will meet weekly for a three hour seminar, for discussion of assigned readings, with the occasional addition of guests: reperesentatives from SAS Computing, and members of the Quba Institute, for example. Then we will move into a more applied mode of learning: the seminar will last closer to 2 hours in a “Theory/Practice” styled seminar. Students will read shorter pieces on research methods and reflections, and present weekly projects to the class for feedback from peers. As discussed with Quba, each group of students will work closely with the Quba high school students, mentoring them in what you are learning at Penn, and partnering to shape the issues and ideas required for the semester projects.

There are several small projects that you are required to do as weekly assignments. They are structured so that you learn by accumulation: i.e., start with writing (no direct representation of what you are presenting), then by adding visual (still photography), audio (recording), then video (audio and video tracked separately and then combined). Each of these projects must be of a quality to go on the webpage, and you should submit them as they are complete, properly documented.

You are required to keep a field journal this semester and to make weekly entries – DO NOT LEAVE THIS TO THE END OF THE SEMESTER. This will include all your reading notes, your field notes, thoughts about process, reflections – everything you write or record in some way this semester. You should have a minimum of a two paged entry per week. All submitted at the end of the semester – TYPED.

Assessment of your performance in this seminar will be evaluated in four areas: Weekly Journal Entries, Seminar Discussion, Small Projects and final video documents, and Community Engagement. There is no specific breakdown of the grade, though the tangible products will constitute the major part of the final assessment.

Video Production
There will probably be three different films on three different topics made this semester, in partnership with Quba students and masjid. One will focus on the contested introduction of Sufi practices to this masjid; one on family histories; and the third, focused on popular music tastes and habits.

A. Music, Islam, the United States

    1. Introduction (1/22)
      Muller (unpublished), Website, documentary on Roots.
      Meet with Quba partners at Quba Institute. CCP van will take us there, we will return on the trolley.
    2. Qur?an: Text and Recitation (1/29)
      Read the Entire Qur’an (not an easy read). Nelson (2001).
      Recommended: Sells (2005) (he has specific sura translated with commentary and the sound of performance on a cd in the back of the book) Cook (2000).
    3. Islam in the United States (2/5)
      Required: Haddad and Smith (2002); Recommended Haddad and Adair (1987), Qureshi, 1991; Muhammed (1991).
    4. Music and Islam (1): Music in the Islamic World (2/12)
      Shiloah (1995), Excerpts: Qureshi (1997)
    5. Popular/World Music and Islam (2): Sufism and Hip Hop (2/19)
      Miyakawa (Pt. One), Chittick (2005), Excerpts: Erguner (2005)

B. Musical Ethnography: Theory and Practice

    1. Participant Observation (2/26)
      Theory Reflections on entering the Quba community.
      Practice Spickard et al. (Journal Entry posted to BB by midnight Monday 2/18)
    2. Fieldnotes (3/4)
      Theory Required: Emerson et al., Recommended: Sanjek (1990)
      Practice Fieldnotes from attending Friday service, a Quba class, or related event (posted to BB by midnight 2/21)

MODIFIED with change in seminar

Read: Emerson et al., Writing ethnographic fieldnotes, read 1-107; Spickard et al, Personal Knowledge and Beyond: Reshaping the Ethnography of Religion, Read parts one and two. This is for next week.

Post: thick descriptions of fieldwork, participant observation (up to four single spaced pages) onto BB discussion Board by Tuesday at 5 am. I will copy and bring into class for discussion. We will decide on the project for the following week at next week’s seminar.

Then: Modification to original syllabus as the project with Quba develops: Quba asks Penn students to each Quba students, give them a sense of what college learning is about, a kind of college prep experience, so we change the projects from here on out.


      • For next week, do the project just on your own (and talking with other students about what event they cover will be helpful so at least two of you write independently about the same event).
      • For following week (Glenn and Vanessa you still need to complete and post the fieldnotes assignment that Christine and Emily did).
      • I want you to write (after you have finished reading the Writing Fieldnotes Book) ethnographic description of Quba as an institution–the physical setting, of getting to there from Penn; then describe it as a community–first as a school, second as a masjid. Then describe the students and the leaders/adminstrators/teachers. And then focus on one single event. This must be ethnographic description–pay careful attention to detail, make sure you evoke images in the reader’s mindseye through the kind of language you use. You must have read the guidelines for this kind of writing BEFORE you begin (up to the end of chapter four).
      • ALL this must be posted before noon on Tuesday, so I can read and copy before the seminar. We will workshop this material.
      • I have put copies of the Quba forms for mentoring in your mailboxes, I suggest you plan your proposals around the questions they have created. USE THESE TO WRITE YOUR PLANS. OK?


      • The second part of the ethnographic field note writing is this, and this you have spring break plus to complete: work with Quba student partners to do the same writing project. You will have to teach them what is expected i.e., teach them what field note writing is all about, then get them to do some descriptive writing about the building, the community, individuals within, and let us do some comparative reading–what are the priorites of Quba students over what you have seen. In other words, how differently do we see the “same things”?
      • In ABCS terms this would be “learning by teaching”–so you will learn from the seminar, and in turn teach Quba students.


  1. Visual Documents: Photo Essay (3/18)
    Quba Partners Visit and learn Photoshop and iPhoto for storage, categorization, and enhancing the visual images.
    Theory Sontag (1977[1973]) Recommended: Warren (2003), Peterson (2003), Kelby (2008), Grill and Scanlon (1990).
    Practice Photo Essay with accompanying written narrative. Imagine you are doing a photographic essay for a magazine or website – post to webpage. Tell a story through the sequencing of your images, remember to use a variety of angles, close-ups and wide angle shots. Think about what you are trying to communicate about your subject to the viewer.
  2. Ethnographic Interview (3/25)
    Theory Spradley (if you need it).
    Practice Complete Interview Transcription, select highlights of interview for discussion. Posted to your webpage and in hardcopy. Recorded and edited for NPR style presentation.
  3. Recording Music Events (4/8)
    Quba Students Visit Penn
    Learn how to edit using Audacity software, taught by Jesse Kudler in Music Lab.
    Note: You must have a recording to work with.
    Theory Given by Eugene Lew (earlier in the semester!)
    Practice Recording of (1) entire event which is then edited into a coherent narrative (combination of verbal/written narrative with selected audio clips to create a short radio clip (maximum of 10 minutes), posted to webpage. Take a good look at Sells book and accompanying CD, the Erguner book and CD, and Qureshi (1997) with CD.
  4. Presentation and Peer Review of Ethnographic Interview and Musical Event Documentaries (4/15) Come with both projects near completion (or complete) for presentation and peer review.
    Instructor will introduce idea of Video Storyboarding, as a useful starting point for video production.
  5. Visual Documents: Video Clips (4/22)
    Theory Heider (1976: chs. 1 and 3), Baily (World of Music, Ethnomusicological Filmmaking)
    You must have some video field material to work with in this seminar. You will practice editing a segment of your video of an entire event which is then edited into a coherent narrative (combination of verbal/written narrative with selected audio clips to create a short television clip (maximum of 5 minutes). Think of how this might form a substantial part of your final video.
  6. Video: Rough Cut (4/29)
    Theory: reflection in journals and completing videos
    Practice: Bring the goods for comment and assistance

C. Culminating Event May 4, 5PM in Rose Recital Hall, FB Building.

Website and Journals

Keep weekly records in personal journals, 1-2 single spaced pages posted to BB weekly, by Tuesday at midnight PRIOR to each seminar. These included responses to readings, field notes, other relevant questions, issues, ideas pertaining to the class. Submit final journals TYPED only.

The Interview/Event

  • Your preparation for the interview/event – background reading, what you read where you found it, what you learnt basically
  • Description of the interview/event itself
  • Evaluation of the interview/event itself – what you expected, what happened, what was unexpected
  • Evaluation of the interview/event content once transcribed – how you selected the important moments for the audio files, what you would ask if you could do a follow up interview – remembering the ethnographic cycle

The Research Process as a Form of Learning

  • Reflect on what your expectations of the project were, what actually happened, what you would like to have happened that didn’t and so forth
  • What do you think about research like this as a form of learning as an undergraduate, what kinds of skills did you acquire through this kind of learning that you may not have acquired had you not taken a class like this
  • Are there particular skills you have acquired in this kind of learning environment that will be useful for the rest of your life? What are they and how might you use them in other areas of work or human engagement?

Preparing your Website Material

  • Remember that the website is best in a combination of visual, aural, and written materials. So don’t just rely on text
  • This is a record of the class you have taken, the learning process that you want to share with a virtual and real public
  • You are wanting to educate your website reader/viewer in a straightforward way
  • Frame your ethnographic materials–videos, audio clips, tell the story of your interview/project, who the person is, why you interviewed the person, and why this person is significant in the reconstruction of Philly’s gospel history
  • Be sure to have all the names of your group members in the page – if you want to put signatures on particular parts of the site that is fine too
  • Label all pictures with people’s names
  • You must somewhere indicate that you have permission from individuals concerned to post this material (and say where the permission is housed – Van Pelt Library).
  • If you have done extra reading around your subject you think would help your web readers, then put a list of relevant literature – journal article, journal date of publication, or even relevant websites etc
  • If your interviewee pointed your to particular newspapers or archives or buildings, see if you can find weblinks to those and post them in “related links” or embedded in the text you write.
  • Use your imagination, if you are unsure of what to do, email or talk to me about possibilities.

Information for Quba Institute

Permission Form for Interviews and recordings: REQUIRED FOR ALL EVENTS YOU RECORD, where you will use materials generated.
A sample permission form is on BB. You can take the MS Word file and adjust it to suit the specific needs of your field research. Make sure all those videoed, interviewed have signed or we cannot use the material.

Final Projects and Culminating Event

Final Submission
**KEEP copies of everything, on your hard drive, on CD, until the projects are uploaded.
***SAVE SAVE SAVE every five minutes or so.

Fieldnotes and Reflections Document

    • These are individual and group submissions
    • Field notes can be just that: notes that talk about prior to the interview, the interview itself, the place, the conversation, reflections on the interview, how it went, what you would ask again and so forth. Also what kinds of preparation you did, what you read, how it was helpful.
    • Reflections can be about the interview, but also about this research process – what do you think about this particular project. You may have had a “wow” moment or a difficult moment in the interview that you felt individually or as a group. This could be included. There are many unknowns in ethnographic research, you learn as you go, with this in mind, talk about what you learnt, including about the uncertainties that are germaine to this kind of learning (as perhaps equipping you for real life, where there are just as many uncertainties and changes). And so forth.
    • Finally, you might want to use all or parts of this document in the narrative you create in your webpage. See below.

Your Web Materials

  • As you give shape to your web materials remember that these projects were made in the context of a class, so you should construct your page to reflect that context i.e., you are not the mysterious producer putting everything together behind the scenes, but were actively involved in shaping the project from its early stages through to the final product.
  • Remember too to think about the web as a kind of archive – one in which you are depositing primary source materials generated from the ethnographic interview. So think of what you might have wanted to know about your interviewee before you conducted the interview, to help some in the future who might similarly be interested in that person’s narrative.
  • So you might want to shape your documents according to the idea of the ethnographic cycle we talked about in class – map out the steps in the research, editing, and presentation stages. In other words the fieldnotes and reflections in your journals.
  • Be sure to put your names on the web materials – unless someone has particular reasons not to do so, you are not obligated to put your names on the page, this is more to ensure you get the credit for the work done.
  • You should create a list of “relevant resources” that might include texts you have read, newspapers or magazines that were cited by your interviewees, with possible links to them. Remember though if you insert a series of related links, please explain to the viewer the reason for inserting each link, why it might be helpful for the viewer and enhance the project. Try to use links that have some kind of longevity and public credibility so that they don’t become defunct too quickly.
  • Label all images – who is in the picture, where, when, why, even who took the picture. If you have images that were given to you by your interviewee and you don’t have much information about the images, just say you asked but the interviewee was vague about details, or couldn’t recall specifically, it is important that you tried to find out the information.
  • Think about how you want to represent your interviewee, and how he/she might feel looking at your project.
  • Frame your audio/video clips: make sure they will make sense to your viewer. You could put them in some kind of narrative frame that makes sense to the life story of your interviewee, or that make sense in terms of the research experience, or in terms of a story about the relationship between music and spirituality. You decide how to do it. Just make sure there is a clear logic to your selection and presentation of these particular links.
  • It would really strengthen the sense that you were in partnership through the interview, if you talk about a particular highpoint in the interview process, either in terms of an extraordinary piece of information given, a particular story told, or in terms of your own expectation of what you would get versus what you discovered.

Submitting Research Materials
Submit two copies of recorded interview, photo essay, performance event, and video, plus all your original media, in a box or large envelope, marked with your names and your partner names, plus all permission forms in a box marked Music 650 in Rm 202 on May 7, 2008.

To be submitted in the basket/box marked Music 650-250-Muller in Rm 202 by Mary 7th 2008.

  • Permission Forms, with all information intact for the person/people you interviewed. Make sure you have signed the permission form yourself – for putting your work online on a Penn website. See Course Assignments?find the correct permission form, printout and sign.
  • All originals of tapes, mini discs, digital video tape, in an envelope, CLEARLY MARKED, or with an extra sheet of paper that notes the class (Music 650 Spring 2006), who conducted the interview, with whom, when, where, what is on the tape, how long the tape is. These will be deposited in Van Pelt for further consultation by communities engaged.

The project as a whole must include:

  • Audio clip files of your interview as you have edited them, as MP3 files
  • The original interview tapes/mini discs/cds should be put into the box in Rm 202 CLEARLY MARKED
  • The full transcription of your interview (or the portions of the interviews, if you did more than one) i.e., we need an electronic copy of the transcription for archiving. Submit in MS WORD, or if you don’t have MS Word, then as a PDF file.
  • The portions of the transcriptions that connect to the audio clips you are posting – CLEARLY MARK the connections.
  • Reflections on field work and field notes – the 10-12 paged assignment that you submit as a group. (See discussion above for clarification on how this should be written up).
  • Any images you have used, CLEARLY MARKED (as above)
  • The video clips (if you used video) you want posted (the original tapes go in Rm 202 in the box marked Music 650 – Muller).
  • A DVD with the video. Name the folder and where I can find it. BUT keep a dvd copy of the material in case something goes wrong with the computers.
  • If you can think of anything else, email me and ask if it is required.

Culminating Event
May 4, 2008
5PM Rose Recital Hall

  • Everyone must be at this event to briefly present their webpages and videos. It is unlikely these will be uploaded to the website at this point, so we will have them available for you to give a five minute presentation each.
  • This would also be the time to return materials, either ones you have produced or those borrowed from your interviewees to them. This must bring closure to the project.