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Examining the Views of Ethnographic Writers Essay

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The ethnography of musical performance poses many complex problems to ethnomusicologists. In exploring issues of fieldwork and representation, ethnomusicologist Michelle Kisliuk argues that, “the focus on field ethnography is clearly essential to performance ethnography” (1997, p. 41). Kisliuk outlines three interdependent questions, two of which I wish to examine here. Her first question considers the concept and location of the “field” as used in fieldwork; her second examines the language employed in ethnographic descriptions. The connection of performance ethnography with the performance of writing presents an opportunity to examine the views of ethnographic writers. By applying Kisliuk’s argument to the ethnographic language of…show more content…
Fox frames Cash’s song within his experience at Ann’s Other Place, a bar he frequented in the course of field research. Because the owner failed to pay ASCAP or BMI fees she was harassed for violating the laws concerning the performance of commercial music by agents. Many of the bar’s regulars thought the idea of paying to perform a song like Folsom Prison Blues was rather ridiculous owing to mythical status of figures like Cash.
Fox’s alignment of Cash’s song with the opinions of local musicians and patrons demonstrates the connections between music and life. His informants commented that Johnny Cash wouldn’t have objected to their covers of his songs. Just as Cash positioned working-class life in resistance to modernity, Cash became a symbol of resistance for Fox’s informants. By performing “Folsom Prison Blues”, people performed the ideas within the song and extended those ideas to their own lives. Further, Fox frequently moves from his memories of performing to analyses of particular events, demonstrating the movement between the “intellectual and experiential” Kisliuk cites as an integral part of ethnographic research (p. 40).
Cece Conway’s study of Appalachian banjo traditions stands in contrast to Fox’s highly experiential ethnography. For Conway’s language demonstrates her focus on banjo as endangered object. At the end of her preface, Conway
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