Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Rocky Hollow

As a fourth year I have seen many student bands at a variety of social events throughout my time at UVa. These bands range from the university's a cappella groups and orchestras to bands that play at fraternity parties and bars. However, I have never experienced these student bands from an ethnographic researcher's perspective. Observing the student band,"Rocky Hollow" over the weekend with this course's key concepts and ideas in mind as opposed to simply watching their live music for enjoyment was a very interesting experience.

Rocky Hollow is a band of UVa students whose musical style is a fusion of jazz and classic rock. The band members include a guitarist, bassist, drummer, keyboard player, and a member who played the flute and the saxophone. Their performance was almost all cover songs of a wide variety of groups including CCR and Pretty Lights. Since Pretty Lights is a group comprised of just a DJ and a drummer, the way this group translated their music into traditional "rock band" instrumentation was creative and demonstrated their individual talents.

As the band was warming up I paid close attention to the member's mannerisms, conversations, and body language and immediately recalled Carey Sargent's lecture on "doing gender." Throughout the night I noticed several of the trends she observed in her research on the role of gender in people's interactions is a musical atmosphere; the most prominent interactions were deliberate attempts to "do masculinity."

First this group fit the social norm of the guitar centered rock group composed of all males. Their interactions amongst each other did show signs of "doing gender," but it was mostly their interactions with the audience, or the audience's responses that struck me as most related to Carey's research. As Rocky Hollow warmed up for their performance, an older couple approached the band's keyboard player and began inquiring about the group. Immediately I noticed that the man in the couple started asking questions about the instruments and the sound, while the woman stood quietly next to him. When she spoke to the key board player, her questions were not related to any of the instruments or the music, but were more personal questions focusing on the band members themselves.

Furthermore, I went with a group of four or five of my male friends to watch this concert, and their response to Rocky Hollow was so accurately related to Carey's findings of males trying to use a "technicalized" language that is was almost comical. Out of my friends, only one has a strong musical background which includes playing in his high school band, but each of them had strong opinions on Rocky Hollow's performance and talent. While my musical jargon is very limited, their conversations seemed like an attempt to "do masculinity" and show off their musical knowledge, even if it was inaccurate. Such comments included, "he could kick it out a little more," when referring to the drummer, or "their vibe is good but they could be a little tighter," when talking about the group as a whole. Meanwhile, each time one of them commentated on the band, the others nodded enthusiastically in agreement and as a sign that they were up to par in their knowledge on the topic of conversation.

In conclusion, Rocky Hollow's performance was entertaining and showed their talent as musicians. However, the aspect of this concert I found most relevant in my research was the interactions and reactions among the audience members. The people I sat with attempted to "do masculinity" by trying to assert their musical "knowledge." The audience members who interacted with the band also appeared to be "doing gender" when their specific questions and mannerisms reflected the patterns Carey observed in her research on men and women's interactions in instrument stores. This was a great way to experience ideas we are covering in class, and I look forward to the next concert report.

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