Participatory Music





Participatory Music


Participatory music refers to an artistic segment that integrates members of the public in the composition and presentation of songs and other music-related activities. This communal interaction focuses on all social aspects in the existence of human beings. Through sessions comprising of informal dances, percussion, and other arty presentations, participatory music and other DIY activities aid the general population in strengthening their social relationships as well as promoting deeds executed for the main purpose of attaining physical and operational growth in the society. Accordingly, this dissertation attempts to discuss the role of music in community development. Similar to other artistic projects promoted by the local community, music is a comprehensive element that aids the society in establishing an infrastructure through which the inhabitants can realize other forms of advancements.


An evaluation of several ethnographic events in the American society indicates the importance of music in developing a project or the entire community. For example, the Bloomington Old-Time Music and Dance Group (BOTMDG) is a societal dance session that happens weekly. This group began its musical activities in 1972. It has been incorporating various tunes and genres with the aim of catering for the needs of all individuals in the community. While focusing on contradance, BOTMDG has been facilitating a friendly environment that caters for the needs of unskilled dancers and musicians from the neighborhood as well as foreign regions. This Indiana-based forum depends on financial support from volunteers in different regions of the globe. Moreover, visitors are responsible for guiding contradances steered by melodies from Irish dance, Old Time, and New England (Jenkins 66).

Likewise, Runcible Spoon is a restaurant located in Bloomington, which appreciates the essence of hospitability in a commercial enterprise. This family-owned café maintains a welcoming setting for members of all ages, racial categories, religious convictions, and other sub groups in the American community. In order to welcome its customers, the management of this café hosts professional musicians who play Irish tunes by use of certain instruments such as violin, cello, and guitar.

Argument Analysis

Bloomington Contradance

I attended my first session of the Bloomington contradance on 11 November 2013. Owing to my excitement, I arrived at the venue before 2.00 pm in order to benefit from the introductory lessons that would help me in the subsequent dances. Although the main event had not began, there were many people from various racial, religious, and ethnic sub categories. However, it was evident that these social divisions were of minimal value in the event. Visitors like me received warm greetings from the rest of the dancers. The entire performance environment was friendly and accommodative.

I also noticed the large number of people in attendance. The dancing grounds were full before the commencement of the contradance. Although most of the attendees were old, a significant number of people in their formative years were present. Upon commencement of the event, various musical instruments steered the contradance. The main instruments included banjo, guitar, and the violin. Later, I realized that all participants were non-musicians from all social categories. This famous event, which takes place every Wednesday, attracts nonprofessional dancers from all geological zones of the world.

In addition, the dancing patterns and social interactions demonstrated no form of boundary. People formed circles comprising of four participants without regarding one’s social class, race, ethnic background, age, or religious beliefs (Jenkins 72). During the entire session, these groups disunited after a few minutes with the participants establishing other groups in a random manner. Within these groupings, one was free to incorporate any dance move and even teach his or her fellow cluster members. Accordingly, it was evident that the aim of the contradance was to suppress any social divisions in the event.

Although the dance moves were individualized, the type of tune formulated by the instrumentalists unconsciously defined the pattern. There was a significant level of harmony in the activity. All participants within the circles were ready to learn new moves from their colleagues. Despite this harmony, there was no specific instructor with the responsibility of leading the social interactions or dance patterns. All dancers used the random technique to interact with other participants without considering their age, race, or religious sub group. This increased the motivation in the dancing grounds with the dancers interacting freely.

This contradance was somewhat different from other mainstream dance forums. Unlike other dance sessions that restrict social interactions among the participants, the contradance in Bloomington compels dancers to interact freely (Giaccardi 55). This is because of the frequent shifting of dance groups without considering specific social divisions. I plan to attend similar events in the near future and spread the uniqueness of the contradance to my friends and family members. Based on my findings from this ethnographic event, it is evident that participatory music making and social action is important in unifying the community. Through such activities, dividers such s race, religion, and socioeconomic status are of minimal value.

The Bloomington contradance is obviously influential to the behaviors, conceptions, and feelings of the participants. The dancers perceive the event as a unifying factor that compels all participants to overlook the dividers present in the community. They aim at shunning any form of barrier with reference to the promotion of a friendly environment. These behaviors and conceptions are in accordance with the social and cultural values embedded in the weekly contradance. The event appreciates the existence of various cultures in the world while comprehending the importance of integrating all these cultural aspect in a unified society. It is for this reason that the participants group themselves in circles and reshuffle constantly during the dance session.

Irish Music Session

On 19th November 2013, I attended an Irish music session at the Runcible Spoon Restaurant. The session began at 8.00 pm and involved an assortment of participants in terms of their music skills, race, age, and religion. Some of the participants were professional musicians comprising of instrumentalists.  The involved musical instruments included the violin, cello, guitar, and flute. Being an Irish restaurant, the music played consisted primarily of Irish tunes. The non-musicians were passive participants with a larger portion of them listening to the melodies from their tables.

Unlike the contradance, this music session entailed minimal social interactions. Both the active and active participants hardly interacted with the listeners staying on their tables while the professional musicians played the tunes at the comfort of their podium (Rubin 101). All songs comprised of Irish tunes with the musicians leading the performance. It was clear that they understood each other in terms of their roles in playing the melodies. Consequently, they switched the melodies harmoniously.

Based on my findings from this Irish music session, it is evident that the performance triggers calmness in the participants. Likewise, the minimal interactions among participants concur with the social and cultural values upheld by the event. For this reason, it is rational to hypothesize that a performance structure that encourages active involvement of the partakers results in strengthened social interactions. Additionally, participants perceive music-related events as a unifying factor since such events neglect dividers such as race, age, religion, and gender.


Based on the findings obtained from these music sessions, participatory music making and other relevant actions are important in strengthening the interactions in a society. Depending on the main attributes of such an event, the participants are bound to interact freely with their colleagues without considering social divisions. For this reason, the society should perceive music not only as an entertainment tool but also as practical technique useful in suppressing dividers in the society.


Works Cited

Giaccardi, Elisa. Heritage and Social Media: Understanding Heritage in a Participatory Culture. New York, NY: Routledge, 2012. Print.

Jenkins, Henry. Fans, Bloggers, and Gamers: Exploring Participatory Culture. New York: New York University Press, 2006. Print.

Rubin, Emanuel. The English Glee in the Reign of George Iii: Participatory Art Music for an Urban Society. Warren, Mich: Harmonie Park Press, 2003. Print.

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