Methologies III: Interpreting Performance


Interpreting Performance


Last night, urged by the promise of an academic grade and a chance to practice real-time ethnographic research, I attended the Williams’ Campaign Ultra Lounge event. Held in the hub of student life, there in Paresky Center a mixture of students, professors, alumni and their children gathered for free food, gifts, and a host of other side attractions with the main one being the Williams College Jazz Band… or at least that was my perception.


I arrived at the event around 7:40 PM, wanting to get a chance to set up, take in my surroundings, and to eat since the event was slated to start at 8:30. I walked into Paresky Center entering Baxter Hall expecting the dimmed lights, hors-d’oeuvres, and décor suitable for an evening event, as the poster advertised.


Instead I walked into a perfunctory mish-mash of haphazard signs, some misspelled, luxurious appetizer tables, scantily decorated standing tables, and a solitary stage dotted with instruments and three purple columns too add some sense of flair (that admittedly it didn’t do much) to the setup. As the outdoor activities drew to a close, numerous bodies poured inside the center searching for warmth. The confused and excited crowd seemed more concerned with the heady spread of fall themed ‘deserts’ than the impending performance.


Anxious to begin our observation and participate in the night’s festivities that included a photo booth and caricature drawings, my classmates and I decided to staunch the pain of the wait with apple crumble in a cup, hot cider, chicken wings, and random note taking. This bought us maybe 15 minutes until we noticed it was 8:36 and not a movement was made toward the stage. The lights were on at full power and errant conversations about celebrities and people exchanging pleasantries surrounded me. Hurried students tried to hunt down the source of the ‘free gift’ (a portable phone charger adorned with the Campaign motto: “Teach It Forward”) a lucky 250 people would get for attending the event. The occasional parent-child duo milled around unsure of the ‘next big surprise’ the Campaign had in store for them.


Everything about this atmosphere read as if people could care less about the band and it’s apparent tardiness except for my classmates and I. So what did we do? Took more notes. The ferocity of our note taking interested many the passer by. “What are you guys writing? Is that, like, homework?” “What’s this little writing circle you guys have going on?” And the plain, almost aggressive “What is that?” were the questions our peers and alumni had for us. At first I responded saying that this “was a part of our Africana studies senior seminar class, and [that] we’re currently studying performance ethnography. We’re supposed to be taking notes on the jazz performance.” And with that people either joked about their apparent absence or left us alone, satisfied with the answer; but as the night wore on I got lazier and lazier and wound up saying, “Yeah this is homework for class” with a what-can-you-do face. In hindsight stationing ourselves in the back of the hall at standing table in the center wasn’t the brightest idea. We made a quasi-spectacle of ourselves in the absence of the band.


After these visits we realized this on some level and stopped taking notes. Partially tired of writing and tired of waiting, we took a break. My two classmates and I turned to the childhood game of *M*A*S*H*, to pass the time. It would be an understatement to say that this wait hardly put us in the mood to watch a performance. Even the crowd grew weary of waiting and petered out to a mere 70 some odd people still floating around. Fast-forward a whopping 30 minutes later, members of the band saunter onto stage and eek out a couple notes. I shook my head in disbelief at my cellphone screen that read 9:50 PM. The band seemed just as tired as I felt. Their movements oozed nonchalance as they slowly tested out the sound of their instruments. A blare of a horn here, a lazy sax note there, and timid keying of a piano made up the first sounds of the Williams Jazz Ensemble. Eventually they found it in themselves to play “Play That Funky Music”.


Being the first number of the show, the performance was still getting its legs. The musicians peered over at each other trying to match nonverbal cues with the rise and falls of the song. After a time the band seemed to ‘gel’ with one another. The base and the drums created an infallible foundation on which the horns, the saxophone, and the piano keys not only stood but also weaved in and out of one another. The band seemed to actually like what they were playing. For a moment it didn’t seem obvious to the meager audience that they were contractually obligated to be here.


However the true magic happened when another student provided vocals to the instrumental. At first it was unclear as to if he was a part of the ensemble. He sat down on the edge of the stage for about 20 minutes of the performance, and all the sudden he started vocalizing. Low and timid at first the voice seemed lost in the muddle of music, but as the song progressed so did the voice. With a bowed head and singular concentration the vocalist made his words stronger, clearer, filled with intent. It seemed as though the others felt this intention; the saxophone player especially. He not only swayed fervently to the singer’s words but he replied to them. The rest of the band lived within the pocket of music the two created. Though the crowd had dwindled to nil, the band played their best number. Two spectators even got up to dance to the smooth sound. In that juicy moment what happened could be described by Dwight Conquergood’s principal of dialogical performance:

This performative stance struggles to bring together different voices, world

views, value systems, and beliefs so that hey can have a conversation with

one another. The aim of dialogical performance is to bring the self and the

other so that they can question, debate, and challenge one another (Conquergood, 9).

The musicians heard each other’s ideas and expounded on them, responded. The people in the crowd saw this exchange of ideas and internalized them into their bodies. Though these ideas I am speaking of are purely abstract it doesn’t change the act of dialogue. Live music and dance is always a conversation, whether it is one-sided is up to the performers themselves. In this moment such an exchange was present. In this moment this was a good performance. However that crumbled quickly.


After becoming hyper aware of the fact they were playing to a mostly empty room, the musicians let the atmosphere die. They let this dialogue “dissolve [back] into the performer”, killing the beauty they had just created. They once again sounded as if they were in someone’s garage practicing for the hell of it, but not in a good way. The band seemed detached from the room, enveloped in themselves no longer reaching out for some sort of interaction with their intimate audience.


All this is to say that this was a lukewarm performance with little shining moments. Aside from two numbers, the jazz band seemed uninterested in their material and the space. The novelty of a heartfelt vocalist gave the performance the wings it needed, but just as quickly they came they left. The Williams Jazz Ensemble lacked connection, which made this event a venture I kind of regretted attending.

Tags: ,

9,215 Responses to “Methologies III: Interpreting Performance”

  1. Usually I don’t learn article on blogs, however I would like to say that
    this write-up very pressured me to take a look at and do it!
    Your writing style has been amazed me. Thank you, very
    great article.

  2. ¡Saludos! ¡Tu blog es muy interesante! Por favor, consulte mi sitio web, tengo una recomendación para usted.

  3. водительские права категории E

    like water for chocolate » Blog Archive » Methologies III: Interpreting Performance

  4. Alpine Ice Hack for Weight Loss says:

    Thanks for the blog post buddy! Keep them coming… Alpine Ice Hack for Weight Loss

  5. GLUCOTRUST says:

    I’m going to read this. I’ll be sure to come back. thanks for sharing. and also This article gives the light in which we can observe the reality. this is very nice one and gives indepth information. thanks for this nice article… GLUCOTRUST

  6. toto365pro says:

    I am overwhelmed by your post with such a nice topic. 토토

  7. Amazing! Its really awesome article, I have got much clear idea regarding from this article 토토

  8. 스포츠토토 Great article. I’m dealing with a few of these issues as well..

  9. It’s wonderful that you are getting thoughts from this article as well as from our argument made at this place 슬롯

  10. totogreat says:

    Been looking for this article for long time ago and finally found here. Thanks for the tips and sharing this post. appreciate!Please check out my website too and let me know what you think.


  11. Music for public spaces says:

    Thank you because you have been willing to share information with us. we will always appreciate all you have done here because I know you are very concerned with our. Music for public spaces

  12. huay crypto says:

    This is a fantastic website , thanks for sharing.

  13. 성인약국 says:

    비아그라 퀵배송 situs Kami.
    Pretty! This was a really wonderful article. Thanks for providing these details1322

  14. 레깅스알바

    like water for chocolate » Assignments

  15. 온카 바카라

    like water for chocolate » Assignments

  16. Ramanraman says:

    Hello, Ramanraman is here to discuss GanderCoin, the first digital currency gave in Quite a while, was the business’
    most memorable undertaking to be driven by ladies. The pioneers behind GanderCoin,
    Shaik Ayesha and Subi Ansari, have shown the to a great extent male-ruled digital
    currency industry that ladies can assume significant parts in the blockchain and
    cryptographic money ventures.

  17. We make your daily routine more sustainable with products that are plastic-free, cruelty-free and made with clean ingredients. for more information visit incredible man

  18. 비제이알바

    like water for chocolate » Assignments

  19. check out this blog post via

    like water for chocolate » Assignments

  20. Very shortly this web page will be famous amid all blogging visitors, due to it’s nice posts.

  21. I would like to bookmark the page so i can come here again to read you, as you have done a wonderful job.

  22. John pateson says:

    We have a massive collection of Tiffany Nike Jacket In Very Good Price With Free Shipping!


    This blog is so nice to me. I will keep on coming here again and again. Visit my link as well.. GLUCOTRUST SUPPLEMENT

  24. cheapflight s says:

    This is such a great resource that you are providing and you give it away for free. I love seeing blog that understand the value of providing a quality resource for free. cheapflight s

  25. random number generator

    like water for chocolate » Assignments

  26. الاشكال الهندسية للاطفال says:

    I think this is an informative post and it is very useful and knowledgeable. therefore, I would like to thank you for the efforts you have made in writing this article. الاشكال الهندسية للاطفال

  27. Sono davvero lieta della progettazione e della struttura del suo sito web. E’ molto facile per gli occhi e mi fa molto più piacevole venire qui e visitare più spesso. 안전카지노사이트

  28. Looking for unique Pear Shaped Engagement Rings with Wedding Bands online for your wedding? Get the best collection of gold pear shaped engagement ring here!

  29. ads508 says:


    like water for chocolate » methodologies

  30. HPBOSE 12th New Question Paper 2024 Download, HPBOSE is popular knows as Himachal Pradesh Board Of School Education. It is one of the large board in India. Himachal Pradesh Board is going to conduct Class 12th HPBOSE 12th Question Paper 2024 annual examination for those candidates who have successfully registered for 12th boards exams in 2024.

  31. Uttarakhand Board 10th Question Paper 2024 Download, Uttarakhand Board of Secondary Education has been announced the New Question Paper of 10 Class in the month of January 2024. All the candidates who belong Uttarakhand Board 10th Question Paper 2024 to Uttarakhand State they are looking for Board of Secondary Education class 10th examination Previous Question Paper 2024.

  32. i am really impressed by your site, keep sharing this type of great content.

  33. DIY rubbish removal can be beneficial for those on a tight budget who don’t have access to professional services. However, there are risks associated with doing it yourself.

  34. Buy Usa Private Proxies

    I found a great…

  35. Nothing comes closer to the softness and comfort of our finely made multipurpose hijab fashion and hijab stole. These can be styled with almost any outfit to feel comfortable throughout the season.

    For more info please visit: hijab cap style

  36. MBSE HSSLC Guess Paper 2024 Download, Mizoram Board of Higher Secondary Education has published a notification regarding 12th class examination that it will conduct final examination for 12th in the month of March 2024. MBSE HSSLC Question Paper 2024 The Important Question Paper for the same will be provided for the same from through the official website.

  37. PSEB 10th New Question Paper 2024 Download – Punjab Matric Important Question Paper 2024 PDF, The Punjab School Education Board PSEB has been released the Class X Model Question Paper on the official website. PSEB 10th New Question Paper 2024 The candidates who are presently pursuing their class X can check the Punjab Board 10th Question Paper 2024 session.

  38. sunny says:

    ขอบคุณสำหรับบทความที่ดีค่ะ ดีมาก
    I think you’re doing the right thing.


  39. I would like to say that this blog really convinced me to do it! Thanks, very good post.

  40. Learn Additional Here

    like water for chocolate » Assignments

  41. 프로토 결과

    like water for chocolate » Assignments

  42. read more says:

    read more

    like water for chocolate » Assignments

  43. 안전놀이터

    like water for chocolate » Assignments

  44. 안전놀이터쿠폰

    like water for chocolate » Assignments

  45. 해외토토사이트 쿠폰

    like water for chocolate » Assignments

  46. 먹튀검증사이트 안전놀이터

    like water for chocolate » Assignments

  47. 파워볼 최상위 사이트

    like water for chocolate » Assignments

  48. 부동 대출

    like water for chocolate » Assignments

  49. 당일대출 says:


    like water for chocolate » Assignments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.