American Music Documentary: Five Case Studies of Ciné-Ethnomusicology

by Benjamin J. Harbert (2018)

- Documentary films -- United States -- History and criticism.
- Motion picture music -- United States -- History and criticism.

Documentary filmmakers have been making films about music for a half-century. American Music Documentary looks at five key films to begin to imagine how we might produce, edit, and watch films from an ethnomusicological point of view. Reconsidering Albert and David Maysles’s Gimme Shelter, Jill Godmilow’s Antonia: A Portrait of the Woman, Shirley Clarke’s Ornette: Made in America, D.A. Pennebaker’s and Chris Hegedus’s Depeche Mode: 101, and Jem Cohen’s and Fugazi’s Instrument, Harbert lays the foundations for the study and practice of ?ciné-ethnomusicology.? Interviews with directors and rich analysis from the disciplinary perspectives of film studies and ethnomusicology make this book a critical companion to some of the most celebrated music documentaries of the twentieth century.

1. Where is the music? what is the music?: Albert Maysles, Gimme shelter (1970)
2. Representing the margins and underrepresenting the real: Jill Godmilow, Antonia: A portrait of the woman (1974)
3. The use and abuse of musicological concepts: Shirley Clarke, Ornette: Made in America (1985)
4. The theater of mass culture: D.A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus, Depeche mode: 101 (1988)
5. Cinematic dub and the multitude: Jem Cohen and Fugazi, Instrument (1999)
Epilogue: toward a ciné-ethnomusicology.
Appendix A: Extended Music Filmography
Appendix B: Cited Interviews and Archival Material
Appendix C: Glossary of Terms: Sounds, Shots, and Editing Techniques
Works Cited


Benjamin J. Harbert is associate professor in the music and the film and media studies departments at Georgetown University. He is the producer and director of Follow Me Down: Portraits of Louisiana Prison Musicians and co-editor of The Arab Avant-Garde: Music, Politics, Modernity.



Harbert (music, film, and media studies, Georgetown Univ.) presents a unique perspective on music documentaries by using the lens of ethnomusicology to analyze five "concert" films: Gimme Shelter (1970), Antonia: A Portrait of the Woman (1974), Ornette: Made in America (1985), Depeche Mode: 101 (1988), and Instrument (1999). Focusing on the cinematic qualities of these films in relation to the subject matter, the author explores how the filmic techniques mirror the stylistic elements of the music featured in each film. He deconstructs specific scenes, demonstrating the integral role the music in the documentaries plays in revealing the personalities of the musicians as they engage in the creation and performance of their art. Harbert also illustrates how the combination of cinematic elements and featured music reveals aspects of society, specifically the subculture of fans who follow and ritualize the music performed by their favorite musicians. Through interviews with the directors, vivid descriptions of the documentaries, and in-depth analysis, Harbert repositions these concert films as significant cine´-ethnomusicological artifacts of their era. Harbert's engaging, well-written study will be an excellent resource for interdisciplinary studies in the performing arts. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty.
--A. F. Winstead, Our Lady of the Lake University
(Choice Reviews 56:06, Feb 2019 Copyright 2019 American Library Association.)


Harbert, Benjamin J.
American Music Documentary: Five Case Studies of Ciné-Ethnomusicology.
Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2018, xiv, [ii], 300, [2] p., ill., music, 23 cm.
ISBN 9780819578006 (hb., $85,00)
ISBN 9780819578013 (pb., $15,35)
ISBN 9780819578020 (eb.)
[Bibl. refs.]