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Participatory Music Info

The purpose of this document is to describe the way Arisia's Music Track works, and what we are looking for from its moderators and panelists.

Arisia's Music Track can be thought of as a small music festival embedded in a large science fiction convention; it is comprised mainly of sessions and concerts, and the material is an eclectic mix of filk and traditional song. The sessions are of varying formats (described below), and, as with other Arisia programming, have program participants called "moderators" and "panelists". But the responsibilities of these two important roles tend to be somewhat different from their roles in Arisia's other programming tracks.

Part of what makes Music Track different (and special) is its extremely participatory nature. While most Arisia programming tracks consist primarily of panels, which are essentially presentations by the program participants, that is the exception in Music Track. Instead, most Music Track sessions are group sings intended to encourage audience participation -- guided by the program participants, but not (we hope) dominated by them. Thus, our panelists are a bit more like moderators in other tracks, and our attendees are a bit more like panelists in other tracks.

Most of Music Track's sessions fall into one of the following formats: song circle, sing-along, workshop, spectator sport, and music panel.

I. Song Circle

By far the most common format. The general idea is that anyone who wishes to lead a song gets to do so. Time permitting, some attendees may get to lead more than one song. "Leading" generally means either starting a song on which everyone joins in or singing a song's verses while the entire room joins in on the chorus, but it could also mean singing something completely solo. To maximize participation, solo songs should be the exception, not the rule.

The moderator and panelists may lead the session's opening songs (one apiece), but they should not lead all, or even most, of the songs. Their function is, instead, to "guide" the session; to determine who leads the next song, to encourage the attendees to lead songs, to help ensure that any attendee who wishes to lead a song gets the chance, and, most importantly, to keep sessions welcoming and friendly. They are also responsible for keeping all songs on the session's theme, if there is one, and they may interrupt (politely but firmly) anyone who starts a song that is inappropriate to the theme. Finally, they are responsible for keeping the session moving, leading additional songs if the room has gone quiet.

There are several equitable ways to pick who leads the next song, and the choice of method is left to the discretion of the session's moderator. Two possible options are (1) simply going around the room, and (2) determining order from an occasional show of hands of who wishes to lead next.

II. Sing-Along

In a sing-along, the emphasis is even more on participation by the entire room for the entire song, not just for the chorus. Also, sing-alongs are there to encourage the singing of people who are not comfortable picking up songs by ear. So sing-alongs generally feature song lyrics that are either projected or handed out. They also generally call for moderators and panelists who are strong singers and easy to follow.

The moderator and panelists either distribute lyrics or manage a projected display, but do not necessarily directly choose the next song - they can also take suggestions from the attendees. Songs should generally be selected from among the songs for which lyrics are available, but a widely known song for which a lyric sheet has not been prepared might also be acceptable.

III. Workshop

As the name suggests, this format has a moderator, possibly with the assistance of one or more panelists, running a workshop on a stated topic. Methodology will vary based on both the topic and the moderator's teaching style.

IV. Spectator Sport

In this type of session, only a subset of the attendees are expected to participate, and the rest can sit back and enjoy the show. Moderators and panelists act as organizers and MCs. This type includes open mics, song contests, and game shows.

V. Music Panel

This format runs like panels in other tracks, with a moderator leading a discussion among the panelists, and (possibly) taking questions from the general attendees. We have not had any sessions in this format in several years, but that could change.