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The Midterm Exam for Music in Israel that took place today followed a collaborative (and digital) template that I had not tried out before.

As our colleagues at UCLA Center for Digital Humanities state:

Digital Humanities scholarship is necessarily collaborative and interdisciplinary; it emphasizes design, multi-mediality, and the experiential by creatively expanding the networks of participation, the modes of access, and the mechanisms for the dissemination of scholarship.

Essentially, the exam involved the following components:

  • Self-selected working groups (max 5 students for each group), based on culinary preferences (and, therefore, taste, an essential aesthetic dimension)
  • Collaborative work spaces: a combination of Google Apps for education and the digital collaborative canvas created by
  • Collaborative interdisciplinary research on: history, visual culture, food, politics, sociology, anthropology, religion, gender, and, of course, music! 
  • The creation of historical profiles of real, or realistic, characters
  • The instant movement from content creation to publication of research results

The building blocks of the exam where outlined in a shared document, which is also published online:

View this document on Scribd

The results of the work conducted by the class is published online, in a rather colorful digital canvas. Clicking on the image below will lead to a digital canvas that summarizes both the background, the methodology, and the work done during the exam.

We Are What We Eat | Music in Israel Midterm Exam (2013)

The experiment seemed successful. I look forward to hearing back about it from students in the coming week or so. But I felt that everyone was thoroughly engaged, and passed the exam with flying colors.

A good week…



Dear Class,

As listed in our Course Syllabus, as well as announced and explained during lectures and discussion sections, next week we will be having a Midterm exam.

The exam will take place during lecture time (please be on time!), at 2121 Allston Way, on Thursday, October 31, 2013. 


As I explained in class, my approach to testing for this course is in line with the understanding that there are many concurring, and at times conflicting, ideas, perspectives, and “listening modes” involved in the topic we are all researching together (“Music in Israel”). The format of the Midterm will represent an attempt to be coherent with this approach: it will try to build on the idea that, as a class, we can also work collaboratively, and that the sum of our collective knowledge is greater that its parts (each of our own backgrounds, perspectives, individual understanding of course materials, etc.). Therefore, we will work towards making good use of the almost three days of brain power (52 participants, including instructors, times ca. 80 minutes of lecture time = ca. 70 hours) that are available to us during each of our lecture meetings, in order to re-think what has been covered by our course thus far. The key is not to have all materials memorized, but to be able to quickly access all relevant information, to “connect the dots,” and to be able to elaborate on it all, on the basis of the tools built in class and of each student’s individual work preparing for it. 

How to prepare

You are required to review all work for Music in Israel since the beginning of the Semester. Please focus on the following:

  • Class Syllabus
  • Weekly Assignment Sheets (Week 1 through Week 9), and the listening assignments listed (and explained) in each of them, as well as the related reading materials (all sheets, articles, CD booklets, and links are available on bSpace)
  • Course Blog and the resources listed on it 

What to bring (“packing list’)

  • Yourselves (attendance is mandatory!)
  • Personal computers (laptops, tablets, etc.), with access to AirBears and bDrive, as well as the electronic resources of the UC Berkeley Library (we will also have a few laptops/tablets available for you in case you cannot bring your own) 
  • Class materials (books, articles, mp3 files, etc.; all except for one book also available online)
  • Weekly Assignment Sheets/listening guides
  • Paper and pens/pencils or other materials to take/sketch notes
  • Musical instruments, puppets, etc.: anything that you feel may help you in successfully work on the Midterm exam 


During the week after the Midterm, Rachel and I will be collecting anonymous feedback on the course. As we move towards the last third of the Semester, we are particularly interested in better understanding how the tools, methodologies, and ideas introduced thus far work for the class, and individually for those of you who wish to provide some additional thoughts about them. 

View this document on Scribd

Dear Class,

Next Wednesday, our Final Examination will be held at The Magnes from 11:30 until 2:30.

Attendance is mandatory. No exceptions.

As discussed in class, the Final for Music in Israel will follow the “unconference” format, which requires active participation from everyone.

Participants (that’s you!) will choose the content of the discussion by suggesting possible topics, creating a schedule, attending and participating in the discussion sessions, and helping with a plenary conclusive session.

In order to be prepared for the final you will need to take a look at the following links:

You can bring ANYTHING you wish to the Final. Laptops, smartphones, tablets, books, notes, post-it’s, puppets, musical instruments, other instruments… Really, anything that you think will help you.

The draft of the schedule is available at and you can already add your proposed topics to it.

You are expected to contribute to the discussion by:

  1. Proposing discussion topics (sessions) in the initial Session Marketplace and create a Schedule
  2. Attending a total of 3 sessions based on your interests (up to 4 different sessions will take place at the same time in the auditorium, conference room and seminar room of The Magnes)
  3. Participate in the discussions you are attending
  4. Contribute to the plenary concluding session

All topics are acceptable. Those pertaining to the course are preferred, since this is what brought all of us together, but you may also come up with different ideas and, if enough students want to participate, that’s good too.

Personally, I’m interested in sessions that complete what the course had to offer during the semester. It is a chance to provide your fellow students (and the instructor) with critical feedback, suggestions on how to improve the learning experience, ideas on new materials, your own views on a specific topic, etc.

The Final (or the “unfinal” as we have been referring to in class)  will only be as good as the content we inject into it.

If you have any questions, do not hesitate to email me, as usual.

See you in class,


I have enjoyed reading the proposals submitted by the students of Music in Israel for their class projects (papers, presentations and performances). Then, I divided them into groups, and created a graph.

It should suggest where things are at, now that we have reached the middle of the Semester:

Class Projects Topics Graph

Please note that the category “other” is comprised of a variety of projects on topics that touch on general music-related issues (musical fusion, music and national identity, music and spirituality and/or religion). The category “dance” includes both papers (2) on Israeli folk dances (and their relationship to national identity), and a proposed session in which we will all learn some Israeli dance steps. I am delighted to see that the emphasis on the various cultural components of Israel (called “ethnic communities” above) has struck a chord in the class, and that students are taking the topic of “music, army and wars” as seriously as we all discussed it in class for the past two weeks. Oh, and I decided to divide up “rock” and “popular music” because the two groups seemed substantial enough to do so. The taxonomy of this graph reflects the need to create a summary of where things are at, rather than an objective depiction of the materials covered in class.

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