Michael B. MacDonald Films

Cine-ethnomusicologist and associate professor of music at MacEwan University in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Check out my film and writing pages.

I also offer a filmmaking workshop.

Contact: Michael B. MacDonald, macdonaldm226@macewan.ca



studies in Cine-Ethnomusicology 

As a graduate student I was drawn to surrealism and made short experimental films on music topics that focused on the experience of a “musicking being”. I began to explore how digital cinema might be used to both report on, and engage viewer affect.  I’m especially interested the work done by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari on non-representational semiotics, asignification, part-signs, intensities. Written ethnographies are fully engaged in representation where cinema has more flexibility in this regard. Cine-ethnography is not just an ethnography that uses a different medium to produce the same report but is a different thing that uses a collection of linguistic semiotics, sound semiotics, gestural semiotics of the body, faciality, semiotics of the earth, as well as the intensities of colour. Cine-ethnomusicology explores how digital cinema production can be used to explore musicking. Unlike traditional ethnographic methods, I am not exclusively committed to observational documentary and cinema verite methods. I produce documentary films as well as fictional or quasi-fictional film based on my own ethnographic research.

minor cinema

Perhaps as a consequence of growing up in DIY music cultures, I find myself drawn over and over again to make films about DIY music cultures. I think Felix Guattari’s ideas of minor cinema are especially apt for those of us who are committed to ethnographic/documentary film about culture but are working to find a new filmmaking practice.

ethnographic fiction

Jean Rouch’s exploration of ethnographic films led him to develop ethnographic fiction, research-based fiction films that are improvised along with members of the culture he is studying. He called this method participatory anthropology and was eager to create a form of humanist filmmaking that lived up to the radical ideas of the Russian filmmaker Dziga Vertov, a cinema based in reality. Working with DIY cultures where one lives, and working in digital cinema, provides an opportunity to rethink the film-based methods Rouch used. Digital cinema and social media allows for many more ways of producing media with and for the community you are filming.

film screenings as situations

With the extension of the digital cinema into everyone’s living rooms and pockets (through your phone) the possibilities of filmmaking to share knowledge about our lives in our shared world has increased exponentially. However, the control of Hollywood over the telling of stories has also increased. Stories driven by profit and stories driven by humanist concerns are often two different kinds of stories.  The critical part of my project is the sharing of films and filmmaking practice, the development of critical film praxis that puts our stories into circulation, an important aspect of minor cinema.

If you are interested in hosting one of these workshops send me an email: macdonaldm226@macewan.ca

Beyond the Screen: Academic Writing

I have published a bunch of academic articles and three books on popular music and critical pedagogy  and am currently working on a critical pedagogy of film book:

  • “Playing for Change: Music Festivals as Community Learning and Development” (Peter Lang, 2016)
  • “Remix and Life Hack in Hip Hop: Towards a Critical Pedagogy of Music” (Sense, 2016)
  • “Finding Phish” (Peter Lang, 2018)