- Ethnomusicologists are professionals who study music in particular cultural contexts. They are interested in looking into the role that music plays in the lives of people living in a particular geographic location.
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- Research Questions
- Key Theories/Concepts
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Ethnomusicologists study a wide range of topics and musical practices throughout the world. It is sometimes described as the study of non-Western music or “world music,” as opposed to musicology, which studies Western European classical music. However, the field is defined more by its research methods (i.e., ethnography, or immersive fieldwork within a given culture) than its topics. Thus, ethnomusicologists can study anything from folkloric music to mass-mediated popular music to musical practices associated with elite classes.
The field, as it is currently named, emerged in the 1950s, but ethnomusicology originated as “comparative musicology” in the late 19th century. Linked to the 19th-century European focus on nationalism, comparative musicology emerged as a project of documenting the different musical features of diverse regions of the world. The field of musicology was established in 1885 by Austrian scholar Guido Adler, who conceived of historical musicology and comparative musicology as two separate branches, with historical musicology focused only on European classical music. Carl Stumpf, an early comparative musicologist, published one of the first musical ethnographies on an indigenous group in British Columbia in 1886. Comparative musicologists were primarily concerned with documenting the origins and evolution of musical practices. They often espoused social Darwinistnotions and assumed that music in non-Western societies was “simpler” than music in Western Europe, which they considered the cul...
Ethnomusicology takes as given the notion that music can provide meaningful insight into a larger culture or group of people. Another foundational concept is cultural relativismand the idea that no culture/music is inherently more valuable or better than another. Ethnomusicologists avoid assigning value judgments like “good” or “bad” to musical practices. Theoretically, the field has been influenced most deeply by anthropology. For example, anthropologist Clifford Geertz’s notion of “thick description”—a detailed way of writing about fieldwork that immerses the reader in the researcher’s experience and tries to capture the context of the cultural phenomenon—has been very influential. In the later 1980s and 90s, anthropology’s “self-reflexive” turn—the push for ethnographers to reflect on the ways their presence in the field impacts their fieldwork and to recognize that it is impossible to maintain complete objectivity when observing and interacting with research participants—also to...
Ethnography is the method that most distinguishes ethnomusicology from historical musicology, which largely entails doing archival research (examining texts). Ethnography involves conducting research with people, namely musicians, to understand their role within their larger culture, how they make music, and what meanings they assign to music, among other questions. Ethnomusicological research requires the researcher to immerse him/herself in the cultureabout which he/she writes. Interviewing and participant observationare principal methods associated with ethnographic research, and are the most common activities ethnomusicologists engage in when conducting fieldwork. Most ethnomusicologists also learn to play, sing, or dance to the music they study. This method is considered to be a form of gaining expertise/knowledge about a musical practice. Mantle Hood, an ethnomusicologist who founded the renowned program at UCLA in 1960, termed this “bi-musicality,” the ability to play both Eu...
There are a number of ethical issues ethnomusicologists consider in the course of their research, and most relate to the representation of musical practices that are not “their own.” Ethnomusicologists are tasked with representing and disseminating, in their publications and public presentations, the music of a group of people who may not have the resources or access to represent themselves. There is a responsibility to produce accurate representations, but ethnomusicologists must also realize that they can never “speak for” a group of which they are not a member. There is also often a power differential between the mostly Western ethnomusicologists and their non-western “informants” or research participants in the field. This inequality is often economic, and sometimes ethnomusicologists give money or gifts to research participants as an informal exchange for the knowledge the informants are providing to the researcher. Finally, there are often questions of intellectual property ri...Barz, Gregory F., and Timothy J. Cooley, editors. Shadows in the Field: New Perspectives for Fieldwork in Ethnomusicology. Oxford University Press, 1997.Myers, Helen. Ethnomusicology: An Introduction. W.W. Norton & Company, 1992.Nettl, Bruno. The Study of Ethnomusicology: Thirty-three Discussions. 3rded., University of Illinois Press, 2015.Nettl, Bruno, and Philip V. Bohlman, editors. Comparative Musicology and Anthropology of Music: Essays on the History of Ethnomusicology. University of Chicago Press, 1991.
Ethnomusicologists examine music as a social process in order to understand not only what music is but what it means to its practitioners and audiences. Ethnomusicology is highly interdisciplinary. Individuals working in the field may have training in music, cultural anthropology, folklore, performance studies, dance, area studies, cultural studies, gender studies, race or ethnic studies, or other fields in the humanities and social sciences.
Ethnomusicologists Ethnomusicologists study music, focusing on the role that music plays in a given culture, according to the Society for Ethnomusicology. Ethnomusicologists typically work in...
- Ethnomusicology or related field
- 4 min
- Doctorate typically required
Jun 01, 2021 · Ethnomusicology programs will most likely include classes about music from historical, critical, and theoretical perspectives. They might include ethnomusicology, music and community, global music, anthropology of music, and themes in regional music.
Jan 08, 2020 · Ethnomusicology is a specific area of musicology that focuses on the social and cultural facets of music and dance. Which schools offer the best graduate degree programs in this area in the US?
- 6 min
Bebop. Emerged in the 1940s, new improvisational language & assumed a new posture as black artists, central influence on Beat Generation literature and laid the groundwork for 1960s counterculture. Charlie Parker. Alto saxophonist; Incorporated lessons from Lester Young & dance-based territory bands, observed Art Tatum; could base note choices ...
Ethnomusicologists may do research about an indigenous tribe somewhere in Southeast Asia or look into the pop culture of Latin America. They may study the musical instruments and dances of a certain tribe in Africa or try to understand the origins of pop culture in Europe.
Jun 24, 2019 · What do you study in musicology? “Musicology today encompasses the study of all music in all times and places using all different methods.” However, the principle distinction between the terms is that musicology studies the development of music through time, while ethnomusicology looks at music in any given culture. For example, Dr.