Atlantic History Music and Music Making
José Ramón Jouve-Martín
  • LAST REVIEWED: 08 December 2022
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 January 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199730414-0185


Not all societies of the Atlantic world developed writing, or music notation systems for that matter, but they all produced music. During the many migrations and diasporas that shaped the early history of this region, individuals frequently communicated through music even before they were able to understand each other through spoken language. Music circulated faster than books and reached millions of individuals in a way that no other art form could. With the advent of music recording and reproduction technologies in the late 19th century, the pace of that circulation increased dramatically, musical exchanges multiplied, and the individual and social forms of music consumption fundamentally changed. The first major section of this bibliography is devoted to the exploration of existing literature on the evolution of these musical exchanges in the Atlantic world from a historical perspective. In order to do so, it is divided into four subsections: Music and Conquest, Colonial Music, Music, Nations, and Empires, and 20th-Century Atlantic Music (up to the fall of the Berlin Wall). From 1989 onward, the development of digital technology and the rise of a truly global music and entertainment industry radically changed the way in which music was created, distributed, and consumed, to the point of clearly exceeding the geographical and conceptual framework of the Atlantic world. This historical overview is followed by a second section devoted to genres and styles. They are grouped together according to the geographical regions where they originated: Africa, Europe, North America, and Latin America. Since genres, styles, and other musical categories are themselves historical constructs and not abstract artistic developments, readers are invited to complement the bibliographic entries found in each subsection with those of other subsections. The final two sections of this bibliography provide a small selection of critical scores and recordings relevant for their historical or pedagogical value within the framework of the studies of music circulation in the Atlantic world. Most of the books and articles cited here were published after 1990, but they would not exist without a substantial body of previous research that needs to be acknowledged. The reader should consult the bibliographies included in these works for further information.

General Overviews

A critical work that would comprehensively document and critically analyze the history of music and music making in the Atlantic world would indeed be a monumental text. However, such a work does not presently exist. Those looking for an introduction to the evolution of Atlantic music and its rich legacy of genres and styles should direct their attention to more conventional monographs on the music of each region, of which there are quite a few. Works such as Brill 2011 for Latin America, Titon and Carlin 2001 for North America, Taruskin 2005, and Rasch 2008 for Europe, and Arnaud and Lecomte 2006 for Africa do a good job of presenting the musical cultures of those regions, and from the perspective of transatlantic studies they help to contextualize each regions’ musical culture within the wider networks of musical and cultural exchange that emerged following the European expansion in the Atlantic.

  • Arnaud, Gérald, and Henri Lecomte. Musiques de toutes les Afriques. Paris: Fayard, 2006.

    This comprehensive introduction to African music is divided into seven geographic areas, including a section devoted to the music of the African diaspora. It underlines the similarities that link African music in spite of its rich diversity and vast geographical range. Each chapter is followed by suggestions for further reading and a discography.

  • Brill, Mark. Music of Latin America and the Caribbean. Boston: Prentice Hall, 2011.

    A general overview of the history of music in the region, with a special focus on the development of folk and popular music. Brill pays particular attention to the importance of cultural and musical syncretism in the development of Latin American musical systems and styles.

  • Rasch, Rudolf, ed. The Circulation of Music in Europe, 1600–1900: A Collection of Essays and Case Studies. Berlin: Berliner Wissenschafts Verlag, 2008.

    The essays in this book are a good example of the increasing attention given to the “production, distribution, communication (mediation), transmission, circulation, and reception of musical works” (p. v) in western Europe, especially among the countries that came to dominate the Atlantic world.

  • Taruskin, Richard. The Oxford History of Western Music. 6 vols. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.

    One of the most complete surveys of Western music in circulation, the six volumes of The Oxford History of Western Music are a necessary reference work for understanding the evolution of music in Europe and the many influences that have shaped it. Volumes 2–4 are particularly relevant for the study of music in the Atlantic world.

  • Titon, Jeff T., and Bob Carlin. American Musical Traditions. 5 vols. New York: Schirmer Reference, 2001.

    Intended for the general public and academics alike, this work presents some of the latest musicological research on the various American musical traditions. It is divided into five volumes, dealing with Native American music (Volume 1), African American music (Volume 2), British Isles music (Volume 3), European American music (Volume 4), and Latino and Asian American music (Volume 5). Prepared in collaboration with the Smithsonian/Folkways Archives.

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