Anthropology Ethnomusicology
by
Louise Meintjes, Ana María Ochoa, Thomas Porcello, David W. Samuels
  • LAST REVIEWED: 29 June 2015
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 May 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199766567-0046

Introduction

Questions concerning the social significance of music have a long history within the interdisciplinary field of ethnomusicology. The emergence of comparative musicology in Europe in the early 20th century, and of ethnomusicology subsequently in North America, generated topical distinctions between Western classical music and the music of “others,” with attendant distinctions between epistemological approaches to the object of study. Such an epistemic distinction articulated a central paradox of the field: through a history and politics of global expansion, musical difference was recognized and explicated; yet that same expansion sought to transform or eradicate the subjects of difference through domination. Throughout its history the field has sought to understand the materiality of distinctive musical and sonic practices while simultaneously exploring the ways in which those practices articulate the social in the midst of the inequalities of the global order. If in Europe and North America the distinction between “the West and the rest” was institutionalized as a distinction between musicology and ethnomusicology, in other parts of the world this divide proved more difficult to institutionalize. First, in many such places, a desire to understand local musics was consolidated through the cultural politics of nationalism. Second, the disciplinary formation of studies of traditional and popular musics was embedded in the developments of other disciplines and practices such as literature, folkloristics, composition, performance, or anthropology. Consequently, in many countries that were former colonies, the term “musicology” has been used as a unitary term for the study of local musics, no matter the place of origin or local hierarchies distinguishing the value of those musics, such as is found in the divide between “classical,” “folk,” and “popular” in the United States. The problematics of this culturally and historically specific network of value distinctions is evident in the recent institutionalization of the term ethnomusicology internationally, which results from the rising dominance of the American academy. Now including the study of any music, ethnomusicology is less topically defined than it has been historically. Rather, it is characterized by its approach to music as a social phenomenon, investigated primarily through the interpretive science and art of ethnography. Ethnomusicologists render their work in writing, recording, and performing and invest their curatorial interests in sound archiving. The field’s pedagogical and media intersections are managed through the idea of “world music.” Contemporary researchers take up the challenge of theorizing three social themes and the various relationships among them: the embodied practices of music making, the politics of music circulation, and the culturally inflected acoustic dimensions of sound. In addition to these social theoretical concerns, ethnomusicology’s interest in celebrating and documenting the diverse world of musical expression endures. Studying aesthetic values and musical experience for themselves as well as for their social scientific potential are therefore dual goals of researchers in the field.

General Overviews

General overviews of ethnomusicology take a stand on the disciplinary relationship of the field to musicology and anthropology. Those that recount genealogies, such as Myers 1992 and Pegg, et al. 2007–2012, chart an intellectual history rooted in 19th-century European folkloristics, ethnology, linguistics, and sound archives, with a blossoming of the discipline after World War II in the North American academy, where music departments became the primary institutional home for ethnomusicology. Overviews sparsely recognize related intellectual traditions that developed in other parts of the world—if they note them at all. Fox 2008 traces the social scientific intellectual history of the field. Overviews that take account of the state of the field and its disciplinary positioning identify key issues of concern to ethnomusicologists at particular historical junctures. When first published, in 1983, Nettl 2005 marked the field as established in the music academy, if still secondary to its sister subfields of musicology, music theory, and composition, which concentrate their interests on Euro-American classical music history and practice. Principally addressing music scholars, the book describes the capacity of music to express identity and generate community as a core interest of the field. Myers 1992 discusses methodological, analytic, and historiographic questions that flow from Nettl’s general perspective. Two decades after Nettl’s work was first published, his culturalist definition of ethnomusicology was criticized in Pegg, et al. 2007–2012, which identifies newer preoccupations with aspects of place, difference, and globalization, singling practice theory out as a predominant approach. Here intersections with evolving social science perspectives are evident (if lagging somewhat behind), such as a more disaggregated and contingent description of social life and a more ambiguous role for the arts in relation to politics, capital and the media. At the same time, Pegg, et al. 2007–2012 also notes a burgeoning interest in music theoretical aspects of music from around the world, including a sustained and growing conversation among some ethnomusicologists, music theorists, and composers. Addressing music scholars in all subfields (in particular musicology and ethnomusicology), Clayton, et al. 2003 adds issues to those listed in Pegg, et al. 2007–2012, though much in the same vein, and the authors examine the idea of culture as addressed in music scholarship. In the wake of “new” musicology and in the context of a new critical mass of popular music scholarship, Stobart 2008 debates the ideological distinctions between contemporary musicology, ethnomusicology, and anthropology of music, addressing the mutual influence of these fields as well as some shared intellectual questions and presumptions.

  • Clayton, Martin, Trevor Herbert, and Richard Middleton, eds. 2003. The cultural study of music: A critical introduction. New York: Routledge.

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    Music scholars from various subfields contribute chapters outlining the relationship of music to the social from various vantage points (e.g., biocultural evolution or psychology), discussing disciplinary stakes and contributions (e.g., from history or anthropology), or addressing debates about the study of particular social aspects of music making (e.g., mediation or globalization).

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  • Fox, Aaron A. 2008. Music. In International encyclopedia of the social sciences. 2d ed. Vol. 5. Edited by William A. Darity Jr. Detroit: Macmillan.

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    Succinctly charts the intellectual history of “ethnographic musical anthropology.”

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  • Myers, Helen, ed. 1992. Ethnomusicology: An introduction. Norton/Grove Handbooks in Music. New York: W. W. Norton.

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    A handbook of ethnomusicological method that includes a discussion of ethics. While some chapters are dated (e.g., on field technology), others—such as those addressing transcription, notation, the analysis of musical styles, and ethnography—are iconic of their time yet remain pertinent for the issues they raise and materials they present.

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  • Nettl, Bruno. 2005. The study of ethnomusicology: Thirty-one issues and concepts. Urbana: Univ. of Illinois Press.

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    Synthetic rather than polemic, a historically informed voice from the center of the field of ethnomusicology identifies key issues in the research and analysis of music. These include the concept of music and the general and particular with regard to musical styles, values, and transformation. Nettl delineates ways in which music presents itself as a shared but culturally specific phenomenon. He also discusses aspects of methodology and fieldwork. Originally published in 1983.

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  • Pegg, Carole, Helen Myers, Philip V. Bohlman, and Martin Stokes. “Ethnomusicology.” In Grove Music Online. Edited by Deane Root. 2007–2012.

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    Lays out ten theoretical issues of contemporary concern and situates them in the context of broader interdisciplinary trends. Also chronicles a history of the discipline. Available by subscription.

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  • Stobart, Henry, ed. 2008. The new (ethno)musicologies. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow.

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    An animated and generously toned debate among music scholars, mostly ethnomusicologists, positioned variously in the academy, though predominantly in music departments. Authors consider the identity of ethnomusicology, whether historically, theoretically, methodologically, or in relation to other musical disciplines. Concludes by posing questions about future directions.

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World Music Textbooks

The equivalent of “global culture” classes offered in some anthropology departments, “world music” courses have become a staple in North American university and college music department curricula. Though initiated in the late 1960s, it was the pressure in the later 1980s and “multicultural” 1990s to diversify music curricula that institutionalized the course widely and prompted the production of an array of teaching materials. Most texts are multiauthored, with each contributing author representing expertise in a different geographic region. Titon 2008 (originally published in 1983) was the first overarching presentation of musics of the world that was designed as a textbook. It is directed at students who have musical expertise. Nettl, et al. 2012 (originally published in 1992) assumes no musical knowledge, thereby facilitating access for a broader student body. These works, as well as Shelemay 2006, Wade and Campbell 2009, and Bakan 2012, have been published in second or multiple editions. Authors are faced with the challenge of how to adequately represent the music and musical practices of the world, and with how to subdivide the geography of musical styles. All celebrate the global diversity of music while grappling with what is generalizable about musical systems, styles, and practices. They foreground the relationship between music and place, and emphasize “traditional” musics while integrating “popular” musics into their texts. In order to reach students who are not proficient in musical notation or possibly in finely tuned listening, and to whom the authors are introducing unfamiliar sounds and styles, they include listening guides and sonic examples, whether on CD or online. With the exception of Nettl, et al. 2012, they also include participatory learning activities. Nettl, et al. 1998–2002 is a reference work that complements these textbook approaches and provides additional materials.

  • Bakan, Michael B. 2012. World music: Traditions and transformations. 2d ed. New York: McGraw-Hill.

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    The first third of the textbook focuses on generalizable musical principles, addressing nonmusicians. The remainder of the book comprises seven regionally specific studies, selected to represent contrasting musical styles and to raise a range of issues concerning music and identity. The book has extensive online supplementary materials.

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  • Nettl, Bruno, Timothy Rommen, Charles Capwell, et al., eds. 2012. Excursions in world music. 6th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

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    Each chapter starts with what the authors term a “musical encounter”—a “being there” description of a musical performance—and broadens out to a synthetic account of the music of a region. In this way the text bridges the ideas of a global music survey and disparate music ethnographic “case studies.” It identifies aural principles of regional musical styles and discusses ways in which music is socially significant.

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  • Nettl, Bruno, Ruth M. Stone, James Porter, and Timothy Rice, eds. 1998–2002. The Garland encyclopedia of world music. 10 vols. New York: Garland.

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    A ten-volume reference work representing the knowledge and empirical research of the field in geographically focused, multiauthored volumes. Materials variously address scholars and students, with some articles assuming a degree of musical expertise. Available online by subscription.

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  • Shelemay, Kay Kaufman. 2006. Soundscapes: Exploring music in a changing world. 2d ed. New York: W. W. Norton.

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    Organized by theme rather than geography, with examples drawn from around the world, the text makes very broad observations about the relationship between musical performance, social practice, and identity. It is geared towards high school or early college nonmusic majors.

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  • Titon, Jeff Todd, ed. 2008. Worlds of music: An introduction to the music of the world’s peoples. 5th ed. Belmont, CA: Schirmer/Cengage Learning.

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    The only current world music textbook that includes music notation. A synthetic approach, organized by geographic regions equated with musical styles, the authors emphasize field research and introduce the field of ethnomusicology.

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  • Wade, Bonnie C, eds. 2009. Thinking musically: Experiencing music, expressing culture. 2d ed. Global Music Series. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

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    The Global Music Series is a series of place-specific case studies in short books, framed by two overarching texts: Wade’s Thinking Musically (2009, first published 2004) and Patricia Shehan Campbell’s Teaching Music Globally (2004). The editors ditch the goal of a global survey within one course by offering instructors the option of selecting case studies for more in-depth treatment. Yet the expanding geographically categorized series represents a drive for global coverage.

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Journals

Scholars writing on ethnomusicology choose to publish in a variety of academic journals. Due to ethnomusicology’s interdisciplinary history, the journals that are specific to the topic—Ethnomusicology, Ethnomusicology Forum, The World of Music, and the Yearbook for Traditional Music—have played a particularly strong role in consolidating the discipline in different countries and at an international level. Journals in ethnomusicology tend to emphasize the transdisciplinary and international nature of research on music from different parts of the world in their editorials. Some of them focus on the music of a particular area of the world or a particular type of music, broadly defined (Asia, Africa, Latin America, Europe, black music, popular music), such as Cahiers d’Ethnomusicologie and Perfect Beat. The emergence of popular music as a central topic of study and the intensification of the transnationalization of traditional musics in the 1980s generated a new wave of interdisciplinarity and the emergence of new journals and associations dedicated to this topic. Of these journals, Popular Music is the most widely known. Diverse national journals and journals published beyond the Anglo-American disciplinary world, such as TRANS: Revista Transculural de Música (TRANS: Transcultural Music Review) and African Musicology On-line Journal are important to the field and have increased in number in recent years.

Music and Its Social Significance

Alongside changing debates about the disciplinary constitution of ethnomusicology itself, scholars have variously addressed the field’s overriding theoretical concern; namely, the relationship between music and the social. Single-authored theoretical texts grapple with how to articulate the social significance of music. In sync with social scientific theory of their times, foundational texts for ethnomusicology’s engagement with anthropology focus on music in relation to social values and behavior (Merriam 1964) and music in relation to social structure (Blacking 1973). Lomax 1968 presents an ambitious comparative project designed to map details of musical styles onto the details of social organization (see Vocality and Vocables). These and subsequent texts are caught between wanting to champion the efficacy of musical experience (especially of live, face-to-face, participatory music making) and to account for the effects of changing social, political, and technological structures, systems, and practices on the experience of musical participation. In short, analysts tackle the questions of the power of music and the power on music in various ways, largely undergirded by neo-Marxist ideas of struggle and seeking to determine on what aspect of music to hinge their analysis. Schafer 1994, a widely influential text, situates music within the larger realm of the sonic as social, charting a decline in the intimate sociality of the sound world with the escalation of the noise of industrialization (and the increasingly alienation of labor) (see Soundscapes and Auditory Environments). Small 1996 calls for an emphasis on agency and the act of making music as a means to reclaim the inherent sociality of small-scale musical experiences. The writings of post-structuralist and practice theorists played a role in refining the theorization of music in relation to the social. For example, Shepherd 1991 approaches music as a social text, in which social significance is encoded in the processes, textures, and structures of sound. DeNora 2000 turns from the language of agency to technologies of the self, situated as social in an interactional model of everyday life. Turino 2008, a contemporary overview, treats music as social practice, in effect further theorizing Smalls’ influential polemic (see Small 1996).

  • Blacking, John. 1973. How musical is man? Seattle: Univ. of Washington Press.

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    A polemic in which Blacking, influenced by his teacher Meyer Fortes and the structuralism of Levi-Strauss, and having conducted field research about Venda Tshikona performance in South Africa, argues for an underlying similarity in musical (harmonic-rhythmic) systems in different societies.

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  • DeNora, Tia. 2000. Music in everyday life. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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    A consideration of music as affective, embodied, and communal on the basis of a study of music in contemporary cosmopolitan Britain, emphasizing classical music and pop scenes. The role of music in constructing a self is the starting point for the analysis of the social. Draws on Theodor Adorno, British cultural studies, and the sociology of art as exemplified by the work of Howard Becker.

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  • Lomax, Alan. 1968. Folk song style and culture. Washington, DC: American Association for the Advancement of Science.

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    The most comprehensive presentation of Lomax’s Cantometrics project. Using a limited number of musical examples and the Human Relations Area Files, Lomax argues that a positively sloped statistical correlation exists between aspects of musical expression such as vocal timbre, complexity of textual material, and ensemble forms, on the one hand, and techno-environmental developmental stages such as “hunter-gatherer,” on the other.

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  • Merriam, Alan P. 1964. The anthropology of music. Evanston, IL: Northwestern Univ. Press.

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    Functionalist-inspired argument that highlights the coherence of musical values, behavior, and concepts, making a definitive argument for the analysis of music as culture. Based on field research among the Basongye of Central Africa.

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  • Schafer, R. Murray. 1994. The soundscape: Our sonic environment and the tuning of the world. Rochester, VT: Destiny.

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    A foundational text for Sound Studies by the Canadian electro-acoustic composer who laments the incursion of noise pollution into the everyday auditory field. Schafer provides useful terminology and listening exercises for describing and developing greater attunement to one’s auditory environment. Originally published in 1977.

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  • Shepherd, John. 1991. Music as social text. Cambridge, UK: Polity.

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    Thinking especially about popular music in hegemonic contexts, Shepherd’s series of essays first debunk approaches that dismiss music’s “meaning” as social, and then offer interpretations of music that recognize power asymmetries, subjectivity, and affect as productive of music’s social significance.

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  • Small, Christopher. 1996. Music, society, education. Hanover, NH: Univ. Press of New England.

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    Small’s most widely cited text argues for focusing on music as an activity rather than a commodity. Originally published in 1977. He updates his position in Musicking: The meanings of performing and listening (Hanover, NH: Univ. Press of New England, 2008).

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  • Turino, Thomas. 2008. Music as social life: The politics of participation. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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    Applying Peirceian semiotics, and inspired by Bourdieu, Turino argues for the social significance of participatory musical experience, considering live and mediated listening. The pleasures of musical engagement as well as the political stakes that hinge on musical participation in social movements are discussed.

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The Practice of Ethnomusicology

Ethnomusicology, as practiced in the academy, is typified by approaches that include fieldwork and ethnography, transcription or other forms of representing music and sound for close analytic purposes, the archiving of recorded music and the use of such archives, and using performance as a form of scholarly practice. Ethnomusicology that concerns itself principally with the social and cultural dimensions of music and musical practices especially relies on methods of long-term participant observation typical of social and cultural anthropology. But whether focused on analysis of the formal detail of musical utterances or on social dimensions of music making, to varying degrees all ethnomusicologists draw from the methods, theories, and theoretical insights of anthropological fieldwork and writing practices. At the same time, scholars have taken anthropology to task for its failure to adequately theorize sound itself as a medium of ethnographic representation. Such representational concerns extend to methods of transcription that seek to render the audible in visual form, such as graphic representations of music. Ethnomusicologists have long recognized the challenges of transcribing non-Western music onto the five-line staff, which can accommodate neither pitch nor rhythmic features of much of the world’s music adequately. While it has been argued that indigenous notation systems might alleviate some of these challenges, many musics circulate aurally, without any such written system. Partly as a result, ethnomusicologists have long insisted that field recording is integral to the practice of ethnomusicology and the discipline’s institutionalization in the academy is tightly linked to the development of portable recording technologies. Consequently, ethnomusicologists have played a key role in the development and curation of both national and academic sound archives, which in turn have provided scholars and musicians with access to musics that have become the subject of subsequent study and of musical appropriation. Preservationist impulses that governed much of the early establishment of sound archives have more recently given over to concerns of cultural provenance, and efforts to repatriate recordings are increasingly common, especially in academic archives. As many ethnomusicologists are themselves musicians, another form of participation used in fieldwork settings is musical performance. The practice of learning through musical apprenticeship has been seen as analogous to the learning of another language in the course of research. More theoretically, ethnomusicologists have argued that performing is itself a mode of knowledge-via-experience, and that performing another music provides a means of study from the “inside.”

Fieldwork and Ethnography

Most ethnomusicological research on contemporary musical practices is conducted via ethnographic fieldwork akin to that of sociocultural anthropology. Van Maanen 1988 addresses authorial voice and the representation of others in anthropological and sociological fieldwork, stressing issues of representational style, the subjectivity of the researcher, and the reader’s role in the ethnographic process. Marcus and Fischer 1986 more broadly frames anthropological scholarship’s relationship to self-representation and its call for a recognition that cultures are constructed through the act of writing. Feld 1997 calls for ethnographic methods that directly draw the subjects of research into the authoring process by critiquing in multiple ways the researcher’s textualizations of the research experience. Stoller 1997 argues for the incorporation of the senses, the body, and experience into the act of research and scholarship. These theoretical reflections on the relationships between representer and represented, between the activities of field research and of writing about such research, and the role of the senses in the field have been critically explored for their applicability in ethnomusicological research. Barz and Cooley 2008 presents a series of essays about the ethnomusicological fieldwork process that examine issues ranging from intersubjectivity to the various forms of writing (from field notes to monographs) that define the discipline. Porcello 1998 examines the phenomenology of field research in technology-intensive musical contexts. Feld and Brenneis 2004 reflects on the issues and methods involved in using sound as a primary medium of ethnographic representation. Most ethnomusicological fieldwork involves making audio or video recordings of musical performances. The Vermont Folklife Center website includes a section of “Field Research Guides” that includes guides to audio and audio-visual field recording equipment (analog and digital), editing software and techniques, preservation practices, and interviewing techniques. Makagon and Neumann 2009 considers the relationship between ethnography and documentation, while also providing reflections on links between scholarly research and community-building, as well as a guide to getting started with audio documentary projects.

Representation and Transcription

An ongoing dilemma within ethnomusicology has revolved around the question of how to represent the sonic features of a musical performance. Some participants in this discussion have wondered if these features are representable at all. The 20th-century debate over musical transcribability emerged out of Charles Seeger’s philosophical writings and his insights into the frustrations of making musicology’s study object intelligible by means other than re-performance. Early ethnomusicologists used standard Western notation, often modified by diacritical markings to notate features that fell outside the Western classical tradition. Bela Bartok’s meticulous transcriptions of Serbo-Croatian folksongs (Bartok and Lord 1951) stands as the apotheosis of detailed musical transcription using the Western notational system. The inadequacy of the five-line staff to capture distinctive features of non-Western intonational and rhythmic schemas was quickly noted. Frances Densmore despaired of finding an appropriate graphic expression for the sounds of Native American singing, and argued for the importance of recording as a supplement to transcription (see Densmore 1945). Indeed, Bartok’s detailed transcripts were made possible largely by the fact that the songs were recorded, allowing repeated listening. Mechanical or electronic supplements to ear-and-hand transcription have also been proposed. Metfessel 1928 put forth a method of combining a graphic tracing of fundamental pitch with motion picture films of sung performances. The time and energy invested in decoding Metfessel’s graphic representations were deemed unwarranted by most scholars, however. Seeger 1958 argued that Western notation is “prescriptive,” guiding future performance. It was therefore poorly adapted to describe the events of a past performance. Seeger argued for the benefits of the Melograph, which drew a graphic representation of the contours of a melodic phrase on a strip of paper. List 1974 argued that transcription by ear and hand was just as reliable: the Melograph simply replaced one set of drawbacks with another. Attempts at representation of meter and rhythm have also been made. McGraw 2008 presents a means of representing the fluidity of Balinese gamelan performance by tracking tempos using Audacity software and Excel spreadsheets. The ethnocentric biases of Western musical notation have also been noted. Hood 1971 argued that for musical traditions that have their own prescribed notational system, that system should be the one in which transcriptions are offered. Mechanical transcription would add supplementary detail. Taking a Chomskyan approach, Forrest 1996 asks whether prior training in Western classical music causes researchers to frame non-Western performance in ways that miss the underlying organizing principles of the musical forms they are studying. Clayton 1996 argues that most transcription techniques have proved unable to notate musical styles that do not foreground rhythmic regularity.

  • Bartok, Bela, and Albert B. Lord. 1951. Serbo-Croatian folk songs: Texts and transcriptions of seventy-five folk songs from the Milman Parry collection and morphology of Serbo-Croatian folk melodies. New York: Columbia Univ. Press.

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    A good English-language source for Bartok’s famously meticulous notations of Balkan folk music, transcribed from recordings made by Milman Parry during his research on oral-forumlaic composition.

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  • Clayton, Martin R. L. 1996. Free rhythm: Ethnomusicology and the study of music without metre. Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 59.2: 323–332.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0041977X00031608Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Describes the challenges to transcription that free rhythm poses, arguing that the purpose of transcription is to give the reader a diagrammatic understanding of how music is performed and heard over the passage of time.

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  • Densmore, Frances. 1945. The importance of recordings of Indian songs. American Anthropologist 47.4: 637–639.

    DOI: 10.1525/aa.1945.47.4.02a00180Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Presents the phonograph recording as a means of overcoming the inherent inability of Western notation systems to capture the vocal qualities of Native American singing. Discusses timbral inflections of various indigenous singing styles and indigenous understandings of virtuosity.

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  • Forrest, John. 1996. The structure and notation of traditional dance music: A New Mexican example. Folk Music Journal 7.2: 167–187.

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    Questions whether the classical training of early ethnomusicologists influenced their framing of nonclassical (i.e., “folk”) musical styles in ways that are circulated through the representations contained in their transcriptions. Argues that transcription simultaneously represents a musical event and the musician’s internal models of musical structures and styles. A new transcription of a Matachines dance held in Santa Fe, New Mexico illustrates the argument.

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  • Hood, Mantle. 1971. Transcription and notation. In The ethnomusicologist. Edited by Mantle Hood, 50–122. New York: McGraw-Hill.

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    The second chapter of Hood’s textbook. Discusses problems with using Western notation to transcribe non-Western music and proposes three solutions. First, indigenous forms of musical notation should be used if such forms exist. Second, mechanical transcription tools can offer supplementary information that notational systems miss. Third, a universal system of music writing should be developed, akin to the International Phonetic Alphabet in linguistics.

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  • List, George. 1974. The reliability of transcription. Ethnomusicology 18.3: 353–377.

    DOI: 10.2307/850519Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Defends the practice of ear-and-hand transcription in musical notation over reliance on technologically assisted forms. Examines hand-transcriptions done by a group of scholars and finds them largely in concurrence with each other. The graphic representations of the melograph can add detail, but the melograph needle may not move as quickly as the music in question, raising reliability issues, especially when considering duration of tone.

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  • McGraw, Andrew. 2008. Different temporalities: The time of Balinese gamelan. Yearbook for Traditional Music 40:136–162.

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    Examines a number of problems with representing time and meter in Balinese gamelan. Includes graphic representation of the metrical variability of Balinese gamelan music, charting increases and decreases in tempo over the duration of a number of pieces in different genres.

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  • Metfessel, Milton. 1928. Phonophotography in folk music: American Negro songs in new notation. Chapel Hill: Univ. of North Carolina Press.

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    An early attempt to supplement listening with visual representation. It combines a tracing of fundamental pitch with a motion picture of the performance. Metfessel argued that microvariations in intonation accounted for the emotional impact of musical performance. The ear was unable to hear these microvariations, moreover, and thus visual representation of sound was necessary for full analysis.

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  • Seeger, Charles. 1958. Prescriptive and descriptive music writing. Musical Quarterly 44.2: 184–195.

    DOI: 10.1093/mq/XLIV.2.184Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues that Western music notation is prescriptive rather than descriptive in nature, and works only if a performer possesses the oral traditions allowing its proper interpretation. Seeger was suspicious of borrowing this system to describe musical events in other traditions. He preferred the melograph, a tool of his own invention, which depicts pitch and duration, and which he thought offered greater understanding of tempo.

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Archiving

Sound archives are foundational to ethnomusicological history, research, and its preservational mission. European comparative musicology—ethnomusicology’s predecessor of the first half of the 20th century—depended on the availability of recording collections for its largely armchair approach to the analysis of musical systems. The first prominent archive, the Berlin Phonogramm Archiv, was established by Carl Stumpf at the Institute for Psychology at the Friedrich Wilhelm University to conduct experiments with music, language, sound, and hearing, fueled by universalist questions. The subsequent rehousing of the collection within a conservatory and then a state ethnological museum (the Museum für Völkerkunde) marked the shifting modes of ethnomusicological analysis over the century, and with this an expanded range of institutional alliances and archival missions. Prominent archives are now nationally supported, such as the Phonogrammarchiv der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften in Vienna, the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, and the British Library Sound Archive, which house historic globally comprehensive collections, built up originally as repositories of the field recordings of early colonialist Austrian, American, and British scholars, respectively. Other nationally significant archives contain regionally specific collections, such as the International Library of African Music, the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies Audiovisual Archive, and the Library of Congress Recorded Sound Reference Center. To varying degrees, these institutions collaborate with broadcasting institutions, the music industry, and the academy. Ethnomusicologists continue to be key figures in the management and development of these and other archival collections.

Archiving within the Academy

Universities have developed valuable sound archives, largely as repositories for their faculty and students’ field recordings in ethnomusicology, anthropology, folklore, and linguistics. The Indiana University Archives of Traditional Music is the oldest and most extensive among them. Archives have developed hand in hand with ethnomusicological training programs, especially earlier programs such as those at Wesleyan University (the Wesleyan University World Music Archives), University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA Ethnomusicology Archive), and Columbia University (Center for Ethnomusicology). Archival practices raise core dilemmas for the discipline concerning musical documentation, preservation, circulation, ownership, and rights. Technological advances, interdisciplinary theorization about the politics of archiving stimulated by Derrida and Foucault’s work, and changing postcolonial politics have prompted shifts in archival practices. Major universities or university consortia and local institutions now collaborate in an effort to enable local access to archival materials for educational, research, and heritage purposes, such as through the establishment of the Archives and Research Center for Ethnomusicology in New Delhi. In one of the earliest of such efforts, the Institute of Papua New Guinea Studies Music Department Archive has acquired duplicates of historic recordings from multiple international collections. Repatriation projects are coupled with efforts to return historical recordings to artists and their families, descendents, or communities; such efforts include those by the Laura Boulton Collection of Traditional Music at the Center for Ethnomusicology, Columbia University and the Makerere University Klaus Wachsmann Music Archive. Further training, documentation, and collection are involved as well. The Pacific and Regional Archive for Digital Sources in Endangered Cultures (PARADISEC) facilitates access as a purely digital repository for Pacific scholars, collectors, and communities who lack the resources for the management and preservation of their heritage collections.

Performing as Practice

Conducting field research by participating as a performer has been a defining feature of the field’s methodology for many ethnomusicologists. On the one hand, participation by means of music making mirrors any other form of participant observation in ethnographic field research. It is a means of access just as gaining linguistic competence is. David McAllester’s dual music and language performance skills undergird his classic Navajo study, McAllester 1954. On the other hand, ethnomusicological method has been deeply influenced by the idea of “bi-musicality,” proposed in Hood 1960, which presupposes that there are ways of knowing through the experience of playing music that are not otherwise graspable. Researchers have apprenticed themselves to musical experts the world over, with varying degrees of investment in the project of learning to perform. Baily 2001, a study of the Afghani rebab, and Berliner 1993, a study of the Zimbabwean mbira are exceptional for the combination of the ethnographic intimacy of their scholarship and the level of their expertise as performers. Slawek 1987 demonstrates that dedicated study as a performer also enables finely detailed technical discussion about performance itself. Other scholars have contributed music analytic insight through ethnographic research in the role of performers, as in the case of Perlman 2004. Rather than apprenticing on a new instrument, researchers might bring their own performance expertise into their research fields. In Samuels 2004, playing guitar enables the author’s work as an ethnographer, while in Bates 2010, Bates’s sound engineering skills offer him a means of entry and a way to contribute. Tang 2007 shows how performing can also turn out to be an analytically useful form of intervention. Whatever form it takes, this component of ethnomusicological methodology is highly valued in the field. In part it operates as an authenticating mechanism: it demonstrates the researcher’s ability to hear and to make music. In part it complements the field’s longstanding interest in musical performance as an object of investigation: understanding the live event and the creative process from the “inside” has been a primary focus of research, especially since the 1960s (see Body and Performance). The field shares its interest in theorizing performance with some linguistic anthropologists, folklorists, musicologists, and performance studies scholars. Ethnomusicologists consider that conducting ethnography through performing music (and thereby being in a position to give close attention to the details of musical sound) is a distinguishing feature of their contribution to the conversation.

  • Baily, John. 2001. Learning to perform as a research technique in ethmomusicology. British Journal of Ethnomusicology 10.2: 85–98.

    DOI: 10.1080/09681220108567321Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Influenced by his teacher John Blacking’s emphasis on the body as a way of knowing, by his own prior training in cognitive psychology, and by his experience as a performing musician, Baily argues for performance as a distinctive ethnomusicological research technique.

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  • Bates, Eliot. 2010. Mixing for parlak and bowing for a büyük ses: The aesthetics of arranged traditional music in Turkey. Ethnomusicology 54.1: 81–105.

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    As a sound engineer, Bates was able to gain entry into recording studios in Turkey where he could conduct research as a participant behind the recording console, and thereby to contribute usefully to the musicians with whom he worked.

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  • Berliner, Paul. 1993. Soul of the mbira: Music and traditions of the shona people of Zimbabwe. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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    A classic that demonstrates the strengths of conducting ethnography through apprenticeship. By describing how he learned how to play, Berliner explains the improvisational musical system. Through his relationships with his teachers and musical associates, he came to understand the significance of the instrument and its performance practice in Shona cosmology and social life. Originally published in 1978.

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  • Hood, Mantle. 1960. The challenge of “bi-musicality.” Ethnomusicology 4.2: 55–59.

    DOI: 10.2307/924263Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Coined when the idea of etic and emic perspectives enjoyed currency, Hood proposed “bi-musicality” as equivalent to bilingualism. Critics note the Eurocentric presumptions that learning practices are universal, and that learning from visiting artists in a university or by playing in a “world music” ensemble replicates ways of knowing gained through traditional learning styles of any particular musical practice.

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  • McAllester, David. 1954. Enemy way music: A study of social and esthetic values as seen in Navaho music. Cambridge, MA: Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology.

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    A deeply committed fieldworker, McAllester devoted efforts to learning to perform music and to speak Navajo. His insights into Navajo values were enabled by this approach. Available online from Internet Archive.

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  • Perlman, Marc. 2004. Unplayed melodies: Javanese gamelan and the genesis of music theory. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

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    Perlman’s music analytic observations, gained through ethnographic research in the role of playing in a gamelan, have been influential in comparative discussions about music cognition and about music theory.

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  • Samuels, David W. 2004. Putting a song on top of it: Expression and identity on the San Carlos Apache Reservation. Tucson: Univ. of Arizona Press.

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    Samuels’s participation as a guitarist in an Apache country band in San Carlos, Arizona, enabled his work as an ethnographer of place, memory, and history.

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  • Slawek, Stephen. 1987. Sitar technique in nibaddh forms. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass.

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    A study aimed at students of the sitar and at scholars with music-theoretic interests in sitar repertory and processes of improvisation.

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  • Tang, Patricia. 2007. Masters of the sabar: Wolof griot percussionists of Senegal. Philadelphia: Temple Univ. Press.

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    In apprenticing as a Sabar drummer, Tang used a classic ethnomusicological research technique. In addition, as a trained violinist she used her own instrument as a form of intervention. Performing with a band, she gained ethnographic and musical insights she might not otherwise have realized, through the innovative inclusion of a violinist in a Senegalese popular band.

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Sound and Embodied Practices

Beginning in the late 20th century, the research conducted by ethnomusicologists overlapped in important ways with ethnographers working within the emerging paradigm of practice theory. While ethnomusicology had rarely theorized performance, ethnomusicologists assumed that they were conducting research on cultural forms that were, inevitably, performed in social contexts. The discipline was in that sense open to social theories that considered culture as constituted by material practices that socialized the body in historically and politically specific ways. Ethnomusicologists’ further emphasis on the importance of recording and listening rather than writing and reading as the path to understanding musical style offered further overlap with new arguments from the social sciences that treated culture as enacted and embodied practice. A third leg of this approach was the emphasis, in key academic institutions, of the concept of bi-musicality, an approach that saw a key aspect of fieldwork knowledge in the ability to become a fluent participant in the musical practices one was studying. These interlaced disciplinary parameters made ethnomusicology receptive to Bourdieu’s notion of habitus—the nuances of cultural style that go without saying because they come without saying. A neo-Gramscian influence, in the sense of culture as a repository (without inventory) of an infinitude of traces that becomes available to consciousness through embodied enactment, was also important. John Blacking fostered an influential approach that considered the embodied performance of music as an innate human ability analogous to the embodied performance of language in speech. Blacking returned often to the evocative image of distinctions between Venda drumming and western European piano playing as forms of culturally enacted bodily disciplines. These approaches to embodiment in the sonic enactment of music in practice also challenged and expanded semanticist notions of meaning. Building on the influence of Hymes, Tedlock, Austin, and Bauman in the related disciplines of linguistic anthropology, philosophy, and folklore, ethnomusicology experienced a revitalized interest in exploring overlaps between language and music in ways that expanded on the simple question of whether music could refer in the way that language did. Reevaluation of the notion of how music could mean also influenced the sense that embodied meaning was invariably multiplex, communicating simultaneously on a number of levels. Chief among these was the issue of how musical practice acted as an embodiment of affect and emotion as well as “information,” and how music acted as a refraction of the inequalities inherent in colonial and postcolonial situations. Here, Foucault’s analysis of the historically contingent constitution of the biological body has contributed to ethnomusicology’s sense of the sounding body as a historically, culturally, and politically constituted vessel for the expression of meaning and affect.

Music and Language

The thought that “language” and “music” might be related forms of communication and expression has occupied Western scholars since the Enlightenment, if not earlier. As far back as the 4th century CE, St. Augustine differentiated between text and tune in hymn singing as he worried that the sensuousness of music might interfere with the piety required of Christian worship. Indeed, the very existence of texted melody (viz. “song”) has forced ethnomusicologists to treat “music” as necessarily a “poetic” form of communication since its inception. Tomlinson 2001 argues that the distinction between song and instrumental (“absolute”) music, as refracted through Kantian aesthetic theory, lies at the separation point between ethnography and historiography as modes of understanding. Noam Chomsky’s arguments about innateness and universal grammar combined with Roman Jakobson’s influence on structuralism to invigorate explorations of the music-language relationship anew in the 20th century. Explorations of poetic discourse continue. A newly emerging literature on the coevolution of music and language tends to moot poetics in favor of cognition. Still, this literature continues to link music as a human expressive modality to other forms of expressivity. Of these, the links between language and music have been extensively explored. The discovery of relations at the level of systemic organization (e.g., “syntax”) in musical and linguistic forms has been an area of research that tends to privilege the Western high-art tradition from 1750 to 1900. More productive, perhaps, has been the investigation of overlapping expressive resources between musical and linguistic expressions such as repetition, variation, and parallelism. Cruttenden 1997 presents a comprehensive look at intonation as an important musical feature of spoken language. Wennerstrom 2001 is more overt in its appeal to “music” as a metaphor for understanding how linguistic communication operates. Feld and Fox 1994 is a comprehensive review of the literature on music and language. Feld 1984 explores the relationship between music and language by investigating the mediating form of language about music. Spitzer 2004 explores similar metalinguistic territory, focusing on the history of discourse about the Western classical tradition.

  • Cruttenden, Alan. 1997. Intonation. 2d ed. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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    A comprehensive survey of the role of melodic form as a prosodic feature of the sound production of spoken language. Includes extended cross-linguistic comparison.

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  • Feld, Steven. 1984. Communication, music, and speech about music. Yearbook for Traditional Music 16:1–18.

    DOI: 10.2307/768199Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Analyzes the phenomenon of “speech about music” in order to demonstrate the ways in which music and language overlap as forms of communication. Feld rejects the approach that places language at the “referential” end of a continuum with music occupying the “emotional” opposite end.

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  • Feld, Steven, and Aaron A. Fox. 1994. Music and language. Annual Review of Anthropology 23:25–53.

    DOI: 10.1146/annurev.an.23.100194.000325Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A review of the scholarly social science and humanities literature on the subject. The authors argue that the language/music literature falls into four basic groups, investigating (1) linguistic aspects of music, (2) musical aspects of language, (3) poetic uses of language in musical contexts, and (4) linguistic metadiscourses on music. They propose Peirceian semiotics moves scholars past these categories.

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  • Spitzer, Michael. 2004. Metaphor and musical thought. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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    An exploration of the ways in which discourse about music in the Western tradition has made use of metaphorical tropes to communicate about musical experiences held to be abstract. Presents a history of key metaphorical concepts in musical metadiscourse, such as “harmony,” “rhythm,” and “melody.”

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  • Tomlinson, Gary. 2001. Musicology, anthropology, history. Il Saggiatore Musicale 8:21–38.

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    Traces the academic distinction between “history” and “ethnography” to a philosophical split between vocal and instrumental music in the West. Argues that the distinction between texted song and untexted “pure” music was the lynchpin in the emergence of musicology as a historical rather than culturalogical endeavor.

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  • Wennerstrom, Ann. 2001. The music of everyday speech: Prosody and discourse analysis. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

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    Explores the idea that the prosodic features of speech—intonation, tempo, stress, and pause patterns—are central to the communicative value of a speech act. The work thus overtly links the sonic material of musicality in speech acts to key questions of discourse analysis.

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Poetics

In the first half of the 20th century, Jakobson 1987 established a baseline for thinking about music and language as similarly structural phenomena, with, for example, the notes of a scale possessing Saussurean value in an analogous way to phonemes in a linguistic system. Herzog 1949–1950 attempted to enumerate the features that would unite a universal analytical category called “song” in distinction to other forms of vocal expression, and List 1963 returned to this territory to clarify the boundary line between speech and song. Lerdahl and Jackendoff 1983 applies a Chomskyan model of generative grammar to demonstrate the syntactic nature of western and central European classical music composed between c. 1700 and c. 1900. Feld 1974 opens the contemporary discussion of this issue with a critique of the way linguistic models have filtered into discussions of music. Lidov 2005 adds a stimulating counter-voice to this discussion by reversing the usual questions about language and music (“Do they both have syntax?”) to inquire into the musical features of language, rather than the reverse. From the perspective of poetics and expression, the literature has investigated the ways in which musical and linguistic expressions stand in a relationship not of structural features but of expressive resources. Through case studies of discourse in a recording studio and two examples of country singers, Feld, et al. 2004 explores various ramifications to the insight that musical and verbal performances share an overlapping expressive territory. Sherzer and Woodbury 1987 presents genres as collections of logically independent but mutually influential elements. “Song” in distinction to “speech,” thereby, would hang on the way in which particular elements (rhythm, breath pause, clause boundaries) were differentially coordinated. Webster 2009, building on these insights, explores in depth the musical aspects of Navajo poetry through a discussion of the importance of ideophones and sound symbolism in poetic performances.

  • Feld, Steven. 1974. Linguistic models in ethnomusicology. Ethnomusicology 18.2: 197–217.

    DOI: 10.2307/850579Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A critical review of ethnomusicologists’ attempts at using linguistic theories to account for musical phenomena. A foundational point for thinking about more recent explorations of the language-music relationship.

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  • Feld, Steven, Aaron A. Fox, Thomas Porcello, and David Samuels. 2004. Vocal anthropology: From the music of language to the language of song. In A companion to linguistic anthropology. Edited by Alessandro Duranti, 321–345. Malden, MA: Blackwell.

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    Through three case studies, describes overlaps between affective, indexical, and iconic aspects of speech and song. The first case describes the sound symbolism used in recording studio conversations about timbre. The second two present analyses of the vocal inflections of San Carlos Apache and Texas country singers.

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  • Herzog, George. 1949–1950. Song: Folk song and the music of folk song. Funk and Wagnalls’ Standard Dictionary of Folklore, Mythology, and Legend. Vol. 2. Edited by Maria Leach, 1032–1050. New York: Funk & Wagnalls.

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    An elaboration on the definition of “song” as a universal human category.

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  • Jakobson, Roman. 1987. Musicology and linguistics. In Language in literature. Edited by Roman Jakobson, 455–457. Cambridge, MA: Belknap.

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    Discusses parallels between the study of music and phonology. Like the sound systems of languages, music is a hierarchically organized collection of systematic relations between elements. Tones in a scale are thus analogous to phonemes. It is through understanding how elements gain their sense through these contrasting systematic relationships that makes the study of musicology analogous to that of linguistics. Originally published in 1932.

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  • Lerdahl, Fred, and Ray Jackendoff. 1983. A generative theory of tonal music. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

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    Argues that Western classical music of the 17th through 19th centuries is amenable to a Chomskyan syntactic analysis whereby musical motifs may be organized into a series of hierarchically embedded trees. Indeed, if any music presents itself to the analyst as foregrounding its “syntax,” it is Western classical music of this period.

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  • Lidov, David. 2005. Is language a music?: Writings on musical form and signification. Bloomington: Indiana Univ. Press.

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    Reverses the usual standard question “Is music a language?” in order to argue for the musical aspects of communicative modes. Heavily indebted to Peirceian semiotics, especially the classic trichotomy of icon, index, and symbol. Compatible with other approaches to discourse in that Lidov is critical of linguistics’ emphasis on segmentability rather than the holism of an utterance.

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  • List, George. 1963. The boundaries of speech and song. Ethnomusicology 7.1: 1–17.

    DOI: 10.2307/924141Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues that speech and song are distinct among forms of sound communication in being (1) vocally produced, (2) linguistically meaningful, and (3) melodic. These are all fuzzily bounded concepts, as, for example, vocables in song push back against the “meaningful” category held in common. The boundary between speech and song involves deliberate and culturally salient modifications of speech intonation.

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  • Sherzer, Joel, and Anthony Woodbury. 1987. Introduction. In Native American discourse: Poetics and rhetoric. Edited by Joel Sherzer and Anthony Woodbury, 17–61. New York: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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    Presents an analysis of discourse genres as concatenations of logically separable but mutually influential elements. The genre of “song” might imply a salient coordination of clause phrase, breath phrase, pause phrase, and melodic contour, and increased regimentation of line-final iconicity (rhyme) in verbal text. Other genres may make use of these elements but coordinate them differently.

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  • Webster, Anthony K. 2009. The poetics and politics of Navajo ideophony in contemporary Navajo poetry. Language & Communication 29.2: 133–151.

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    Discusses the use of ideophony and sound symbolism in different forms of Navajo verbal art and poetic expression.

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Cognitive Evolution

Much of the current literature on music and language in the cognitive sciences, evolutionary biology, and evolutionary psychology is a response to Steven Pinker’s widely circulated assertion that music is “auditory cheesecake” (How the Mind Works New York: Norton, 1997: 534). Wallin, et al. 2000 and Mithen 2005 present thorough explorations of the present theories regarding the coevolution of linguistic and musical capability. Areas of concern for this literature include (1) the possibility of making powerful adaptationist arguments about the evolution of musicality, (2) questions of how these systems might have behaved in earlier evolutionary stages as “protolanguage” and “protomusic,” and (3) which contemporary communicative systems might contain evidence of these earlier evolutionary stages. The adaptationist discussion of human musicality has been the most direct response to Pinker. Huron 2001 and Justus and Hutsler 2005 offer reviews of the issues. Huron 2001 argues for an adaptationist approach to human music-making; Justus and Hutsler 2005 reviews the state of “strong” adaptationist arguments in evolutionary psychology. Brown 2000 (contained in Wallin, et al. 2000) presents a theory that music and language evolved out of a common “musilanguage” cognitive system. Thus, for Brown, “protolanguage” combined cognitive and expressive features that researchers now consider to be separable as “musical” and “linguistic.” Donald 1999 argues that the emergence of certain forms of kinetic co-performance were a necessary precursor for the coordination of human symbolic communication. A number of researchers have heard in the hypermusicality of the infant-directed utterance sometimes called “motherese” a clue to the solution of the adaptive and communicative benefits of music and language. Much of this branch of the literature asserts that motherese is universal without debating long-standing evidence from linguistic anthropology that it is not. Falk 2004 argues that the musical aspects of motherese demonstrate what a protolanguage might have been like. Trevarthen 1999–2000 asserts that musical and rhythmic coordination of caretaker-child dyads is part of a larger system of coordinated action unique to the hominid line and stemming ultimately from the emergence of bipedalism. Tolbert 2002 offers a critique of this literature, arguing that it tends to make “language” the object of interest, relegating “music” to a secondary position, useful only insofar as it helps explain the evolution of language proper—the real object of curiosity. In Tolbert’s view this rehearses a number of gendered ideas about music (as “emotional”) versus language (as “rational”) in the history of scientific discourse on the subject.

  • Brown, S. 2000. The “musilanguage” model of music evolution. In The origins of music. Edited by Nils Lennart Wallin, Björn Merker, and Steven Brown, 271–300. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

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    Presents a model of music/language evolution arguing that both systems emerged out of a single unified precursor that more heavily emphasized holistic communication of emotional responses and made greater use of intonation as a signal of distinction between semantic values.

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  • Donald, M. 1999. Preconditions for the evolution of protolanguages. In The descent of mind: Psychological perspectives on hominid evolution. Edited by Michael C. Corballis and Stephen E. G. Lea, 138–154. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

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    Presents a review of the necessary conditions for the emergence of protolanguages in the hominid line.

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  • Falk, Dean. 2004. Prelinguistic evolution in early hominins: Whence motherese? Behavioral and Brain Sciences 27.4: 491–541.

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    Argues that the emergence of bipedalism and hairlessness made it impossible for infants to cling to their caretakers while the adults performed necessary tasks for survival, such as food-gathering. The resulting practice of placing infants at a short distance created the conditions for infant-directed vocalizations, which may have been the earliest form of communication that resulted in the emergence of language.

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  • Huron, David. 2001. Is music an evolutionary adaptation? Annals of the New York Academy of Science 930:43–61.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1749-6632.2001.tb05724.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Reviews the range of claims made for the adaptive benefits of human music-making. Concludes that there is merit in pursuing adaptationist arguments as an explanation for music among human groups.

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  • Justus, Timothy, and Jeffrey T. Hutsler. 2005. Fundamental issues in the evolutionary psychology of music: Assessing innateness and domain specificity. Music Perception 23.1: 1–27.

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    Reviews the literature on music evolution and argues that the adaptive benefits of music, while possible, have not been sufficiently demonstrated. Calls for greater rigor in discussion of adaptation and greater cross-disciplinary research between psychology, neuroscience, and genetics.

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  • Mithen, Steven. 2005. The singing Neanderthals: The Origins of Music, Language, Mind and Body. London: Weidenfeld & Nicholson.

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    Brings together a great deal of research in evolutionary biology and psychology to offer a highly speculative but nonetheless challenging theory that relates bipedalism, rhythm, dance, emotion, music, and the eventual emergence of syntactic language.

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  • Tolbert, Elizabeth. 2002. Untying the music/language knot. In Music, sensation, and sensuality. Edited by Linda Phyllis Austern, 77–96. New York: Routledge.

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    A critical analysis of recent work linking the evolution of language and music in homo sapiens. Scholars consistently use “music” as a mediating stage between “animal communication” and “language,” thus maintaining the emergence of language as the important factor to be explained. Tolbert argues the inadequacy of this model from a number of perspectives.

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  • Trevarthen, Colwyn. 1999–2000. Musicality and the intrinsic motive pulse: Evidence from human psychobiology and infant communication. In Special Issue: Rhythm, musical narrative, and the origins of human. Musicae Scientiae, 155–215.

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    Argues that the emergence of bipedalism created the conditions for a particular kind of coordination of kinetic and social activity among the evolutionary ancestors of modern humans. This rhythmic coordination leads to a number of important human social activities such as language, dance, and music.

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  • Wallin, Nils L., Björn Merker, and Steven Brown, eds. 2000. The origins of music. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

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    A comprehensive multidisciplinary compendium of voices in the discussion of how music evolved, and the links between the evolution of human musical and linguistic capabilities. Includes contributions from evolutionary biologists, evolutionary psychologists, ethnomusicologists, archaeologists, cultural anthropologists, and linguists. The book allows room for its contributors to debate each other through their essays.

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Vocality and Vocables

Although song is clearly a primary modality of musical expression around the world, vocal timbre and forms of textuality in song have often frustrated the analytical apparatus of ethnomusicology. The descriptive language of timbre remains impressionistic, and recordings are often referenced for further elucidation, sometimes in a gesture of helplessness. Considering vocal styles, sung texts, and cultural formations, the folklorist and ethnomusicologist Alan Lomax argued that positive statistical relationships existed between vocal song styles and the techno-environmental stages of a given society’s development (see Lomax 1968, cited under Music and Its Social Significance). These findings were challenged on a number of grounds, most commonly by the claim that Lomax’s sample sizes were too small to reliably support his conclusions. Edwin Erickson reanalyzed Lomax’s data and found a stronger positive slope for historical-diffusionist geographical arguments than cultural-evolutionary explanations (Erickson 1976). Feld, et al. 1984 reformulates the kinds of universal and particular questions one might pose in comparative cross-cultural studies of musical style. Zemp 1996 is a richly annotated three-CD collection of vocal styles from around the world, showing the global range of vocal techniques, melodic contours, timbres, ornamentation, and participatory structures. The perplexing relationship of text and vocality is also evidenced in the history of ethnomusicology’s engagement with vocables. In the works of early ethnomusicologists, these were commonly referred to as “meaningless syllables” (Densmore 1943). Powers 1992 shows how early ethnomusicologists excised vocables from their textual translations, or interpreted them as equivalent to poetic exhortations and interjections such as “Lo!” and “Alas!” Vocables revealed a Western bias toward considering “language” as transferring rational and referential meaning from one person to another. Poeticity and vocables proved daunting to the analyst in such a context. Work that aligns itself with the insights of linguistic anthropology, especially in the years following the key insights of Dell Hymes, has contributed rich results to thinking about vocables. Frisbie 1981 discusses a range of vocables in Navajo ceremonial singing in terms of their relationship to other aspects of ceremonial and textual meaning. Hinton 1980 analyses the phonology of Havasupai vocables, showing a statistically significant difference between the distribution of phonemes in song and speech. Samuels 2004 discusses doo-wop singing, arguing that a relationship exists between the political/aesthetic marginalization of certain musical styles and the marginalization of their performers. Building on these earlier works, Sarangi 2007 is a special issue of Text and Talk on “Ritual Unintelligibility.”

  • Densmore, Frances. 1943. The use of meaningless syllables in Indian songs. American Anthropologist 45.1: 160–162.

    DOI: 10.1525/aa.1943.45.1.02a00270Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Outlines a number of features of Native American singing that exists as nontexted vocalizing, and argues for the importance of this as a feature of indigenous music.

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  • Sarangi, Srikant, ed. 2007. Special issue: Ritual unintelligibility. Text and Talk 27.4.

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    Includes research articles by Aurora Donzelli, Yoonhee Kang, Jennifer Jacobs, Sabina Perrino, Kristina Wirtz, and Michael Lempert, and discussion by Joel Kuipers. The introduction to the volume, by Kristina Wirtz, is available online, as is a pdf file of Kuipers’s response, as well as a listing of all the articles.

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  • Erickson, Edwin E. 1976. Tradition and evolution in song style: A reanalysis of Cantometric data. Cross-Cultural Research 11.4: 277–308.

    DOI: 10.1177/106939717601100403Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Reassesses Lomax’s original Catometrics data and concludes that a geographic, historical, and diffusionist explanation is more powerful in terms of statistical correlation than Lomax’s sense that techno-environmental evolution made the best account of the data.

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  • Feld, Steven, Marina Roseman, Charles Keil, et al. 1984. Symposium on comparative sociomusicology. Ethnomusicology 28.3: 383–466.

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    Articles, responses, and discussion of new ways of thinking about the global and comparative questions about music raised by Lomax and Cantometrics, but arguing for a more radically local sense from which to make such comparative assessments. This approach is meant to overcome, in part, the criticism of Lomax’s glancing engagement with the musics and societies he was comparing.

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  • Frisbie, Charlotte J. 1981. Vocables in Navajo ceremonial music. Ethnomusicology 24.3: 347–392.

    DOI: 10.2307/851149Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Presents a number of vocable formulas in Navajo ceremonial song. Demonstrates that these formulas are not “meaningless,” but instead perform a number of communicative functions, such as indexing song-type and genre. In addition, vocables may be derived from meaningful lexical units or representations of certain forms of talk. Frisbie argues that the idea of vocables as “meaningless syllables” is falsified by the data presented.

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  • Hinton, Leanne. 1980. Vocables in Havasupai song. In Southwestern Indian ritual drama. Edited by Charlotte J. Frisbie, 275–306. School of American Research Advanced Seminar Series. Albuquerque: Univ. of New Mexico Press.

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    Analyses the phonology of Havasupai vocables and compares the frequency of sounds in vocables to sounds in speech. Presents an argument for the aesthetic ideals of vocables based on distribution of these sounds. Concludes with an argument about why wordless vocability is able to create social cohesion among singers and audience.

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  • Powers, William K. 1992. Translating the untranslatable: The place of the vocable in Lakota song. In On the translation of native American literatures. Edited by Brian Swann, 293–310. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press.

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    Describes Lakota vocables as a form of holy language, meaningful to the supernatural beings who can understand it. Presents the history of translation of vocables in earlier ethnomusicological work, such as work that represents vocables in English as various poetic interjections and exortations such as “Alas!” and “Ho!”

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  • Samuels, David. 2004. Language, meaning, modernity, and doowop. Semiotica 149.1–4: 297–323.

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    A discussion of doo-wop vocables as a form of both semantically and politically marginalized discourse. Traces links between European modernity and the excising of “nonsense” from the range of acceptable poetic techniques.

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  • Zemp, Hugo, comp. 1996. Voix Du Monde: Une Anthologie Des Expressions Vocales. CMX 3741010-11-12. Paris: Le Chant du Monde.

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    A three-disc collection of a multitude of vocal styles from around the world. Includes annotations for each track and an essay on sound analysis in the accompanying booklet. In French and English.

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Body and Performance

Ethnomusicology has privileged performance as a site of investigation. For some researchers this focus is the naturalized equivalent of “the musical work” in musicology; in other words, performance is a means through which to analyze other formal aspects of musical expression, such as improvisational systems. Others investigate performance as a social phenomenon, as a means through which to access social values, practices, and ideas. Early functionalist readings find that musical performance simply reflects roles and rules that structure society, or that it offers cathartic release from them. From the later 1970s on, ethnomusicologists have approached performance and sociality dialogically. This entails a gradual shift from analysis focused on the organization of ritualized events to performance as a social practice. While Seeger 1987 treats performance practice (including musical style, sound structure, and creative process) as coproducing social relations and communal organization, Erlmann 1996 considers musical performance contingent upon the historical condition. The turn to practice brings attention to the agency of the performing body, whether collective or individual. Blacking 1977 anticipates this insight by arguing for the inclusion of dance and other expressive bodily movement in ethnomusicological analysis. Subsequently, influenced by Judith Butler’s concept of performativity in its most general terms, scholars have argued for the centrality of the body to musical experience. The music historians who contributed to Case, et al. 1995 led the way in exploring the equivalences between performativity and musical performance. The concept of performativity has usefully disaggregated key units of analysis in ethnomusicology, namely “identity” and “community.” For example, Eidsheim 2009 aims to articulate the ways that specific musical sounds or styles relate to historically situated politics of race, as does Goldin-Perschbacher 2007 in regard to gender and sexuality. Performativity has also enabled consideration of history and memory, as carried in the style of the performing body, such as in Roach 1996 and Gray 2007, and facilitated analyses that integrate sound, the performance event, and the sensorium more generally, as in Abreu 2008.

  • Abreu, Maria José A. de. 2008. Goose bumps all over: Breath, media, and tremor. Social Text 26.3 (Fall): 59–78.

    DOI: 10.1215/01642472-2008-004Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Analyzes how the natural, technological, and mystical intersect through a study of the performance of a charismatic Catholic priest at mediated worship events. Shows how participants come to sense the presence of the metaphysical through large-scale mediated events, interiorized through repetitive breathing patterns encoded in the rhythm of recorded music and songs, and manifested on the surface of the skin as goose bumps.

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  • Blacking, John, ed. 1977. The anthropology of the body. London: Academic Press.

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    An early edited collection that highlighted the significance of the body for ethnomusicological research by presenting papers about body as performed in dance, trance, and instrument playing alongside anthropological studies of the body in relation to health, play, sorcery, sexuality, anatomical classification systems, and so forth.

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  • Case, Sue-Ellen, Philip Brett, and Susan Leigh Foster, eds. 1995. Cruising the performative: Interventions into the representation of ethnicity, nationality, and sexuality. Bloomington: Indiana Univ. Press.

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    Considers how social codes associated with historically specific notions of race, class, gender, sexuality, and so forth are registered and constituted through various kinds of performance, including by means of musical expression.

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  • Eidsheim, Nina. 2009. Synthesizing Race: Towards an Analysis of the Performativity of Vocal Timbre. In Special Issue: Música y estudios sobre performance. Edited by Alejandro L. Madrid. TRANS: Revista Transculural de Música 13.

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    A discussion of the production of vocal timbre and its interpretation as racialized focusing on a vocal synthesis software package. Special issue on Music and Performance Studies.

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  • Erlmann, Veit. 1996. Nightsong: Performance, power, and practice in South Africa. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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    Historical and ethnographic analysis of Zulu men’s isicathamiya choral competitions and the life practices of the choristers under apartheid. Argues that performance produces a space between accommodation and resistance in which these working-class and migrant men and women have control over their own representation.

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  • Goldin-Perschbacher, Shana. 2007. “Not with you but of you”: “Unbearable intimacy” and Jeff Buckley’s transgendered vocality. In Oh boy! Masculinities and popular music. Edited by Freya Jarman-Ivens, 213–233. New York: Routledge.

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    Analysis of the range of singing styles of a white heterosexual rock artist in order to consider the boundaries of his musical and gender identities. His vocal choices that have an unsettled relationship to his biological sex trouble rock male identity and suggest a politics of allegiance with other positionalities such as queer, woman, and black.

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  • Gray, Lila Ellen. 2007. Memories of empire, mythologies of the soul: Fado performance and the shaping of saudade. Ethnomusicology 51.1: 106–130.

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    Considers the relationship between history and feeling, by focusing on how stories of the origin of fado, ideas of the soul, and sentiments of belonging coalesce in the moment of performance and in the sounding of the voice.

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  • Roach, Joseph. 1996. Cities of the dead: Circum-Atlantic performance. New York: Columbia Univ. Press.

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    Memory is carried in the body, registered in voice and gesture, and publicly witnessed and renewed in performance events such as carnival and in everyday ritual. History and memory are entwined through the traffic and networks that tie London to New Orleans and other places around the Caribbean that bear the history of the slave trade.

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  • Seeger, Anthony. 1987. Why Suyá sing: A musical anthropology of an Amazonian people. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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    An ethnography that charts the social system as also a sound system. In particular, kin relations are articulated through socially organized ritual song.

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Affect and the Senses

Ethnomusicological consideration of the ways that emotion, affect, and the senses inform musical experience has drawn on historical and anthropological discussions that disaggregate the sensorium into analyses of distinct interrelated senses. At the same time, analysis of musical performance that had taken semiotic or Turner-inspired approaches deepened with the inspiration of phenomenological approaches to the body. The artful body could be articulated as singular yet socialized—positioned biographically, historically, and politically—and yet uniquely skilled and expressive, as in the case of Feld 1996. This development also draws on a long history in ethnomusicological research on the role of music in producing altered states associated with worship and healing rituals. In its systematic comparison of the music of trance states, Rouget 1985 finds no universal principles to account for the physiological and emotional effects of music. Instead, Rouget argues for a productive relationship between culture and physiological effect. Feld 2012 shows aesthetic synesthesia —the intensity and specificity of juxtaposing and layering an idea in multiple sensory modalities and communicative media—contributing to the efficacy of trance. Qureshi 1986 details how improvised repetition and variation responding to an audience in particular religious settings creates the possibility for transition into other states. Altered states are possible through the immersion of the body in a total sensory experience that is interpreted in terms of a supporting cosmology. Emoff 2002 tracks how spirit possession enables the recollection of a narrative past, adding a historical colonial dimension to a study of musical embodiment. Kapchan 2007 examines the insertion of a trance form into the secular global market to consider how the aesthetics and sensorial aspects of trance are transfigured. Friedson 2009 draws directly on phenomenology to understand healing practices. Dance is present in all these ethnographic studies, though integrated into the analysis to varying degrees and in most cases with limited specificity. The role music and sound play in producing altered states draws attention to music as an immersive bodily experience. If ethnomusicological studies of trance practices have pushed scholars to consider music as sensory and affective, emerging literature on music-technological engagement with the body is equally provocative in this regard. While Bradby 1993 considers the representation of the female body as fragmented through sampling in dance music (especially house music), Bahn, et al. 2001 discusses the feedback loop between the body and machine in interactive computer music performance. Both of these human-machine case studies call into question ethnomusicology’s tendency to fetishize immediacy as crucial to immersion. In other words, technological mediation unsettles the presumption that the relationship between musical expression and embodiment is necessarily coherent and noncontradictory.

  • Bahn, Curtis, Tomie Hahn, and Dan Trueman. 2001. Physicality and feedback: A focus on the body in the performance of electronic music. In Proceedings of the International Computer Music Conference 2001. San Francisco: International Computer Music Association and the Instituto Cubano de la Música.

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    Using the heightened example of interactive computer music, the authors argue that compositional approaches that integrate bodily experience with electronic music through physical participation is a necessary move if the sociality of music is to be sustained and expanded in the age of electronic technology.

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  • Bradby, Barbara. 1993. Sampling sexuality: Gender, technology and the body in dance music. Popular Music 12.2: 155–176.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0261143000005535Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Using Haraway’s cyborg as a point of departure, Bradby analyses the fragmentation of the female body through sampling, vocal production, and video images in popular dance music, especially 1990s house music, in order to reassess how new technologies have altered the concept of performance and may have shifted gender ideologies with it.

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  • Emoff, Ron. 2002. Recollecting from the past: Musical practice and spirit possession on the east coast of Madagascar. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan Univ. Press.

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    An ethnography of the performance practices, musical style, and aesthetics of spirit possession ceremonies, focusing on the social and symbolic efficacy of ritual experience through which ideas about the past are brought to bear on the present.

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  • Feld, Steven. 1996. Waterfalls of song: An acoustemology of place resounding in Bosavi, Papua New Guinea. In Senses of place. Edited by Steven Feld and Keith H. Basso, 91–136. Santa Fe, NM: School of American Research.

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    Unpacks the poetic, referential, musical, and acoustic details of a performance by the Kaluli singer and composer Ulahi. Explains these details in terms of Kaluli music theoretic discourse and situates the performance and lyrics in Ulahi’s biography and, more broadly, in Kaluli ways of relating to the gendered social and ecological world. Argues for the concept of “acoustemology,” sound as a way of knowing the world.

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  • Feld, Steven. 2012. Sound and sentiment: Birds, weeping, poetics, and song in Kaluli expression. 3d ed. Durham, NC: Duke Univ. Press.

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    This monograph articulates why sound is socially, cosmologically, and ecologically efficacious, demonstrating how these domains are connected through ways of listening. It offers a way in to close analysis to support the argument, and it treats music, language, weeping, song, and the acoustic environment as equally valuable in a social ecological world. Originally published in 1982.

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  • Friedson, Steven M. 2009. Remains of ritual: Northern gods in a southern land. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

    DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226265063.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A well-storied ethnography about ritual around an Ewe medicine shrine in Ghana, in which the inseparable practices of music and ritual are shown to be crucial to social and individual well-being.

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  • Kapchan, Deborah. 2007. Traveling spirit masters: Moroccan Gnawa trance and music in the global marketplace. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan Univ. Press.

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    Examines the cross-fertilization of sacred Gnawa trance in Morocco and its commercial renditions in performance on the world music and festival circuit.

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  • Qureshi, Regula. 1986. Sufi music of India and Pakistan: Sound, context, and meaning in qawwali. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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    An ethnography structured around the performance event. A qawwali performance is situated within the organization of an occasion and its flow analyzed in order to show how musical significance is coproduced with the context of its performance.

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  • Rouget, Gilbert. 1985. Music and trance: A theory of the relations between music and possession. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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    A classic comparative study using examples from around the world and from the past, seeking shared musical and social principles that might distinguish trance performance, and well as considering the differing features of various kinds of altered state performance, such as trance, shamanism, ecstasy, mediumship, and so forth.

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Disease and Healing

There has been a long-standing interest in healing within ethnomusicology. Encountered in the process of studies of ritual, myth and cosmology—aspects of social life that engage music and performance intensely—ethnomusicologists have focused on how cosmologies inflect perspectives on the body, and thus on appropriate practices of well-being and healing. In these studies, from McAllester 1954 to Olsen 1996, sound and performance play a mediating role in healing rituals, for music is key to spirit mediumship, and spirit mediumship to healing. Drawing on the subfield of ethnomedicine, Roseman 1991 likewise sustains a holistic approach that integrates cosmology, ecology, and the socio-musical, while introducing the role of affect and memory in the Temiar health system. Gouk 2000 places multiple systems of health and spirituality/belief in conversation, including those of Europe’s past. Koen 2009 specifically contrasts the epistemological divide between science and spirituality in the West with the integrated approach to health and well-being that ethnography of a Tajikistan community reveals. The increased public presence of alternative medical practices and of music therapy in the United States (if not in the West at large) is one prompt that has encouraged scholars to seek interdisciplinary conversation with medical practitioners, to examine the role of sound in Western medical practice (as Rice 2011 does), and to continue ethnographic study of music in other health systems around the world. Another major impetus has been the global HIV/AIDS epidemic, with Africanist studies producing the majority of the work. Barz and Cohen 2011 searches for connections between music and the disease, revealing in its cross-disciplinary authorship how music touches the health arena just as HIV/AIDS is part of the everyday of music making on the African continent. McNeill 2011, an ethnography of HIV/AIDS references in Venda performance events, addresses the encounter between global intervention processes and traditionalist politics. Johnson 2011 widens ethnomusicology’s focus on music as it pertains to the healing of physiological disease to encompass post-traumatic stress and abuse, highlighting the vexed relationship between healing from illness and social recovery.

  • Barz, Gregory, and Judah M. Cohen, eds. 2011. The culture of AIDS in Africa: Hope and healing through music and the arts. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

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    A diversity of voices, including some from the African continent, presenting case studies or essays that explore how the arts play a role in the prevention and cure of HIV/AIDS through practices of caring or activism. Emphasis on lyrics and contexts of performance rather than on sound and its analysis. Gavin Steingo’s essay complicates the theoretical suturing of music to HIV/AIDS.

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  • Gouk, Penelope, ed. 2000. Musical healing in cultural contexts. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate.

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    An interdisciplinary collection that spans the centuries in its foci and brings attention to the cross-disciplinary convergences around music and healing. Argues broadly for the power of music in healing practices. Includes a concluding essay by Gouk on the historical intersections between the disciplines of music and medicine.

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  • Johnson, Jenny Olivia. 2011. The touch of the violin, the coldness of the bell: Synaesthesia, mimesis, and the unlocking of traumatic memory in Bunita Marcus’s “The Rugmaker” and Andra McCartney’s “Learning to Walk.” Women and Music: A Journal of Gender and Culture 15:18–37.

    DOI: 10.1353/wam.2011.0000Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Explores how the sense memories of childhood abuse of two composers are viscerally present in the world of their compositional sound. Argues against programmatic interpretation in favor of the metaphoric and synesthetic, and proposes that sound is efficacious in constituting a post-traumatic subjectivity.

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  • Koen, Benjamin D. 2009. Beyond the roof of the world: Music, prayer, and healing in the Pamir mountains. Oxford and New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

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    Champions the term “medical ethnomusicology” in an ethnography of spiritual philosophy and health practices in Badakhshan, Tajikistan, as read through musical practices. Aims to present a case study of the holistic approach to health to which ICAM healing (integrative, complementary, and alternative medicine) in the West aspires.

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  • McAllester, David. 1954. Enemy way music: A study of social and esthetic values as seen in Navaho music. Cambridge, MA: Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology.

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    A classic study of a major portion of Navajo public and ceremonial life. Discusses dance, questions of tonality and rhythm, texts, ritual process, and social function. Argues that for the Navajo, aesthetic value of the ceremony’s songs is tied up in their social and medical efficacy. Focuses on the ways that restoration of balance through healing songs is integral to Navajo worldview and aesthetics.

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  • McNeill, Frazer G. 2011. AIDS, politics, and music in South Africa. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511842580Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An ethnography that builds on the work of John Blacking in Venda (now Limpopo), South Africa. McNeil searches for reasons for the failures of HIV/AIDS intervention in Venda. He identifies the intersection of global conventions of peer education with the politics of traditionalism as the source of the problem.

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  • Olsen, Dale A. 1996. Music of the Warao of Venezuela: Song people of the rain forest. Gainesville: Univ. Press of Florida.

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    A systematic study that categorizes instruments, ritual processes, and their cosmological correlations. Curing rituals form the core of the study.

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  • Rice, Tom. 2011. Sounding bodies: Medical students and the acquisition of stethoscopic perspectives. In The Oxford handbook of sound studies. Edited by Trevor Pinch and Karin Bijsterveld, 298–319. Oxford and New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

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    Ethnography conducted in London in the cardiothoracic unit of St Thomas’ Hospital. Explores how sounds of the body and medical practitioners training to hear and analyze those sounds shape doctor’s perceptions of their own bodies and so also the patient-doctor relationship. Listening is a key diagnostic resource and thereby plays a key role in the healing process.

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  • Roseman, Marina. 1991. Healing sounds from the Malaysian rainforest: Temiar music and medicine. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

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    A landmark musical monograph that ethnographically investigates Temiar medicinal values not only as they arise from Temiar cosmology and the ecology of the rainforest, but also as they intersect with Temiar aesthetics.

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Work, Labor, Technology

Prompted by the sociology of art, the Birmingham school’s class and consumption foci, Gramscian writing on the arts (especially Raymond Williams), and the idea of agency promoted by practice theory, scholars have turned to investigate production as a component of the creative process. This turn inserts the organization of institutions and the politics of labor into questions of aesthetics. Becker 1982, a study of the elite high art world in the United States, made this point dramatically, spawning a range of ethnographic projects. Mahon 2000 enumerates the various forms of visible evidence of the work of cultural producers and cultural brokers across the arts, even though public recognition of their work tends to be minimal. Since the invention of the phonograph, the development of musical styles and performance practices have been intimately tied to changing technologies of sound recording, processing, distribution, and consumption. Recording technologies, in other words, play a role in genre formation, music composition, and style innovation by offering new capacities for the manipulation of sound waves. But these sound technologies also play a creative role because they insert artists and their sounds into media networks. Ethnographies of music production, therefore, are at once analyses of histories of struggle that have configured gender, race and ethnicity, and class in various ways contingent upon local social, technological, and musical conditions (Greene and Porcello 2005). Whether the global music industry enables creative agency or whether it represents the exploitation of artists as musical laborers was a particularly animated debate in the early 1990s, performed, for example, in the dialogic format of Keil and Feld 1994. This debate remains active, especially with regard to questions of musical rights and ownership (see World Music). While the politics of global cultural production is most readily researched within the popular music industry where aesthetic and market values converge, other arenas have made important contributions to the understanding of the work of making music. Berliner 1994, an ethnography of jazz improvisation, details the task of musical learning and transmission upon which improvisation rests, and which endures for the life of the musician. Schloss 2004 shows that bin-hunting is a form of musical labor for samplers and deejays. For these artists, consumption in the form of record buying is a necessary creative endeavor prior to the production of new musical mixes in performance or in recorded form. Faulkner and Becker 2009 chronicles the multiple kinds of work entailed in accumulating knowledge about repertory that collective bandstand performance requires.

  • Becker, Howard S. 1982. Art worlds. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

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    Examines art production as a set of collaborative and collective activities, networked from the level of the individual to that of the state. The creation and dissemination of expressive culture is the outcome of labor, with changing and asymmetrical divisions between those with core artistic roles and peripheral support roles. Becker treats these roles as ideological rather than instrumental constructs.

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  • Berliner, Paul. 1994. Thinking in jazz: The infinite art of improvisation. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

    DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226044521.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Focuses on how musicians absorb musical materials from others. Becoming idiomatically fluent in jazz performance, and developing the skills and techniques to render that fluency, are the subject of deep ethnographic description.

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  • Faulkner, Robert R., and Howard S. Becker. 2009. “Do you know . . . ?”: The jazz repertoire in action. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

    DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226239224.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A study of how musicians with shared generic knowledge but no shared performance experience create real-time performances. Real-time musical negotiations “on the stand” illustrate how a shared knowledge of performance and musical conventions replicate nonmusical forms of social interaction, while sociality is also cultivated through repertorial exchanges in music and talk.

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  • Greene, Paul D., and Thomas Porcello, eds. 2005. Wired for sound: Engineering and technologies in sonic cultures. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan Univ. Press.

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    Essays on technologically mediated music production and consumption selected for their ethnographic methodology, diverse regional representation, and explorations of nonsegmentable features of sound. Examines how identity construction and musical aesthetics are rendered audible in music production and listening practices, and argues that the social, musical, and technological are coproduced.

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  • Keil, Charles, and Steven Feld. 1994. Music grooves: Essays and dialogues. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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    A collection of previously published articles and newly transcribed dialogues between the two authors. In the era of “World Music” bins at big-box record stores and parallel charts in Billboard magazine, Keil and Feld reexamine their previous scholarship on world music, and talk through the confluence of commodification practices, sonic conventions, circulation networks, and performance practices of musicians from various musical traditions.

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  • Mahon, Maureen. 2000. The visible evidence of cultural producers. Annual Review of Anthropology 29:467–492.

    DOI: 10.1146/annurev.anthro.29.1.467Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Reviews work that examines the material practices of cultural producers, including music producers, in relation to social transformation. Argues for the persuasive power and popular efficacy of mediated cultural forms and suggests that further critical interrogation of mediated practices and the agency of producers could enable meaningful interchange between academic and applied researchers.

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  • Schloss, Joseph Glenn. 2004. Making beats: the art of sample-based hip-hop. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan Univ. Press.

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    A study of people who make beats from preexisting recordings. The work details the labor of searching through bins of records for sale at shops, auctions, and garage sales; the culling of recordings bought in bulk; and the assembling of salvaged recordings into performance sets.

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Circulation

Music circulation has been an enabling precondition of ethnomusicological research. The field was configured through the history of colonialism in a number of ways. First, the distance between a researcher located in the First World and musical objects and practitioners located in colonized lands was mediated by the use of music technology from the early days of comparative musicology. This circulation from periphery to center also helped constitute research techniques such as repeated listening for transcription, the practices of preservation, and the production of field recordings as a major endeavor in the field. Second, movement of musicians that has enabled encounters and collaborations, and the migration of peoples have also determined the field. The politics of forced displacement through the history of slavery, colonialisms, war, and economic and ecological devastation has been central to the very configuration of the musics ethnomusicologists study. Third, some histories of musical styles, genres, and repertories are themselves constituted through political histories of migration, diaspora, and displacement. The study of the production of popular music and its politics of circulation, often as celebration of local resistance to the global domination of the international popular music industry, has been a major topic in the field since the 1980s. In recent years the rapid transformation and miniaturization of music technologies has led to studies of the relationship between intellectual property rights and new musical economies. Key topics include the market for “World Music,” DIY (Do It Yourself modes of music production and technological experimentation), and the role played by technology in musical transformation and appropriation. The dispersal of technologies of musical production and their appropriation by different peoples has led ethnomusicologists to explore the localized politics of sound recording in a globalized world characterized by the uneven distribution of capacities of circulation and representation. From an initial history of preservation of Third World musics before they either grayed out or died out, to the investigation of multiple practices of musical exchange, the politics of ethnomusicology’s understanding of circulation have undergone a major transformation.

World Music

The term “world music” is used to encompass different musical, economic, political, and social issues regarding the global circulation of sounds from different parts of the world during the modern period. Scholars define the beginning of such a modern period in different ways. Erlmann 1999 proposes that the 1890s marks the emergence of a society of the spectacle in which media began to play a central role in global interconnectivity, modes of constructing knowledge, and aesthetic practices, thus marking it as a period distinct from earlier eras. Taylor 2007 distinguishes between three stages of global domination from “the West to the Rest”—namely, colonialism, imperialism, and globalization—and locates the beginnings of such global dominance in Europe in the 17th century. Whatever the temporary framework used by scholars, as Bohlman 2002 notes, “world music” became a widely used term in ethnomusicology after the 1980s due to its emergence as a market category and the intensification of the musical, political, and social tensions of circulation of sounds historically considered local or traditional, enhanced through technological changes of the digital era and the transformation of the global music industry. Feld 2000 identifies one of the main topics of world music scholarship as the tension between the celebratory aspects of musical diversity and the anxieties produced by the unequal economic grounds on which such a market develops. Feld 1996 offers a case study that tracks the unequal practices of musical representation between the West and the rest. Meintjes 2003 ethnographically demonstrates how conflicts emerge in different ideals of musical sounds between local performative practices and global marketing tendencies. Born and Hesmondhalgh 2000 considers musical borrowings by the European empire across a wide range of music traditions and styles. Such questions concerning struggles over difference are a central dimension of this literature. Stokes 2004 explores the particular characteristics of the construction of globalization through musical practices.

  • Bohlman, Philip V. 2002. World music, a very short introduction. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

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    A book that highlights the multiple meanings of globalization after September 2001, and that locates “world music” as a term used since the 1980s to describe musics of many different types. The book is structured around the types of encounters propitiated by and through world music.

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  • Born, Georgina, and David Hesmondhalgh, eds. 2000. Western music and its others: Difference, representation and appropriation in music. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

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    The essays in this edited collection explore issues of musical borrowings or appropriations and the ways music has been used to construct alterity in different types of musical representations of difference. While not all the essays are about world music, it is a landmark collection of the idea of music and difference in the context of global exchanges of difference.

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  • Erlmann, Veit. 1999. Music, modernity, and the global imagination: South Africa and the West. New York and Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195123678.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This is an ethnography of the global imagination explored through particular instances of global articulation of African musics. The author argues for the beginning of the global age in the 1890s due to shifts in the relation between subject, knowledge, and the real.

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  • Feld, Steven. 1996. Pygmy POP: A genealogy of schizophonic mimesis. Yearbook for Traditional Music 28:1–35.

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    Drawing on R. Murray Schafer’s term “schizophonia,” this article coins the term “schizophonic mimesis” to denote different practices of interaction and extraction of music from different parts of the world in the intensification of globalization. Feld specifically traces how this happens with pygmy music.

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  • Feld, Steven. 2000. A sweet lullaby for world music. Public Culture 12.1: 145–171.

    DOI: 10.1215/08992363-12-1-145Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This essay explores the tension between celebratory and contentious narratives of music’s globalization and increasing virtuality. It historicizes the term “world music” and addresses how the interplay between anxiety and celebration takes form in the circulation of particular phonograms from ethnomusicological archives to the world music market.

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  • Meintjes, Louise. 2003. Sound of Africa! Making music Zulu in a South African studio. Durham, NC: Duke Univ. Press.

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    This ethnography, which is principally sited in the control room of a recording studio, considers the politics of music production through which a sound of Zuluness comes to circulate on the market during South Africa’s transition to democracy in the early 1990s.

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  • Stokes, Martin. 2004. Music in the global order. Annual Review of Anthropology 33:47–72.

    DOI: 10.1146/annurev.anthro.33.070203.143916Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This text explores accounts of globalization generated through the interactions and global myth-making generated by musical processes.

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  • Taylor, Timothy D. 2007. Beyond exoticism: Western music and the world. Durham, NC: Duke Univ. Press.

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    This book addresses the three systems of domination from the 17th century to the present—colonialism, imperialism, globalization—and the power enacted to musically represent Others.

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Postcolonialism

Historically, the study of “colonial music” was a field addressed primarily by musicology. It used to mean the study of music from lands colonized by Europe, especially notated musics with Western influence that emerged during the colonial era. With the critique of colonialism generated by postcolonial studies, and with ethnomusicology’s turn to incorporate the historical, ethnomusicology and other musical disciplines have begun to research this topic and to articulate what the postcolonial means in music scholarship. Scholars seek to address the unequal power relations in the history of musical transformations that emerged in the wake of colonialism, rethink European music history as transformed by the colonial process, and redress forceful erasures of musical practices and conceptualizations. Colonialism is understood less as a temporally and spatially limited framework and more as a political process whose history is not limited solely to the past but also affects the present. Bloechl 2008 and Weidman 2006 consider the rise of musical modernity in different parts of the world (however it is defined); Baker 2008, Erlmann 1999 (cited under World Music), and Bloechl 2008 address the history of musical interactions, exchanges, and appropriations between the West and the rest; Agawu 2003 and Weidman 2006 deconstruct practices of representation that led to certain definitions of music, musical concepts, and musical practice; and Tomlinson 2007 uncovers voices not formerly included in colonial studies. The study of hybrid forms of worship in performance, as in Muller 1999, and the turn to the study of musical practices as opposed solely to musical scores, as in Baker 2008, has expanded the study of music and the colonial by understanding its history not solely as a legacy of apartheid or European heritage on colonial lands, but also of the complex global political and acoustic interactions generated by its legacy. In addition to these key topics, acknowledging the colonial in ethnomusicology has implied attending to its complex disciplinary history. On the one hand, scholars are beginning to address how the history of ethnomusicology was constituted through the power inequalities of the colonial encounter. Yet, simultaneously, anthropologically inflected ethnomusicology has played a crucial role in questioning the very concepts, categories of analysis, and analytical practices that have historically defined the study of music. Also crucial is the understanding that musical disciplines are not solely forged in the West but have different formations depending on the place of origin, demonstrated by Diamond 2008. Ochoa Gautier 2006 addresses a key topic, namely the way the analytic categories of music are constituted through the interplay between their ontological significance and historical contingencies. Weidman and Tomlinson have paid specific attention to the place of vocalization in such a history, thus questioning the long-held duality between writing and orality (see Weidman 2006 and Tomlinson 2007).

  • Agawu, Kofi. 2003. Representing African music: Postcolonial notes, queries, positions. New York: Routledge.

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    Agawu argues for a “scientific project of African musicology” (p. 49) in order to counteract the difference produced by modernist epistemologies. A consequence of that difference is that African musics have historically been treated in analytic terms that are distinct from those used for Western art music. He anticipates that if all musics were to be subject to the same analytic rigor, the EuroAmerican center would become more inclusive of African values.

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  • Baker, Geoffrey. 2008. Imposing harmony: Music and society in colonial Cuzco. Durham, NC: Duke Univ. Press.

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    Baker seeks to decenter the study of colonial music as focused on cathedral music and musical works by addressing diverse colonial musical practices, institutions, and urban soundscapes through research in different types of archives, thereby addressing a broad spectrum of urban colonial musical culture that includes Andean musicians and practices.

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  • Bloechl, Olivia A. 2008. Native American song at the frontiers of early modern music. Cambridge, UK, and New York: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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    Explicitly defined as a postcolonial musicology, this book seeks to provincialize Europe by exploring how European music was transformed through intercultural relations with its colonies during the early modern period.

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  • Diamond, Bev, Denis Crowdy, and Daniel Downes. 2008. Post-colonial distances: The study of pop music in Canada and Australia. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Scholars.

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    This book explores how popular music studies in Australia and Canada have decentered the mainstream focus of popular music studies as centered in the United Kingdom and the United States. It does so by paying attention to the type of scholarship developed in the region and to a diversity of musical genres, from indigenous pop-rock to Canadian jazz.

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  • Muller, Carol Ann. 1999. Rituals of fertility and the sacrifice of desire: Nazarite women’s performance in South Africa. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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    An ethnography of the religious empire of Isaiah Shembe in which gendered worship practices and the belief system of the church grows out of a history of colonial encounter and takes shape in response to the apartheid regime.

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  • Ochoa Gautier, Ana Maria. 2006. Sonic transculturation, epistemologies of purification and the aural public sphere in Latin America. Social Identities 12.6:803–825.

    DOI: 10.1080/13504630601031022Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In this article Ochoa Gautier explores the creation of an aural public sphere as constitutive of the colonial modern in Latin America by addressing the disciplinary construction of studies of traditional and popular music in the region.

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  • Tomlinson, Gary. 2007. The singing of the new world: Indigenous voice in the era of European contact. Cambridge, UK, and New York: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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    Tomlinson addresses the significance of singing, a heightened form of vocalization, in the early colonial period in the making of the indigenous and colonial worlds. He seeks to address the lack of attention to voice in New World historiography, despite abundant historical material, by exploring singing among several indigenous groups (Nahua, Inca, Tupi) as an act of world and self-making.

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  • Weidman, Amanda. 2006. Singing the classical, voicing the modern: The postcolonial politics of music in South India. Durham, NC: Duke Univ. Press.

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    Weidman explores how “colonial modernity” is forged through the interrelationship between institutional transformations, the publishing industry, musical discourses, and practices that recast the indigenous as modern in the historical interplay between West and East. She pays particular attention to the politics of the voice in Karnatic music and its role in the constitution of the tensions between musical indigeneities and the modern.

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Sound Reproduction

Brady 1999 notes that the invention of sound reproduction technologies was crucial to formalizing ethnomusicology’s status as a scholarly discipline. Sterne 2003 shows how the development of these technologies was related to clinical research on deafness, to the rise of acoustics, and to ideals of preservation related to the perceived imminent disappearance of different musical cultures. The rise of sound archives as a central aspect of ethnomusicological research often took place without regard for the property rights of the musicians recorded (see Archiving). Menezes Bastos 2009 presents the view that indigenous peoples in different parts of the world are now producing many of their own recordings, often in collaboration with outsiders, and the control of phonographic products has become part of a larger agenda of struggle for political rights. Ochoa Gautier 2003 charts how the development of the music industry and the rise of popular musics around the world paralleled the rise of ethnographic recordings. From the 1980s onward, technological transformations enhanced the local possibilities of music production, not only generating a world music market, but also, as noted in Travassos 2005, diversifying national musical productions and constituting new notions of difference and alterity. The rise of P2P (peer-to-peer) technologies of exchange has moved the debate on the global circulation of local musics from one of economic inequalities in their global appropriation to one of the propriety and legality of different models of intellectual property rights, as noted in Ochoa and Botero 2009. In more recent times, the rise of DIY (Do It Yourself modes of music production and technological experimentation) and the diversification of business models of production have challenged the copyright system as the primary one for legal music distribution. Lemos and Castro 2008 shows how these challenges have given rise to different models of musical economies and notions of musical property. As Calvi 2008 notes, the challenge to processes of distribution based on copyright has privatized the Internet and increased the struggle between cultures of sharing and cultures of privatization, a discussion that extends well beyond the rise of piracy. Le Guern 2012 argues that the rise of new technologies of music reproduction have generated new questions. In particular the author asks whether this is simply a transformation of sound reproduction or whether such transformations are actually changing musical ontologies, unsettling our fundamental understanding of sound.

Listening and Sound

Since the 1980s, ethnomusicology has seen a growth in work devoted to listening as a phenomenological and cultural practice. Likewise, interest in the incorporation of music into broader auditory environments, both natural and built, has surged, sometimes setting music up in juxtaposition to other kinds of sound. Discussions about listening and sound—especially the convergence of these two issues—has brought analytic attention to complex and ambiguous sonic and auditory categories such as timbre, distortion, noise, and other nonsegmentable phenomena.

Listening as a Phenomenological and Cultural Practice

While early ethnomusicology was largely devoted to either the structural study of non-Western musics or, later, to the performance practices of such musics, a recent strand in the discipline has been the study of practices and structures of listening. Merleau-Ponty 1962, a foundational work on the phenomenology of perception, has provided the theoretical underpinning for much of this work, while Idhe 2007, a sustained discussion of the phenomenology of listening practices, is essential both for its centrality to a sensorial ethnomusicology and for demonstrating how ethnography can ground phenomenological inquiry. Studies of sound from cultural, social, and historical perspectives in many fields have generated works from other disciplines that have strongly influenced ethnomusicology. Erlmann 2004 and Bull and Back 2003, two collections of essays, bridge phenomenology with textual and historical analysis of the relationship between listening, emergent modernity, and sound reproduction, while Sterne 2003 challenges common assumptions that technologies changed listening by arguing that forms of knowledge attached to the modernizing process changed listening in ways that enabled new technologies of hearing. Ethnomusicological case studies of listening address a wide range of subjects from technology (Perlman 2004), to performance (Downey 2002), to perception (Berger 1997).

  • Berger, Harris. 1997. The practice of perception: Multi-functionality and time in the musical experiences of a heavy metal drummer. Ethnomusicology 41.3: 464–488.

    DOI: 10.2307/852760Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Perceptual practices are argued as key to the repertory of heavy metal drummers and to the purposes of heavy metal music more broadly. Arguing against more narrowly sonic approaches to studying performance, and seeking to define phenomenological ethnography, this work argues that perception is not passive, but rather an achievement of social actors.

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  • Bull, Michael, and Les Back, eds. 2003. The auditory culture reader. Oxford: Berg.

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    An explicit argument against the dominance of the primacy of visual culture, and a wide-ranging introduction to the range of nonscientific scholarship on sound since the 1990s.

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  • Downey, Greg. 2002. Listening to capoeira: Phenomenology, embodiment, and the materiality of music. Ethnomusicology 46.3: 487–509.

    DOI: 10.2307/852720Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Asks what people actually hear when they listen to music, and how that hearing may differ from performer to audience to listener of a recording. Using a notion of “bodily apprenticeship,” Downey suggests that hearing is inseparable from bodily engagement with motion (whether to play an instrument or to respond expressively). Hearing more broadly is inseparable from cross-sensorial experience.

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  • Erlmann, Veit, ed. 2004. Hearing cultures: Essays on sound, listening, and modernity. Oxford: Berg.

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    A collection of essays by scholars from disciplines including ethnomusicology, history, literary criticism, and science and technology studies. Modernization and globalization are key concepts in a wide-ranging set of essays on historically and culturally specific listening practices.

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  • Idhe, Don. 2007. Listening and voice: Phenomenologies of sound. 2d ed. Albany: State Univ. of New York Press.

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    A meditation on the role of sound in human life, with a particular emphasis on evolving technological aids to and capacities for listening. Of particular interest to the ethnomusicologist are discussions of the auditory field, the shapes of sound, the concepts of “horizon,” experience and polyphony, and “voice.” Originally published in 1976.

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  • Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. 1962. The phenomenology of perception. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

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    A philosophical tract that insists that one cannot understand phenomena without acknowledging the body as a perceiving mechanism. Merleau-Ponty’s work has been influential both in theoretical writings on the conduct of fieldwork and within the social and cultural studies of sensorial experience and practice, including listening, hearing, and music.

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  • Perlman, Marc. 2004. Golden ears and meter readers: The contest for epistemic authority in audiophilia. Social Studies of Science 34.5: 759–782.

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    Examines ideologies that link the rarefied listening practices of audiophilia to discourses that legitimize the evaluation of sound quality. The essay, based on ethnographic research, highlights the tension between scientific studies of sound quality and subjective evaluations that link sound directly to sensual experience, and points to how discourses about sound often ironically decouple technology from notions of the scientific.

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  • Sterne, Jonathan. 2003. The audible past: Cultural origins of sound reproduction. Durham, NC: Duke Univ. Press.

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    A “speculative history” of listening that seeks to turn on its head the idea that technologies enable new forms of listening. Sterne’s work examines how modernity enabled listening practices that were subsequently realized in technologies such as the telephone, stethoscope, and phonograph. The chapter “A Resonant Tomb” theorizes the ethnographic endeavor as analogous to other modernist modes of preservation, such as canning and embalming.

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Soundscapes and Auditory Environments

Many ethnographers whose work straddles anthropology and ethnomusicology have sought to engage in wholesale investigations of the total sonic practices of peoples and places, and the auditory features present naturally and via human intervention in particular places. Schafer 1994 (cited under Music and Its Social Significance) was among the first to propose an auditory analog for the visual concept of “landscape,” and its argument about differences between a “hi-fi” soundscape (characteristic of rural areas and seen as increasingly rare since the advent of the Industrial Revolution) and a “lo-fi” one (in which the continual presence of mechanical and electrical noise deafens one to the natural environment) influenced many ethnomusicologists working in sonically dense areas such as rain forests. Turnbull 1961, an earlier classic ethnography, was read by many of these scholars as a template for how to engage Schafer’s ideas with ethnographic research and writing. Feld 1996 provides an especially detailed investigation of how multiple sonic features of the rainforest—from the flow of water to singing styles—converge culturally in Papua New Guinea. An overview of recent scholarship in the humanities and social sciences that invokes the concept of “soundscape” can be found in Samuels, et al. 2010. More recently, a number of ethnomusicologists have sought to investigate the soundscape of urban areas. Many of these scholarly works directly examine mediated sonic practices and their movement through urban areas. Of note are Hirschkind 2006, which looks at the nearly continual sonic presence of Islamic sermons playing from cassette tapes in the Middle East, and Hansen 2006, a study of South African township taxi sound systems and musical styles. Sakakeeny 2010 examines how sound factors into contested productions of locality in funerary marches in New Orleans.

  • Feld Steven. 1996. Waterfalls of song: An acoustemology of place resounding in Bosavi, Papua New Guinea. In Senses of place. Edited by Steven Feld and Keith Basso, 91–136. Santa Fe, NM: School of American Research.

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    A complex discussion of the sound-, ear-, and voice-centered sensorium of the Kaluli people of Bosavi, New Guinea. The work examines the concept of “flow” as it is manifested in the local soundscape created by rain forest water and land and then replicated in vocal performative practices ranging from the singing voice to lament.

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  • Hansen, Thomas Blom. 2006. Sounds of freedom: Music, taxis, and racial imagination in urban South Africa. Public Culture 18.1: 185–208.

    DOI: 10.1215/08992363-18-1-185Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Ethnographically analyzes the sound systems of “kombi-taxis” and the post-apartheid township youth music they broadcast. Argues that the movement of this sound through urban South Africa elicits anxious notions of ethnicity, sexuality, and the racial. Kombi-taxis signify a space of blackness that, by virtue of their movement, intrudes upon spaces once reserved for whites, Indians, and other nonblack groups.

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  • Hirschkind, Charles. 2006. The ethical soundscape: Cassette sermons and Islamic counterpublics. New York: Columbia Univ. Press.

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    Examines the cassette sermon as an omnipresent facet of contemporary Middle Eastern urban life. The author’s focus is not only on the texts and messages of such sermons, but more deeply on the affects and sensorium of those who hear them so continually, particularly with respect to how ideas about individual and collective action are linked to listening habits.

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  • Sakakeeny, Matt. 2010. “Under the bridge”: An orientation to soundscapes in New Orleans. Ethnomsuicology 54.1: 1–27.

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    Arguing that place is significantly sensed through sound, the author focuses on how contemporary New Orleans jazz funerals reveal contested constructions of locality.

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  • Samuels, David, Louise Meintjes, Ana María Ochoa, and Thomas Porcello. 2010. Soundscapes: Toward a sounded anthropology. Annual Review of Anthropology 39:329–345.

    DOI: 10.1146/annurev-anthro-022510-132230Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An overview of scholarship on soundscape and sound, produced by scholars in disciplines across the humanities and social sciences. Areas of particular focus include ethnographic work in rainforest settings, recording studio production practices, sound and place in the global economy, and the role of sound in cosmopolitanism and struggle.

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  • Turnbull, Colin. 1961. The forest people. New York: Simon & Schuster.

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    A classic ethnographic account of the Mbuti pygmies of the Ituri rainforest in the Belgian Congo. Turnbull’s systematic and comprehensive attention to human, environmental, and technological sound provides a model for both attentiveness to and description of sound in ethnographic study, and it influenced many ethnomusicologists doing rainforest fieldwork in the 1980s and 1990s.

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Nonsegmentable Sound

As sound recordings and technological mediation have become increasing central to ethnomusicology, so too has the study of dimensions of sound not easily captured by conventions of written transcription. As a result, sonic categories such as noise, timbre, distortion, and spatial configurations of sound sources on recording have received recent analysis. Attali 1985 provides a touchstone definition and examination of noise as both a sonic and social phenomenon; while Rose 1994, that melds textual and sonic analysis of rap, has been foundational for research that links the timbral features of popular music to social practice. More recently, Novak 2013 moves noise from a purely sonic category to a generic classification implicated in cultural marginality. Other scholarship emerges from a case-study approach to sonic manipulation in recording and mixing processes, as well as equipment modifications. More purely sonic studies have focused on concepts of timbre, distortion, and space in technologically mediated musical contexts. Berger and Fales 2005 challenges musicological and sociological popular music studies of heavy metal by locating the significance of metal in timbral rather than textual features, and Fales 2002 makes a broader argument that technological changes are making people more attuned to timbral features of music, but simultaneously less attuned to real-world acoustics of musical performance. Fales 2005 goes further to argue that sound technologies are altering the very way in which people experience the auditory environment. Waksman 2004 examines punk and heavy metal musicians’ modifications of guitars and other sound equipment for specific timbral ends, and relates these practices to genre definition. Doyle 2005 provides a comprehensive examination of the use of spatializing sound processing techniques (such as echo and reverberation) in a variety of recorded American musical styles in the first two-thirds of the 20th-century.

  • Attali, Jacques. 1985. Noise: The political economy of music. Translated by Brian Massumi. Minneapolis: Univ. of Minnesota Press.

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    A formative work that argues that music is best understood as a socially, culturally, and historically specific organization of noise. While the primary argument of the book concerns political economy—that the organization of what any given society defines as music prefigures emerging forms of political organization and struggle—the metaphoric equation of social organization with sonic consonance or dissonance provides a novel way of understanding musical aesthetics.

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  • Berger, Harris M., and Cornelia Fales. 2005. “‘Heaviness’ in the perception of heavy metal guitar timbres: The match of perceptual and acoustic features over time. In Wired for sound: Engineering and technologies in sonic cultures. Edited by Paul D. Greene and Thomas Porcello, 181–197. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan Univ. Press.

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    A case study that links verbal descriptions of tone quality to acoustic features. The authors argue that “heaviness” is linked to guitar distortion, and they use spectrographic analysis to pinpoint the specific frequencies that correlate with heavy metal listeners’ descriptions of a “heavy sound” when listening to recordings spanning three decades.

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  • Doyle, Peter. 2005. Echo and reverb: Fabricating space in popular music recording, 1900–1960. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan Univ. Press.

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    A predominantly textual analysis of sonic features that index “space” in monaural popular music sound recordings. This work is an invaluable resource to thinking about how the sonic qualities of ethnographic recordings are implicated in the representation of musical practices recorded in the field.

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  • Fales, Cornelia. 2002. The paradox of timbre. Ethnomusicology 41.6: 56–95.

    DOI: 10.2307/852808Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An argument that ethnomusicological practices and recordings foreground textual features such as melody when in fact timbral features are more culturally salient for performers and listeners. The work examines several musical examples, dwelling on three Burundi song styles, to argue that properly timbral features are often attributed to more consciously apparent sonic stimuli (such as melody), and thus contribute directly to the sense that music has elusive affective meanings.

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  • Fales, Cornelia. 2005. Short-circuiting perceptual systems: Timbre in ambient and techno music. In Wired for sound: Engineering and technologies in sonic cultures. Edited by Paul D. Greene and Thomas Porcello, 156–180. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan Univ. Press.

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    Proposes that the evolution of sound technologies over the past 150 years—from the mechanical to the electrical to the digital—are fundamentally shifting humans’ orientations to the auditory world from experiential and cognitive perspectives. Electronic music that can create sounds with no relation to the external world de-anchors the historical connection between musical sound and the “real world” in which music has previously been performed.

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  • Novak, David. 2013. Japanoise: Music at the edge of circulation. Durham, NC: Duke Univ. Press.

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    An ethnographic examination of “noise” as a transnational musical style that has become especially associated with contemporary Japan. Sonic “coherence” is examined as both an auditory and an historically specific phenomenon, with “noise” understood as sonic modes that violate accepted ideological sonic configurations.

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  • Rose, Tricia. 1994. Black noise: Rap music and black culture in contemporary America. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan Univ. Press.

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    An examination of the ways that rap music challenged conventional definitions of popular music in the 1980s and 1990s. Rose argues that by shifting the locus of pop music value from melody and harmony to rhythm—and therefore to the distortion of low-frequency vibration—rap introduced noise into the logic of popular music consumerism. The convergence of oppositional textual and sonic narratives is central in her analysis.

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  • Waksman, Steve. 2004. California noise: Tinkering with hardcore and heavy metal in Southern California. Social Studies of Science 34.5: 675–702.

    DOI: 10.1177/0306312704047614Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    “Tinkering” with technological equipment by rock musicians often has as its goal the creation of a novel sound. Eddie Van Halen’s (of the band Van Halen) and Greg Ginn’s (of the band Black Flagg) practices of reconfiguring guitars and amplifiers to achieve novel timbral effects are examined.

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