Category Anthropology Of Music

Anthropology of Music – Post #3 of 3

Photo of Albert Einstein with quote"We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them."

Einstein knew that different perspectives yield new solutions to old problems.

 “Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers.” ~ Voltaire

Through questions that are asked, this essay explores the recent intellectual history of cultural anthropology with respect to contemporary theoretical perspectives.  Our inquiries explore a variety of topics.  What makes different versions of a song the same song?  What gives a song its integrity as a distinct musical utterance?  And one or two others.

Theoretical Perspectives and Research:

Questions That Guide Studies in the Contemporary Field

Ruth Stone

Dr. Ruth Stone

This author was intrigued by ethnomusicologist Ruth M. Stone’s assertion, in Theory For Ethnomusicology, “One of the ways to compare theories is to consider what questions that theorists, employing a particular theory, find interesting and appropriate” (2008: 224). This author seeks to understand the questions that culture theorists and ethnomusicologists have asked in the past ten years. Or put another way, what is the recent intellectual history of cultural anthropology with respect to contemporary theoretical perspectives? This paper seeks to document a broad sample of questions regarding specific theoretical orientations posited by scholars that have been published since September 11, 2001. This date is not arbitrary, as it conveys to this author a global social impact that connotes a worldwide change in mood and perspective. This author suggests that three overlapping viewpoints – identity, modernity, and continuity – inform the experiences investigated by ethnomusicologists during this time period. Identity issues of uniqueness, retention, and change with respect to social encounters, gives rise to expressions of modernity. Modernity offers an approach to perceiving emerging genres through theoretical continuity in the field.

Since the early twentieth century, ethnomusicologists have focused on an array of theories...

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Anthropology of Music – Post #2 of 3

Edison phonograph and wax cylinders from the collection of ethnomusicological recordings at the Berliner Phonogramm-Archiv

Edison phonograph and wax cylinders from the collection of ethnomusicological recordings at the Berliner Phonogramm-Archiv

This is the second post in this heading.  In this essay we are going to learn about the perspectives of some of the most influential theorists who helped to conceptualize the modern field of ethnomusicology including Alan P. Merriam, Bruno Nettl, Phillip V. Bohlman and Ruth M. Stone.  The Society Of Ethnomusicology (SEM) has an annual conference which I attended in 2012 when it touched down in Philadelphia.  While at the conference I was fortunate to hear many interesting academic lectures.  Additionally, I was honored to meet Bruno Nettl and Ruth Stone.

Reading Review 2 - How Do We Know What We Know?

This reading review focuses on three texts: an anthropological approach to conceptualize ethnomusicology, The Anthropology of Music by Alan P. Merriam; a collection of essays on the history of ethnomusicology and it’s methodological and theoretical foundations, Comparative Musicology and Anthropology of Music: Essays on the History of Ethnomusicology (CMAM) by Bruno Nettl and Phillip V. Bohlman; and a contemporary overview of ethnomusicology’s theoretical underpinnings, Theory for Ethnomusicology by Ruth M. Stone. This paper has two primary objectives. The first is to look at the ways that these books specifically relate the history of anthropological theory to that of ethnomusicological theory. The second is to see how these works convey this relationship to the reader and to recognize how closely intertwined the two fields are.

Philip V. Bohlman, ethno-musicologist and writer of numerous books on music around world.

Philip V. Bohlman

Ethnomusicologist, musician and author, Philip V. Bohlman remarks, “Seeing ourselves in the Other and the Other in ourselves” is one of the primary motivations of anthropology (CMAM: 142-43).  Beginning with Alan Merriam’s work, the same could be said of contemporary ethnomusicologists...

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Anthropology Of Music – Post #1 of 3

The following essay was originally written in 2011 for a course I took called “The Anthropology Of Music”. In this course I learned about the theoretical perspectives that influence the field of ethnomusicology – the study of how and why people use music. An understanding of the diverse rubric of perspectives in this field helps me to enjoy music more than I previously did and more than I previously imagined. For example, at this point in 2014 I have been playing music over 47 years; since I was four years old. So, coming from a blues, rock and jazz background, I know how I learned music and I know how music and musical culture has been transmitted to me. A lot of that info is upcoming in future essays. I’m mentioning this because the rubric of my own understanding is more diversely illuminated since I began to understand the myriad of perspectives and approaches that ethnomusicologists employ.  To put it another way, at heart I am a performing musician. I relate to sound from an emotional point of view. When I play music with others, the sounds others make evoke emotions and nature.   When I hear the sounds others make,  I am inspired to participate and communicate with them using my own sound. However, by understanding contemporary cultural anthropological methodologies and perspectives, I now enjoy communicating and participating with a lot more people who use and enjoy music in ways that are different than me.

Anthropology of Music – Reading Review #1

“What has characterized ethnomusicology most throughout its history is a fascination with, and a desire to absorb and understand, the world’s cultural diversity.” ~ Bruno Nettl (1991: xi)

Bruno Nettl

Bruno Nettl

In this review, three books from three time periods link the development of ethnomusicology with the world’s cultural diversity and reflect on the history of ethnomusicological and anthropological theory and practice. Published in 1964, after “some fifteen years of thinking and of discussion with colleagues”, Alan P. Merriam’s The Anthropology of Musi...

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