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Ethnomusicology, formerly comparative musicology, is cultural musicology or the study of music in its cultural context. Formed from the Greek words ethnos (nation) and mousike (music), it can be considered the anthropology or ethnography of music. Jeff Todd Titon has called it the study of "people making music". It is often thought of as a study of non-Western musics, but can include the study of Western music from an anthropological or sociological perspective. Bruno Nettl (1983) believes it is a product of Western thinking, proclaiming "ethnomusicology as western culture knows it is actually a western phenomenon." [1] Nettl believes that there are limits to extraction of meaning from an indigenous culture's music due to perceptual distance of the Western observer from the culture.


While musicology contends to be purely about music itself, ethnomusicologists are more often interested in considering the music they study within a wider cultural context. Ethnomusicology as it emerged in the late 19th century and early 20th century, practiced by people such as Béla Bartók, Zoltán Kodály, Constantin Brǎiloiu, Vinko Zganec, Franjo Ksaver, Carl Stumpf, Erich von Hornbostel, Curt Sachs and Alexander J. Ellis, tended to focus on non-European music transmitted through oral traditions, but in more recent years the field has expanded to embrace all musical styles from all parts of the world.


Ethnomusicologists apply theories and methods from cultural anthropology as well as other disciplines in the social sciences and humanities. Some ethnomusicological works are created not necessarily by 'ethnomusicologists' proper, but instead by anthropologists examining music as an aspect of a culture. A well-known example of such work is Colin Turnbull's study of the Mbuti pygmies. Another example is Jaime de Angulo, a linguist who ended up learning much about the music of the Indians of Northern California.[2] Yet another is Anthony Seeger, professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, who studied the music and society of the Suya people in Mato Grosso, Brazil.[3]

The Society for Ethnomusicology is the primary academic organization for the discipline of ethnomusicology.

See alsoEdit


  1. Bruno Nettl 1983:25 - The Study of Ethnomusicology. Urbana, Chicago, and London: University of Illinois Press.
  2. Jaime de Angulo
  3. Anthony Seeger, Professor, Ethnomusicology UCLA

External linksEdit

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