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Questions About Ethnomusicology

Posted by on in Ethnomusicology Enquiries
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Author Profile: Patrick Egan
This Outreach member has published 17 articles.

For any researchers out there, i'd like to know your experiences on this...

Here are some short questions that have been giving me interesting answers during interviews at the moment:

  1. In what area did you complete your undergrad?
  2. What were your thoughts on what ethnomusicology was before you became involved in the area, what was it that interested you about the subject?
  3. And since becoming involved in the discipline, how has this changed?

Please add a comment below...


  • Alexis Lyon
    Alexis Lyon Monday, 28 October 2013

    I did my undergrad in anthropology and almost finished an education minor as well. I also did my senior seminar, which is like a final course and project that I had to do, in anthropology of music (so very close to ethnomusicology.)

    I really didn't know much about ethnomusicology before becoming involved in the discipline, I knew that I was interested in it because I liked music and was interested in anthropology. I took anthropology of music instead of ethnomusicology (which wasn't offered) when I was an undergrad and I think I thought they would be the same thing, but the differences are subtle. Ethnomusicology, from my experience, is more music heavy- i.e. has a bigger emphasis on learning new types of music and while it does also focus on the cultural aspects of course, technicality of music is emphasized. In anthropology of music, from my experience, you wouldn't necessarily have to be a musician, it's really looking at the cultural context of music. For instance, I remember writing a paper about young girls bonding over their obsessions with boy bands. I didn't need how to learn to be in a boy band for that paper, I didn't even talk to any musicians, or talk to boys in bands. I only looked at the way girls used boy bands as a platform to safely explore their own bonding and sexual development. I only interviewed and researched the girls. So it didn't feel very music heavy even though it was about music. In my ethnomusicology experience though, I probably wouldn't have written a similar paper. I was writing and studying music more from a musicians point of view. So I guess I assumed that anthropology of music and ethnomusicology were the same thing. I went into ethnomusicology wanting to study the cultural aspects of various music therapy programs, which tend to be very western-centric, and I wanted to explore the healing aspects of music from the point of view of different cultures. It was a very anthropology of music topic and less of an ethnomusicology topic. It's still a topic that's very dear to my heart, but I enjoyed being pushed to study other things that reflected the discipline of ethnomusicology a little bit better.

    How has ethnomusicology changed? I think the obvious answer is the discipline now has more digital presence (thanks Paddy!) But I think there's other things too. I think it isn't necessarily about studying "exotic" music anymore. We have the internet so if we want to learn about foreign cultures and their music, it's all right at our fingertips. I'm seeing alot more in terms of applied ethnomusicology- music programs for kids, music programs in juvenile halls, music programs for the public, even my old favorite- music therapy is getting the ethnomusicology treatment. But this bias might be because I'm out of academia, so all I'm seeing are the practical applications for ethnomusicology. But I still maintain there are more programs like this than there were before.

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