Defining Etnomusicolgy Essay

1063 words - 4 pages

Do we know what `Ethnomusicology' really is?
What is the functionally, politically and formatively correct definition of `Ethnomusicology'? Ethnomusicology has been defined in many ways; its varied interpretations arise due to the difference in opinion held by the advocates of these definitions. Although `it is a recognized discipline in the field of music, ethnomusicologists, anthropologists, musicologists and other academics within and outside the field have yet to find an undisputed and universally accepted definition and identity for the term `Ethnomusicology'. According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, the term `definition' is a "statement expressing the essential nature of something"; keeping this exegesis in mind I aim to find an apt interpretation for the term `Ethnomusicology'.

Let me first put forward the proposed definitions of the term as they stand today, and cite the inconsistencies that exist in them. `Ethnomusicology' has often been described as " a study of a music foreign to one's own", in pretext of widely held beliefs this definition might be true however it does have a loophole; that being, we find some scholars who study the music of their own culture, (usually the music of a group outside the framework of western, educationally elite strata), aware to this fact a formal use of this definition would not be appropriate. Another popular rendition of the term states that " `Ethnomusicology' is the study of music that exists in oral tradition", this particular explication in my opinion does not hold true since in many music cultures the world over, oral tradition is an important component that complements the use of notation. Moving on we find other schools of thought advocating a varied exegesis of the term, that being, "Ethnomusicology' is the study of contemporary musical systems." Now, this particular interpretation of the term might be an acceptable working rendition to most scholars in the field except for those interested and actively conducting historical research with respect to music-cultures of the world. A final definition of `Ethnomusicology' as put forward by theorists, claims that `Ethnomusicology' is a "comparative study of musical systems and cultures", this definition is controversial keeping in tune with the fact that some scholars are of the opinion that we do not know enough about music cultures alien to our own to draw evocative comparisons. Not downplaying the popular subscription held towards this interpretation of the term by a majority of the scholars in the field, I strongly feel that the intrinsic comparison of music in form and essence is not a pragmatic reality. Since music cannot be translated through a set of common denominators, a viable comparison cannot stand. Thus owing to all these vast and varied definitions of the term `Ethnomusicology' of which I have discussed but a few, we can see that the proposed expositions are only parts of the whole and are not...

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