Monday, 30 October 2006

17: An Ethnomusicological Perspective

17: An Ethnomusicological Perspective

Bruno Nettl

Professor Emeritus of Musicology, The University of Illinois

Ethnomusicologists may be the people who, as a group, look at music most broadly. Devoting themselves to the study of all of the music in a society regardless of its social and artistic status; they investigate the musics of all of the world's societies; and they examine musical culture from all possible perspectives, contemplating its relationship to social organization, spiritual domains, economics, politics, the other arts, and looking at music as sound and as a system of ideas. Music educators benefit from its breadth as well as its insistence on a relativistic stance, and on seeing a culture from both an insider's and an outsider's perspective.

Ethnomusicologists have come to conclude that music does something to a person, something not done by anything else in nature or culture. They do not consider music to have a single main function among the various aspects of culture, and among the various cultures of the world, except for simply being music; but the peoples of the world all feel that they cannot live without it. Of the many domains of culture, music would perhaps seem to be one of the least necessary; yet we know of no culture that does not have it.

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