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Anthropology of Music - Musical Anthropology, Comparative Musicology And Ethnomusicology, The Anthropology Of Music, Bibliography

study anthropological emphasis sound

The phrase anthropology of music is most closely associated with Alan P. Merriam's 1964 landmark book bearing this title. In this prescriptive text, influential through the 1980s, Merriam defines ethnomusicology as the study of music in culture in relation to the mutual interactions of sound, behavior, and concepts. In consonance with many ethnomusicologists to this day, Mieczyslaw Kolinski (1967) responded that anthropological considerations should not dwarf an emphasis on the study of musical sound, per se, and he took Merriam to task for being too dogmatically anthropological. Kolinski argued that ethnomusicology is, in fact, a field at the juncture of two distinct disciplines: comparative musicology, which is the study of musical styles and systems from different societies, an integral part of general musicology; and musical anthropology, the study of the role music plays in human societies, an integral part of general anthropology. In 1987 Anthony Seeger described his book Why Suyá Sing as "a kind of musical anthropology as distinct from an anthropology of music—a study of society from the perspective of musical performance, rather than simply the application of anthropological methods and concerns to music" (p. xiii).

From these statements three general orientations emerge: (a) an emphasis on musical sound, styles, and performance in non-Western societies described in their cultural context; (b) an emphasis on analyzing musical sound and style in dialectic with social processes through the application of anthropological methods and concerns; and (c) an emphasis on social life and processes as studied through musical styles and performance ("musical anthropology"). Ethnomusicology emerged as an independent discipline in the 1950s, and the first two orientations characterize the majority of ethnomusicological work. The third orientation, that which uses musical data to understand social processes, might be identified with the disciplines of ethnomusicology and/or anthropology, often depending on the disciplinary identity of the scholar.

Anthropologists who focus on music represent a small minority within the discipline and, Bruno Nettl writes, "the practitioners of the types of study labeled as the 'anthropology of music' … have accounted, I reckon, for less than one-fifth of all ethnomusicologists, but among them have been many of the field's great leaders" (p. 62). Since the 1980s, the anthropology of music approach probably represents a larger portion of ethnomusicological work, and anthropological methods and theories have provided an important basis for the discipline as a whole throughout its development.

Musical Performance and Audiences - Origins And Types Of Performance, Performance Considerations, Bibliography [next]

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over 7 years ago

SAMCHILLIAN: a new musical instrument invention.

Please bring it to the attention of your readers.

Leon Gruenbaum, a New York City resident and the inventor of the Samchillian, a relatively new musical instrument, was recently invited to demonstrate it at several prominent venues in St. Petersburg and Moscow, Russia. Mr. Gruenbaum is a graduate of Harvard University and has performed with the Samchillian all over the world. In February of this year he competed in the annual international Guthman competition for new musical instruments and out of 50 participants, was awarded the third prize, the only American to win a prize.

The tour in Russia started with Mr. Gruenbaum giving a demonstration of the Samchillian at the famous St. Petersburg Conservatory, an event which was recorded by a radio station. He also participated in a major concert of composers of electronic music attended by close to 200 people at the St. Petersburg Composers’ Association; the concert was videotaped and at its conclusion Mr. Gruenbaum was interviewed at great length by a local TV station.

In Moscow Mr. Gruenbaum demonstrated the Samchillian at the University’s Culture and Arts’ Sound Department followed by a demonstration at the Department of Music Ensembles where the students had the opportunity to try out the Samchillian as well as jam with the Samchillian using their own respective instruments - it was all very spontaneous and very enjoyable for everyone. Mr. Gruenbaum also had an opportunity to visit with the Director of the Theremin Institute and get him acquainted with the Samchillian. The final demonstration in Moscow was at the Museum of Musical Instruments which was open to the public.

All in all the tour was very successful and the Samchillian generated a lot of interest.

For those not yet familiar with the Samchillian, it is a unique instrument in that its keystrokes denote changes of pitch, rather than fixed pitches, allowing the performer to play the exact same sequence of keys no matter what key signature he or she is in, simplifying finger patterns and allowing unusual, rapid improvisational flurries (see the website: http://samchillian.com/aboutsam.html)

and a video of Mr. Gruenbaum demonstrating the Samchillian at the Talent Show at the 25th reunion of his Harvard class at Sanders Theatre in Cambridge, MA last year http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lAAhQMU2918.

Mr. Gruenbaum performs with his Samchillian keyboard in his band, “Genes and Machines”. The band features two drummers – one acoustic and one electronic – as well as keyboards, vocals, bass and clarinet. The music ranges from rock/pop/funk to dreamy/ambient, and features unusual and carefully constructed sonic textures. They have been playing in the New York area for the past few years and will release their debut CD this year.

For additional information about the Samchillian, please contact Mr. Gruenbaum directly at: leon.gruenbaum@gmail.com or by phone at (646) 286-0893

Thank you.