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Anthropology of Music

Comparative Musicology And Ethnomusicology

The emergence of contemporary ethnomusicology is typically traced to the 1880s. Thomas Edison invented the phonograph in 1887—ethnologist Jesse Walter Fewkes was the first to use the cylinder machine in his fieldwork (with Native Americans in 1890 and 1891). During the 1880s, British physicist and phonetician Alexander J. Ellis developed the cents system that divided the octave into 1,200 equal units and allowed for the measurement and comparison of scales from different societies. Ellis concluded that musical scales were not grounded on natural laws but "capriciously" differed from one society to the next. Thus he introduced the need for a culturally relativistic approach to musical analysis and understanding that became a fundamental cornerstone of ethnomusicological thinking, and that predated Boas's first direct statement about cultural relativism.

In 1885, Guido Adler published an article outlining the field of musicology. Adler divided the study of music into two subfields, historical and systematic musicology, and part of the latter was Musikologie—"comparative study [of non-Western music] for ethnographic purposes" (quoted in Nettl, p. 20)—a field that became known as comparative musicology, that grew into contemporary ethnomusicology, and that, along with historical musicology, has become one of the two main branches of musicology. As it has developed, historical musicology is devoted to the study of European and European-derived elite music repertories and composers with an emphasis on style development as well as studies that describe European elite music in its cultural context. By default, the remainder of the world's musics, including European and American "vernacular" musics, became the defining subject of comparative musicology and later ethnomusicology (e.g., see Kunst, p. 9).

Comparative musicology is most strongly associated with the "Berlin School" (originally based at the Psychological Institute of Berlin), and Carl Stumpf, Erich M. von Hornbostel, and Otto Abraham, and their students and associates including Curt Sachs, Kolinski, George Herzog, and Klaus Wachsmann. In his synthetic discussion, "The Problems of Comparative Musicology" (1905 [1975]), Hornbostel emphasizes the need to compare scales, intervals, and rhythmic organization of the world's peoples; his primary emphasis is on issues of musical sound, with theorizing about psychological and anthropological issues being secondary—a position maintained by Kolinski and many others.

Drawn generally from anthropological tradition, by the 1950s fieldwork became a basic prerequisite for professional standing in ethnomusicology. The early comparative musicologists, however, had little fieldwork experience and often based their research on recordings made by others—a style of work that became known as armchair ethnomusicology. The lack of in-depth fieldwork precluded the type of detailed social-musical analytical integration that began to emerge in the 1970s under the banner the anthropology of music.

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Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Molecular distillation to My station and its duties:Anthropology of Music - Musical Anthropology, Comparative Musicology And Ethnomusicology, The Anthropology Of Music, Bibliography