From Encycolpedia Britannica Online
Scientific study of music in any world culture or subculture in terms of its actual
sounds and performance practices, in its relation to the specific culture, and in
comparison with other cultures. The field was originally called comparative
musicology in the 1880s by scholars concerned with the measurement of pitches,
anthropological data, museum archiving, or the study of exotic music.
Jaap Kunst, a Dutch expert in Indonesian music, created the term
ethnomusicology in the 1950s, and in 1956 an ethnomusicology society was
founded, consisting of musicians and anthropologists interested in world music. In
the spirit of the preceding definition, the field has continued to expand so that
such topics as Japanese art music, New Guinean tribal music, African court music,
English folk songs, jazz, and the social and financial structure of
European-American popular music can be found in its studies.
Jeff Titon's definition discussed by Jonathan Stock at
One of the neatest definition's of ethnomusicology is Jeff Todd
Titon's: the study of "people making music." In other words,
ethnomusicologists are as interested in the people making the music as in the music they are making, and we try to consider the
whole process and contexts through and within which music is imagined, discussed and made, not just the musical sound
structures themselves. Studying individuals and societies all around the world, mncluding the West, we aim to discover what
music means to particular groups of people - what part it plays in their lives. From time to time, we try to relate our culture- and
context-specific discoveries to the broader human picture.
In terms of methodology and perspective, ethnomusiology draws at least
as much from anthropology and the social sciences as
it does from musicology and the humanities. It is common for ethnomusicologists to live for an extended period among the
people whom they are studying, experiencing for themselves musical life (and everyday life) in that community. Most
ethnomusicologists are thus also musicians, and many are active music makers in more than one musical tradition.
From SIL International (formerly Summer Institute of Linguistics)
"Studying music from the outside in and from the inside out."
Ethnomusicology's definition and proper concerns have been debated
over the years. Essentially ethnomusicology is looking at music as a
part of a culture and social life and looking at the music system itself.
Once these basic parameters are made then musics can be compared
and studied across cultures and across time and in other ways, such
as, how music affects cultures and the people involved and how
culture affects music.
The British ethnomusicologist John Blacking has written of "humanly
organized sound" and "soundly organized humanity." The first
emphasis is studying how and why people make musical choices
within their cultural system; just what IS music, anyway? A surprising
variety of answers is found throughout the earth, but one common
thread is that music is made of sounds that are organized in some
manner by people. The organization principles may not be obvious to
all people, even within the culture under study, but most cultures
would say that certain sounds organized by certain people will qualify
as "music." The study of musical organization and related topics is
what we call "studying music from the inside out."
It is also possible to study "soundly organized humanity," that is, how
music and music-making opportunities shape and impact and guide
peoplesí behavior and attitudes. Throughout the world, music plays
an important part in marking important events in peoples' lives:
festivals, funerals, weddings, religious occasions. An ethnic group can
mark its agrarian calendar by music. For example, during the planting
and growing season, the Mofu-Gudur of Cameroon only sing certain
songs and have prohibitions against playing certain instruments.
During the harvest season, however, other song types will be heard
and additional instruments are permitted by local custom to be
played. The study of musical behavior and related topics is what we
call "studying music from the outside in."
Ethnomusicology within SIL is concerned not only with research and
documentation of musics around the world, but also with promoting
and encouraging the use of indigenous music to meet contemporary
needs within the given society.