World Music

World Music




World Music

A Global Journey

Fourth Edition

Terry E. Miller Kent State University


Andrew Shahriari Kent State University




Fourth edition published 2017 by Routledge 711 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10017

and by Routledge 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RN

Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business

© 2017 Taylor & Francis

The right of Terry E. Miller and Andrew Shahriari to be identified as authors of this work has been asserted by them in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilized in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers.

Trademark notice: Product or corporate names may be trademarks or registered trademarks, and are used only for identification and explanation without intent to infringe.

Third edition published by Routledge 2012

Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data Names: Miller, Terry E., author. | Shahriari, Andrew C., author. Title: World music: a global journey / Terry E. Miller and Andrew Shahriari. Description: Fourth edition. | New York ; London : Routledge, 2017. | “2017 | Includes index. Identifiers: LCCN 2016010412 | ISBN 9781138911314 (paperback) | ISBN 9781138911277 (paperback + CD) | ISBN 9781138911284 (hardback + CD) Subjects: LCSH: World music—History and criticism. Classification: LCC ML3545 .M54 2017 | DDC 780.9—dc23 LC record available at

ISBN: 978-1-138-91131-4 (pbk) ISBN: 978-1-138-91127-7 (pbk pack)




ISBN: 978-1-138-91128-4 (hbk pack) ISBN: 978-1-315-69279-1 (ebk pack) ISBN: 978-1-138-69780-5 (audio CD set)

Typeset in Melior by Keystroke, Neville Lodge, Tettenhall, Wolverhampton

For eBook customers, please email with proof of purchase to obtain access to the supplementary content of any CDs for this book. An access code and instructions will be provided.

Senior Acquisitions Editor: Constance Ditzel Senior Editorial Assistant: Peter Sheehy Production Manager: Mhairi Bennett Marketing Manager: Sarah Collins Text Design: Karl Hunt, Keystroke Copy Editor: Bookbright Proofreader: Janice Baiton Cover Designer: Mat Willis

Cover image credits (clockwise from top left) for paperback edition: A dance scene typical of Indian film with actress singing a filmi song (testing/; Yari Yari men play the kundu goblet drum and dance in Papua New Guinea (Michele Westmorland/Corbis Documentary/Getty Images); King Sunny Adé (Jack Vartoogian/FrontRowPhotos); Japanese taiko drummer (Manuel Fernandes/; The Chinese pipa, played by Yang Jin (Courtesy of Kent State University); Lord Kitchener performing at the Caribbean AllStar Calypso Festival at Radio City Music Hall, New York City (Jack Vartoogian/FrontRowPhotos)

Please email with proof of purchase to obtain access to the supplementary content for this eBook. An access code and instructions will be provided






Scope Organization The Fourth Edition Listening Guides

Structure of Each Listening Guide

How Instructors Can Expand Course Coverage Website Our Own Journey (Thus Far)

Terry E. Miller Andrew Shahriari

Acknowledgments 1 Before the Trip Begins: Fundamental Issues

What is Music? Music: Universal Language or Culturally Specific Activity? Beware of Labels An Inside Look: Terence Liu An Inside Look: Nguyen Thuyet Phong Knowing the World’s Musics The Life of an Ethnomusicologist Representation: What Musics Does One Study? Resources for the Study of the World’s Musics

Reference Works Video Audio Recordings Journals

Questions to Consider




2 Aural Analysis: Listening to the World’s Musics

How to Listen to World Music “Talking” about Music Timbre and Medium

Vocal Timbre Instrumental Timbre

Aerophones: Flutes, Reeds, and Trumpets Chordophones: Lutes and Zithers Idiophones: Plucked, Struck, and Shaken Membranophones Summary


Tuning System Scale Interval Range Melody

Melodic Contour Ornamentation Text Setting


Beat and Tempo Accent and Meter Rhythmic Density

Phonic Structure Dynamics An Inside Look: Bruno Nettl Form Need to Know: Fundamentals of Music Questions to Consider




3 Cultural Considerations: Beyond the Sounds Themselves

Cultural Knowledge An Inside Look: Judith Becker Value Systems and Hierarchies Music and Identity Use versus Function Music and Spirituality Music and Ethics Music and the Environment New Theoretical Perspectives Music Technologies and Media Music and the Arts Transmission and Pedagogy Notation Systems and the Creation of Music Exchange and Adaptation Cultural Intersections A Case Study of Istanbul, Turkey: A Lesson in Geography, History, Religions, and Musical Exchange Questions to Consider

4 Oceania: Australia, Papua New Guinea, Hawai’i, Kiribati

Background Preparation Planning the Itinerary Arrival: Australia

Site 1: Australian Aboriginal Song with Didjeridu

Arrival: Papua New Guinea

Site 2: Susap (lamellophone) from Papua New Guinea

Explore More: Singsings of Papua New Guinea Arrival: Hawai’i An Inside Look: Amy Ku’uleialoha Stillman Explore More: Hawai’ian Steel Guitar and Ukulele

Site 3: Hawai’ian Drum-Dance Chant




Dance: Tongan Dance Arrival: Kiribati

Site 4: Group Song for bino (sitting dance) from Kiribati

Questions to Consider

5 South Asia: India, Pakistan

Background Preparation An Inside Look: K. S. Resmi An Inside Look: Aashish Khan Planning the Itinerary Arrival: North India

Site 1: Hindustani (Instrumental) Raga

Need to Know: Fundamentals of Indian Classical (Hindustani) Music Arrival: South India

Site 2: Carnatic Classical (Vocal) Kriti

Explore More: Kathakali

Site 3: Hindu Bhajan Devotional Song

Explore More: Indian Filmi Git (Film Song) Arrival: Pakistan

Site 4: Qawwali (Sufi Devotional Song)

Explore More: Bhangra Questions to Consider

6 Southeast Asia: Vietnam, Thailand, Laos and Northeast Thailand, Indonesia (Java and Bali)

Background Preparation Planning the Itinerary An Inside Look: Sumarsam




Arrival: Vietnam

Site 1: Vietnamese Central Highlands Bronze Gong Ensemble Site 2: Nhac Tai Tu Amateur Chamber Music

Arrival: Thailand An Inside Look: Priwan Nanongkham

Site 3: Classical Piphat Music

Dance: Thai Classical Dance Arrival: Laos and Northeast Thailand Explore More: The Ramayana

Site 4: Lam Klawn Repartee Singing Site 5: Luk Thung Popular Song

Arrival: Indonesia (Java and Bali)

Site 6: Javanese Court Gamelan Site 7: Balinese Gamelan Gong Kebyar

Explore More: Kecak—The Balinese “Monkey Chant” Questions to Consider

7 East Asia: China, Mongolia, Korea, Japan, Tibet

Background Preparation An Inside Look: Luo Qin An Inside Look: Masayo Ishigure Planning the Itinerary Arrival: China

Site 1: The Guqin (Seven-String “Ancient” Zither) Site 2: Jiangnan Sizhu (“Silk and Bamboo”) Ensemble from Shanghai Site 3: Beijing Opera (Jingju) Site 4: Chuida Wind and Percussion Ensemble




Explore More: Popular Music in East Asia Arrival: Mongolia

Site 5: Mongolian Urtïn Duu (Long Song) with Khöömei (Overtone or “Throat” Singing)

Arrival: Korea

Site 6: P’ansori Narrative

Arrival: Japan

Site 7: Gagaku Court Music

Explore More: Komuso Dance: Japanese Music and Dance

Site 8: Kabuki Theater

Explore More: Taiko Arrival: Tibet

Site 9: Tibetan Buddhist Ritual

Questions to Consider

8 The Middle East: Islam and the Arab World, Iran, Egypt, Sufism, Judaism

Background Preparation Planning the Itinerary An Inside Look: George Dimitri Sawa Arrival: Islam and the Arabic World

Site 1: Islamic Adhan, “Call to Prayer” Site 2: Arabic Taqasim for Ud and Buzuq

Arrival: Iran

Site 3: Dastgah for Santur and Voice




Arrival: Egypt

Site 4: Takht Instrumental Ensemble

Arrival: Sufism

Site 5: Sufi Dhikr Ceremony

Arrival: Judaism

Site 6: Jewish Shofar and Liturgical Cantillation

Questions to Consider

9 Europe: Greece, Spain, Russia, Scotland, Ireland, Hungary, Bulgaria

Background Preparation “Classical” versus “Folk” Planning the Itinerary Arrival: Greece

Site 1: Creek Orthodox (Byzantine) Chant

Arrival: Spain

Site 2: Flamenco

Dance: Flamenco Dance Arrival: Russia

Site 3: Balalaika Ensemble

Arrival: Scotland An Inside Look: Mick Moloney An Inside Look: Walter Mahovlich

Site 4: Highland Bagpipes

Arrival: Ireland

Site 5: Uilleann Bagpipes




Arrival: Hungary

Site 6: Tekerölant (Hurdy Gurdy)

Arrival: Bulgaria

Site 7: Bulgarian Women’s Chorus

Questions to Consider

10 Sub-Saharan Africa: Ghana, Nigeria, Central Africa, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Senegal, The Republic of South Africa

Background Preparation Planning the Itinerary An Inside Look: Adesanya Adeyeye An Inside Look: Habib Iddrisu Arrival: Ghana

Site 1: Polyrhythmic Recreational Ensemble

Dance: West Africa

Site 2: “Talking Drums”

Arrival: Nigeria

Site 3: Jùjú Popular Music

Arrival: Central Africa

Site 4: Mbuti Pygmy Music from the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Arrival: Zimbabwe

Site 5: Mbira Dza Vadzimu

Arrival: Uganda

Site 6: Akadinda




Arrival: Senegal-Gambia

Site 7: Jali with Kora

Arrival: The Republic of South Africa

Site 8: Mbube

Explore More: Ladysmith Black Mambazo Questions to Consider

11 The Caribbean: Haiti, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Puerto Rico, Cuba, The Dominican Republic

Background Preparation Planning the Itinerary Arrival: Haiti

Site 1: Vodou Ritual from Haiti

Arrival: Jamaica

Site 2: Reggae

Arrival: Trinidad and Tobago

Site 3: Calypso

Explore More: Soca An Inside Look: Olivia Ahyoung An Inside Look: Ellie Mannette

Site 4: Steel Band (Pan)

Arrival: Puerto Rico

Site 5: Puerto Rican Plena

Arrival: Cuba

Site 6: Cuban Son




Dance: Caribbean—Trinidad, Haiti, Latin America Arrival: The Dominican Republic

Site 7: Merengue

Questions to Consider

12 South America and Mexico: The Amazon Rainforest, Peru, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico

Background Preparation Planning the Itinerary An Inside Look: Martin Pereira Algarita Arrival: The Amazon Rainforest

Site 1: Amazonian Chant

Arrival: Peru

Site 2: Sikuri (Panpipe) Ensemble

Arrival: Argentina

Site 3: Tango

Arrival: Brazil

Site 4: Samba

Explore More: Carnival

Site 5: Capoeira Music

An Inside Look: Gilbert Valez Arrival: Mexico

Site 6: Mariachi

Questions to Consider

13 Canada and the United States




Background Preparation Planning the Itinerary An Inside Look: Natalie MacMaster Arrival: Canada

Site 1: Cape Breton Fiddling

Arrival: The United States of America

Site 2: Ballad-Singing Site 3: Old Regular Baptist Lined Hymn

An Inside Look: Hugh McGraw

Site 4: Singing School Shape-Note Music

Dance: American Folk—Square Dance

Site 5: Bluegrass Site 6: African-American Spiritual Site 7: African-American Gospel Choir Site 8: Country Blues Site 9: “Nuyorican” Salsa

Dance: Ballroom Dance

Site 10: Cajun Music

Arrival: Native American Reservations

Site 11: Plains Indian Dance Song Site 12: Native American Flute

Explore More: Inuit Throat-Singing Questions to Consider

Glossary Resources for Further Study Index Recorded Examples





This textbook is inspired by a class we taught (and Andrew continues to teach) at Kent State University for many years, “Music as a World Phenomenon.” In the mid-1990s, when the university established a requirement for cultural diversity classes, the course was a natural fit and enrollment exploded overnight. Fifty students a semester turned into over 500 within a few years. Dissatisfied with the introductory world music textbooks available at the time, we set out to write one that would serve this greater number of students, few of whom had formal music training. Its success has encouraged the class to grow to nearly 1500 students per semester and is one of the most popular courses on campus. Other universities have experienced similar growth in their world music surveys. The online version of the class at Kent State, which accommodates nearly 500 students, remains full, and the textbook with its accompanying interactive website has proven an invaluable resource, especially for those students. We hope this fourth edition of World Music: A Global Journey will encourage the same enthusiasm in both instructors and students for teaching and learning about the world and its music, as it has for us at Kent State.





Anyone who attempts a book such as this must settle on answers to a few questions:

• Breadth or depth? You cannot have both, unless you want a tome that could hold down your loose papers through a hurricane. We have chosen breadth. While we recognize the impossibility of doing justice to all the world’s notable and interesting musics, we also feel that doing what you can is better than doing nothing. The second major question is:

• Geographical or topical organization? As ethnomusicologists we are tempted to organize our studies topically, in order to explore such issues as identity, gender, representation, meaning, globalization, and so on, but we have found that this approach leaves most students in a state of geographical disorientation. While such a plan would make it easier to discuss many of the issues at stake in “cultural diversity” courses, it would make it difficult to communicate a coherent view of the music of a given area. Thus, we have chosen a geographical organization. A third question is:

• Should the concentration be on music as sound or music as culture? The study of world musics is the focus of a discipline known as Ethnomusicology, which seeks to understand both music and its cultural associations. This field of scholarly research has long had a fascination with the anthropological aspects of the music studied—what we used to call “the context”—but some of our field’s critics have noted a growing reluctance to discuss musical sound at all, complaining that ethnomusicologists do “everything but the music.” Others scoff at ethnomusicology as eth-NO-MUSIC-ology. We have striven for a balanced approach, choosing first to emphasize music as sound because we realize that many of the instructors using this book are situated in music departments and are naturally inclined to focus on music as sound. However, we also include important cultural aspects, allowing teachers using this book to choose which to emphasize.





Travel is the central metaphor of the book, in part because that is often how the authors experienced the music we present. After three introductory chapters in which we discuss the elements of music, we present ten chapters on specific geographical areas, be they a continent (e.g., Europe) or a subcontinent (e.g., South Asia). As with any major trip, preparation is necessary before a specific area can be considered in depth.

“Background Preparation” provides the big picture giving the general lay of the land, some of an area’s history, and raising certain issues related to music-making in the region. We then give an overview of music the region has to offer before landing in a particular country or area. Here we review the background information pertinent to this particular place and give the reader some feel for the locale’s history and culture.

After this, we begin visiting our individual “Sites.” These are the audio tracks and discussions we have chosen to represent the area—though you should always bear in mind that we have omitted many others of equal significance. As with travel, so with music: we simply cannot visit every interesting place. Hopefully, you can return to some areas later and experience more on your own. Each Site is explored in three steps.

1. “First Impressions”—In this section we attempt to convey the impressions and associations the music might inspire in a first-time listener. These are necessarily subjective and intended to encourage readers to consider their own first impressions in comparison to ours.

2. “Aural Analysis”—Here we focus on the site in terms of musical sound, discussing whatever is most relevant. This could include the medium (instruments and/or voices) and any of the prominent musical elements that distinguish an example.

3. “Cultural Considerations”—The final section is where relevant cultural matters are raised. These are the “contexts” and “issues” that have differentiated ethnomusicology from most other music disciplines.

This process can serve as a framework for exploring an infinite array of world music traditions. Instructors may wish to bring in some examples, based on their




own focus and experience, as a supplement to the materials provided here.




The Fourth Edition

Following the release of the first edition in late 2005, we were gratified so many of our colleagues in schools of all sizes and missions adopted World Music: A Global Journey and found it useful. Although we feel fortunate that so many chose this book over the increasing number of other choices, we continually think about how we can improve it. Hopefully, the fourth edition offers many of the improvements suggested by users along with those originating with the authors.

• New Sites

Plena from Puerto Rico replaces the site of rhyming spirituals from the Bahamas Chuida from China replaces Revolutionary Opera from China Gagaku from Japan has returned from the second edition, and replaces the sankyoku site

The former (third edition) sites have been moved to the textbook website.

• Updated “Inside Look” features: Many of the musicians and scholars featured have revised their entries. While some of the earlier writers have been rotated off, we welcome a number of new and distinguished people to this feature: Dr. Terence Liu (public ethnomusicology), K. S. Resni (South Indian classical singer), Dr. Sumarsam (Indonesian gamelan master and professor), Dr. Mick Moloney (internationally renowned singer of Irish music, folklorist, ethnomusicologist, National Heritage Award fellow), Walter Mahovlich (comprehensive performer of Eastern European music), Natalie MacMaster (pre-eminent Canadian fiddler, niece of the late Buddy MacMaster featured in the first through third editions), Gilbert Velez (Mariachi master musician, scholar, and “father” of the Mariachi movement in the United States).

• New photos: As we try to do with each new edition, there are many new photographs throughout the book drawn from our own field research and others in the field, as well as professional stock footage archives with an eye for fieldwork-oriented images that complement our original list of figures.

• New “Dance” boxes: A new feature we are excited to include are essays focusing on world dance, which in many cultures is inseparable from musical activity. Our introductions to ballroom, flamenco, Thai classical,




Ghanaian, American folk, and Japanese dance will hopefully be well- received, such that we can add features on other world dance traditions in future editions. The articles were written by specialists in the areas they discuss, which has the benefit of offering experiential perspective on their particular dances.

• One less chapter: Chapter 14: “Discovering Yourself Through Music” and “On Your Own Time” suggested resources have been removed from the hard-copy textbook and placed on the textbook website. After much deliberation, we decided this would benefit students in that the fewer pages would help keep the cost of the book down and the practicality of including web resources was better suited for the website than the book itself. We also learned that many instructors did not utilize these resources with great frequency, but they are still available to those readers and instructors who encourage such self-exploration as part of their world music study.

• Additional Resources: These have been updated to include more recent publications and online resources.

• Instructors’ Resources: These have been revisited to include new presentations, exam questions, class time activities, and a more integrated website that can be used to expand course coverage.

• Interactive Listening Guides: More of these have been incorporated on the website so that students can listen to streamed music at specific prompts.




Listening Guides

The purpose of the Listening Guides is to encourage active listening, rather than passive listening. Many students find they lack experience in listening actively to music. The music washes over them as a complete sound without much thought toward the details. Most everyone does this on a daily basis, such as listening to the car radio, walking through a mall, waiting in a doctor’s office, or even while attending a concert. They passively “absorb” the sound without really thinking about it.

Active listening requires more than just your ears. You must focus on individual elements in the music in order to understand a variety of features, such as its organization or its rhythmic/ melodic elements, its correlation to movement in dance/theater, the sound as a manifestation of emotional/spiritual expression, etc. Such intentional listening promotes a greater appreciation of the music, which will hopefully make it more appealing, if only from an intellectual perspective.

Each listening guide focuses on key features of the example that help you identify the timbre of different instruments, important melodic and/or rhythmic elements, as well as aspects of form and variations in dynamics, if applicable. Every guide begins with an introduction to the specific example, that is, track title, chapter and site number, etc., followed by a description of the sound elements (vocal and instrumental) heard. The time outline indicates the minutes/seconds (0’00”) of each “Listening Focus” item described. (These time codes may vary slightly according to the device you are using to play the example.) The guide concludes with the source for the example and an “Ethno-Challenge,” (short for Ethnomusicology Challenge).

The Listening Guides will help you with the “Aural Analysis” section of the readings. Our recommendation is:

1. Listen first through the entire example without the guide, just to get a “First Impression” without concern over the details of the music. Compare your first impressions with those we have offered.

2. Read the “Aural Analysis” for the example. 3. Listen again with the guide and take note of each “Listening Focus”

description. You may have to start/stop and rewind the example several times to hear each item. That’s a good thing! It means you are actively




listening to the music. If you get through the entire example without stopping once, this probably means you have returned to passive listening.

4. Listen through the entire example again after you feel confident that you have heard and understood all of the “Listening Focus” items. You will find you are hearing the music with a keener sense of its details. That gong sound missed before will now “jump out” at you, or you may find yourself humming the basic melody or tapping out the fundamental rhythm.

To test your new perspective on the music, try playing the example for someone else and see if he or she notices the same details before you point them out.

We also hope that the Listening Guides will assist instructors in highlighting these key elements during lectures. To know the difference between the sound of a tabla and a tambura, for example, the instructor may have to highlight the distinction in the classroom. The time code references will help expedite searching for such “Listening Focus” items during class time.

Each guide ends with a feature called the “Ethno-Challenge.” Some of these are quite simple, while others may be quite difficult. As ethnomusicologists ourselves, we tried to imagine an activity that would have benefited us in researching each music genre. This may involve library research, such as hunting down a video of Beijing Opera; learning a performance technique, such as circular breathing; or even making a musical instrument, such as a mouth harp, etc. Instructors may have their own ideas for such challenges, but the end-goal remains to encourage more active participation and understanding of the music. The challenges are also meant to be fun projects for your own enjoyment or even to present to the rest of the class.

Finally, we encourage you to add your own “Listening Focus” points to these guides. We may have overlooked or intentionally omitted features due to their repetition within the example or other factors, such as space considerations for the page layouts. You will better develop your active listening skills by adding to these guides, which will ultimately make any music you hear a more meaningful experience.

Structure of Each Listening Guide




Listening Guide CD 0.0 (0’00”)

Chapter 00: Site 00 Country: Example Title

Instruments: Trumpet (aerophone), Guitar (chordophone), etc. Voices: Male/Female

TIME LISTENING FOCUS 0’00” Example begins…

Source: World Music: A Global Journey

ETHNO-CHALLENGE (CD 0.0): Listen to each track on your textbook CDs at least three times.




How Instructors Can Expand Course Coverage

“Teaching a textbook” is a widely and often effectively used method but also one that raises thorny issues. The problem with any world survey is that the authors must of necessity choose a certain set of examples and ideas based on their own thinking and experience—but course instructors may have a different view. We suggest therefore that teachers consider the following ideas when using this book:

Be selective. If you find that seventy music examples are too many for your class, then select those that suit your needs. We have attempted to provide reasonably good surveys of each area— considering the limitations of space—but for some instructors this will be too much and for others too little.

Use our plan as a model. Just as you can exclude specific sites, you can also add your own. These additions can be accomplished by either the professor or student. An excellent assignment would be for students to write about a music track not selected by us, using the three approaches employed in this book: first impressions, aural analysis, and cultural considerations. Such exercises could become class papers or presentations as well.

Research further on your own. Just as easily as additional sites can be researched and written about, those presented herein can be developed by students into class presentations that include audio examples, video/DVD clips, and even performances on substitute instruments or the real ones. Students and teachers may locate living representatives of a culture—or even musicians from the tradition under study—who can come to class to discuss the culture or perform the music live.

Consider utilizing additional resources in the neighborhood or university community. We have intentionally focused on pathways available via the Internet, but you might also consider some other areas of investigation, such as libraries and museums.

• Libraries. Most libraries, both public and those associated with colleges and universities, have collections of recordings and video materials. Anyone wishing to venture beyond this book might do so in places as diverse as one’s local public library to world-class collections in places such as Indiana University’s Archives of Traditional Music in Bloomington, Indiana, to the Library of Congress’s American Folklife Center in




Washington, DC. Similar collections can be found in Canada and Europe. • Museums. Many large cities have excellent museums devoted to local

history, culture, or general anthropology of the world. These often include displays of musical instruments, dioramas that include musical activity, and sometimes sound resources. A few have major collections of musical instruments, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, The National Music Museum in Vermillion, South Dakota, and the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, Arizona.

• Internet. The Internet offers virtually unlimited possibilities for exploration. Two sites relative to this book dominate: YouTube and iTunes. iTunes (and other similar sites) offer many kinds of music for paid download. These sites can be searched by genre, title, or artist; what kinds of music are offered will change constantly. YouTube similarly offers a nearly bottomless series of free video clips of most forms of music, dance, and theater known in the world. Searches of the Internet will also turn up many other kinds of information and resources. One of them is Wikipedia, a free, online encyclopedia. While many of the articles discovered (in numerous languages, too) are quite fine, users must remember that these entries are not peer-reviewed, and their reliability varies widely since anyone (including you) can write and post entries.




Website —

The website is vital to World Music: A Global Journey. At Kent State, the book is used for an online course, so the website has been crafted to be adaptable for all kinds of teaching situations, with audio and visual elements and numerous teaching and learning tools:

For the student

• Flashcards of vocabulary words • Additional articles and regional sites from previous editions of the textbook • Practice quizzes • Links to online videos • Links to other suggested resources e.g., books, DVDs, websites, etc. • Selected Listening Guides in an interactive listening guide application

For the instructor

• Downloadable classroom presentations • Test banks, hosted in the Routledge QuestBank application • Additional articles and Sites from previous editions of the textbook • Suggested classroom activities and additional projects • Select images from the book • Author/Instructor Interactive Portal • E-Package materials for online course development




Our Own Journey (Thus Far)

Neither author, of course, has been everywhere or heard every kind of music the world has to offer. Writing this book has been a humbling experience—only fools think they can cover the world’s musics in a single volume. Regardless of our qualms, however, world music courses have become a normal part of the academic environment, and the need for such introductory courses will not go away because of philosophical reservations. If anything, the demand for them will grow. We have attempted to play to our strengths while recognizing our limitations. In the following pages of this Preface we engage in a kind of “truth in advertising,” by revealing some of our own personal histories with regard to the musics of the world. Perhaps after having read of our experiences, which we present separately, you will better understand why we wrote what we wrote and perhaps see more clearly what your own trajectory might become in the future.

Terry E. Miller

My first experience hearing non-Western music came during my undergraduate years at the College of Wooster (Ohio), where I was majoring in organ performance. Ravi Shankar, India’s most famous sitar player until his recent passing, came to the campus as part of the Community Music Series in 1964, several years before he became famous in his own right and as the teacher of George Harrison (member of the Beatles). After his performance, the music majors met with Shankar, but our attempts to understand the concept of raga were mostly unsuccessful. We simply had no conceptual framework for understanding modal improvisation. Further, we had never seen a musician perform seated on the floor, or encountered incense at a music event, and we also failed to understand the significance of the tambura lute player and tabla drummer accompanying Shankar. In those days there were virtually no world music courses anywhere, and recordings other than those on the Folkways label were rare.

My next encounter with an “exotic” music did not come until after I had been drafted into the U.S. Army in 1968 and sent to the Republic of Vietnam in 1969 to help fight the war from a swivel chair in front of a Remington typewriter. As a “chairborne” soldier working at a huge base about twenty miles from Saigon (now




Ho Chi Minh City), I could have ignored Vietnam entirely. Instead, I decided to explore Vietnamese music. Doing so, however, required trips to Saigon. Having no official business there and no authorization, I had to go illegally on weekends. In Saigon, I attended theatrical performances, bought instruments and recordings, and visited the Saigon Conservatory of Music, where my language abilities were too limited for effective communication. A one-week leave to Bangkok, Thailand, in January 1970 brought me into contact with Thai music. During my visit, I purchased a long, bamboo mouth-organ instrument called the khaen, simply because its appearance reminded me of a pipe organ. I did not know how significant this instrument would become for my later life.

Co-author Terry Miller (on right) with fellow soldier while serving in the United States Army in Vietnam


After returning to the United States, I enrolled in a Western Historical Musicology graduate degree program at Indiana University. In spite of the program I was in, I decided to write my master’s thesis on an Ohio shape-note teacher and my doctoral dissertation on the music of northeast Thailand. With a generous grant in hand, I went with my family to northeast Thailand in late 1972, for a fourteen-month stay during which I researched that region’s music. The resulting dissertation completed my Ph.D. and luckily I stumbled into a teaching position at Kent State University just as they were starting a graduate program in ethnomusicology. I taught at Kent State until my retirement in January 2005. Since that time I have remained actively engaged in research and writing, and I spend about two months a year in Thailand (wisely, during the American winter).

To make a long story short, I kept up my interest in Thailand during my tenure




at Kent, but my interests also expanded in other directions. With the help of a succession of “native musician” graduate students, I started two ensembles, one to play traditional Thai music, the other to play Chinese music, and I played in both from 1979 and 1987 respectively until the ensembles were disbanded in May 2005. In 1998 the Thai Ensemble toured Thailand, performing in six cities and appearing on most television channels. The musics of mainland Southeast Asia—Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Burma, and Malaysia—remain my core interest, with the greatest emphasis being on Thailand and Laos. I also developed a now long- standing interest in orally transmitted hymnody in the West, which has led to extensive and continuing fieldwork in the United States, Scotland, Jamaica, Trinidad, and St. Vincent, the latter three being part of the English-speaking Caribbean. My third area of interest has been Chinese music, and I have done fieldwork in China itself but much more in the overseas Chinese community of Thailand.

Lastly, I have collected material and experienced live music when possible in each country I’ve visited. In addition to Vietnam, Thailand, and China, these include the United Kingdom, Ireland, France, Germany, Spain, Hungary, Slovakia, Croatia, Greece, Israel, Nepal, Japan, Korea, Burma, Malaysia, Laos, and South Africa. All of these experiences have contributed to my bank of knowledge. Even so, they have exposed me to only a small percentage of the world’s musics. The rest have thus far been experienced, if at all, only vicariously through audio and video recordings or at concerts given by resident or touring musicians. Naturally, knowledge gained through first-hand experience goes deeper than that gained from books and CDs, but even an introductory book like this and carefully listened-to recordings can shed some light on a corner of the world that would otherwise remain totally unfamiliar.




Andrew Shahriari

My first recollection of an interest in “world music” is actually associated with a music that I knew quite well. As an undergraduate, I was fortunate to study abroad and to visit Russia on a two-week tour of Moscow and Leningrad (now St. Petersburg—again) in 1990, during the last days of the Soviet Union. My first revelation was that what I had previously believed about Russians was completely untrue: I had been misled all my life into thinking they were evil, American-hating Communists who would sooner spit on me than shake my hand. To the contrary, I found the people I met in Russia to be the most friendly, helpful people in Europe, with a great respect for Americans. My misconceptions were based on ignorance and on the stereotyping of people I did not know. Sadly, the negative propagandizing of other cultures by the media remains a problem today.

My second revelation came in a Moscow jazz club, where I realized that music can cross cultural barriers as effectively as speech. While music is not a “universal language,” it nonetheless generally draws more on emotion than intellect. Music has the uncanny power to enable those who speak the same musical language to “connect” on a different level than is possible with the spoken word. Though conversations I had with Russians fluent in English were friendly, they were mostly superficial exchanges. In contrast, the twenty-minute “jam” my American friends and I played with the jazz club’s Russian house band resulted in genuine laughter, bear hugs, and toasts in our honor for the rest of the night—without our ever even learning the names of our comrades. All of us knew we would never meet again, but for that night we were the best of friends because we spoke through music.




Co-author Andrew Shahriari (seated at piano) and friends perform in a jazz club with local university students

in Moscow, Russia (1989)

My Russian encounter inspired my interest in ethnomusicology and continues to motivate my core concerns as a scholar, educator, and musician. Cultural ignorance is the source of many stereotypes about other peoples. A primary goal of my own study and certainly of my teaching, as well as of this textbook, is to encourage an awareness of our cultural biases. You cannot learn about the world from only the nightly news and cable television. While the United States has “free” media, the stories that are presented are highly selective and strongly biased toward American interests. To think otherwise is naïve. This is true in other cultures as well. Politics and business influence the content of newspapers, books, television, movies, radio, even the Internet, all of which then shape our attitudes about others and ourselves. We cannot avoid being culturally biased, but an awareness of this reality is important to keeping an open mind, which encourages understanding of other perspectives and fosters communication rather than conflict.

After college, I spent a couple of years pursuing a career in the music business, but quickly realized that the “business” of making music greatly overwhelmed the actual creation of it. Thankfully, a professor suggested I study ethnomusicology as a graduate student due to my interest in blues and jazz. I came to Kent State in 1992 and have never looked back. I explored my diverse interests in music and discovered many new and intriguing sounds that have spurred me to travel to many new countries, experience an array of new cultures, and to meet wonderful people from all over the world. Like Terry, I became fascinated with the music and




culture of Thailand and focused my studies on the northern region (Lanna), an area that no one had yet to explore in depth. I have since pursued other interests in music and spirituality, popular world music, and music therapy and traveled to numerous locales, including Mexico, China, Germany, Austria, France, Scotland, England, and throughout the United States.

But my exploration of world music is certainly not limited to only the places I have visited. Being part of a university culture allows for a great many opportunities to learn about world music on a first-hand basis by attending concerts, meeting international musicians and local residents, as well as learning from my many students who share their world music and culture experiences with me. By studying world music, I learn about people’s passions. I learn what they value, and I learn how they think. Music can reveal the deepest emotions of a people, their philosophies of life, their conceptions of death, their hopes and fears, anger and affections, desires and dreams. Music says what cannot be put into words and often adds to words what cannot be merely spoken.

I hope that each person who reads this textbook will approach each site visited with an open mind and appreciate each tradition on its own terms. Remember that appreciation is not necessarily the same thing as enjoyment. Some music is like sugar, sweet to taste and easy to take from the start. Other music is an acquired taste, and may only ever be appreciated at an intellectual level. I myself do not find all music aurally appealing, yet I strive to keep an open mind and accept that all musics (or musical sounds) are worthwhile because they are significant to someone— otherwise they would not exist. If you have read this far, I am certain you will do the same.

Terry E. Miller Andrew Shahriari

January 2016





None of us acquire knowledge in isolation, and all of us are indebted to the many people we have encountered during our lives. Certainly we are indebted to our own formal teachers at all levels, but our knowledge of the world’s musics is only possible thanks to innumerable individuals, some known first-hand, others known through performances, some only known through the Internet, who have— wittingly or unwittingly—taught us what we know. But we, not they, are responsible for that which remains unknown or misunderstood.

In particular we are indebted to the many individuals who have made it possible to offer an unprecedented seventy tracks of music, especially those who did so without payment. Similarly, we are indebted to those who appear in our photographs and to the photographers who allowed us to use their photographs. Their names are to be found in the credits for each track and each photo.

We are also indebted to our many students, who over the years have made us increasingly aware of the challenges of teaching world musics. While some of our students have been music majors, the vast majority are “non-music majors” satisfying requirements for their Liberal Education Core and for Diversity courses. As such, few have had a special interest in the world’s musics, so inspiring enthusiasm in the subject matter has been an exhilarating challenge. The insights brought from teaching students with a variety of majors and levels of interest in studying the world’s musics and cultures have been our greatest resource. It is these students who inspired much of our writing throughout the book.

A great number of individuals offered special help, by recording tracks, offering detailed information on those tracks, supplying photos, and offering extensive corrections. For this fourth edition we are especially appreciative of the following: Paul Austerlitz, Mr. Balusubramaniam, Praphai Boomsermsuwong, Kelly Foreman, Eliot Grasso, Kathleen Joyce-Grendahl, Roderic Knight, Mary Lawson Burke, Marcia Loebeck, Scott Marcus, Sara Stone Miller, Priwan and Siriphon Nanongkham, Phong Nguyen, Adrienne Kaeppler, Dale Olsen, Anne Prescott, K.S. Resmi, N. Scott Robinson, Ted and M. Tyler Rounds, Daniel Sheehy, Janine Tiffe, Amy Unruh and Sunmin Yoon. Additionally, Andrew would like to thank several of his graduate students, Maya Brown, Mark Rhodes, Kevin Wilson, Haochen Qin, Yuan Wang, and Lydia Snyder, for their suggestions and contributions to this latest edition. If we have omitted your name—and you will know who you are—we




apologize for our oversight. Last but not least, we must thank our families for their forbearance and their

tolerance of our long periods sitting before the computer writing and revising this book. Preceding that were many long and often demanding research trips to the field, usually with our spouses or with them left behind to “hold the fort” at home.

In addition, Terry would like to acknowledge the good humor shown by his children, Sonia and Esther, who, dragged along on numerous field trips, at least contributed their charms on his “research subjects.” Esther in particular thought her family’s trip to Trinidad in 1990 was to visit beaches but soon discovered that they were spending up to eight hours on Sunday in Spiritual Baptist churches. Andrew apologizes in advance, expecting that his children, Cyrus and Saffron, will have similar experiences in the future; but he promises to try to visit the beach at least once per field trip for the sake of his wife’s sanity.

Finally, both of us would like to thank the professionals we have worked with at Routledge. These are especially Constance Ditzel, our Managing Editor, who has given special attention to this project, offered many excellent suggestions, and been especially supportive of our ideas by being flexible. Sarah Collins, our Marketing Manager, who has tirelessly promoted the book and offered great support in its dissemination throughout the globe. Peter Sheehy and Mhairi Bennett have been consistently helpful, while keeping a low profile behind the scenes. We are especially indebted to Karl Hunt in the UK who created the page layouts for this edition, an endless task in our opinion. It has been a pleasure working with everyone at Routledge since the inception of this book in 2002.




Map of the World




Chapter 1 Before the Trip Begins

Fundamental Issues

Visitors arriving at Mingun, Myanmar (Burma), on the Irrawaddy River north of Mandalay, are offered “taxi”




transport in a covered ox cart to see the base of a gigantic pagoda begun in 1790, eft incomplete, and damaged

by a great earthquake in 1839

What is Music? Music: Universal Language or Culturally Specific Activity? Beware of Labels An Inside Look: Terence Liu An Inside Look: Nguyen Thuyet Phong Knowing the World’s Musics The Life of an Ethnomusicologist Representation: What Musics Does One Study? Resources for the Study of the World’s Musics

Reference Works Video Audio Recordings Journals

Questions to Consider




What is Music?

Although virtually everyone listens to it and most libraries include books on it, music is notoriously difficult to define, describe, and discuss. While in a literal sense music is only a kind of sound vibration, it must be distinguished from other kinds of sound vibration such as speech or noise. This distinction is based not on observable acoustical differences but on the meanings we assign the sounds that become, in our minds, music. Music is thus a conceptual phenomenon that exists only in the mind; at least that is where the distinctions between “noise” and “music” occur. Graphic representations of music—notations of any sort—are only that, representations. A score is not “the music” because music is a series of sonic vibrations transmitted through the ears to the brain, where we begin the process of making sense of and finding meaning and order in these sounds. Music is also challenging in that it can only be observed in “real time,” that is, over the course of its performance. Most other forms of art—paintings, sculptures, architecture— can be observed comprehensively at a glance.

We are normally surrounded by sounds—the sounds of nature, the sounds of man’s inventions, of our own voices—but for most of us most of the time distinguishing “music” from the totality of ambient sounds around us comes “naturally.” We recognize “noise” when we hear it; we recognize “music” when we hear it. Our sense of the difference between the two derives from a lifetime of conditioning. This conditioning is cultural in origin. Our own concept of what distinguishes music from noise is more or less the same as that of most everyone else within our “culture,” as we were raised in an environment that conveyed to us general notions about the distinctions between the two. Therefore, definitions of “music” are of necessity culturally determined.

For example, some Americans make a distinction between music and singing; for them, the word music refers only to instrumental sounds. Some years ago we wrote to a Primitive Baptist elder (a church leader) in North Carolina regarding that denomination’s orally transmitted hymn singing. We asked—naïvely—“when you sing, do you use music?” The answer was totally logical within the elder’s own world: “We don’t have any music in our church. All we do is sing.” By music we meant notation, but for the elder music meant instruments. In this book, however, we use the term music more broadly to encompass both instrumental and vocal phenomena.




Within the vocal realm, one of the most intriguing distinctions is that between speech and song. At what point on the speech–song continuum does speech become song? The answers to this question vary widely from place to place. Listeners from one culture may easily misjudge sounds from another culture by assuming, based on their own experience, that this or that performance is “song,” when the people performing consider it other than “song.” A general term for such “in-between” phenomena is “heightened speech”; for example, chant. One is most likely to have trouble differentiating “speech” and “song” when experiencing the heightened speech of religious and ritual performances, especially those associated with religions that discourage or even ban the performance of “song.”

In the Buddhist tradition of Thailand, for example, ordained monks are not permitted to perform song. But if you were to attend a “reading” of the great tale of Prince Wetsandawn (the Buddha’s final incarnation before achieving nirvana), during which a robed monk intones a long poem describing the prince’s life, you might, like most Westerners, describe the performance as “singing.” After all, the monk performing the story clearly requires considerable vocal talents to negotiate such elaborate strings of pitches. From a Western perspective this performance sounds convincingly like song. From the monk’s perspective, however—indeed, from that of most Thai— what he is performing cannot be song because monks are prohibited from singing. The monk’s performance is described by the verb thet, which means “to preach.” Why is this performance not considered song? Because there is consensus among Thai that it is not song but rather it is preaching. Thus, this chanted poetry is simultaneously “music” from our perspective and definitely “not music” from the perspective of the performer and his primary audience. Neither perspective is right or wrong in a universal sense; rather, each is “correct” according to respective cultural norms.




Thai Buddhist monks chant the afternoon service at Wat [temple] Suthat, Bangkok, Thailand




Music: Universal Language or Culturally Specific Activity?

It is frequently asserted that “music is a universal [or international] language,” a “meta-language” that expresses universal human emotions and transcends the barriers of language and culture.

The problems with this metaphor are many. First, music is not a language, at least not in the sense of conveying specific meanings through specific symbols, in standard patterns analogous to syntax, and governed by rules of structure analogous to grammar. While attempts have been made to analyze music in linguistic terms, these ultimately failed because music is of a totally different realm. Second, it is questionable whether music really can transcend linguistic barriers and culturally determined behaviors, though some forms of emotional communication, such as crying, are so fundamentally human that virtually all perceive it the same way. In our journey we will come to see that particular musics do not support the notion that music is a universal language, and we do not believe such a concept to be useful in examining the world’s musics.

As will become increasingly clear as you begin your exploration of the world’s vast array of musics, musical expression is both culturally determined and culturally encoded with meaning. The field of semiotics, which deals with signs— systems of symbols and their meanings—offers an explanation of how music works. Although semiotics was not created specifically for music, it has been adapted by Canadian scholar Jean-Jacques Nattiez and others for this purpose.


The study of signs and systems of signs, including in music.

A semiotic view of music asserts that the musical sound itself is a “neutral” symbol that has no inherent meaning. Music is thus thought of as a “text” or “trace” that has to be interpreted. In a process called the poietic, the creator of the music encodes meanings and emotions into the “neutral” composition or performance, which is then interpreted by anyone listening to the music, a process




called the esthesic. Each individual listener’s interpretation is entirely the result of cultural conditioning and life experience. When a group of people sharing similar backgrounds encounters a work or performance of music, there is the possibility that all (or most) will interpret what they hear similarly—but it is also possible that there will be as many variant interpretations as there are listeners. In short, meaning is not passed from the creator through the music to the listener. Instead, the listener applies an interpretation that is independent of the creator. However, when both creator and listener share similar backgrounds, there is a greater likelihood that the listener’s interpretation will be consistent with the creator’s intended meaning.

When the creator and listener are from completely different backgrounds, miscommunication is almost inevitable. When, for example, an Indian musician performs what is called a raga, he or she is aware, by virtue of life experience and training, of certain emotional feelings or meanings associated with that raga. An audience of outsiders with little knowledge of Indian music or culture must necessarily interpret the music according to their own experience and by the norms of their society’s music. They are unlikely to hear things as an Indian audience would, being unaware of culturally determined associations between, say, specific ragas and particular times of the day. Such miscommunication inevitably contributes to the problem of ethnocentrism: the assumption that one’s own cultural patterns and understandings are normative and that those that differ are “strange,” “exotic,” or “abnormal.”


The unconscious assumption that one’s own cultural background is “normal,” while that of others is “strange” or “exotic.”

Whenever we encounter something new, we subconsciously compare it to all our previous experiences. We are strongly inclined to associate each new experience with the most similar thing we have encountered previously. People with a narrow range of life experience have less data in their memory bank, and when something is truly new, none of us has any direct way to compare it to a known experience. Misunderstandings easily occur at this point. We attempt to rationalize the unfamiliar in terms of our own experience and often “assume” the unknown is consistent with what we already know. Even if a newly encountered




music sounds like something we recognize, we cannot be sure it is similar in any way. Perhaps a war song from another culture might sound like a lullaby in our culture. Knowing about this potential pitfall is the first step in avoiding the trapdoor of ethnocentrism.




Beware of Labels

The German philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889–1951) famously warned, “labels terminate thinking.” But because world music is such a vast subject, it must be broken down into manageable subcategories, which are labeled for the purpose of identification. While such labels are useful, they can also mislead. In teaching the musics of the world it is often tempting to use labels as shorthand. Unfortunately, not everyone understands their meanings and limitations; furthermore, these labels are employed in a variety of ways depending on the user’s background. Thus, while we prefer not to employ such labels here, we recognize that they are difficult to avoid. When we do use them, we will attempt to limit them to particular circumstances.

Anyone who aspires to write a music survey, especially one covering the entire planet, cannot avoid using some labels. On the one hand, we recognize the problems with labels, especially the danger of stereotyping and over-generalized statements. On the other hand, a “phenomenological” perspective allowing no possibility for generalizations—emphasizing as it does the individuality of each experience—has no limitations. We recognize the dangers of labels and generalizations but find some of them unavoidable.

Terms that can cause trouble when studying the musics of the world include folk, traditional, classical, art, popular, and neo-traditional. For example, the term folk (from the German volk) carries with it a set of meanings and attitudes derived from the Romantic movement in literature, which flourished in Europe during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. During this period German scholars began exploring their own culture’s roots in opposition to the dominant “classical” culture imported from France and Italy. Romanticism championed the common people over the elite, and in the early nineteenth century, writers such as the Grimm brothers and the pair Arnim von Achim and Clemens Brentano began collecting stories and song texts with subjects often centered on the “peasants,” whose wisdom was seen as equal to that of learned scholars. As a result of its origin, then, the term folk music carries with it a lot of nineteenth-century European baggage that can clutter our thinking when it is applied to non- European musics.




A large group of Dong minority men in China’s Guizhou province play free-reed mouth organs of various

sizes, but the resulting clusters of tones—without melody— challenges our definitions of “music”

Folk, classical, and popular are the trio of words most commonly used to categorize and distinguish among various types of music. Defining them individually is one issue; taken together they are problematic because they suggest a hierarchical value system in which classical is typically considered highest, folk of a much lower value, and popular at the lowest level. We would much prefer to have value-neutral terms with universally applicable definitions, but this is a difficult, if not impossible, goal within any single language. When we use terms such as folk, classical, and popular in this text, we mean to represent points on a continuum rather than distinct categories. We do not intend any hierarchical association, rather the terms are used merely as descriptors.

The term classical has several meanings and thus carries with it the potential for confusion. It may suggest connection with or influence from the styles of ancient Greece and Rome, though this usage is rarely associated with music. It also denotes a revered model or the epitome of a style or type. Thus we describe a 1956 Thunderbird as a “classic” car or certain films as “classics.” In a sense many of the so-called classical musics of the world, be they European, Arabic, or Asian, conform to this second definition. A third definition, however, suggests value: it identifies classical as the highest form, that is, the best. Such a usage, particularly with reference to European “classical music,” implies a problematic belief in a




canon of “great works” created by a pantheon of “great composers”—a belief that has led to charges of cultural domination by “dead, white, European males.” Finally, for commercial purposes and in the minds of many non-musicians, the word classical is used to refer to anything orchestral, even soundtracks and some Broadway shows.


I had my new Ph.D. in ethnomusicology but was crew manager for the lunch rush at Arby’s in Kent, Ohio, in December 1989 when Daniel Sheehy, then assistant director of folk arts at the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), called to tell me I was hired as an arts grant specialist. I would be assisting him and Bess Lomax Hawes in the program they had shaped together to award federal grants to support folk and traditional artists around the country. After starting in January 1990, in 1996 I experienced a clash between the NEA and politics which resulted in me and about 90 other employees being part of a “reduction in force.” After that I worked for three years as a folk arts coordinator in a local arts agency in California but returned to the NEA as an arts education specialist in 2000.

Today is a typical day. I will get documents ready for calls from a spring round of applicants who will be notified in a few days of their applications being rejected. Of the 150 Arts Education applications in that round, fewer than half were recommended for grants totaling $2.2 million. Interpreting what panel reviewers concluded about the proposals is actually valuable technical assistance for disappointed organizations. We have assembled experts from around the country and are currently reviewing another 150 applications from the summer deadline. New applicants looking toward next year’s spring deadlines are also calling with their ideas. Grant making is an endless, labor-intensive cycle. I wish I had space to describe the excellent projects we fund, but you can visit the NEA website,, to see for yourself.

Communication is central to my work. Today there is an email from the National Guild for Community Arts Education about my participation at the 2015 conference in Philadelphia next week. The Guild is a network of community schools of the arts, arts organizations, and arts education divisions of universities, museums, and other institutions collectively connecting more than 20,000 teaching artists and 2.5 million students each year. Two years ago at the conference held in Boston, the Guild membership worked together to define a new term, “Creative




Youth Development,” and pledged to support youth to study and create their own work in the arts and humanities as a pathway for personal, social, and intellectual growth.

At noon I meet Jonathan Dueck, ethnomusicologist at George Washington University, for lunch. We are leading the Local Arrangements Committee for the 2016 meeting of the Society for Ethnomusicology (SEM), which will take place in Washington, DC. Having no single university host presents an unusual and challenging opportunity. We plan to collaborate with all universities in the area, including the Smithsonian Institution and American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. As an NEA employee I am not allowed to participate in fundraising, so that whole task falls upon Jonathan. We are planning to get SEM members to experience local culture by getting on local transportation with designated ethnomusicology students as their guides. Our plans have approval from Stephen Stuempfle, executive director of SEM, and we are now preparing our presentation for the 2015 meeting in Austin.

Terence Liu (front)

When I retire, I will live in a culturally rich place to explore, share my experience for ethical world music education efforts, and keep playing violin and bass as I have all these years. Even as an Asian-American, I have participated in a Mexican mariachi, in Indian kirtan groups, and in both Celtic and Jimi Hendrix rock bands. I have used the training I had in conflict resolution during my work as collateral duty EEO counselor at the NEA, a job that somehow came natural to me as an ethnomusicologist trained in fieldwork and observation of human behavior and expression. I apply ethnomusicology to everything I do and will do so for the rest




of my life.

Nguyen Thuyet Phong AN INSIDE LOOK

Although I was born in a rice-growing village deep in the Mekong River delta of southern Vietnam, I came from a family of skilled traditional musicians who performed the local ritual music in our province. My father began teaching me music at age five, and at age seven I began study with Tram Van Kien, a great master of the region, concentrating on both instrumental and vocal music. When I was seven my family sent me to a nearby market town where I continued my music studies while living in a Buddhist temple. By the age of twelve I had become proficient in many kinds of music, including instrumental music, ritual music, theater music, folk songs, and Buddhist chant. After that I studied at the University of Saigon, earning a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy and Literature in 1972.

Most of these early years, however, were very stressful because of the war’s increasing ferocity, and many times my family’s village was bombed by American forces and our house destroyed. I was working in Japan when the war ended in April 1975 and the country fell into difficulties. Fortunately, France—Vietnam’s former colonial ruler— accepted me, and in 1982 in Paris I was able to complete a Ph.D. in Musicology with distinction from the Sorbonne University, writing my dissertation on Vietnamese Buddhist chant. Eventually, in 1984, I made my way to the United States and have lived here ever since. Although it is difficult to make a living performing traditional Vietnamese music, I have been fortunate to have been invited to play throughout the United States and in many other countries, including Canada, Norway, Netherlands, France, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Korea, Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Taiwan among them. In 1997 the National Endowment for the Arts awarded me a National Heritage Fellowship presented by First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton. My ensemble and I continue to perform live and make recordings. I also remain a scholar, writing books and articles, compiling compact discs, doing field research, and lecturing. I created the Phong Nguyen Collections currently preserved at the Library of Congress’ Folklife Center and at Hobart and William Smith College’s Global Education Center. Recently I had the honor of advising the National Conservatory of Music in Hanoi on creating the first program in ethnomusicology in Vietnam supported by an American-government Fulbright grant.




Nguyen Thuyet Phong (left)

Presently I have made Vietnam my permanent home and am involved in creating and building a new university devoted to the study of traditional arts and culture. I feel that Vietnam has a bright future now.

Perhaps the words folk, classical, and popular would be more useful if defined in economic terms. Classical, in that case, would denote music created in contexts where there is enough surplus wealth to release musicians from the necessity of providing their own food and shelter, so that they may spend their lives practicing their art and thinking up increasingly complex and technically challenging ways of creating and performing music. Competent performances of classical music produced under these conditions generally require specialized training and years of practice. Folk then denotes music created and performed by people of modest means whose main occupation leaves limited time for practice and whose limited income leaves little money for expensive instruments. Such music is usually simpler in process and technically less demanding because its practitioners cannot devote the time and energy to it that classical musicians devote to their type of music. As such, folk music usually requires less rehearsal to be performed proficiently and is usually learned through observation, recordings, and informal instruction.




Gypsy musicians entertain diners at an outdoor restaurant in Bugac, Hungary, a village near Kecskemet on the

Great Plain (Puszta). From left to right: violin, cimbalom hammered dulcimer, string bass, viola

Popular, a term that also means many things to different people, would, in economic terms, denote music that is widely disseminated by various types of media and supported by a broad base of relatively casual consumers, whose purchases make possible productions that may reach spectacular proportions. Popular music, therefore, needs to appeal to a broad spectrum of the population to achieve financial success. Critics of popular music may see it as merely reflecting current fashions in music, but we should remember that popular music, like all music, has the potential to express widely held feelings on subjects that are both peculiar to the time and place as well as universally felt (e.g., love). They may also be politically challenging when the sentiments expressed oppose the status quo, or unifying when the words express widely held feelings.

Finally, put these words—these labels—to the test. Take as an example Drum and Bugle Corps, an offshoot of military brass bands originally created in the United States but now found worldwide. Does “drum corps” exemplify folk, popular, or classical? The musicians are nonprofessionals and originally locally based but they perform as a large, complex ensemble after highly disciplined rehearsals playing carefully planned compositional routines. Stylistically their music is more likely to be popular in nature, though some corps play music from the Western classical tradition too. Can you realistically classify such groups under a single label?

Our discussion has to this point avoided the term traditional. Music that is spoken of as “traditional” is often contrasted with the individually innovative




music of European classicism. It is also frequently contrasted with popular music or modernized music and is therefore considered synonymous with “folk.” Traditional music is assumed to change little over time and to thereby preserve values long held by the community. Although the implication is that a special characteristic of “traditional” music is its emphasis on continuity over innovation, a great deal of music otherwise labeled as “classical” or “popular” is equally conservative or continuous in style. However, while we admit there are numerous problems with the term traditional, we doubt that any text on world musics can avoid its use entirely. At the very least, it can be said to be a more descriptive and less value-laden term than folk.

American Drum and Bugle Corps. Is it folk, popular, or classical?




Knowing the World’s Musics

What can we know about the world’s musics and how do we obtain this knowledge? These are basic questions in the field of ethnomusicology, but there is rarely a single answer to any question. If music is a part of the culture that produces it, and both the makers and the listeners of the music share similar lifetimes of experience that give the music meaning, then how can we as outsiders experience this music?


The scholarly study of any music within its contemporary cultural context.

Obviously, upon first encounter with new sounds, our own personal life experience is all we have to draw on, and the ethnocentrism we referred to earlier may intrude. The sound quality of a singer may sound unpleasantly nasal compared to vocalists trained in a Western conservatory, while the performance of a Western orchestral symphony may sound bombastic and hideous to a rural farmer in Pakistan. One of the assumptions of those who study the musics of the world is that, with additional knowledge, we can gradually overcome our ethnocentrism and accept each music on its own terms. This is each individual student’s challenge.


The study of orally transmitted folk knowledge and culture.

While several fields of scholarship have included music as part of their purview, such as anthropology, sociology, and folklore, the main field devoted to world musics is ethnomusicology. In its earlier days, at the end of the nineteenth century, the field was called comparative musicology, or in German, Vergleichende




Musikwissenschaft. At the time, many European colonial powers sent researchers to their growing empires to gather materials for what became the great ethnographic museums of Europe. Early ethnomusicologists worked in these museums and in archives, using as their primary source materials, recordings and other artifacts brought back from the “field” by collectors. Sometimes, however, scholars were able to work directly with foreign musicians on tour, such as when Germans Carl Stumpf and Erich Moritz von Hornbostel recorded Siamese (Thai) musicians in Berlin in 1900 for the Phonogrammarchiv, the first international archive of recordings.

Modern digital recording devices make the field recording of music much simpler now. Although this

recording of Lao lam repartee singing was being made in a remote private home outside Luang Phrabang in

central Laos, the resulting sound is near studio quality

Early ethnomusicologists focused on description and classification, using the rapidly accumulating materials found in European museums. Germans Curt Sachs and the aforementioned E. M. von Hornbostel, for example, drew from earlier models to evolve a comprehensive system for classifying musical instruments based on what vibrates to make musical sound. (This system is discussed in Chapter 2.) Scholars throughout Europe transcribed recorded music into notation and attempted classifications based on genre, scale, and other observable characteristics. This was the era of the “armchair” scholar who practiced the




“science” (Wissenschaft) of music.


The first-hand study of music in its original context, a technique derived from anthropology.

Over time, scholars began doing their own fieldwork, during which they recorded music in the field on cylinder, disc, wire, and later magnetic acetate tape. Many of these scholars thought of themselves as ethnographers or anthropologists. Among the greatest of these was an American woman, Frances Densmore (1867– 1957), who, working directly with Native American singers and instrumentalists, wrote fifteen books and numerous articles, and released seven commercial recordings, mostly through the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC.

American ethnomusicology began changing dramatically in the 1960s, especially because of five men and the academic programs they influenced. Alan Merriam (1923–1980)—of Indiana University’s Department of Anthropology—published in 1964 The Anthropology of Music, one of the most influential books ever written on the subject, in which he defined ethnomusicology as “the study of music in culture.” Unlike the older school of Europeans who viewed music as sounds to be analyzed apart from their cultural context, Merriam saw music as a human behavior. Similarly, British anthropologist John Blacking (1928–1990) has defined music as “humanly organized sound.”

Ki Mantle Hood (1918–2005), originally a composer, provided a musicological alternative at the University of California, Los Angeles’s Institute of Ethnomusicology, by emphasizing what he called bi-musicality. In this approach researchers combine learning to play the music under study with field observation. David Park McAllester (1916–2006) and others at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, created a program in “world musics” that emphasized performance and composition taught by masters of musical traditions from around the world, especially India, Africa, and Indonesia. Finally, Bruno Nettl (b. 1930), a specialist in both Native American and Persian musics, has influenced the course of ethnomusicology over the last fifty years, both through his teaching at the University of Illinois and his numerous publications, and continues to help guide the field through a period of increasing diversification. For many, Nettl’s work represents both common sense and the mainstream of the profession.




Frances Densmore recording a Piegan Indian c.1916 (Library of Congress)

Thus, ethnomusicology has long been pulled in two directions: the anthropological and the musicological, the first centering on the study of human behavior and cultural context, the second emphasizing the sonic artifacts of human music-making. Regardless of orientation, however, most ethnomusicology programs are found in college and university departments of music. Typical programs include courses for non-majors, especially world music surveys, and more specialized courses on both broad and specific areas of the world as well as courses in research methodology. Many schools offer opportunities to play in world music performance ensembles.

Ethnomusicology today, however, has been much influenced by new ways of thinking generally subsumed under the heading postmodernism. A reaction against modernism or positivism, in which the establishment of “truth” is based on verifiable “facts,” postmodernism de-emphasizes description and the search for absolute truth in favor of interpretation and the acceptance of the relativity of truth. A great variety of intellectual approaches, mostly borrowed from other disciplines, offer ethnomusicologists new ways to interpret the meaning of music. These include gender studies and feminist theories; Marxist interpretations; semiotic approaches; cognitive studies; performance studies; attention to such issues as identity, post-colonialism, and the political ramifications of music; and, especially, popular music studies. The latter has risen rapidly since about 1980 under the influence of the “Manchester School” in England, and is associated with the term cultural studies, which denotes several postmodern theoretical approaches used to interpret popular culture. The study of popular music, however, has recently led to an apparent decrease of interest in fieldwork among ethnomusicologists and a parallel deemphasis of the techniques appropriate to the




study of “traditional” music, because popular musics are more easily studied through the media than are traditional musics.




The Life of an Ethnomusicologist


(1) preparation

(2) fieldwork

(3) analysis

(4) dissemination

What do ethnomusicologists actually do? How do they learn about the world’s musics? We view the process as having four basic phases: (1) preparation; (2) fieldwork; (3) analysis; and (4) dissemination. Before going to the field, whether it be a faraway nation in Central Asia, a region of Indonesia, or a nearby town in their own country, ethnomusicologists must prepare themselves by learning as much as they can about the area, the kinds of music they will encounter, and the conditions under which they will do their study. This is best accomplished through the use of library, media, and Internet resources and through interaction with others who know the area, especially people who grew up there or perhaps still live there. In many cases researchers must spend years studying the language of their area, which often is one that is rarely taught. Well-prepared field researchers will need not only high-quality recording equipment but also the wits and maturity to deal with all sorts of unexpected situations, both technical and social.




Co-author (AS) blessed by a spirit dancer in northern Thailand (Christina Shahriari)

Besides doing research in the field, ethnomusicologists must also live and eat, and these necessities may present great challenges when unfamiliar food is on the menu or living conditions are radically different. In the course of their research, scholars may seek to acquire first-hand experience through participation in various rituals, festivals, and other events, and may need to create professional documents through still photography, videography, audio recording, and interviews. A detailed journal is important, not to mention the logs that retain the details of recordings and photographs. The fieldwork phase can last anywhere from a few days to several years. Based on our experience, we can say that the longer one stays in the field, the more one will know but the less one will understand. This apparent irony stems from the increasing perception of complexity that accompanies prolonged exposure to any culture: the more you experience it, the more you realize how much more there is to learn. First-hand experience teaches us that all cultures are deep and complex and that understanding a music is far more demanding than simply collecting it.

What do ethnomusicologists do with the material and knowledge they acquire? It is a standing joke among ethnomusicologists that we spend thousands of dollars and months of our lives, braving tough weather and unfamiliar foods, to bring back a few videos that we look at only once. The material collected in the field is considered “raw.” After it is collected, ethnomusicologists must find ways to analyze, interpret, and disseminate what they have collected. This is done primarily through teaching, writing and reading “papers” at professional meetings, writing chapters, journal articles, and books and, perhaps, compiling CDs or DVDs for commercial release. As researchers acquire expertise in an area, they may be called upon to referee articles submitted to journals, write reviews of books, and CDs, or serve on state- or national-level panels that award grants to individuals and arts organizations. Most ethnomusicologists work as professors in colleges and




universities, though others hold positions in publicly funded agencies such as the National Endowment for the Arts, while some work for museums, community programs, and art centers. A few work as freelance scholars and musicians. Few can afford to be just ethnomusicologists—that is, researchers—full time. Most must spend the majority of their time doing other kinds of work.




Representation: What Musics Does One Study?

A survey course on the musics of the world poses a challenge far different from that presented by a course covering the classical musics of Europe. In the latter case there is a rough consensus on who the “great composers” are and what the “great works” are. These make up what is called a canon—that is, a foundational list of core composers and works that every music student is expected to know. World music courses have no such canon, and certainly no list of great composers. The world is too large and there are too many choices for much consensus to form. Therefore, one must consider not only how to organize such a course but what to include. What should every world music student know? If the organization is geographical, what genres and particular examples should “represent” a country or culture? Our choices reveal our biases and assumptions about what constitutes the music of a given place. Some might choose to emphasize contemporary culture by including a greater proportion of urban-based popular musics than “traditional” ones. Others would argue that the essence of a culture is in its traditional music. There is no way to resolve these questions except by agreeing that any world music course is only the beginning, the first few steps of a learning journey that can last a lifetime. In a way, it does not matter how one begins as much as it matters that one actually begins.




Resources for the Study of the World’s Musics

Today’s students are fortunate to live in a time when resources for the study of world musics are growing exponentially. The proliferation of publications, both print and recorded, has been astounding. We suggest the following as likely the most comprehensive and readily available resources for further study.

Reference Works

Two major reference works that introduce world music include the ten-volume Garland Encyclopedia of World Music and The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. The “Garland,” as ethnomusicologists label the former, includes nine volumes which cover geographically defined areas of the world, with the tenth volume being a compilation of resources. Each volume is between 1,000 and 1,500 pages and includes both general and specific articles, hundreds of photos and musical examples, a CD, and an extensive list of bibliographic and recorded resources. The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition, in twenty-nine volumes offers extensive coverage of the world’s musics, primarily through articles on specific countries. While the series emphasizes Western art music, there are numerous entries devoted to world music. The “Grove” is also available in an online form, but this will likely have to be accessed at a subscribing library. Also worth consulting is the multi-volume set of The Rough Guide to World Music, now in its third edition, which includes articles on musics throughout the world with an emphasis on popular styles.


The Internet is now also a valuable and easily accessed place for video of an unimaginable array of world musics. While the footage found on sites such as YouTube is generally of amateur quality, it allows free access to a vast arena of world music and culture that was barely imaginable even just a decade ago. The proliferation of such video through online delivery has unfortunately discouraged publishers from producing substantial hard-copy collections, though two still available deserve special mention. First is the JVC/Smithsonian-Folkways




Anthology of World Music and Dance, a series of video clips with accompanying booklets. One drawback of this collection is that it was compiled in large part from pre-existing footage, and as a result in some areas the coverage is uneven or unrepresentative. Also worth mentioning is the Beats of the Heart documentary series, produced by Jeremy Marre for the world music label Shanachie, which includes narrated documentaries on such varied topics as Indian filmi songs, Jamaican reggae, and music in Thailand. Shanachie also produces a series of World Music Portraits focused on specific world music artists, such as Compay Segundo, Jimmy Cliff, and Salif Keita. Beyond these are a variety of documentary films that focus on world music, though they tend to be produced in limited number by different publishers. Utilizing services such as Netflix can help world music enthusiasts to find films on subjects that are otherwise difficult to find.

Audio Recordings

A great variety of companies in the United States, Europe, and Japan have produced commercial world music CDs that are available internationally. Unfortunately, many of them were produced by non-specialists, and therefore the information provided in liner notes must be approached with caution. What is perhaps the most significant series of recordings was originally released on Moses Asch’s Folkways label, and is now being reissued on CD in expanded form by Smithsonian-Folkways in Washington, DC, along with new releases. Other important series have been produced by Lyrichord, Nonesuch, World Music Library, Pan, Rounder, Multicultural Media, and many other record companies around the globe. Regrettably, as consumers have turned to downloads and record stores have nearly vanished, the few remaining smaller companies are releasing little material now. A vast amount of world music can be found online today as well. Music access applications, such as iTunes, are increasingly popular around the world and provide an ever-increasing stream of music access to our global soundscape.


Most journals are produced by scholarly societies, and therefore the articles in them tend to be specialized, and at times obscure. Serious students, however, can gain much from such material. The most significant journals to consider include




Ethnomusicology, Yearbook for Traditional Music, American Music, Asian Music, Journal of African Music, Ethnomusicology Forum, The World of Music, The Journal of Popular Culture, and a variety of other journals dedicated to specific areas of the world, such as Chime (focused on China).

Finally, it is worth restating that the Internet is now an invaluable resource with regards to the investigation of world music and culture. Many of the above mentioned resources have associated websites, and there are numerous online pathways to pursue when researching a topic. This textbook, for example, has an extensive website that can be used as a starting point for further exploration.




Questions to Consider

1. What do ethnomusicologists mean when they say, “Music is universal, but it is not a universal language”?

2. What are the potential problems in classifying music as “classical,” “folk,” or “popular”?

3. How might an ethnomusicologist approach the study of Western classical music differently from a musicologist?

4. What is “fieldwork”? What is its importance to the study of world music?

5. In what ways does world music study require an interdisciplinary approach?

6. What is ethnocentrism? Have you ever experienced it?




Chapter 2 Aural Analysis

Listening to the World’s Musics

Detail of four khawng mon (bossed gong circles) from Thailand.




How to Listen to World Music “Talking” about Music Timbre and Medium

Vocal Timbre Instrumental Timbre

Aerophones: Flutes, Reeds, and Trumpets Chordophones: Lutes and Zithers Idiophones: Plucked, Struck, and Shaken Membranophones Summary


Tuning System Scale Interval Range Melody

Melodic Contour Ornamentation Text Setting


Beat and Tempo Accent and Meter Rhythmic Density

Phonic Structure Dynamics An Inside Look: Bruno Nettl Form Need to Know: Fundamentals of Music Questions to Consider




How to Listen to World Music

The primary objective of this book is to expose you, the reader, to a generous variety of musical traditions from cultures around the globe. Learning something about the music of other people is like gaining a window into their world and is a chance to explore the creative power of humanity. The ability to recognize various musical traditions and express some knowledge about them is a good start toward crossing the cultural boundaries that often divide us. This book is not only about world music; it is about people, cultures, geography, and history as well. Some music traditions are easy to recognize, whereas others require you to develop a systematic method for identifying what you hear. Each person’s method will undoubtedly be different, but here are some initial suggestions on how to listen to unfamiliar world music.

Begin by listening to the music examples included with this text before reading any of the material. Remember your initial gut feeling. Often your first impression of a musical sound helps you remember that sound in the future. Does the music sound familiar or completely alien? Do you like it, or does it make you want to skip to the next track? Does the music seem busy, cold, happy, relaxing, heavy? Does it sound like rain, whale calls, a screeching owl, a music box? Any image you can use later to help you recognize the music could be helpful.

Make the music samples part of your daily life, even if you don’t like every example. Many new musical sounds require you to develop a taste for them before they can be appreciated. Listen in your car, before you go to bed, or while exercising, walking the dog, cooking, and so on.

Use the book to help you better understand the form and intent of each example. It is necessary to read each chapter to connect what you hear with what you know. If you don’t know anything about the type of music you’re listening to, what you hear won’t mean much. You may enjoy the music, but you can’t fully appreciate it unless you understand what is happening and why.

You will know you are “familiar” with a particular musical example when you can recognize it after just a few seconds of listening, and answer “yes” to the following questions:

• Do you know which country the example comes from? • Can you visualize the instruments, imitate the sound of the music, and




anticipate changes in rhythm? • Are you knowledgeable of the example’s cultural associations? Immediately

knowing in what contexts the music is performed, or with which religion it is associated, are also indicators that you are becoming familiar with the tradition it represents.

Don’t limit yourself to the musical examples provided with this text. Find other recordings of the same types of music and compare them with the given ones. Identify the commonalities in musical sound so that you’re able to recognize the tradition, not just the specific recordings from the book.

Remember, music is universal, but it is not a universal language. Understanding world music requires an open mind and a willingness to acknowledge that other perspectives, ideas, and attitudes are equally as valid as your own. Our world is “smaller” than it has ever been in history. You will likely have opportunities to meet people from many of the places discussed in this book. Knowing something about their music can help you communicate with them and may lead to cultural experiences you would never have anticipated. So, listen with both your mind and your emotions, as well as your ears.




“Talking” about Music

Every discipline, be it physics, economics, or art, has its own jargon, a vocabulary that must be learned. Music is no exception. Because music is conceptual, its components require names in order for discussion to occur. Music terms such as melody and rhythm are familiar to most readers, musician and non-musician alike. Other terms, such as heterophony, idiophone, or rhythmic density usually require some explanation. This chapter seeks to put all readers on an equal footing by explaining basic music concepts, as well as introducing certain terms peculiar to the discipline of ethnomusicology.

A musical sound has four basic components: timbre, pitch, rhythm and dynamics. Timbre, or the quality of a musical sound, is inherently linked to a medium—that is, to the object or person producing the sound. Pitch is synonymously referred to in musical terms as tone. It is most often expressed with a letter name equating to a frequency; for example, the standard Western concert pitch of A = 440 Hertz (Hz). Rhythm depends on durations of sounds, which are often organized into regular patterns. Finally, dynamics denotes the volume, or relative loudness or softness, of a sound, and can be measured in decibels (dBs).


The tone quality or color of a musical sound.


A tone’s specific frequency level, measured in Hertz (Hz).


The lengths, or durations, of sounds as patterns in time.





The volume of a musical sound.




Timbre and Medium

The easiest way to learn to recognize a world music tradition is to become familiar with its media—that is, the sounds of its typical instruments and vocal qualities. In order to identify a specific medium, we must first become familiar with its characteristic timbre or “color.” Most terms used to describe timbre are based on analogies between musical sound and everyday physical and sensory experience. Terms such as nasal, dark, mellow, strained, rough, soothing, grating, and so on, are highly subjective when applied to music but are nevertheless helpful in describing “aural color.”

Just as we distinguish visually among red, blue, and green, so too we distinguish between aural “colors”—that is, among the characteristic qualities that define the sounds of, say, the trumpet, the violin, or the flute. (Compare Tibetan Buddhist Ritual—CD 2.5; Cape Breton fiddling—CD 3.17; Native American flute—CD 3.28.) In the case of “visual color,” determining the differences among red, yellow, and green is fairly easy. In order to differentiate among evergreen, lime, and emerald, however, one must possess a sharper and more experienced eye. Similarly, while it may be easy to hear the difference between a violin and a trumpet, learning to distinguish the similar sounds of a banjo, koto, and sitar from one another may take some time even for an attentive listener. (Compare Hindustani Raga (sarod/ tambura)—CD 1.5; Guqin—CD 1.16; Jali with kora—CD 3.1.) Fortunately, in addition to timbre there are other elements that can help you identify what you are hearing, such as pitch, rhythm, dynamics, style, and various extra-musical factors.

When listening to an example of an unfamiliar music tradition for the first time, you must determine whether you hear voices, instruments, or a combination. (Compare Steel band—CD 3.7; Lined Hymn—CD 3.19; Gospel Choir—CD 3.23.) The next step is to identify how many voices or instruments you hear. Either you hear a soloist or a group, also called an ensemble. (Compare Guqin—CD 1.16; Jiangnan sizhu—CD 1.17.)

If what you hear is an ensemble, determine whether it is a small group, such as an instrumental trio or vocal duet, or a large ensemble, such as an orchestra or choir. (Compare Mbira dza vadzimu—CD 2.23; Polyrhythmic ensemble—CD 2.19.) The larger the ensemble, the more difficult it will be to distinguish specific media. However, this very difficulty may help you hear the ensemble as a whole rather




than as individual performers leading you to a recognition of the tradition. In the instances where the ensemble is small enough that you can determine roughly how many performers there are, the next step is to try to identify each medium (instruments and/or voices) specifically.

Vocal Timbre

In the case of voices, you should be able to distinguish between male and female voices fairly easily, primarily based on their ranges. (Compare Bulgarian Women’s Choir—CD 2.18; Amazonian Indian chant—CD 3.11.) While range is a concept related to pitch, voices can also have timbral qualities that will help you to identify what you hear. Certain traditions—such as bluegrass and European opera—feature vocal timbres so distinctive that you can easily distinguish them.

Instrumental Timbre

In the case of instruments, timbre is closely related to instrument construction. The study of musical instruments is known as organology. Essential to organological study is the classification of instruments. In the European art music tradition, instruments are typically indentified using five basic categories: strings, winds, brass, percussion, and keyboards. This system, however, does not work well when applied to the rest of the world’s musical instruments.


The study of musical instruments.


Standard classication system for musical instruments created by Curt Sachs and Erik M. von Hornbostel.




In the field of ethnomusicology, the Sachs–Hornbostel system, created by German musicologists Curt Sachs and Eric M. von Hornbostel early in the twentieth century, is the predominant system used to describe and classify instruments. The four primary categories are aerophones, chordophones, idiophones, and membranophones; electrophones have become a fifth category. An instrument is classified according to what part of it vibrates to produce the sound. Each of these primary categories has several subcategories. Knowledge of only the more common subcategories is usually enough to help you perceive the timbre of a musical instrument and identify it. The more specifically you can subcategorize an instrument’s construction, however, the more accurately you will understand how the construction affects the unique timbre of the instrument.

Aerophones: Flutes, Reeds, and Trumpets

A Japanese noh kan horizontal flute




Double-reed aerophone (pi) from Thailand


Instruments that require air to produce sound— namely, flutes, reeds, trumpets, and bellows-driven instruments.

Aerophones are defined as instruments producing sound through the direct vibration of air, rather than through the vibration of air by another medium, such as a string or membrane. Aerophones are typically subdivided into three categories: flutes, reeds, and trumpets. Flutes are defined as instruments in which a column of air is set in vibration when the air is split on an edge. (Listen to Native American flute—CD 3.28.) Reed instruments have one or more small pieces of material, such as cane, bamboo, or metal, that vibrate(s) when air is blown over or through them and into a tube. (Listen to Uilleann bagpipes—CD 2.16.) Trumpets require the performer to vibrate the lips rather than a reed, as they blow air into the instrument. (Listen to Australian Aborigine song with didjeridu—CD 1.1.) Recognition of the characteristic timbres of flutes, reeds, and trumpets is an important first step toward becoming a discriminating listener. Keep in mind, however, that these terms refer to general categories, not specific instruments such as the European (“silver”) flute or brass trumpet.

The ntahera ivory horn ensemble of the Asantehene, Kumase, Ghana (Joseph S. Kaminski)




Chordophones: Lutes and Zithers


Four types of stringed instruments: lutes, zithers, harps, lyres.

Chordophones are defined as having one or more strings stretched between two points. Sound is produced when a string vibrates. There are many chordophones in the world of music, but two basic types, lutes and zithers, comprise the majority. The shape of the instrument is the key feature that distinguishes a lute from a zither. The strings of a zither are stretched parallel to the entire sounding board, as with a piano. Thus nearly the whole instrument acts as a resonator. (Listen to Dastgah for santur and voice—CD 2.8.) In addition to a resonating body, a lute has a neck, which allows a performer to vary the acoustical length of a string to produce different pitches, as with a guitar. Because its neck does not act as a resonator, a lute generally has less resonance than a zither of the same size, and its sound dissipates more quickly. (Listen to Country Blues—CD 3.24.)

The most common zithers are either hammered, as with the piano, or plucked, as with the Japanese koto, while lutes are generally either plucked, as with a guitar, or bowed, as with a violin. A hammered zither tends to have a more reverberant sound timbre than other types of chordophones. The resonance of a plucked lute will die away almost immediately as the vibration amplification of each note diminishes. (Listen to Arabic Taqasim (buzuq and ud)—CD 2.7.) The sounds of a plucked lute or zither are further distinguishable by whether a plectrum or a finger plucks the string. The string vibration of a bowed lute is continuous for as long as the bow hairs are pulled across the string; thus, the sound does not immediately fade until the bowing stops. (Listen to Cape Breton fiddling—CD 3.17.) In addition to being plucked or bowed, lutes are either fretted or fretless. A fret is a straight bar of wood, bamboo, or metal placed on the neck of a lute perpendicular to the direction of the strings, as seen on a guitar. This enables an exact pitch to be played each time the performer presses the string against the fret. A fretless lute allows the performer to slide the finger between pitches, potentially sounding all of the frequencies between two distinct tones. (Listen to Hindustani Raga (sarod)—CD 1.5.) Fretted lutes are more likely to be plucked than fretless lutes, which are more frequently bowed. This is due to the fact that plucked lutes sound tones of short duration, while bowed lutes can sustain longer






A bar or ridge found on chordophones that enables performers to produce different melodic pitches with consistent frequency levels.

The Finnish kantele zither

The Turkish tanbur lute




Fretless lute (sarod) and fretted lute (sitar) from India

West African spike harp (bolon) with strings attached to a string holder




Ethiopian lyre (kraar)

Based on their construction, other major chordophones fall into the lyre and harp categories. The strings of lyres and harps are suspended by an open frame and are most often plucked. The string plane of a harp, in particular, runs perpendicular to the resonating body, rather than parallel to it as with lutes and zithers. The timbre of lyres and harps is generally difficult to distinguish from that of lutes and zithers, though visually the construction is quite distinct.

Idiophones: Plucked, Struck, and Shaken

Idiophones are defined as instruments that produce sound through the instrument itself vibrating (idio meaning “itself”). A strong sound can be easily produced on most idiophones. Practically anything can be considered an idiophone, from bottles to slamming doors, to change in your pocket. Bells, rattles, and a variety of other percussion instruments are common idiophones in a musical context. Most idiophones fall into one of three categories: plucked, struck, or shaken.


Instruments that themselves vibrate to produce sound, such as rattles, bells, and various other kinds of percussion.

Small, plucked idiophones are often a type of lamellophone, meaning that they




have a lamella (tongue or prong) that is flexed, and then released, causing a brief sound before the vibration of the lamella ceases. (Listen to Mbira dza vadzimu— CD 2.23.) A music box, with its comb-like metal prongs, is probably the most familiar example of a lamellophone, but the next most commonly encountered is the single, plucked lamella amplified by the mouth cavity, used for surrogate speech as much as for melody. Such instruments are known by many terms, such as “mouth harp,” “jaw harp,” and “jew’s harp,” the latter term probably a corruption of the French term jeu meaning “to play.” (Note also that this type of lamellophone is not a harp, that is, chordophone, despite the colloquial references.)

Gourd rattle (shekere) from sub-Saharan Africa




Three lamellophones from sub-Saharan Africa

Struck idiophones comprise the most varied category and include gongs, bells, wood blocks, and just about anything else that can be struck. (Listen to Vietnamese bronze gong ensemble— CD 1.9.) The great many timbres associated with such instruments are not easily generalized, though the sharp initial attack of the sound is a typical feature. Shaken idiophones are most often rattles. (Listen to Mbira dza vadzimu (hosho rattle)—CD 2.23.) Most rattles have a hollowed center filled with small objects, such as pebbles, seeds, or sand. When the instrument is shaken, the particles bounce against the outer shell of the instrument causing it to vibrate. Other rattles are constructed so that the small particles are loosely fixed to the outside of the object, such as with a netted gourd rattle (e.g., shekere).



Instruments, typically drums, that use a vibrating stretched membrane as the principal means of sound production.

Membranophones are defined as having a vibrating membrane, traditionally animal skin but often synthetic today, that is stretched over a frame. This category encompasses most drums found in the world. The different types of drums are further categorized on the basis of body shape—some, for example, are goblet- shaped, while others are barrel-shaped—and according to whether they are single- or double-headed. Most drums are struck with either the hand or some implement, usually a stick. (Compare Hindustani Raga (tabla)—CD 1.5; Ghanaian talking drum —CD 2.20.) There are too many kinds of drums throughout the world to make generalizations about timbre; however, smaller drums usually have a higher, tighter sound, while larger membranophones are deeper and earthier in character. Some drums can be tuned to specific pitches. Becoming familiar with the unique sounds of different drums takes time and effort. The essential first step is being able to distinguish between struck membranophones and struck idiophones. Not all membranophones are struck, however; those that are not—such as friction drums and “singing membranes” (e.g., kazoos)—are less common but particularly




unique in timbre. (Listen to Samba (cuíca)—CD 3.14.)

A group of drummers perform at the Elephant Festival at India’s Tripunithura Temple (Martin Harvey/Getty)


Learning to distinguish among aerophones, chordophones, idiophones, and membranophones is the first step in training your ear to listen attentively to world music. Being able to recognize subcategories within these instrument groups greatly enhances your appreciation of sound and helps you identify the music you hear more quickly. You will encounter many similar types of instruments, such as the Japanese shakuhachi and the Native American flute, that are hard to distinguish from each other based on timbre alone. Fortunately, other aspects of musical performance such as pitch, rhythm, dynamics, and style can help you identify the tradition you hear. Differences in timbre, however, are most often what distinguish the sound of two instruments, even when all other aspects are identical. Familiarize yourself with the unique “aural colors” of each recorded example supplied with this text before trying to tackle the often more complicated issues associated with musical creation.





Every sound can be described as having either a definite or indefinite pitch. A definite pitch is determined by the dominance of a specific frequency level, which is expressed as Hz (Hertz or formerly, cycles per second). For example, the Euro- American “concert pitch,” A above middle C, has 440 Hz as its pillar frequency. Definite pitches are necessary to produce melody and harmony. An indefinite pitch consists of a cluster of frequency levels at more or less equal volume—that is, no one level dominates. Indefinite pitches, such as those produced by handclaps or rattles, are most often used in a rhythmic capacity. (Listen to Kiribati group song (vocal— definite pitches; handclaps—indefinite pitches)—CD 1.4.) Some indefinite pitches are continuously variable, such as that of a siren. While indefinite pitches are regularly found in music traditions throughout the world, the varied uses of definite pitch are more often the primary focus of musical activity; therefore, the term pitch hereafter refers specifically to definite pitches.


"Looking for a Similar Assignment? Get Expert Help at an Amazing Discount!"