Ethnomusicology in Analyzing Society’ Music

In the study of music, the term ethnomusicology is used. It refers to the educated in traditional, modern, and theoretical aspects of music within a social group or culture. Learning is based on the music’s beginning, dynamics, representations, utility, demographics, and the scientific nature of music art. Music is an integral part of the human lifestyle. It is widely used as an activity for leisure and entertainment. However, it has also been used for varied social functions in communities across all cultures. The variations are as diverse as the social beliefs and ways of life. Ethnomusicology is a field of study that endeavors to learn and put into documentation the people’s musical practice and culture worldwide.

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The study has a wide scope; hence the term ethnomusicology has been used to encompass the various areas that it covers. It covers the recitals of societies and tries to find pointers to improved knowledge of the societies and their lifestyles. In order to learn the way of life in a target society, a holistic connection with the norms and even participating in the playing of music is necessary. This will facilitate a more accurate collection of information as this is usually raw data. The information documented will benefit society and the researcher in a mutual way. The people receive documentation that they can use for other generations, and the researcher gets to learn about the foreign culture. Ethnography which is similar to ethnomusicology, has been used interchangeably to address the subject of music study. It is the observed description of customs and community groupings of human demographics. It explains a custom as precise as possible founded on the local point of view. The original ethnographer used society member scrutiny and interrogations, but, today they incorporate both documented and primary data in the studies. Society member scrutiny is explained as a straight examination of deeds coupled with talking to best articulate their standpoint and objective with regard to the conduct. The best way to gather the information is by getting involved in the daily activities with the society members (Collins, 2005).

Ethnomusicology has been characterized by great leaps over the decades. Its distinctiveness was in doubt when compared to the more reputable and superior historical musicology term. The study has been thought of as focusing on scholarly purposes only. However, this has begun to change with its nature of worldwide philosophies and tactics that are extensively sourced from diverse scholarly works. The integrated representation gives a unison corresponding structure that enlightens and conveys musical coordination. (Porter 1989).

The term ethnomusicology has not been fully understood in the western world. A perception is held that it entails the research of non-western music only. This is, however, not the case as there are studies that have been carried out on western cultures, although on a smaller scale, especially in Britain. The term ethnomusicology is supposed as exaggerated by many, but it should not be so. The ethnomusicologist is a music gatherer and a forecaster through partaker surveillance. As opposed to collecting the compilations solely, the ethnomusicologist also gathers the familiarity. The learner has to be in the midst of the musical experience, therefore, collecting accurate data (Scherzinger, 2000).

The researchers who study music are habitually fixed in scholarly methods that advocate particular types of study. These may include producing large volumes of literature on music, actual recitals, among others. Concentrating on these tasks ensures that students of music are aware of the extension of traditional music. The studies are also distinctly separated from the conventional music by the scholars avoiding confusion with other works. The promotion of the music also creates an understanding of the background of traditional western music and its purpose in modern society. However, there are few institutions that make little use of traditional music experts, leaving the task of knowledge formulation to the ethnomusicologists (Scherzinger, 2000).

There is a large gap that needs to be filled in the study of western traditional music; a lot of focus has been on foreign music research. A separation of folk music study and ethnomusicology should be abolished as they both focus on the primary concern, which is music. Although the terms used in ethnomusicology may seem strange to the folk music researchers, they ought not to be feared but to try and embrace the ideology. The use of terms such as culture can be incorporated into the works of the traditional music writers. Considering music from an ethnographic point of view will give the observer a holistic analysis of the music. The music students and persons who need to learn about British folk music ought to have a full understanding of the origins and culture of the people. This brings out a comprehensive view of the subject (Stock, 1999).

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Ethnomusicologists have discovered western music, which they thought of as a European-dominated area. The perception was that it was all traditional music. Observations were made on the musical acumen and bodily indigestion that initiated studies of music and stupor. Outstanding parts of concern entail expressions once steered clear of or downgraded to a minute rank of intellectual thought. Folk music and western music were regarded as for the minor class in the sophisticated society, which belonged to the composers and not the listener, particularly in Europe (Porter, 1989).

In the study of African popular music, it can be said that ethnomusicology has recently found root in learning institutions. The graduating students are oriented to the music of their culture, which can help them in securing employment and growing the music trade. In Ghana, music trade and trendy music learning are applicable to other sectors of the institution’s scope of teaching. It relates to political sciences with examples of roles in state freedom efforts and local Pan African symbolism. It is also used as a community-political assessment for the citizen position. Music is used during national day celebrations. They serve to remind the citizens of the sovereignty achieved by the colonialists. In its nature as an overall outlook into cultural perspective, it aids scholars to scrutinize Africa’s developing metropolitan characteristics such as groupings. The music can be used to assists in the understanding of foreign linkages between Africans and Black Diaspora in foreign lands. Many Ghanaians are based in countries such as the United States of America and can benefit immensely if they learn about their roots through music. In comparison to other countries that have their own traditional music, the Africans also ought to pride in their own music. America, for example, has jazz music, and they pride in it (Vanspauwen, 2005).

Ethnomusicology has just started in institutions across African states and should be encouraged. Learning of the music and way of life should be undertaken from the country of origin to ensure the authenticity is preserved. If the music is studied together with all the cultural attributes, the students will have a better attachment to their roots even when in a foreign land. Since the teachings are still at an early stage, the use of an ethnographic approach will give the learners a sense of purpose to study. Music can be used as an influential tool for opinionated and communal apprehensions. It can objectively create a sense of protection where free will is elusive (Collins, 2005).

Contrasting to other qualitative techniques of music analysis, in ethnomusicology, the partakers’ examination permits verification of artist activities as opposed to secondary traits derived from interrogations. Intimate scrutiny allows the logic of certainty, especially when the researcher is wrapping up the study. This can be done by observations or taking video or audio recordings. This advantage, however, cannot be found when using quantitative methods of data collection. The ethnographic study is done using conversations with little data collection, giving it an authentic feel to others who study the findings. The data is considered primary and can be used as proof in the final analysis. Issues that might not have been on the subject matter of the researcher can be noticed and therefore be included in the study. This allows for an increase in the scope of study hence more information (Vanspauwen, 2005).

The methodology technique enables the study to answer emotional questions that address precise questions such as ‘what’, ‘who’, and ‘why’. These are the kind of information that is passed on through different communication styles such as body language and gestures. In the quantitative method of data collection, these attributes pass without detection. The liberty for expression structure in the ethnography permits the researcher to unearth information that is required for the study. The precise subject of study is clearly portrayed by the participatory approach, and the researcher is obliged to receive the data first hand. This is done through the use of probing questions and observations. Music that is researched using the ethnographic method has an experience attachment to it. A sense of belonging can be used to better articulate the findings of the investigation (Vanspauwen, 2005).

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The study of British folk music can use little of the qualitative method to study the culture. The challenge arises due to a reduction in the number of people who are still practicing the cultural traits. As for African music, the information has been included in the national heritage and therefore can be accessed via the curators. The folk music in Britain has been kept in the archives and only used during the entertainment of tourists. This, however, can lead to loss of heritage if careful study and storage are not undertaken. Due to changing society compositions, the archives are a treasure to any society, and care must be taken to safeguard the heritage of the society. Ethnomusicology will play a significant role in the preservation of the cultures of indigenous groups if a comprehensive approach is used (Rollag, 1995).

On the other hand, ethnographic analysis is rather tedious and requires a huge allocation of supplies. Information compilation is time and energy consuming demanding lots of determination. This makes it less attractive compared to the statistical data collection method. Due to the qualitative nature of a single study, the method is rarely used by firms that need to quantify data and use them for comparison purposes. The research is targeted at a particular group and is narrowed down to a manageable size for ease of working. By this nature alone, the study is subject to bias in its findings (Rollag, 1995).

Ethnography is difficult to undertake, and the scrutiny of people and their way of life can take long periods. Reception by the targeted respondents is also an area that needs prior knowledge. Since it requires the physical presence of the researcher, the accommodation by the community has to be ascertained prior to the commencement of the study. Qualitative study is less appealing than quantitative study when it comes to comparative learning. This makes studying music using ethnography a challenge that people will want to avoid. The study method focuses on a small scale as it would incur huge costs if the area of study was large. However, the use of groups to undertake the study and later compare the findings can be of overall benefit to the study. This will require more resources and time to undertake. It makes the study method be reserved for organizations and large bodies that can afford to finance the research (Rollag, 1995).

A major development in recent years has been the creation of a European Seminar in Ethnomusicology (ESEM) in 1981. There has been a persistent surfacing of European publications on indigenous music. Apprehension and rivalry have emerged between researchers from different states. Differences in thought appear in the history of ethnomusicology in Europe and North America. The anxieties have continued in the advances, but lately, it has been as separate as never before. The differentiation in music and cultural study is not as unexpected as it was before. This can be attributed to the reasoning to work sufficiently with both facets. The manipulation by philosophies has advocated for firmness on social and civil guidelines. This has been done by the emphasis on finding significance by the use of dialogue among members. The removal of music tone from the social setting puts weighty stress on the inclusiveness of social diversities in its study (Scherzinger, 2000).

Considerations should be made for a growing entrepreneurial and global production trade that flourishes on world music as the avenue of novel voice descriptions fronts tough challenges. The spotlight should now be on the sound issue together with the homestead, the artist and the team, and arbitrary audience together with positioned listeners. The principled structure of music composition and political uprightness with ethical stand for the learner should also be considered (Scherzinger, 2000).

These challenges can now be addressed as there is a body that is concerned with the affairs of the music and its composition. Challenges on the naming of the trade stem back to the time of anthropologists. It has taken a wide scope, but it is showing signs of reaching an amicable conclusion. Cultures have also been infiltrated by immigrants who blend their styles of music to the local and produce a unique type of music. This can cause the disappearance of one or both musical cultures (Porter, 1989).

An ethnographic study of music is a holistic approach to understanding a society’s music and way of life. It, therefore, brings out the full understanding of the study. Compared to the earlier methods of studying societies using particular sections such as the way of life only, it answers research questions such as ‘why, ‘who’, ‘when’ and ‘how’ that gives a detailed account of the research.

Nevertheless, there is a need for societies to analyze their cultures soon as the current global trend shows increased migration. Societies are being engulfed into other society’s losing their identity in the process.

List of Reference

  1. Collins, J 2005, Teaching African Popular Music Studies at University.
  2. Porter, J 1989, New Perspectives in Ethnomusicology: A Critical Survey.
  3. Rollag, K, 1995, Advantages and Disadvantages of Ethnography and Participant Observation, Web.
  4. Scherzinger, M 2000, expanding the canon IV: Musical Presentations of “Self” and “Other”.
  5. Vanspauwen, B 2005, Visualization of subliminal strategies in world music. An ethnomusicological analysis of socio-cultural transformations through maracatu and manage beat in the city of Recife, Pernambuco, Brazil.
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