ArticlesNo. 62, Spring 1997

New Musicologies, Old Musicologies: Ethnomusicology and the Study of Western Music

Abstract

Ethnomusicology currently engages with the study of Western music in two principal ways. On the one hand, there are specific ethnomusicological studies that focus on aspects of Western musical traditions. Examples include Paul Berliner’s analysis of improvisation in jazz (1994), Philip Bohlman’s study of chamber music as ethnic music in contemporary Israel (1991), and the examinations of music schools and conservatories by Bruno Nettl (1995) and Henry Kingsbury (1988). These works, in and of themselves, offer explicit and direct indication of what an ethnomusicological approach to Western music involves and what manner of insights can be produced thereby. Second, and more diffusely, ethnomusicological research plays into the study of Western music through musicologists’ adoption, adaptation, and application of ethnomusicological techniques and concepts: some musicologists have drawn from specific ethnographies of non Western musical traditions, and others have made recourse to the standard texts of ethnomusicological theory and practice (such as Merriam 1964 and Nettl 1983). This article discusses the recent diversification of traditional musicology and the serious consideration by musicologists of ethnomusicological theory and practice.