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Meaning of Music in Jan AN

Jan 2011 AN

The January Anthropology News In Focus series on the meaning of music is now posted on our Current Featured News page, free to the public throughout the month. This month’s In Focus commentaries are by Jerusha T Achterberg and Anthony J Pierce; Jeff Himpele; Nicholas Harkness; David W Samuels and Thomas Porcello; Steven P Black; William O Beeman; Michelle Bigenho; Amanda Weidman; Stephanie Anne Spray; and Daniel Fisher. Also featured is a photo essay by Jesse Samba Wheeler. Full issue content will soon be available via AnthroSource.

One Response

  1. Achterberg and Pierce have the right idea only they are over 100 years late. Before the Ethnomusicologists decided that comparative research on traditonal music was, somehow, “ethnocentric,” there was a field known as “Comparative Musicology” where many attempts were made to study music along lines more or less similar to what A and P are planning.

    Research during the 1950s and 1960s by Kolinski, Seeger, etc. seems to have been especially close to what they have in mind, but got nowhere because formal elements of musical organization such as scales and even melodic structure turned out to be highly UNdiagnostic in terms of the known families of musical style worldwide.

    Play a tune from China on the piano followed by an African song and you may notice very little difference at all. Play recordings of native singers performing the same songs and you’ll hear the difference right away.

    Which is why Alan Lomax, in collaboration with yours truly, developed a systematic methodology for the comparative study of the stylistic elements of world vocal music called Cantometrics. The Cantometric database now contains codings for well over 5,000 songs, from societies all over the world. For more info, see my blog, especially the posts beginning with this one: http://music000001.blogspot.com/2007/08/76-power-of-cantometrics-1.html

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