Musicking: A Connection to the
World of Music
Jui -Ching Wang王瑞青([email protected])
School of Music, Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, IL, USA
June 8 2012
Introduction to World Music Pedagogy
(1) Why music?
(2) Musicking
(3) Soundscapes
Sociology…what is it?
the science or study of the origin, history, and constitution of
human society
the study of social organization and institutions and of
collective behavior and interaction, including the individual's
relationship to the group
the application of sociological concepts and analysis to the
social context of other disciplines or fields; a particular
sociological system
Sociology of Music…
The study of the role of music within society:
its (music’s) dynamic as a mode of human communication
its position within established social structures.
Initially the discipline concerned itself largely with Western art
music, but more recently greater attention has been paid to
popular music of all forms, the role of music within mass
culture, and musical cultures around the world.
Contributions from anthropologists, sociologists,
ethnomusicologists, and cultural theorists help grow the
awareness about the sociocutural and sociopolitical contexts
of music.
Anthropological perspectives of
Alan P. Merriam & John Blacking
The Anthropology of Music
Anthropology of music- a discipline to study
How all music sounds are produced
What the framework within which all music sounds and processes
of sounds is
What the products and processes of man’s life are (precisely
because music is simply another element in the complexity of man’s
learned behavior),
Without people thinking, acting, and creating, music sound cannot
Purpose of the book
…to “provide a theoretical framework for the study
of music as human behavior, . . ., and to clarify the
kinds of processes which derive from the
anthropological, contribute to the musicological, and
increase our knowledge of both conceived within the
broad rubric of behavioral studies.”
The Anthropology of Music, cont’d
Uses and Functions (of music)
 In examining music as a type of human behavior, we have
to ask not only for the descriptive facts about music
(musical elements, musicological facts), but more
important, for the meaning of music, i.e., “what a thing is”
and “what it does for people and how it does it.”
The Anthropology of Music, cont’d
The ways in which music is employed in human society, to the
habitual practice or customary exercise of music either as a thing in
itself or in conjunction with other activities.
E.g., the song sung by a lover to his love; a sung invocation to the
gods, or a musical invitation to the animals to come and be killed.
The understanding of what music does for human beings as
evaluated by the outside observer who seeks to increase his range of
comprehension by this means.
E.g., the function of a “sung invocation to the gods” (using songs to
help reach the divine” is religious.
In Merriam’s own words:
Use : the situation in which music is employed in human action;
Function: the reasons for its employment and particularly the
broader purpose which it serves.
The Anthropology of Music, cont’d
Music in the western world
With different hierarchies/status
Pure art vs. applied art
Artist, commercial artist, and craftsman
Gifted artists and the audience
Composer, performer, audience
Music in other cultures (or in Merriam’s words in the 1960s context, nonliterate societies)
Music is an everyday and all-pervading aspect of life
Art is a part of life, not separate from it, and thus, there is distinctions of “pure
art,” “applied art,” “artist,” “craftsman,” etc, which does not mean that
“specialization is absent in the music of the non-literate peoples, but rather that
relatively large numbers of people in non-literate societies are competent to
participate in music.”
Music is held to be functional in the sense that it draws from a large proportion
of the people of any given non-literate society and that almost everyone
participates in it, thus emphasizing the lack of basic distinction between “artist”
and “craftsman” or between “artist” and “audience.”
John Blacking
in How Musical is Man?
(1928 – 1990)
a British ethnomusicologist and social anthropologist
Music is a product of the behavior of
human groups, whether formal or informal:
it is humanly organized sound. Although
different societies tend to have different
ideas about what they regard as music, all
definitions are based on some consensus
of opinion about the principles on which
the sounds of music should be organized.
Humanly organized sound intended
for other human ears and possibly
enjoyed by the composers’ friends,
and thus concerned with
communication and relationships
between people.
Christopher Small
Debates & Problems (in Small’s own
Musical performance plays no part in the creative process?
Only those who can read a score have access to the inner
meanings of music
Why should we bother performing musical works at all when
we could just sit at home and read them as f they were novels.
Musical action (performance)
the medium through which the isolated, self-contained work
has to pass in order to reach its goal, the listener.
Performance does not exist in order to present musical
works, but rather, musical works exist in order to give
performers something to perform.
The fundamental nature and meaning of music lie not in
objects, not in musical works at all, but in action, in what
people do.
It is only by understanding what people do as they take
part in a musical act that we can hope to understand its
nature and the function it fulfills in human life.
What is musicking?
To music is to take part, in any capacity, in a
musical performance, whether by performing,
by listening, by rehearsing or practicing, by
providing material for performance (what is
called composing), or by dancing.
Musicking is an activity in which all those present are
involved and for whose nature and quality, success or
failure, everyone present bears some responsibility.
It is not just a matter of composers, or even performers,
actively doing something to, or for, passive listeners.
Whatever it is we are doing, we are all doing it
together—performers, listeners, composers, dancers,
ticket collectors, piano movers, roadies, cleaners and all.
Composing, practicing, and rehearsing, performing, and
listening are not separate processes but are all aspects of
the one great human activity that is called MUSICKING.
Questions to be examined by musicking
why members of one social and cultural group differ in
their ways of musicking from members of another group;
how it is that members of one culture can come to
understand and to enjoy, and perhaps creatively
misunderstand, the musicking of others;
how some musical cultures become dominant, sometimes
across the whole world, while others remain confined to
the social group within which they originated;
why people like to music at all
Musicking as a social, political, and
human activity
The studies of series of interactions, fusions, crossovers,
and hybridizations that are taking place everyday…
A framework for understanding all musicking as a human
activity, to understand not just how but why taking part in
a musical performance acts in such complex ways on our
existence as individual, social, and political beings.
The act of musicking establishes in the place where it is
happening a set of relationships, and it is in those
relationships that the meaning of the act lies.
Small, 1998, p. 13
to this and determine if it is “MUSIC” ?
•If so, what kind of music may it be?
•What setting could this type of music be
Originally, Inuit throat singing was a form of entertainment
among Inuit women while the men were away on hunting trips. It
was an activity that was primarily done by Inuit women although
there have been some men doing it as well. In the Inuit language
Inuktitut, throat singing is called katajjaq, pirkusirtuk or
nipaquhiit depending on the Canadian Arctic region. It was
regarded more as a type of vocal or breathing game in the Inuit
culture rather than a form of music.
Inuit throat singing is generally done by two individuals but can
involve four or more people together as well. In Inuit throat
singing, two Inuit women would face each other either standing
or crouching down while holding each other's arms. One would
lead with short deep rhythmic sounds while the other would
respond. The leader would repeat sounds with short gaps in
between. The follower would fill in these gaps with her own
rhythmic sounds. Sometimes both Inuit women would be doing a
dance like movement like rocking from left to right while throat
More about Inuit Singing
An approach to study music
Kay Kaufman Shelemay
A term derived/borrowed from the concept “landscape.”
What do we know about landscape?
A tract of land with its distinguishing characteristics and
features, esp. considered as a product of modifying or shaping
processes and agents (usually natural).
Inland natural scenery, or its representation in painting.
Landscape architecture
It involves the investigation and designed response to the
The scope of the profession includes master-planning, site
planning, environmental restoration, town or urban planning,
urban design, parks and recreation planning; green
infrastructure planning and provision, all at varying scales of
design, planning and management.
Using Soundscape approach to explore
music in a changing world
Kay Kaufman Shelemay
Using the concept of soundscapes to
examine music and music’s meaning in
particular social contexts. Her
framework was influenced by
Anthropologist Arjun Appardurai’s
framework of “ethnoscapes”
Using “ethnoscapes” to capture the shifting and
non-localized quality of group identities in the
late 20th century.
R. Murray Shafer (Canadian composer, b.
18 July 1933)
in 1972, a grant from the Donner Foundation
enabled him to undertake research into
acoustic ecology, a field that he virtually
invented, combining such disciplines as
acoustics, geography, psychology, urbanology
and aesthetics. This led to his book The Tuning
of the World (Toronto, 1977) and the founding of
the World Soundscape Project (now the World
Forum for Acoustic Ecology)
Many musicians and scholars use “soundscape” to refer to
different aspects of the musical environment, ranging from a
single music tradition to all the sounds heard in a particular
The association of specific soundscapes to their places and
communities of origin,
 E.g., jazz with African American musicians in the city of New
Orleans, or didjeridu music with the aboriginal communities
in Australia.
Musicians may travel, taking their music traditions along with
 E.g., forced to move by natural disasters or political
Music can also travel without the people who created and
performed it, moving through recordings
Soundscape, cont’d
Its ever-changing nature
Local factors
Global connections
Talented musicians appear
Shift in generational tastes
People travel, migrate, and resettle
Wherever the settings, whether in large metropolitan areas
or in small towns, most soundscapes come into contact
with other soundscapes, sometimes through geographical
proximity, at other times through sharing musicians or
other participants.
Soundscape in cultural context
Like human behavior in general, many of our interpretations
about the significance of music are both shaped by and
contribute to those shared patterns of knowledge and
experience we call “culture.”
Each soundscape partakes of and interacts with cultural
knowledge, sometimes providing windows on music cultures
shared by large groups of people (mainstream), and at other
times connecting to knowledge sustained just by a few (subculture).
Locating a Soundscape
 Acoustics-the sound properties of instruments or voices.
 How sounds are shaped and conveyed?
 Timbre (tone quality), Pitches, Duration, Harmony
 Music: purposeful organization of the quality, pitch, duration, and
intensity of sound.
 Musical sound is not conceived or performed in a vacuum.
 The setting of a soundscape includes everything from the venue
(place of performance) to the behavior of those present (musicians
and audience).
 The setting of a soundscape reveals much about a musical event
Music means or signifies different things to performers and
listeners from different backgrounds.
 Certain musical events can symbolize meaningful moments,
evoking emotions, ranging from celebration to sadness.
 In other cases, music carries meaning that are hidden, or
at least hard to describe.
 Music can even convey coded information that cannot be
transmitted more directly because of political pressure or
active representation.
Fur Elise by Beethoven
Watch these two sets of clips and ask…
 What’s the major difference between the two settings
in each of the music selection?
Something to think about the
significance of music and its setting…
Why do people listen to/play music in general?
To which extent, cultural settings determine how people
make (playing and listening to) music (or musicking)?
Based on Chapter XI “Uses and Functions” of Alan P. Merriam’s
The Anthropology of Music:, music can be a tool for …
 Emotional expression
 Aesthetic enjoyment
 Entertainment
 Communication
 Symbolic representation/Validation of social institutions and
religious rituals
 Physical response
 Enforcing conformity to social norm:
 Contributions to the integration of society
 Contributions to the continuity and stability of culture
Locate the soundscapes
 Pick one day and record every sound (both organized and
non-organized) appearing on that day.
 Analyze the sounds from musicological views, i.e., the study
of musical elements (rhythm, melody, texture, timbre, form,
and anything you can remember from music history/theory
 Describe the “setting” (everything from the venue to the
behavior of those present).
 Discuss the “significance” by using Merriam’s list to analyze
all the sounds appearing on that day of your life.
Documentary presentation
David A.
Amanda F-L.