Ethnomusicology: Music Analysis


Seminar in Ethnomusicology: Music and Culture. It would also be advantageous (but not required) to have enrolled in my undergraduate course, M328C Introduction to the Study of Ethnomusicology.


For many decades following the founding of ethnomusicology in circa 1950, ethno-musicologists have derived their research and publications from questions of culture principally derived from Cultural Anthropologists. This was a departure from the early days of Comparative Musicology when nineteenth century arm-chair research was conducted on ethnic musics captured on the new technology of cylinder recordings in a bid to discover the “science” (musikwissenschaft) of universal music.

In the last 10 years, the pendulum has moved back to the scientific study of music by applying music theory analysis to the results of ethnography and field work. Unlike the early researchers, today’s ethnomusicologists can use to great advantage the latest tools in tonal and rhythmic analyses. You will survey a representative sample of these developments while honing your skills on music research examples of your own. In addition, you will frequently triangulate your new information with your current understanding of Western Art Music.

The analysis of harmony and form in Western Art Music will have already occupied your studies in your undergraduate years. In ethnomusicology, musical characteristics are most often expressed in melody and/or rhythms, so this course will devote its time to the analysis of these musical characteristics. Also, many world musics are aurally transmitted without notation so transcription of a performance, or the ability to play the music as taught by a master, becomes a necessary skill in order to have access to a “musical score” for study purposes.

Course Requirements

Each of the classes will begin with a talk, supplemented by pre-lecture readings (available online at your class WebCT course website). Then you will participate in a series of round-table discussions.

The first discussions will be initiated by two readings, each one summarized by one student, and then responded to by a second student. The list of 26 readings (two per class) is found in the syllabus below. Students who are not summarizing or responding will be expected to have at least 3 questions or comments prepared for the discussion. Therefore you will have to be equally familiar with the articles. The books from which some of the readings are excerpted will be available in the library. The other readings from journal which are available online through the library system. When you are assigned a presentation, you will submit a copy of your summary to your respondent a day or more before the two of you present your summaries. Both of you will create documents in point form that will equal three pages and then submit them online via the WebCT site.

The class will then discuss the musical elements from a sample of transcription “scores” and accompanying audio samples, drawn from the textbook by Jonathan Stock, and introduced by me.

In the last half hour of the class, one student will present a transcription and analysis they have created from a recorded music example or a score based on their music lessons from a qualified music teacher of an ethnic music genre. The presenter will be expected to provide audio of the chosen music sample, and an analysis of the music that they have transcribed.

At the end of the week, you will be expected to add your comments about the week’s lectures and discussions to the WebCT online Discussion Board.

There will be no exams. Instead you will be expected to complete two assignments, in addition to participating in several forums of discussions.

There will be two assignments (with details available on the Vista course website) that will concern a transcription and analysis of an ethnic music of your choice. It will be more detailed than the in-class transcription and analysis assignment. This major assignment will be divided into two parts:

Mid-term Project: A summary of all the analyses found in the literature pertaining to your end-of-term transcription project.

End-of-term Project: A transcription and analysis of an ethnic music sample of your choice.

WebCT Connect

All the necessary components of the course including the lectures and listening tests can be accessed online from anywhere via WebCT Connect, using your WCL (Campus Wide Login) password and username.

Lecture outlines
Pre-lecture readings
Assigned Readings and Responses guidelines
Transcription and Analysis guidelines
Discussion board

Your reading presentations, responses, and transcriptions and analyses will be submitted online via Vista. The marks for each assessment or assignment will be posted online, via your individual account on the WebCT M403J website.

Summary of Mark Distribution

Seminar required reading summary or response 18 %
Weekly transcription and analysis 19 %
Mid-term literature review 25 %
End-of-term transcription and analysis 25 %
Weekly online Discussion Forum (13 weeks) 13%

According to the School of Music guidelines, the grades awarded in this course will follow established university-wide practices with respect to both levels and distribution of grades. In addition, students are expected to adhere to the School of Music policy with respect to “Intellectual Honesty,” and “Academic Discipline”. (See the current general calendar.)


Jonathan Stock (1996) World Sound Matters: an anthology of music from around the world (Schott)

Lecture Schedule and Required Reading List

Week 1 Introduction and Expectations

Tenzer, Michael (2006) “Introduction: Analysis, Categorisation, and Theory of Musics of the World,” in Analytical Studies in World Music, edited by Michael Tenzer

Jeff Todd Titon (2003) “Textual Analysis or Thick Description?” in The Cultural Study of Music: A Critical Introduction, edited by Martin Clayton et al., pp. 297-308

Transcription Assignment #1

Week 2 Music Notation Software

Walter B. Hewlett and Eleanor Selfridge-Field, editors (2006) Music Analysis East and West: Computing in Musicology

Paul D. Greene and Thomas Porcello, editors (2004) Wired for Sound: Engineering and Technologies in Sonic Cultures

Transcription Assignment #2

Week 3 Field Work and Recording

Helen Myers (1992) “Chapter 2: Fieldwork,” in Ethnomusicology: An Introduction, edited by Helen Myers, pp. 153-164

Helen Myers (1992) “Chapter 3: Field Technology,” in Ethnomusicology: An Introduction, edited by Helen Myers, pp. 153-164

Transcription Assignment #3

Week 4 Notation

Ter Ellingson (1992) “Chapter 6: Notation,” in Ethnomusicology: An Introduction, edited by Helen Myers, pp. 153-164

David Reck (1997) Music of the Whole Earth

Transcription Assignment #4

Week 5 Transcription

Ter Ellingson (1992) “Transcription,” in Ethnomusicology: An Introduction, edited by Helen Myers, pp. 110-152

England, Nicholas, moderator (1964) “Symposium on Transcription and Analysis: A Hukwe Song with Musical Bow.” Ethnomusicology volume 8, number 3, pp. 223-77

Transcription Assignment #5

Week 6 Monophony 1

Jonathan Stock (2007) “Alexander J. Ellis and his Place in the History of Ethnomusicology,” in Ethnomusicology, volume 51, number 2, pp. 306-325

Joep Bor, Editor, Suvarnalata Rao, Wim van der Meer, Jane Harvey, Co-Authors, The Raga Guide: Survey of 74 Hindustani Ragas

Transcription Assignment #6

Week 7 Monophony 2

Cowdry, James (1984) “A fresh look at the concept of the tune family,” in Ethnomusicology, volume 28, number 3, pp. 495-504

Ron Pen (1999) “Triangles, Squares, Circles, and Diamonds: The “Fasola Folk” and Their Singing Tradition,” in Multicultural America: A Study of Twelve Musical Communities, edited by Kip Lornell and Anne K. Rasmussen.

Transcription Assignment #7

Week 8 Heterophony

J. Lawrence Witzleben (1995) “Chapter 7 Texture,” in “Silk and bamboo” music in Shanghai: the jiangnan sizhu instrumental Ensemble Tradition

Ali Jihad Racy (2004) “Heterophony” in Making Music in the Arab World: The Culture and Artistry of Tarab, pp.80-96

Transcription Assignment #8

Week 9 Improvisation

Gabriel Solis (2009) “Introduction,” in Musical Improvisation: Art, Education, and Society

Ferand, Ernest T (c1961) Improvisation in nine centuries of Western music; an anthology with a historical introduction

Transcription Assignment #9

Week 10 Additive Rhythms

Constantin Brailoiu (1984) “Chapter 9: Aksak rhythm,” in Problems of Ethnomusicology

Martin Clayton (2008) Time in Indian Music: Rhythm, Metre, and Form in North Indian Rag Performance

Transcription Assignment #10

Week 11 Polyrhythms

Kofi Agawu (2003) “Chapter 8 How Not to Analyze African Music,” in Representing African Music: Postcolonial Notes, Queries, Positions

David Penalosa (2009) The Clave Matrix: Afro-Cuban Rhythm: Its Principles and African Origins

Transcription Assignment #11

Week 12 Interlocking Music

Thomas Turino (2008) Music in the Andes: Experiencing Music, Expressing Culture. New York: Oxford UP, 2008. 1-37

Michael Tenzer (2000) “chapter 6: Melody and Figuration,” in Gamelan Gong Kebyar

Transcription Assignment #12

Week 13 Music Structures

Jerrold Levinson (1997) Music in the Moment

David Loeb (1976) “A (Schenkerian) Analytic Study of Japanese Koto Music,” in Music Forum 4, pp 335-93, and Music Forum, edited by Felix Salzer (Columbia University Press, 1977)

Transcription Assignment #13

Spam prevention powered by Akismet