Why Ethnomusicology (Part 1): Why music teachers benefit from ethnomusicological approaches

Explorers in the wild.

Discovering the music of other cultures.

Living among the natives.

Understanding world music.

A harmonic analysis of Mozart’s Symphony No. 40.

Which do you think is the odd one out?

Many of our perceptions and impressions of music inform us that Mozart doesn’t belong on that list. These same perceptions group the first four items on the list together, and are likely to associate those items with the term ‘ethnomusicology’. It’s understandable. This is how many of us learn about music; we learn that there are different ways of approaching different ‘types’ or ‘genres’ of music. But it’s also limiting, and, in many ways, harmful. Breaking this down and understanding why is an essential aspect of the pedagogy of music, which aims to create more meaningful educational experiences for students and teachers. 

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Understanding the ethnomusicological approach to teaching: a simple start for PYP educators

The Social Power of Music was the 2019 theme of the Smithsonian Folklife Festival that took place in Washington, DC over the weekend. This is exciting from an ethnomusicologist’s perspective, because what we do is examine the relationship between music and humans. Reading some of the stories and conversations coming out of the festival — many of them about deeply personal narratives as much as they are about the stories of cultures or nations — demonstrates how relevant the ethnomusicological approach is to the way educators teach music to younger students. PYP and Early Years music teachers are certain to benefit from this approach, but the body of literature to get through can be daunting.

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Why Ethnomusicology: A Series

One of the pleasures music-lovers enjoyed before the days of streaming, was going to a CD shop, choosing an album, and bringing it home to listen to it. It was certainly one of my favourite things to do in University. We consume music quite differently now of course — not necessarily better or worse, and this isn’t a discussion about technology in any case. I’d like to start this conversation by remembering a very specific aspect of the CD shop visit: stepping in, looking at albums on racks, and seeing them arranged by genre. 

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