Music of Anthropology

Music, Anthropology, Ethnomusicology

For the 2017 issue of Open Anthropology I assembled 15 articles for an issue titled “Music – Anthropology – Life.” Hopefully this provided useful resources for teaching anthropology, ethnomusicology, and adjacent disciplines. And in fact music can be an ideal Introduction to Anthropology.

The Editors’ Note introduced the articles:

The study of music is one of anthropology’s most daunting challenges. Across cultures and time, music intertwines with human life and meaning. Yet that meaning inheres in the music, in its specific embodied performance. Even with the advent of recording devices, it is impossible to capture the context of music, and exceedingly difficult to translate. Compounded with anthropology’s customary reliance on verbal explanations and need to produce a written account, the difficulties of transmitting music as human feeling seem insurmountable.

Yet it is perhaps those very difficulties and challenges which lead to such fascinating efforts in the articles collected for this issue of Open Anthropology. The issue brings together a wide diversity of themes and authors. Many of the authors are also music practitioners. Many spend as much or more time outside the academy, and often outside of anthropology departments. The breadth of the offerings in the collection of American Anthropological Association journals is a testimony to an inherently multidisciplinary and vibrant field.

For additional resources check out the Music and Sound Interest Group of the American Anthropological Association.

Articles from AAA Publications

Beeman, William O. 1988. “The Use of Music in Popular Film: East and West.” Visual Anthropology Review 4(2):8-13.

Boudreault-Fournier, Alexandrine. 2008. “Positioning the New Reggaetón Stars in Cuba: From Home-Based Recording Studios to Alternative Narratives.” The Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology 13(2):336-360.

Briggs, Charles L. 1993. “Personal Sentiments and Polyphonic Voices in Warao Women’s Ritual Wailing: Music and Poetics in a Critical and Collective Discourse.” American Anthropologist 95(4):929-957.

Bryant, Rebecca. 2005. “The soul danced into the body: Nation and improvisation in Istanbul.” American Ethnologist 32(2):222-238.

Byrd, Samuel. 2014. “‘The collective circle’: Latino immigrant musicians and politics in Charlotte, North Carolina.” American Ethnologist 41(2):246-260.

Cameron, Catherine M. 1989. “Patronage and Artistic Change.” City & Society 3(1):55-73.

Donahue, Katherine C. 2005. “Nomad Souls Across Time and Space: West African Musicians as Ethnographers.” Journal of the Society for the Anthropology of Europe 5(2):2-12.

Dorsey, Margaret. 2004. “The Role of Music in Materializing Politics.” PoLAR: Political and Legal Anthropology Review 27(2):61-94. (Note that this article was included in the October 2016 Open Anthropology issue on Anthropology in an Election Year.)

El-Ghadban, Yara. 2009. “Facing the music: Rituals of belonging and recognition in contemporary Western art music.” American Ethnologist 36(1):140-160.

Fachner, Jörg. 2006. “An Ethno-Methodological Approach to Cannabis and Music Perception, with EEG Brain Mapping in a Naturalistic Setting.” Anthropology of Consciousness 17(2):78-103.

Ferguson, Jane M. 2010. “Another country is the past: Western cowboys, Lanna nostalgia, and bluegrass aesthetics as performed by professional musicians in Northern Thailand.” American Ethnologist 37(2):227-240.

Gaunt, Kyra D. 2002. “Got Rhythm?: difficult encounters in theory and practice and other participatory discrepancies in music.” City & Society 14(1):119-140.

Glasser, Jonathan. 2015. “Andalusi musical origins at the Moroccan-Algerian frontier: Beyond charter myth.” American Ethnologist 42(4):720-733.

Heine, Colleen M. 2012. “Scene and Unscene: Revealing the value of the local music scene in Savannah, Georgia.” EPIC: Ethnographic Praxis in Industry Conference 2012(1):200-216.

Hosokawa, Shuhei. 2005. Review of The Chrysanthemum and the Song: Music, Memory, and Identity in the South American Japanese Diaspora. Journal of Latin American Anthropology 10(1):239-241.

Kapchan, Deborah A. 2008. “The Promise of Sonic Translation: Performing the Festive Sacred in Morocco.” American Anthropologist 110(4):467-483.

Kaplan, Danny. 2009. “The Songs of the Siren: Engineering National Time on Israeli Radio.” Cultural Anthropology 24(2):313-345.

Keeler, Ward. 2009. “What’s Burmese about Burmese rap? Why some expressive forms go global.” American Ethnologist 36(1):2-19.

Keil, Charles. 1987. “Participatory Discrepancies and the Power of Music.” Cultural Anthropology 2(3):275-283.

Koen, Benjamin D. 2013. ““My Heart Opens and My Spirit Flies”: Musical Exemplars of Psychological Flexibility in Health and Healing.” Ethos 41(2):174-198.

Lomax, Alan. 1959. “Folk Song Style.” American Anthropologist 61(6):927-954.

Lysloff, René T. A. 2003. “Musical Community on the Internet: An On-line Ethnography.” Cultural Anthropology 18(2):233-263.

Mahon, Maureen. 2000. “Black Like This: Race, Generation, and Rock in the Post-Civil Rights Era.” American Ethnologist 27(2):283-311.

Nettl, Bruno. 1958. “Historical Aspects of Ethnomusicology.” American Anthropologist 60(3):518-532.

Powell, Kimberly A. 2012. “Composing Sound Identity in Taiko Drumming.” Anthropology & Education Quarterly 43(1):101-119.

Qureshi, Regula. 2000. “How Does Music mean? Embodied Memories and the Politics of Affect in the Indian Sarangi.” American Ethnologist 27(4):805-838.

Roseman, Marina. 1998. “Singers of the landscape: Song, History, and Property Rights in the Malaysian Rain Forest.” American Anthropologist 100(1):106-121.

Saada-Ophir, Galit. 2006. “Borderland Pop: Arab Jewish Musicians and the Politics of Performance.” Cultural Anthropology 21(2):205-233.

Samuels, David W. 2015. “Music’s Role in Language Revitalization–Some Questions from Recent Literature.” Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 25(3):346-355.

Shannon, Jonathan H. 2003. “Emotion, Performance, and Temporality in Arab Music: Reflections on Tarab.” Cultural Anthropology 18(1):72-98.

—. 2003. “Sultans of Spin: Syrian Sacred Music on the World Stage.” American Anthropologist 105(2):266-277.

Shipley, Jesse Weaver. 2013. “Transnational circulation and digital fatigue in Ghana’s Azonto dance craze.” American Ethnologist 40(2):362-381.

—. 2017. “Parody after identity: Digital music and the politics of uncertainty in West Africa.” American Ethnologist 44(2):249-262.

Weidman, Amanda. 2003. “Gender and the Politics of Voice: Colonial Modernity and Classical Music in South India.” Cultural Anthropology 18(2):194-232.

—. 2012. “The Ethnographer as Apprentice: Embodying Sociomusical Knowledge in South India.” Anthropology and Humanism 37(2):214-235.

Wilf, Eitan. 2010. “Swinging within the iron cage: Modernity, creativity, and embodied practice in American postsecondary jazz education.” American Ethnologist 37(3):563-582.

—. 2012. “Rituals of Creativity: Tradition, Modernity, and the ‘Acoustic Unconscious’ in a U.S. Collegiate Jazz Music Program.” American Anthropologist 114(1):32-44.

Anthropology Articles (non-AAA)

Bilby, Kenneth. 1999. “”Roots Explosion”: Indigenization and Cosmopolitanism in Contemporary Surinamese Popular Music.” Ethnomusicology 43(2):256-296.

Blake, Elizabeth C., and Ian Cross. 2015. “The Acoustic and Auditory Contexts of Human Behavior.” Current Anthropology 56(1):81-103.

Faudree, Paja. 2012. “Music, Language, and Texts: Sound and Semiotic Ethnography.” Annual Review of Anthropology 41:519-536.

Feld, Steven, and Aaron A. Fox. 1994. “Music and Language.” Annual Review of Anthropology 23:25-53.

Flores, Richard R. 1992. “The Corrido and the Emergence of Texas-Mexican Social Identity.” The Journal of American Folklore 105(416):166-182.

Guerrón-Montero, Carla. 2006. “Can’t Beat Me Own Drum in Me Own Native Land: Calypso Music and Tourism in the Panamanian Atlantic Coast.” Anthropological Quarterly 79(4):633-665.

Nettl, Bruno. 2006. “Response to Victor Grauer: On the Concept of Evolution in the History of Ethnomusicology.” The World of Music 48(2):59-72.

O’Toole, Patricia. 2005. “I sing in a choir, but I have no voice.” Visions of Research in Music Education 6.

Palkki, Joshua. 2017. “Inclusivity in Action: Transgender Students in the Choral Classroom.” Choral Journal (57):20-34.

—. 2015. “Gender Trouble: Males, adolescents, and masculinity in the choral context.” Choral Journal (56):25-35.

Rollwagen, Jack R. 2006. “On Music-In-Cultural-Context among the Horqin Mongols of Eastern Inner Mongolia, China.” EthnoScripts:11-25.

Samuels, David W., et al. 2010. “Soundscapes: Toward a Sounded Anthropology.” Annual Review of Anthropology 39:329-345.

Senay, Banu. 2015. “Masterful words: musicianship and ethics in learning the ney.” Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 21(3):524-541.

Stokes, Martin. 2004. “Music and the Global Order.” Annual Review of Anthropology 33(1):47-72.

Wade, Peter. 1998. “Music, Blackness and National Identity: Three Moments in Colombian History.” Popular Music 17(1):1-19.


Bannan, Nicholas, ed. 2012. Music, Language, and Human Evolution. Oxford University Press.

Dorsey, Margaret. 2006. Pachangas: Borderlands Music, U.S. Politics, and Transnational Marketing. Austin: University of Texas Press.

Faudree, Paja. 2013. Singing for the Dead: The Politics of Indigenous Revival in Mexico. Durham: Duke University Press.

Feld, Steven. 1990. Sound and Sentiment: Birds, Weeping, Poetics, and Song in Kaluli Expression (2nd Edition). University of Pennsylvania Press.

Gaunt, Kyra D. 2006. The Games Black Girls Play: Learning the Ropes from Double-Dutch to Hip-Hop . New York: New York University Press.

Gilman, Daniel J. 2014. Cairo Pop: Youth Music in Contemporary Egypt. Minneapolis: University Of Minnesota Press. See this review by John Schaefer in American Ethnologist. “Cairo Pop is the best book in anthropology on the Middle East that I have read for some time, and certainly this year. It is appropriate for undergraduate and graduate courses in anthropology and related disciplines” (2015:795)

Glasser, Jonathan. 2016. The Lost Paradise: Andalusi Music in Urban North Africa. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Grant, Catherine. 2014. Music Endangerment: How Language Maintenance Can Help. New York: Oxford University Press.

Grauer, Victor A. 2011. Sounding the Depths: Tradition and the Voices of History. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.

Hill, Donald R. 1993. Calypso Calaloo: Early Carnival Music in Trinidad. University Press of Florda.

Keil, Charles. 1992. Urban Blues. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Keil, Charles, and Steven Feld. 2005. Music Grooves: Essays And Dialogues. Fenestra Books.

Manovski, Miroslav Pavle. 2014. Arts-Based Research, Autoethnography, and Music Education: Singing Through a Culture of Marginalization. Sense Publishers.

Merriam, Alan P. 1964. The Anthropology of Music. Northwestern University Press.

Netti, Bruno, and Philip V. Bohlman, eds. 1991. Comparative Musicology and Anthropology of Music: Essays on the History of Ethnomusicology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Seeger, Anthony. 2004. Why Suyá Sing: A Musical Anthropology of an Amazonian People. University of Illinois Press.

Shipley, Jesse Weaver. 2013. Living the Hiplife: Celebrity and Entrepreneurship in Ghanaian Popular Music. Durham: Duke University Press.

Stokes, Martin, ed. 1997. Ethnicity, Identity and Music: The Musical Construction of Place. Bloomsbury Academic.

Taylor, Timothy D. 2017. Music in the World: Selected Essays. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Turino, Thomas. 2008. Music as Social Life: The Politics of Participation. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Weidman, Amanda. 2006. Singing the Classical, Voicing the Modern: The Postcolonial Politics of Music in South India. Durham: Duke University Press.

Anthropological Websites and Blogs

2018. “East Side Orchestras: Music and Social Change” on anthropod: What a cultural anthropologist thinks about. “I want to look beyond educational achievement to learn more about the social effects that Arohanui Strings, Virtuoso Strings, and Porirua Soundscapes have on the young people who participate in music classes, as well as their families and their wider communities. My aim is to understand how these groups transform young people’s lives through music.”

See Jack Rollwagen’s project Song of the Grasslands. This project examines ethnicity, identity, economic development, culture change, and traditional music among the Horqin Mongols of Eastern Inner Mongolia, China.

2017. “Living with the End” (on the passing of Chris Cornell and “Black Hole Sun”). Standplaats Wereld.

2017. “Musicofilia: música y cerebro.” Una antropóloga en la luna.

Filterrauschen. A blog about music and anthropology, at the moment mainly in German, with translation in process. How to do music, mediumship, infogenetic linkages, digitalization, constructivism music.

Ted Swedenburg’s hawgblawg often features relevant posts. See this one from July 2017: Review of Syrian Prayers: Sacred Music from Bilad Al Sham.

Debra Jopson, Songlines that criss-cross Australia televised as a series for the first time (June 2016). Thanks to Helga Vierich on Facebook for the link, plus click there for lots of YouTube links!

Also see the Anthropology Blogs for current material.

To cite: Antrosio, Jason. 2017. “Music of Anthropology: Ethnomusicology in an New Key.” Living Anthropologically website, First posted 6 June 2017. Revised 18 February 2018.