Nettl's Elephant

Nettl's Elephant: On the History of Ethnomusicology

Bruno Nettl
Foreword by Anthony Seeger
Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 288
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5406/j.ctt1xcm42
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  • Book Info
    Nettl's Elephant
    Book Description:

    From one of the most lauded scholars in ethnomusicology comes this enlightening and highly personal narrative on the evolution and current state of the field of ethnomusicology. Surveying the field he helped establish, Bruno Nettl investigates how concepts such as evolution, geography, and history serve as catalysts for advancing ethnomusicological methods and perspectives._x000B__x000B_This entertaining collection covers Nettl's scholarly interests ranging from Native American to Mediterranean to Middle Eastern contexts while laying out the pivotal moments of the field and conversations with the giants of its past. Nettl moves from reflections on the history of ethnomusicology to evaluations of the principal organizations in the field, interspersing those broader discussions with shorter essays focusing on neglected literature and personal experiences.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09023-3
    Subjects: Education, Music

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. ix-xii)
    Anthony Seeger

    I was invited to write this introduction to a book that already had an eloquent introduction by an author who needed no introduction. I could not resist the offer because I had so much enjoyed reading the manuscript that I felt a twinge of regret when I finished the last essay—What? Nothing more? I felt as I did as a child on Christmas Day after I had unwrapped my last present: I had a great pile of exciting things, but the joy of discovering the unknown was at an end. Lucky reader, you get to open them all for...

  4. Introduction: Histories, Narratives, Sources
    (pp. xiii-xxx)

    Why should I, a student of ethnomusicology, title a book “Elephant” when it is obviously about music research and not about elephants? I’ll explain. But first, please consider: if you didn’t have some advance information, would you have guessed the content of books titled “Heartbeat of a People,” “The Black Cow’s Footprint,” “In Township Tonight,” or “Moving away from Silence”? They are all classics in ethnomusicology. So why not “Elephant?”

    This is a collection of essays and lectures written beginning in the mid-1980s, a time when elephants came to play a major role in my life. Most of my friends...

  5. I. Central Issues in a Grand History

    • 1 The Seminal Eighties: Historical Musicology and Ethnomusicology
      (pp. 3-21)

      This is a narration, and perhaps more, an interpretation, of what may be considered the beginnings of musicology as a coherent discipline and of its subdivision ethnomusicology. In 1885, Guido Adler (1885, 3), the man often credited with giving musicology its start, began his most influential article by asserting, “Die Musikwissenschaft entstand gleichzeitig mit der Tonkunst” (Musicology began simultaneously with music). Did he defineTonkunstas “music,” or did he mean “art music”? Either way, this origin occurred very, very long ago.

      Since Adler’s time, music historians have declared several moments of creation: 1703, the publication date of Sébastien de...

    • 2 Look at It Another Way: Alternative Views of the History
      (pp. 22-32)

      I have often been asked how I got into ethnomusicology. I am tempted to give a complicated answer in which I try to explain the various definitions that our field experienced over time and to say something about its rather outré history, but what I should really say is simply that in college I took a course whose subject matter seemed interesting on its own, and particularly interesting because it presented the “other” side of music—“other” in the sense of opposition to the conventional subject matter of college music study. It helped, of course, that it was taught by...

    • 3 Speaking of World Music: Then and Now
      (pp. 33-53)

      Where did the termworld musiccome from? It seems to me to be relatively new, although some notion of a connection between “world” and “music” must be very old. By the 1980s, however, most Americans who talked about music understood the term to designate music in which sounds from various and often contrastive cultures are combined, mixed, and fused. The implication is that there are lots of musics in the world, and that they have a lot to do with one another, that they are compatible and can be combined or “fused.” But while this kind of world music...

    • 4 A Tradition of Self-Critique For Beverly Diamond
      (pp. 54-69)

      In these paragraphs I wish to explore the suggestion that ethnomusicologists, in the relatively short history of their field, have regularly criticized the directions and basic assumptions of their discipline. It is surely not unique in this respect—all scholarship and all science is fundamentally about overturning received wisdom and accepted paradigms—but I suggest that self-criticism of ethnomusicology has more frequently than most turned on the nature of the discipline as a whole and on the character of musicology at large. To an extent, I further maintain, ethnomusicology has tried to function as a kind of corrective for certain...

    • 5 Revisiting Comparison, Comparative Study, and Comparative Musicology
      (pp. 70-90)

      This is a meditation about the concept of comparison in ethnomusicology and its history. I wish to contemplate some of the central literature defining comparative study, briefly sketch the history of some of this endeavor’s major landmarks, and also—since some conclusions come from observation of oral rhetoric and discourse—bring in a personal perspective. Some important surveys of this history have been published recently, particularly by Albrecht Schneider (2006), Mervyn McLean (2006), Victor Grauer (2006), and a bit earlier, Martin Clayton (2003). My comments cover much the same ground, although—particularly compared to Schneider’s essay—less comprehensively, and thus...

  6. II. In the Academy

    • 6 Ethno among the Ologies
      (pp. 93-107)

      A slightly revised keynote lecture given in early June 2003, this essay has an exceptionally personal basis. The occasion was a conference celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the graduate program in folklore at Indiana University and dedicated to Warren Roberts, its first Ph.D. recipient in folklore. The initial reference is to the Indiana University commencement on June 15, 1953, fifty years before the present lecture was delivered. It’s the first of several occasions on which I used the lions-and-cheetahs metaphor.

      It was just fifty years ago about a week from today (on June 15, according to my diploma) that Warren...

    • 7 On the Concept of Evolution in the History of Ethnomusicology
      (pp. 108-118)

      Let me present some major questions in ethnomusicology: how did music come about in the first place, and what links a society and its particular brand of culture to a particular kind of music? This question is also related to a recent body of literature that, broadly speaking, involves the relationship of music to human evolution. This area of study has largely been the purview of scientists and scholars in the fields of biology, psychology, animal communication, and to a degree, linguistics, and much of its efforts have concerned the origins of music. Landmarks among these studies include the collection...

    • 8 The Music of Anthropology
      (pp. 119-134)

      Ethnomusicology has always struggled to find its proper disciplinary base. I estimate 80 percent of ethnomusicologists come from a professional background in music and regard themselves principally as members of one of the musical disciplines. The other fifth largely consider themselves to be anthropologists, and while they are a minority, they have been responsible for most of the field’s intellectual leadership.

      But let me approach my subject from another side. For some fifty years, I have known two kinds of anthropologists. Those of the first kind call themselves ethnomusicologists, and they include major figures such Alan Merriam; my teacher, George...

  7. III. Celebrating Our Principal Organizations

    • 9 The IFMC/ICTM and the Development of Ethnomusicology in the United States
      (pp. 137-145)

      This chapter and the next, constituting a pair, have important parallels and also exhibit contrasts. Both were invited keynote papers presented at meetings of the International Council for Traditional Music (ICTM) in locations that were once under Warsaw Pact hegemony. They were read at the fortieth and fiftieth anniversaries of the ICTM—chapter 9 in what was then East Berlin, and chapter 10 in Nitra, Slovakia—after the breakup of the “communist empire.” Taking rather different perspectives, the two papers nevertheless refer to some of the same events in the early history of the ICTM. I beg the reader’s indulgence...

    • 10 Arrows and Circles: Fifty Years of the ICTM and the Study of Traditional Music
      (pp. 146-158)

      It’s an honor for me to have been invited to speak, here in the Slovak Republic, on this occasion of the golden anniversary of the ICTM (International Council for Traditional Music). Astonished by this invitation, I have sought for the program committee’s motivations and have concluded that they asked me because they thought I am such a senior citizen that I probably helped Theodore Baker proofread his dissertation in 1882. Indeed, as I was present at the 1950 meeting of the IFMC (International Folk Music Council) in Bloomington, I may qualify as the person who has been attending IFMC/ICTM meetings...

    • 11 We’re on the Map: Reflections on the Society for Ethnomusicology in 1955 and 2005
      (pp. 159-170)

      I’m looking at the Society for Ethnomusicology (SEM) with one eye on the arrow, the other on the circle—trajectories leading from 1955 to 2005. We are still—or again—asking ourselves many questions. What is ethnomusicology, anyway? Are we satisfied with our name as a society? Are we national, regional, global? Who are our allies? What disciplines are setting precedents for us? What kinds of people do we as ethnomusicologists want to be, and how do we want our society to reflect this set of personal commitments? And what will we do with our ubiquitous visual emblem, the “little...

  8. IV. A Collage of Commentary

    • 12 Recalling Some Neglected Classics in Musical Geography: For Tullia Magrini
      (pp. 173-179)

      In past decades, a simple way to distinguish historical musicology from ethnomusicology could have been to say that the first asks “when,” and the second, “where.” The two have tended to merge, even while the two fields increasingly declare academic and curricular independence, as music historians (of European classical traditions) cast their eyes toward colonies and postcolonial fusions and ethnomusicologists enjoy increasing access to recorded history. Nevertheless, for over a century, ethnomusicology has always included the study of location as a principal concern, asking what one can do with the findings of geographic distribution and what geography means in the...

    • 13 Minorities in Ethnomusicology: A Meditation on Experience in Three Cultures
      (pp. 180-193)

      In this chapter I use several perspectives to discuss the role minority studies have played in the history of ethnomusicology, but principally I explore three cultures with which I have had experience—Native American peoples, the musical society of Iran, and several minorities (of which I was a member) in the Czech lands before 1940. These groups illustrate three configurations: a culture marginalized by a surrounding immigrant and previously colonialist majority where music has become a primary ethnic marker; a society ambivalent about music, in which minorities are principal bearers of musical culture; and a confluence of coexisting societies, each...

    • 14 Riding the Warhorses: On the Ethnomusicology of Canons
      (pp. 194-203)

      The concept of “canon” and the term have a long history in the contemplation and evaluation of literature, and to a smaller extent, they have had their place in the world of classical music, as described by Samson (2001) inThe New Grove,second edition. After 1950 or so, when musicology came increasingly to contemplate its own nature and history, its denizens began to note how canonic concepts affected their approaches to their work. Samson credits Walter Wiora (e.g., in hisFour Ages of Music[1965]) as one of the first to pay attention to the canonic in musicological thought, and...

    • 15 A Stranger Here? Free Associations around Kurt Weill
      (pp. 204-214)

      “You?”exclaimed my wife. “He [the editor of theKurt Weill Newsletter] askedyouto write something about Kurt Weill?” She was no more incredulous than I had been when this invitation came to me—an ethnomusicologist with principal experience among Native Americans of Montana and musicians in Tehran, who loves but knows only little of the music of Weill and is thoroughly ignorant of scholarly issues surrounding this major but idiosyncratic figure in twentieth-century music history. “I’m a Stranger Here Myself”—so ends one of Weill’s best-known songs, and on these pages, “stranger” is surely the right designation for...

    • 16 Music — What’s That? Commenting on a Book by Carl Dahlhaus and Hans Heinrich Eggebrecht
      (pp. 215-228)

      As this essay was written for a conference honoring the memory of the distinguished music historian Hans Heinrich Eggebrecht, I must begin by admitting that unfortunately I met Professor Eggebrecht only two or three times. I greatly admired the many-sidedness of his work, his numerous publications, and the many areas of interest to which he devoted his lectures and his writings; I was, in addition, always impressed by his rhetorical eloquence and by the large number of scholars to whom he was “Doktorvater.” Since I find myself here in a crowd of Eggebrecht’s former students, virtually all historians of European...

  9. References
    (pp. 229-250)
  10. Index
    (pp. 251-256)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 257-258)