Arts and culture

An Introduction to World Music

Music has always been an essential aspect of human culture and often plays a significant role in creating people’s sense of identity.

Music comes in many different cultures, so it’s essential for people to understand their musical heritage to distinguish between various types.

This course explores a variety of world musical traditions, such as traditional and folk styles, classical music, rock/popular genres and ethnic music. The aim is to give students an understanding of the cultural contexts surrounding these genres and inspire them to form their own perspectives on music from diverse backgrounds.

Introduction to World Music

The term “world music” first gained popularity in the 1960s and is an effective way of describing a wide range of musical expressions that have emerged around the world since then. Nowadays, it’s one of the most commonly used terms by musicians and music connoisseurs alike.

Education therefore plays a pivotal role in providing their students with an appropriate world music textbook. Ideally, this text should be accessible even to non-majors and provide comprehensive coverage of key topics while still leaving instructors free to customize their courses accordingly.

Miller and Shahriari’s World Music: Aural Analysis, Culture, and Transmission (Wesleyan University Press) provides an excellent introduction to this subject while staying within core tenets. Furthermore, it includes some innovative resources that support the readings.

Most importantly, this textbook presents a wide variety of music traditions with an emphasis on their regional and historical origins, emphasizing the cultural implications behind their musical practices. Chapters dedicated to India and Africa provide in-depth analyses of these regions’ music that cannot be found elsewhere; other textbooks simply do not cover such topics.

The authors’ listening guides are particularly effective, as they include a series of “ethno-challenges” to help students gain an in-depth understanding of the music or culture being studied. For instance, in their Greek Orthodox chant guide, they ask students to sing drone pitches throughout the chant as an exercise to better comprehend its sounds.

Their Japanese gagaku chapter follows suit, as does the section on music from Africa and South America. All three sections feature well-thought out “ethno-challenges” that make use of multimedia materials.

Additionally, all three textbooks feature comprehensive websites with supplementary material. These often feature links to YouTube and other video sources, iTunes lists, as well as instrument flashcards that provide essential details about the instrument.

World Music Research Center: This resource offers audio clips and pertinent information. It’s organized well for easy navigation, offering fascinating details about musical traditions and cultures around the world.

Though many online resources for these texts are geared toward institutional and commercial uses, some can still be beneficial to students. YouTube videos in particular tend to offer helpful text and sound examples in addition to visuals.

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