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Is Ethnomusicology Relevant to

Is Ethnomusicology Relevant to the Study of British Folk Music? Some thoughts and key references Ethnomusicology has an image problem. Insofar as anyone has heard of ethnomusicologists at all, there is a fairly common feeling (and not unjustified, bearing in mind what ethnomusicologists collectively seem to do) that ethnomusicology is, exclusively, the study of non-Western musics. Actually, this isn't so. Ethnomusicologists study Western traditions also, albeit not in huge numbers in Britain but even here, our sparseness in the study of local traditions is probably no more marked than our sparseness in the study of overseas traditions. (There are just two British ethnomusicologists who work on Chinese music, for instance, which means that we have something like 1/8 of the world's population each; I'm happy to let the other chap take on most of these.) As we shall see below, and although the international connections are important, where ethnomusicology differs from the other fields of music studies and where it may offer ideas of potential utility to those studying British folk traditions is not really a function of geographical scope at all. Sometimes, the term ethnomusicology itself is perceived as pretentious. On a practical level, there seem too many syllables, an apt reminder of the word-spinning so enjoyed by us impractical academics, perhaps. Then there are those who sense in this term the essence of something unsavourily colonialist (that E-word prefix). In fact, and as far as I know, the original intention underlying the coining of this word was neither overly academic (quite the contrary, as we shall see in a moment) nor pejorative this was not supposed to be the science of the sounds of 'ethnics'. Instead, those who proposed and adopted this term (in preference to comparative musicology, which seemed to over-emphasize external comparison) in the early 1950s came from a background where several composite ethno-words were...

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