Musicology and Culture

Musicology was once a comparative pursuit. Western musicologists used to essentially compare the music of other cultures to their own and, quite often, tried to portray one as advanced and one as primitive. This has changed over the years and musicologists now travel the world collecting samples of the unique musical expressions of the world’s peoples. You can learn a lot about music by listening to it as performed by other cultures.

Understanding Ear Fatigue

While you’re listening to music from other cultures, you’ll experience your own cultural predispositions as you’ve likely never experienced them before. One of the most common manifestations of this is called ear fatigue.

A great deal of the music you’ll hear from other cultures will seem out of key to you, if you’re accustomed to Western music. It’s important to give yourself a break now and then. If you find yourself not taking in the music because the contrasts with what you’re accustomed to are becoming all that you can hear, take a break. World music deserves to be appreciated and, like cuisines from other cultures, it’s sometimes an acquired taste. The old adage “the appetite comes with eating” sometimes applies in this regard. As you hear more and more exotic music, you will develop a feel and an appreciation for its unique qualities.

Time and Distance are the Same

Musicology doesn’t just address the differences in music relative to culture. It also addresses differences in music relative to time. For example, madrigals, Gregorian chants, fugues and many other forms are all European in their origins, but are vastly different due to the separations in time that exist between them.

Studying historic forms of music is another way to explore the music of different cultures. The cultures that produced the grand symphonies of Mozart and the elegant waltzes of Strauss were very different ones than exist today, and deserve to be explored and understood based on their own merits.

Analyzing without Bias:

When you compose a piece of music, much of the work is dedicated toward providing the right balance between comparison and contrast. The same holds true when you’re listening to music from other cultures or time periods. Start by comparing it with what you do know. You’ll use the same skills you’ve used to develop your skills as a musician thus far. Ask some basic questions about the music as you listen.

Remember that listening to music and enjoying music can be two separate things. While you’re exploring the music of any given culture, remember to listen to it from an objective standpoint. In some cases, you may not enjoy some music from other cultures that much. This is fine, but you should still be able to listen to and speak about it intelligently and in terms that go beyond your opinion of it. This is called appreciation and it’s a fundamental component of any serious musical study.

In order to appreciate music, you must study it. If you need sales, repairs, flutes, piccolos, recorders, new instruments, or used instruments, you can easily find a solution to your needs.