Ethnic Music Humanities

a) Origin and Development of Traditional and Contemporary Ethnic Music

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My personal experience in learning this subtopic reveals to me that music is a global cultural practice found in every known culture, both in the past and present, but with a wide variation with regards to time and place of practicing it. Since every ethnic group around the world, including some of the most secluded tribal groups, depicts their own forms of musical practices, I conclude that music might have been present among the ancestral populations prior to the dispersion of human populations around the world. This confirms that music must have been existing and evolving into different forms for over 50,000 years, and the first music might had been invented in Africa, which is regarded as the cradle of humankind. Then the music evolved through diverse parts of the world during human dispersion to become the current ultimate constituent of humans’ daily lives. Ethnic music (commonly referred to as the folk music) is greatly prejudiced by the cultural aspects within a given culture, including both economic and social organization, as well as experience, climatic conditions and levels of access to the contemporary technology. The ideas and/or notions expressed by music during the circumstances when music is played and listened to, alongside the attitudes towards the musicians wildly and widely varies between periods and regions of practice.

Primitive or prehistoric music is the name given to all kinds of music performed or produced during the preliterate era of mankind or cultures, tracing its roots back in the late geological history. Several documented historical sources reveal that the origin of music occurred prior to the available recorded history, and it likely stemmed on the naturally occurring rhythms and sounds. Music could echo such phenomena via patterns, totality and repetition. Even to date, various music cultures hold particular occasions when music intends or tends to imitate natural rhythms and sounds. For instance, “early music” is a commonly known music of the European classical tradition, traced from the fall of Roman Empire (476 AD) until the culmination of the Baroque era of the mid-18th century. Music during this enormous era was exceptionally diverse, including multifaceted cultural tradition in a wide geographical area. Many of ethnic and cultural groups within which the medieval Europe developed had already established their musical traditions.

At dawn and mid of 20th century, there was a great revolution in music production and listening as technology gained developmental efforts. This is evident radio gained worldwide popularity, and as well, there was commencement and development of other new media technologies. The technologies were in use to capture, record, and produce, reproduce, and distribute music to remote localities. In my personal view, during the late 20th century and currently in this 21st century, performances and production of music have increasingly become visual through the contemporary technological advancements in production, recording and broadcasting of music videos, as well as music concerts. Moreover, ethnic music of all kinds has become portable through the modern storage and memory devices. Earphones and headphones allow people to listen to diverse ethnic music of different performances even when sitting next to people from different ethnic groups. Ethnic music has created a new ethnic freedom. The wide experimentations in new musical forms and styles lead to the establishment of several but new groups, forms or styles of music, which challenges the traditional rules of music. Evidently, the inventions of modern electronic instrumentation and amplification, especially during late 20th century transformed and accelerated the development of popular musical forms.

b) Styles of the Musical Tradition

Dating approximately 4000 years ago in Ugarit, the oldest known music (song) was written in cuneiform as decrypted by Professor Anne Kilmer Draffkorn of Calif University, and demonstrated to have been composed in third harmonic styles such as the “ancient gymel.” As well, I find that the oldest surviving sample of comprehensive musical styles or compositions is the Seikilos epitaph, which includes musical notations. Drawing my illustration from the Christians’ sacred text (the Bible), Jubal is portrayed as the inventor of music instruments, after which the Hebrews cultivated and used such instruments to compose their own musical styles. However, the first instance of mentioning music in the Christian bible arises from the famous book “Genesis” during Laban’s interview with Jacob. Similarly, upon their triumphant passage across the Red Sea, Moses together with the children of Israel sang songs of their deliverance during the exodus. In the elaboration of music styles, Genesis identifies pipes and harp as the key instruments of music during the gold age. Some of the sacred styles or forms of music during the 13th century, which developed thereafter, included conductus, motet, clausulae, and discant. By early 14th century, the style of “Burgundian composers” was the first reaction against the mannered styles and encompassed clear musical melodies alongside poised polyphony in all possible voices.

The advent of technological inventions in printing had a colossal influence over the musical style dissemination. This resulted to the foundation of the first international styles within the European musical styles. By late 16th century, the international styles began breaking down. Several and diverse stylistic trends were evident; trends towards the simplification of ethnic songs. Consequently, I come to recognize the existence of classical music, which is characterized by homophonic textures, or obvious melodies with certain accompaniments. Such melodies almost appear to be sing-able and voice-like, allowing the composers or musicians to actually substitute singers as the only musical focus. Instrumental music replaces the opera, as well as other forms of singing such as the oratorio, which served as the favorite to the music audience. My close reflection to the American styles of country music reveals that the commercial country music is direct progeny of the ballad and folk tradition via the South America by British Isles immigrants during the 18 the century, mid and late 19th century. While not portraying the oral tradition of story-telling via songs, the late country music feature the usage of instrumentals with fiddle, commonly taking a melodic role through voices. The carter family of the country music is undoubtedly the ultimate representations of the southern folk traditions.

The advent the dusty dance halls of Oklahoma and Texas gave rise to depression-era, a western swing that introduced sophisticated rhythms of jazz to the sensibility of the country music. Using something adjacent to the “Big Band” lineup (usually including horns), there was a configuration in country music after which; Bob Wills became the unquestionable king of the genre. Wills was a true music innovator who earned pronounced pride in honing his band (the Texas Playboys) improvisational skills. Perhaps, he possessed the ability to make the best out of his players and on any given night, his band developed profound effects on the scope of country music. Currently, I can show evidence of such tradition by bands such as the “Sleep at the Wheel” that still carries on with this musical tradition created by Bob Wills. Furthermore, the modern outgrowth of the country-rock music, which is characterized by loud emphasis and electric guitars, gives the tradition an edgy and hard sound that makes the music appear to be closer to rock music than the actual country music.

c) Techniques and Instrumentation used in the Music

To my close understanding, instrumentation refers to certain combinations of musical instruments used in composition, performance, production and/or recording of music. Owing to my learning experience gained in this subtopic, I can affirm that the first known musical instrument was the “human voice,” which is capable of making a vast range of sounds through singing, whistling, humming, clicking, yawning, or just by coughing. The other solid instruments included double pipes and flutes. For instance, archeologists in 2008 discovered a bone flute at HohleFels cave, near Ulm in Germany. This flute had five holes and a V-shaped mouthpiece, made from a vulture’s wing bone. The most ancient known wooden musical pipes were discovered in 2004 at Grey-stone, Ireland. This instrument has a lined pit containing a group of six flutes, made out of yew wood, and of about 35 to 50 centimeters long, without any finger holes, but tapered at one end. I thereby find that the inventions and developments of musical amplification instruments revolutionized prevalent music and accelerated the emergence of new forms and/styles of music. Double pipes, including those used during the ancient Greek, ancient bagpipes, alongside the review of the ancient drawings on walls and vases, ancient writings (such as the Aristotle) describe music techniques in the early times to indicate polyphony. For the double flutes (aulos pairs), one pipe served as a keynote or drone while the other pipe served to play melodic passages. Musical instruments such as various sorts of stringed instruments and the seven-hole flute have been recuperated from the archaeological sites- the Indus valley civilization. Additionally, ravanahatha is bowed fiddle that is popular within the Western India. Various historical records believe it to originate during the Sri Lanka’s Hela civilization in the era of King Ravana. This stringed instrument gained my recognition as one of the ancient string instruments in history that still survives to be useful in the modern music instrumentation.

Muting or string-mute is a musical device that moderates the tones produced by the instrument. Evidently, brass instruments such as the trombone and trumpet used this technique of muting during the developments that took place during late 20th century, and later became popular all music styles. During this period, percussion instruments also developed into favorite sources of “colorful music” both during concerts and during popular fields. Currently, musical instruments across the globe are commonly existing and divided into two principle categories: of indefinite and of definite pitch. The former instruments encompass the marimba, xylophone, vibraphone, timpani, chimes, electric guitars, and glockenspiel. On the other hand, instruments of indefinite pitch vastly exist in hundreds, some of which include snare drum, tom-tom, tenor drum, bongos, bass drum, temple block, gongs, claves, and the Latin American timbales, cymbals, triangles, and maracas. Evidently, the convenience of these instruments, as well as the high improvements involved percussion resulted into the observable increase in the number of compositions. The percussion ensemble is a group of about 4 to 8 players; with one interesting feature- each player is capable of playing several instruments simultaneously. Regarding this technique, I find out that an ensemble of four players can definitely handle about 25 to 35 instruments at a time.

Considering the keyboard instrumentation, since the 19th century, keyboard instruments have been playing a vital role in orchestration, and those that are still commonly available today include celesta, harpsichord, electric piano, and organ (both electronic and pipe). In the contemporary musical instrumentation, keyboard instruments greatly vary in the manner in which produce sound- the harpsichord has spikes which pluck the strings, piano has hammers which strike the strings, the celesta has strings which strike the enclosed metal bar, pipe organ sends air via a pipe while the electronic organ uses electronic oscillators in order to produce colorful sounds, which are naturally diverse and interesting the ears.

d) The Role of the Musical Tradition within the Cultural Setting

In my personal view, commonly in Africa, Asia and perhaps the rest of the world, music is not only regarded as a medium of artistic expression, but also an avenue for corporate and individual expression of people’s experiences. For instance, in Patakro, the art of music also serves as an avenue for expression of an individual’s feelings and thoughts, as well as the enclosing community’s sentiments. During religious worships, sacrifices and rituals, music served and still serves as a tool of praise for God, chiefs, wealthy people, as well as other prominent personalities within the society or community. Similarly, music may serve as a form of contract between individuals since it forms a means of communication. Since the origin of music, several vocal and instrumental genres became globally widespread. The catalogue of songs in vocal music is currently large, including songs of insult, songs of praise, proverbial songs, funeral songs or songs of sorrow, love songs, general songs, songs of complementary and criticism. I thereby affirm that the role or reputation of music basically rests upon the lushness of information sources regarding the cultural, societal, and/or regional conceptualization about the universe. Most often, an insight in the comprehensive meanings of diverse songs are obtainable only through visualization of .

Studies conducted by the interested personalities such as the Arthur, Essandoh, and Ampomah are inspired towards different interests and aims. There are individuals who study it, somewhat due to curiosity for information on human’s early music, or for intimations that it could supposedly commit to the historical problems of the entire globe. Similarly, there are others who study the musical traditions because it is something of exotic interest; however, those who made a commendable contribution to my general knowledge and gratitude in this context, are those who ponder traditional music to be worth studying in its own term and rights as an aspect of human society and culture. I thereby uphold that music is one of the ingenious cultural aspects within the human societal settings and its study may subsequently result into a comprehensive understanding of the daily human problems of their innovative lives, not forgetting the core values, meanings and goals of the culture within which they function.

Musical tradition owes its development to an array of writers whose substantial efforts sustained its existence. Even though the contributions made by such writers differ in content and scope, their contribution documentation have been restricted to few known traditions of music in African and Asian continents. During occasions such as rites of passage, festivals, puberty, chieftaincy affairs, alongside others, the traditional music are brought to a lime-light, and every society member appreciates their performance. In every culture, it is a conviction that whenever a traditional music programs are under the plan and constantly performed within a given society, it goes a long way in helping the members of that definite culture to communicate, appreciate their norms/practices, and diffuse any possible tensions among them. It may aid a community through revelation of the causes of the members’ inability to identify and perform traditional music or a given form of ethnic music. In turn, this will assist in improving the societal knowledge and comprehensive understanding of their traditions.

e) The Contributions of the Ethnic Music to the Cultural Evolutions

To begin by the influences of music on cultural evolutions, I closely analyzed the experiences by African-Americans with the ancient Egypt through their musical traditions. The peoples who presently portray a great resemblance to the ancient Egyptians are the Nubians, Ethiopian Abyssinians, and the Christian Egyptians (Copts). The physical appearance of the members of these cultures has remained to be similar; however, their customs and styles of dancing are widely diverse and dissimilar from each other. I thereby consider the ethnic music to have a significant influence over the cultural styles of dances. Music generates diverse sets of beliefs, theories and views which explore the nature and meaning of a particular culture. A recurring theme of literature from my view point shows that particular sets or styles of ethnic music produced within a cultural boundary, greatly influences the culture’s norms of behaviors as it traces its way towards civilization. Specifically, I view culture as learned and shared behaviors, a ground for expressing an individual or group’s feelings through a number of factors, including language, religion and art, which may vastly gain influence from music. A perfect example is the Jamaican type of English. I believe that the ethnic music must have had an upper hand and a great role in modifying their spoken English hence a cultural contribution.

It is indeed clear that a given society’s culture greatly affects its musical behavior-it is also true that ethnic musical practices or behaviors may inversely influence a society’s cultural practices by a significant level. From my ethnomusicological experience, I conclude that there is a vital interaction between music and culture. The implications of musical traditions and learned musical behaviors are so influential with regards to the acquired cultural norms. Since culture is purely a set of learned and acquired behaviors, the behaviors learned or acquired from the ethnic music practices have been shaping and transforming an assortment of cultural norms through language, dances, or musical arts. Through the enculturation processes (cultural evolutions), every social set-up develops its artifacts and institutions for its perpetuation, as well as music existence, which is quite common among diverse cultures.

Further expounding on the existence of a strong support by the ethnomusicological literature, I support the idea that ethnic music may reveal several things about a given culture via its instrument makers, instruments themselves, and performance structures. These things include cordial interaction between composers, performers, and/or audience. This idea explores the manner in which music specifically reflects cultural practices, as well as the high correlation between musical or song structure and social structure. I believe that music performance styles have special social and cultural roles to play amongst the human communication systems. Therefore, a culture’s favored ethnic musical style reinforces and reflects the kind of fundamental behaviors for its subsistence efforts, alongside its controlling and dominant social institutions.

f) Relationship between the Ethnic Music and the Greater Society

Ethnic music fuses with a number of aspects of the world’s social and diverse cultural identities, through race, socioeconomic status, religious beliefs, gender and human sexuality. For instance, one of the most convincing aspects utilized in the determination of the musical meanings of songs within the United States, is the relationship between ethnic music and race. I confirm that the world economic and social class divisions distinguish ethnic music through both absorption and innovation of music. The to attending the symphony events; however, the poor performers of ethnic and rural folk music are fortunate to host a diverse group of audience, including the non-neighbors and non-family members. In America, country music is widely known commercial genre, developed in order to appeal to the populations of the working class. Music genres such as folk, country or opera, frequently linked to their geographical identities; however, the country music genre is commonly of rural origin and functions. On the other hand, genres such as the R&B, hip hop, and gangsta rap commonly hold the regards of urban understanding. In order to understand the correlation between ethnic music and the great society, I had an obligation of first understanding the relations among race, class, the music genre that exists, as well as the evolution of music itself.

Musical developments begun prior to the written word, and since the dawn of civilization, it has had great influences over humans living style. Even though the oldest forms of musical evidences were discovered in India, several other forms exist worldwide. A significant number of diverse cultures there after created their own forms of music using varied methods and every culture get along with the influences of its own music in different ways, primarily basing on the type of instruments used, and in what manner. As a result, prevalent ethnic music varies depending on the societal cultures and the time periods of their developments.

Late 20th century and the dawn of 21st century saw ethnic music advancing within the American society. The hip hop culture began when Jamaican migrants, DJ KoolHerc immigrated to New York City, thereby introducing their practices of speaking over quarantined percussion-breaks in common songs during the block parties. Afterwards, the fusion of soul and pop music gave rise to a new genre of fashionable blues and rhythm, with the key driving forces from Michael Jackson, Prince, Lionel Richie, and Whitney Houston. Rap music began to rise from different regions, specifically from the south, and out of Atlanta- Georgia. The society allowed for the growth of all kind/styles of music hence the southern rappers such as Goodie Mob and OutKast performed commendably well in achieving their mainstream success. Later in that decade, Eminem arose as one of the top stars within the country. In conclusion, I find ethnic music to be the world’s heartbeat for cultural and social identity, communication, expression of human feelings and thoughts, as well as the enclosing community’s sentiments. I regard ethnic music as a unifying and a segregating tool for the world’s societies.