Resources for studying Drumming Aesthetics

SmoothOperator

Gold Member
I have been getting into musical aesthetics, especially pre-Hispanic and Chinese, though I've also brushed up on some of my European aesthetics. Are there any good resources aesthetics on the Internet? I would be especially interested in African music aesthetics'.
 

toddbishop

Platinum Member
It's really hard to find stuff like that-- at least, I was looking for it when I was in school, and never found anything very useful to me. There's a collection of stuff called Mother Wit At The Laughing Barrel, which deals with various aspects of African and African American culture. I think the main resources are the recordings, though. Just listen a lot and you'll know as much as anybody.
 

SmoothOperator

Gold Member
More widely it's the study of beauty in arts. Musical aesthetics is a very well-studied field.
I think about musical aesthetics as what people in a culture generally like to hear.

I've been interested in pre-Hispanic music and one of the articles I read pointed out that while the early Spanniards who encountered the native music thought it was shrill, yet the natives generally liked it. I started to think about it, the Mayans had all of these cool clay whistles and flutes and things, but there is no real reason that other cultures couldn't have developed those, take China for example fabulous China, but the only thing resembling a musical whistle was the Xun. Likewise the Mayans certainly had all the technology to make a stringed lute, just look at the bow and arrow technology, but there are no examples of such things in prehispanic America. It is enough for me to surmise that Mayans liked the flutes and whistles, and not the stringed instruments.
 

SmoothOperator

Gold Member
Ah! So what you're looking for is ethnomusicology rather than aesthetics.
Aesthetics are aesthetics, ethnomusicology is a eurocentrist term. Sure, for Mesoamerica it is difficult to determine what the aesthetics were, since so many records were destroyed, and the European scholars were so bad at recording history. Therefore, some anthropology and sociology will be required, however that isn't the point. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethnomusicology

One of the thing I have somewhat annoying is even the more enlightened writers persist in comparing European music to Mesoamerican, even though Chinese music is a probably more analogous, and better developed And recorded than either.
 

BacteriumFendYoke

Platinum Member
I started to think about it, the Mayans had all of these cool clay whistles and flutes and things, but there is no real reason that other cultures couldn't have developed those, take China for example fabulous China, but the only thing resembling a musical whistle was the Xun. Likewise the Mayans certainly had all the technology to make a stringed lute, just look at the bow and arrow technology, but there are no examples of such things in prehispanic America. It is enough for me to surmise that Mayans liked the flutes and whistles, and not the stringed instruments.
Yes, there's aesthetics in there as well but what you're describing there is ethnomusicology. I'll accept that the current study is Eurocentric but ethnomusicology as a subject area is not inherently Eurocentric. Maybe you can be the guy to change that?

When people study fields of interest, they tend to use their background as a basis for comparison and is an inherent bias in study. That's not something that changes dramatically unless those from other backgrounds get involved.

Without the basis for the cultural knowledge, any study into that society's aesthetics is devoid of context and meaning except for as a basis for comparison with another culture's purely musical (as in music theory) tradition - in this case, Western.
 

SmoothOperator

Gold Member
Yes, there's aesthetics in there as well but what you're describing there is ethnomusicology. I'll accept that the current study is Eurocentric but ethnomusicology as a subject area is not inherently Eurocentric. Maybe you can be the guy to change that?

When people study fields of interest, they tend to use their background as a basis for comparison and is an inherent bias in study. That's not something that changes dramatically unless those from other backgrounds get involved.

Without the basis for the cultural knowledge, any study into that society's aesthetics is devoid of context and meaning except for as a basis for comparison with another culture's purely musical (as in music theory) tradition - in this case, Western.
That is a backwards way of saying that, I like studying aesthetics as a way to gain insight into their culture. Take Mandarin they use glissando like very often, aesthetically they must like glissando(as opposed to the western monastic drones).
 

BacteriumFendYoke

Platinum Member
Yes but to work out the why, which is the really important question, you have to understand something of the culture. It could be the reason glissandi are so often used and assimilated is to do with the way the instrument is manufactured and there might be a critical lack of - say - metal to make frets.

Musical aesthetics is the study of beauty and art but without an idea of what that culture finds beautiful, it's worthless. You have to first know something of that culture and its traditions. Take Schoenberg - his Piano works post 1903 (starting with 'Drei Klavierstucke' make very little sense if you are interested in 'beauty'. When you dig a little deeper into the cultural context, they suddenly make a lot more sense and the aesthetic context and choices is fascinating.

Without knowledge of the culture and the culture's musical history, you have no idea what the aesthetic value of the music is to that culture. Instead, you're simply comparing it to what you already know and you're in that same position of being 'Eurocentric' and naïve with your conclusions.
 

SmoothOperator

Gold Member
Yes but to work out the why, which is the really important question, you have to understand something of the culture. It could be the reason glissandi are so often used and assimilated is to do with the way the instrument is manufactured and there might be a critical lack of - say - metal to make frets.

Musical aesthetics is the study of beauty and art but without an idea of what that culture finds beautiful, it's worthless. You have to first know something of that culture and its traditions. Take Schoenberg - his Piano works post 1903 (starting with 'Drei Klavierstucke' make very little sense if you are interested in 'beauty'. When you dig a little deeper into the cultural context, they suddenly make a lot more sense and the aesthetic context and choices is fascinating.

Without knowledge of the culture and the culture's musical history, you have no idea what the aesthetic value of the music is to that culture. Instead, you're simply comparing it to what you already know and you're in that same position of being 'Eurocentric' and naïve with your conclusions.
I think to understand aesthetics one needs to step back a little. Schoenberg's analytic style has some parallels to the motif development and variation in Chinese music or Guajeo in Mesoamerican music, but on a larger scale why do Europeans need formal rules of composition. I think it has more to do with the synthetic nature of the language, whereas an Analytic language and musical system such as Chinese has such a rigid structure that agreements between sections of the music are unnecessary. The question remains, why do some people find synthetic musical constructs beautiful while others find analytic beautiful?
 

BacteriumFendYoke

Platinum Member
I suspect you're now looking for a semiotician. I happen to know one but she's moved to Germany...

Here's the thing. Since Debussy, the formal rules of composition have been gradually eroded. You get occasional blips of a systematic approach (see Serialism) but there is a big movement that doesn't use an analytical language.
 

GruntersDad

Administrator - Mayor
Staff member
About 1,750,000 results (0.39 seconds)

This what I found when I Googled the term. Happy hunting

I also Googled Duncans term since I appreciate his language skills.


Ethnomusicology is an area of study encompassing various approaches to the study of the many musics around the world that emphasize their cultural, social, material, cognitive, biological, and other dimensions or contexts instead of or in addition to its isolated sound component or any particular repertoire.
 

John Lamb

Senior Member
I think about musical aesthetics as what people in a culture generally like to hear.

I've been interested in pre-Hispanic music and one of the articles I read pointed out that while the early Spanniards who encountered the native music thought it was shrill, yet the natives generally liked it. I started to think about it, the Mayans had all of these cool clay whistles and flutes and things, but there is no real reason that other cultures couldn't have developed those, take China for example fabulous China, but the only thing resembling a musical whistle was the Xun. Likewise the Mayans certainly had all the technology to make a stringed lute, just look at the bow and arrow technology, but there are no examples of such things in prehispanic America. It is enough for me to surmise that Mayans liked the flutes and whistles, and not the stringed instruments.

Not necessarily. The lute and many of the other stringed instruments hail from the Oud (Al Oud = A Lute) and was brought to Asia (and Europe) through trade. The marimbas were likewise brought to Africa through trade. Everyone's had the ability to make mbiras, but nobody ever did. Double reed instruments, like the oboe and big drums like the bass drum were brought to Europe through Ottoman invasion (until the development of the drum set, the bass drum was still called the Turkish drum). It could be that people in one area just liked the sound, or it could be that a musical tradition takes a lot of luck to develop. Maybe the first Americans just never invented a resonator.

There is a lot of luck and happenstance that goes into why we make the art we do. Take gamelan, for example. In Indonesia there is a rich tradition of metallophones - something possible in Europe but almost unheard of. The sound of the metal was championed by the powers that be that thought it represented the powers of the Gods ... given support from moneyed interest, a rich tradition of metallic symphonies developed. European symphonies sprang up from funding of rich aristocrats who used them as a symbol of their (god-given) power. Likewise, newly minted Chinese emperors would redesign the musical scale to reflect the passing of the Gods' favor to them. Of course, none of these changed what common people played for themselves - folk music around the world has always been pentatonic based.
 

SmoothOperator

Gold Member
Not necessarily. The lute and many of the other stringed instruments hail from the Oud (Al Oud = A Lute) and was brought to Asia (and Europe) through trade. The marimbas were likewise brought to Africa through trade. Everyone's had the ability to make mbiras, but nobody ever did. Double reed instruments, like the oboe and big drums like the bass drum were brought to Europe through Ottoman invasion (until the development of the drum set, the bass drum was still called the Turkish drum). It could be that people in one area just liked the sound, or it could be that a musical tradition takes a lot of luck to develop. Maybe the first Americans just never invented a resonator.

There is a lot of luck and happenstance that goes into why we make the art we do. Take gamelan, for example. In Indonesia there is a rich tradition of metallophones - something possible in Europe but almost unheard of. The sound of the metal was championed by the powers that be that thought it represented the powers of the Gods ... given support from moneyed interest, a rich tradition of metallic symphonies developed. European symphonies sprang up from funding of rich aristocrats who used them as a symbol of their (god-given) power. Likewise, newly minted Chinese emperors would redesign the musical scale to reflect the passing of the Gods' favor to them. Of course, none of these changed what common people played for themselves - folk music around the world has always been pentatonic based.
Mayans had log drums, turtle shell drums, skin drums with resonators, but alas no string resonators.

I think differences in aesthetics probably have a bit to do with weather, indoor vs outdoor. People from the north probably like a bit quieter music and have protection from the elements, whereas people who sleep in hammocks(you would too in a jungle) probably like louder instruments that can handle the humidity.
 

John Lamb

Senior Member
Lots of string resonators in the middle east (home of the oud) SE Asia, India and equatorial Africa, though.
 

tcspears

Gold Member
While musical aesthetics and ethnomusicology intersect, they are separate concepts.

Aesthetics is almost a category within philosophy; it has to do with the harmonic organizations and interval systems that people find pleasing (or beautiful). These are all the words your music teacher would use that you never understood until senior year; color, texture, shapes, emotiveness... They are subjective, and differ from culture to culture.

Ethnomusicology is the study of specific music through the context of the culture surrounding it, the historical significance, social impacts and drivers. Ethnomusicology relies on historical texts and documentation, rather than the emotions of the listener.

Where aesthetics is the philosophical study of what makes music pleasing, ethnomusicology is the study of why and how that music came to be in the first place.
 
Top