Queen’s has been an international centre for Ethnomusicology since the 1970s, when the subject was introduced by the late Professor John Blacking. Blacking’s lasting legacy was his contention that humans are naturally musical beings. For this reason, people all over the world engage in the production of ‘humanly organized sound’.
Ethnomusicology explores the diverse ways in which different societies and cultures around the world structure their musics and organize their musical activities in an effort to understand why music is so central to being human. Through fieldwork and musical analysis, Ethnomusicology looks at how music is used by individuals and social groups to mediate their life experiences, from immediate family and community activities to national and international engagements. Ethnomusicologists are interested in the ways music is implicated in gender, racial and ethnic identities and relations; they look at the ways music is used in organizing daily lives at individual, group and society levels; they investigate the formation of aesthetic trends, and the links between music and emotional states and motivations.
Students studying for a Social Anthropology degree have the opportunity to study Ethnomusicology in each of the three years. At Level 1, they must take ‘Expressive Cultures: Sound, Music and Text (ESA1001), which provides an introduction to song, dance and art of Papua New Guinea, Aboriginal Australia and Brazil along with some of the interpretive models developed in the Anthropology of Performance and Ethnomusicology which underpin the expressive cultures of these areas. At Levels 2 and 3 students can choose from a range of different modules whose themes encompass the politics of performance, local musics, medical ethnomusicology and the anthropology of dance and movement.