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Lloyd Sealy Library
John Jay College of Criminal Justice
OER Open Educational Resources

MUS 104-01 Exploring World Music Cultures: Welcome

This course is an introduction to the study of music cultures around the world.

Music in World Cultures

Instructor Information

Noé Dinnerstein

Adjunct Assistant Professor

Department of Art and Music

John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNY


phone: 845-901-8600

Course description

This course is an introduction to the study of music cultures around the world.  You will learn how to listen to music, as well as understanding how it shapes and is shaped by the cultural settings in which it is performed.  We will examine music and case studies from areas around the world including: Ireland, Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, Ethnic North America, the Middle East, India, China, and Tibet. 

In short, what we will be doing is covering some of the basics of Ethnomusicology, which is the study of music as an aspect of culture, or in other words, the comparative study of the musics of the world.  We will explore musical diversity, as we look at a variety of cultures, communities, events, instruments, and key musical and cultural concepts involved in the study of the world's musics. 

Course units

Concepts, principles, and cultures, covered by chapter
Unit 1--Cultural concepts: general and regarding music

Unit 2--The elements of music: melody, harmony, rhythm, dynamics, texture, form, word-music relationships, genre. 

Unit 3--Ireland: History of Ireland and the place of bards and specific instruments in traditional Ireland; English colonialism and its impact on Irish language, culture, and music; independence struggle and music; post-Independence Ireland and the role of the Catholic Church; Irish folk music revival in the mid 20th Century.

Unit 4--Sub-Saharan Africa:interlocking instrumental and vocal music; overlapping sound textures; cyclical forms; rhythmic complexity; hereditary musician families; communal music-making; talking drums; urbanization of musical traditions.

Unit 5--Latin America: the relationships of social values to musical styles varieties of Hispanic cultures; European and Native syncretisms; string instruments and their variants; Afro-Latin American syncretisms; border musics and negotiation of identities.

Unit 6--Ethnic North America: characteristics of Euro-derived versus Afro-derived music styles; interaction of rural folk music and urbanized multi-ethnic culture; preservation and maintenance of ethnic musics through families, communities, and religion; predominant African American influence in popular music; multiculturalism.

Unit 7--The Middle East: differing conceptions of music; ways musicians learn to improvise; common but diverse musical systems; heterophonic ensemble textures; amateurs over professional musicians; Islam.

Unit 8--India: the relationship of music and dance; instrumental and vocal improvisation; compositional structure; concept of meter; ancient roots; Hinduism; contrasting Northern and Southern styles; film music and popular music.

Unit 9–– China: cultural and musical interactions of 56 recognized ethnicities; heterophonic silk and bamboo ensembles; Peking Opera; Confucianism and proper music; 20th century popular music; Songs of the Masses;politics and rock music 

Unit 10--  Tibet and Ladakh:  Himalayan cultures as crossroads; Buddhism and society;  Monastic, rural, nomadic, and urban musics; Politics and ethnic identity; popular music.

Unit 11 -- Indonesia:  Performance culture on the various islands of the Indonesian archipelago.  Music, dance, and drama from royal courts, rural communities, as well as popular music. 

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