- Worlds of Music: An Introduction to the Music of the World's Peoples
This well-known textbook for introductory courses in world music, like several of its competitors, consists of a series of regional case studies (by various authors) that add up to an episodic survey. Each chapter is large, dense, and sumptuously illustrated both in these pages and on accompanying cassette tapes or CDs. There is more than enough material here for a yearlong course for hard-working, bright students.
For a semester course, one would extract three to five case studies. Alternatively, any chapter could serve as the basis for discussing music in a more general course on the concerned culture. For instance, a course on "The Black Experience" could devote two to three weeks on this book's chapter by Jeff Titon, "North America/Black America," an elegant précis of the blues and blues culture, religious music, and work song. For academics outside of ethnomusicology, the book is a delightful introduction to that field, and a chance to read good colleagues' sophisticated thoughts on basic issues—in plain English.
An introductory chapter, "The Music Culture as a World of Music," presents a template for contextualizing experiences with music. For some undergraduates, this will constitute too much abstraction prior to illustrations of principles, although a good review later. The case studies are "North America/Native America," by David P. McAllester, "Africa/Ewe, Mande, dagbamba, Shona, BaAka," by David Locke, "North America/ Black America," by Jeff Todd Titon, "Bosnia and Central/Southeast Europe: Musics and Musicians in Transition," by Mark Slobin, "India/South India," by David B. Reck, "Asia/Indonesia," by R. Anderson Sutton, "East Asia/Japan," by Linda Fujie, and "Latin America/Ecuador," by John M. Schechter. The final chapter is a summary and project guide: "Discovering and Documenting a World of Music." Conspicuous omissions mirror disciplinary history: There is no chapter on European art music (historical musicologists study that), none on broadly known pop music (sociology), and none on rural white American traditional music (folklore; that is why this writer, an ethno-musicologist interested in fiddling, first attended a meeting of the American Folklore Society).
McAllester's "North America/Native America" is a model of clear writing and canny pedagogy. First, he briefly describes three very different songs (from three contrasting culture areas): a Sioux "Grass Dance," a Zuni lullaby, and an Iroquois "Quiver Dance." The Sioux example is the perfect beginning, since the Plains style it represents is both exotic—very distant from students' daily musical diet—and familiar, since this is the Indian music we know through popular culture. We are asked to try to sing along with the Sioux song and to make an Iroquois "Cowhorn" rattle. (Most chapters include an instrument-making project, although not always as doable as this; these projects and equally frequent invitations to make music reflect the importance of participant/ observation in ethnomusicology.)
After the introductory trio of songs, Mc-Allester gets down to business with a thorough presentation from his own research of Navajo music. He starts with a very old song type specific to the Navajo, a Yeibichai song (masked dancers impersonating gods in the healing "Nightway Ceremony"), both carefully examining cultural context and describing musical style by invoking similarities to and illustrating differences from the Plains example. With that older example in place, he jumps to an early Navajo Country and Western ensemble's version of "Folsom Prison Blues," then fills in this stylistic and historical space with numerous other songs, along the way offering a second instrument-making [End Page 107] project and an extended quotation (well over a thousand words) from his principle Navajo informant (each chapter includes parallel primary material).
Locke's chapter on sub-Saharan African music, like most of the other chapters, traces a similar pedagogical/dramatic pattern with comparable accessibility and rigor. He employs what may be the most ingratiating musical example in the history...