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Reviewed by:
  • Theory and Method in Historical Ethnomusicology ed. by Jonathan McCollum and David G. Hebert
  • Justin R. Hunter
Theory and Method in Historical Ethnomusicology. Edited by Jonathan McCollum and David G. Hebert. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2014. [xviii, 411 p. ISBN 9780739168264 (hardcover), $110; ISBN 9781498507059 (e-book), $109.99.] Music examples, illustrations, bibliography, index.

Theory and Method in Historical Ethnomusicology is a much-needed resource for music scholars from many disciplinary approaches. From the topics discussed and the ethnographies presented, this work fits well into the literature of ethnomusicological theory, but also should be considered in other fields of musical study. This lengthy collection is presented as a bridge, of sorts, that works to highlight the potential of merging musicological branches—namely, historical musicology and ethnomusicology. The editors clarify that this is a collection of theories and references to historically-oriented works not previously presented together; as such, it is a valuable resource for any music scholar interested in the past and its relationship with the present. The editors state, “a central objective of this book is to reclaim the role that historical studies have long quietly occupied in ethnomusicology, despite the field’s recent emphasis on ethnographic studies of contemporary music practices, and to demonstrate new ways of conducting insightful historical research on musical traditions around the world” (p. 2). Using a broad spectrum of geocultural examples, the volume includes several engaging strategies for using and writing about history in order to understand the world’s musics.

In Chapters 1, 2, 3, and 11, the editors delve into a multitude of frameworks for the uses of historical perspective. As such, I will discuss these chapters together, although they are separated in the final product. In chapter 1, the editors expansively trace the early days of ethnomusicology (and its predecessors) and the drastic shift from the recording and analyzing of history (seen as musicology) to ethnographic studies (seen as ethnomusicology). This description of and attention drawn to the discipline’s early reliance on historical [End Page 534] studies is especially compelling and a worthwhile read for historical music researchers, especially those without ethnomusicological training.

Chapter 2 is lengthy, method-heavy reading. This exhaustive discussion is especially useful for considering how historical studies could be applied to ethnographic research. The editors examine the numerous ways the past can be accessed—oral histories, musical recordings, documents, and musical texts, etc.—and the many avenues for researchers to find such resources (archives and beyond). But with historical research comes the need for (or adventure of) finding sources not always consulted in depth in ethnographic studies—e.g., studio recordings, newspaper articles, album covers, sales records, and online resources. These, as the editors point out, are exciting ways to engage with the histories of the musics we study.

In chapter 3, with a thorough exploration of ideas from inside and outside of ethnomusicology, the editors work through philosophies of history. From theoretical debates to the ethics of representation, the chapter is a jaunty and robust contribution to how music studies could be enhanced by a sensitivity to historical pasts. McCollum and Hebert’s lengthy discussions of the cognitive dissonance of cultural memory are particularly poignant for researchers working to connect oral histories with written sources. A novel approach in this chapter is the consistent discussion of digital media. With higher education’s growing interest in digital humanities, these discussions seem fitting and timely.

With the exception of a brief synopsis for each contribution, chapter 11 functions more as an extension of ideas previously discussed than a conclusion. In this final chapter, the editors take time to develop additional ideas not yet discussed in the book. Especially intriguing are the calls for more research into the history of music education and the need to remain academically rigorous in historical studies. In highlighting the function of each chapter here, the editors group them together by themes: foundations of, methodological approaches to, and theoretical concerns in historical ethnomusicology. While these groupings seem logical and this discussion helps to draw larger connections between the chapters, arranging the book according to these themes might have been a more effective strategy.

Chapters 4–10 are individual contributions that...


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