What subject headings are used for ethnomusicology?

ANSS Subject and Bibliographic Access Committee

Question/Answer on cataloging issues — May 2013

What subject headings are used for ethnomusicology?

By Fred J. Hay, Appalachian State University

One point, however, has clearly re-emerged, and this is that ethnomusicology is approachable from two possibilities, it is equally clear that since we are all human, anthropologists approaching ethnomusicology tend to stress anthropological aspects, and musicologists, the musicological aspects. Both groups agree, however, that the ultimate objective is the fusion of the two taken as an ideal inevitably modified by practical reality. . . . There is an anthropology of music, and it is within the grasp of both musicologist and anthropologist. For the former it provides the baseline from which all music sounds are produced and the framework within which those sounds and processes of sounds are finally understood. For the latter it contributes further understanding both of the products and processes of man’s life, precisely because music is simply another element in the complexity of man’s learned behavior. . . . we understand the sound much better than we understand the total organization of its production.

–Alan P. Merriam. The Anthropology of Music, 1964.

Ethnomusicology is the LCSH for the anthropology of music. Merriam’s description of ethnomusicology’s the two main components, anthropology and musicology is reflected in the Library of Congress’ choice of the two Broader Terms: Ethnology and Musicology. (The Broader Terms for Ethnology are Anthropology and Human beings.)

Folklore and Sound recordings in ethnomusicology, terms related to Ethnomusicology, are narrower terms of Ethnology. Narrower terms for Musicology include not only Ethnomusicology but also Music archaeology (term for the study of a music’s origins). Broader terms for Musicologists are Musicians and Scholars; Ethnomusicologists is a narrower term.

Music may be subdivided geographically  e.g., Music—Japan–Tokyo. Music may also be subdivided geographically and then by a limited number of “influences” (e.g., African influences). Music may also be subdivided geographically and then by Religious aspects which in turn may be subdivided by various religions or spiritual practices (e.g., Voodooism, Peyotism, Santeria). Some places may be subdivided by specific place-related headings (e.g., Music—Scotland—Pibroch). But stand alone subject headings exist for some varieties of religious music, e.g., Santeria music, Voodoo music. Relevant narrower terms for Music include Ethnicity in music; Exotics in music; Folk dance music; Folk music; Indians in music; Paleography, Musical; Popular Music; Sacred music; Street music; Trance music; and Women, Romani, in music.

Music or Songs and music may be a subdivision under “names of persons, corporate bodies, places, classes of persons, ethnic groups, wars, and topical headings for collection or single works of vocal or instrumental music about the topic or entity.”

Musicians may be subdivided geographically and by performers of specific kinds of music (e.g., Calypso musicians, Zydeco musicians). There are also stand alone headings  which may be subdivided geographically (e.g., Musicians, Cajun; Musicians, Romani). Yet other ethnic musicians are described as East Asian musicians, and Hispanic American musicians.

A narrower term for Ethnomusicology is Sound recordings in ethnomusicology. Ethnomusicology may be subdivided geographically and by a number of topical headings including but not limited to Bibliography, Cross cultural studies, Fieldwork, and History.

Broader terms for Ethnomusicologists are Ethnologists, Folklorists, and Musicologists. Ethnomusicologists may be subdivided geographically.

Also of interest is the subject  subdivision Ethnomusicological collections, which may not be subdivided geographically. This heading may also be used to subdivide “names of persons, families, and corporate bodies.”

Additional subject headings (and except if noted all can be subdivided geographically) of relevance include Music and anthropology (may not be subdivided geographically), Music and dance, Music and folklore (may not be subdivided geographically), Music and race, Music in intercultural communication, Music museums, Música sertaneja, Música sertaneja in literature, Música tropical, Musical instrument makers, Musical instruments (narrower terms include names of various instruments), and Musical instruments, Prehistoric.

If you are confused by the complexities and inconsistencies in the way the Library of Congress handles the anthropology of music, consider Melville Herskovits 1941 statement: “The peculiar value of studying music . . . is that, even more than other aspects of culture, its patterns tend to lodge on the unconscious level.” Apparently the catalogers who developed this scheme were, at the time, listening to music which was lodging on the unconscious level and, therefore,  were not fully conscious of their cataloging.

Herskovits, Melville J. 1941. “Patterns of Negro Music,” Transactions of the Illinois Academy of Sciences 34 (Sept.):19-23.

Merriam, Alan P. 1964. The Anthropology of Music. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press.

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