How Musical is Man?

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University of Washington Press, 1974 - Music - 116 pages
2 Reviews

This important study in ethnomusicology is an attempt by the author -- a musician who has become a social anthropologist -- to compare his experiences of music-making in different cultures. He is here presenting new information resulting from his research into African music, especially among the Venda. Venda music, he discovered is in its way no less complex in structure than European music. Literacy and the invention of nation may generate extended musical structures, but they express differences of degree, and not the difference in kind that is implied by the distinction between ?art? and ?folk? music. Many, if not all, of music's essential processes may be found in the constitution of the human body and in patterns of interaction of human bodies in society. Thus all music is structurally, as well as functionally, ?folk? music in the sense that music cannot be transmitted of have meaning without associations between people.

If John Blacking's guess about the biological and social origins of music is correct, or even only partly correct, it would generate new ideas about the nature of musicality, the role of music in education and its general role in societies which (like the Venda in the context of their traditional economy) will have more leisure time as automation increases.

 

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John Blacking was an ethnomusicologist who spent two years living with, and studying the Venda, a tribe in South Africa. As opposed to Western classical music where the few (professional concert ... Read full review

Contents

Humanly Organized Sound
3
Music in Society and Culture
32
Culture and Society in Music
54
Soundly Organized Humanity
89
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About the author (1974)

John Blacking was born October 28, 1928, in Guilford, Surrey, England. With his family he moved to Salisbury, Wiltshire, at age three, where he received his early education and exposure to music at the Salisbury Cathedral Choir School. Blacking obtained a degree in archaeology and anthropology from Kings College Cambridge in 1953. He spent a large part of his life doing fieldwork in countries around the globe. In addition to being a well-known and well-respected professor of social anthropology and gaining professorships in England and Africa before eventually settling in the United States, Blacking was also an ethnomusicologist: He was interested in the relationship between music and biology, psychology, dance, and politics. He believed that making music is fundamental and universal to humans. Blanking stated that through music people express the human condition, transcend class boundaries, and improve the quality of life. He spent 22 months with the Venda people in South Africa. He wrote Venda Children's Songs (1967) based on this experience. Blacking's best known work is How Musical Is Man? (1973) Blacking died in 1990.

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