The Musical Human : Rethinking John Blacking's Ethnomusicology in the Twenty-First Century book cover
1st Edition

The Musical Human
Rethinking John Blacking's Ethnomusicology in the Twenty-First Century

Edited By

Suzel Ana Reily

ISBN 9781138262843
Published March 6, 2017 by Routledge
234 Pages

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Book Description

The musical human: without a doubt, this vision of the human species as naturally musical has become the most enduring legacy John Blacking bequeathed to ethnomusicology. The image aptly embodies his preoccupations, which integrated theoretical and methodological issues within the discipline with a deep concern for the physical and psychological well-being of humanity. Blacking believed sincerely in the power of music, and he contended that people's general health depended upon the musical opportunities made available to them. For this reason, he placed great importance upon ethnomusicology, the discipline that investigates the way different societies around the world organize their musical activities, and the impact of these diverse alternatives upon the people involved in them. Each essay draws upon distinct aspects of Blacking's writings but complements them with quite different sets of sources. Themes include the role of fieldwork in the postmodern era; the role of music amongst subaltern communities existing in a rapidly changing social environment with particular reference to Vendaland; the manipulation of traditional performance settings in pursuit of political or social strategies; children's music acquisition as an indicator of the innate musical capacity of humans; the biology of music making; the creation of pleasure, pain and power during dance; cognitive processes and the social consequences of the power of music, and a consideration of the method of applying ethnomusicological research methods to Western art music. In this way, the volume provides fresh assessments of Blacking's work, taking up his challenge to push the boundaries of ethnomusicology into new territories.

Table of Contents

Contents: John Blacking in the 21st century: an introduction, Suzel Ana Reily; Memories of fieldwork: understanding 'humanly organized sound' through the Venda, Keith Howard; Tracks of the mouse: tonal reinterpretation in Venda guitar songs, Jaco Kruger; Black background: life history and migrant women's music in South Africa, Deborah James; Musicality in early childhood: a case from Japan, Fumiko Fujita; John Blacking and the 'human/musical instrument interface': two plucked lutes from Afghanistan, John Baily; Experiencing the ballet body: pleasure, pain, power, Helena Wulff; Creating a musical space for experiencing the other-self within, Rebecca Sager; Bach in a Venda mirror: John Blacking and historical musicology, Britta Sweers; Bibliography; Index.

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Suzel Ana Reily is Reader at the School of Anthropological Studies, Queen's University Belfast, UK.


’...this is a valuable volume that brings John Blacking once again to the forefront of ethnomusicology, this time in the twenty-first century. The individual chapters are well written and coherently argued, and Reily has grouped them in ways that seamlessly carry particular themes and theories in Blacking's work across a broad range of theoretical and ethnographic interests.’ Journal of the Society for Musicology in Ireland ’This book is more than a posthumous salute to one of arguably the great ethnomusicologists of the 20th century... The Musical Human is a testament to Blacking's belief that human beings are innately musical. The book does not set out to provide an overview of Blacking's scholarly output. Instead, it more than achieves its aim of demonstrating the relevance of Blacking's ideas for ethnomusicology in the 21st century and for future generations of ethnomusicologists.’ Ethnomusicology Forum ’While edited collections often end up lonely on a bookshelf, this book is an exception by its beautifully crafted coherence. ... The interacting dualities of music that all contributors specify in their complementary ways will make for an excellent guide, both theoretical and concrete, to advance and develop Blacking’s vision of an interdisciplinary ethnomusicology into an exciting and anthropologically rewarding enterprise. In sum, this is not a book that will stand dormant on the reader’s bookshelf, and one hopes it will engage many more anthropologists connecting aesthetics with politics and ethics.’ Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute ’It is rare for a volume in the field of ethnomusicology to engage with the work of a previous scholar in such depth...the diversity of the papers and the breadth of research they represent mean that, even without the common reference to Blacking, this would be a strong collection of essays. Nevertheless, perhaps the unique contribution of this collection is its role as a case study showing th