Applied Ethnomusicology

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What is Applied Ethnomusicology (AE)?

a) International Council for Traditional Music (ICTM)

For the AE study group within the ICTM, AE is:

“an approach [to the study of music-in-culture-and-culture-in-music, of musical cultures, of music ecologies, etc], guided by the principles of social responsibility, which extends  the usual academic goal of broadening and deepening knowledge and understanding toward soving concrete problems and toward working both inside and beyond typcial academic contexts”. [see ICTM website]

Some sense of the priorities and range of areas covered by this study group can be seen from the organisation of participant discussions at the groups’ 2008 inaugural meeting:

  • Talking Circle 1: Threatened Music, Threatened Communities: Applied Ethnomusicology’s Responses and Responsibilities to Endangered Musics.
  • Talking Circle 2: Applied Ethnomusicological Approaches to Music Therapy and Healing.
  • Talking Circle 3: “Theorizing Music’s Roles in Conflict and Peacemaking”.

b) The Society for Ethnomusicology (SEM)

Similarly, SEM’s Applied Ethnomusicology is devoted to work in ethnomusicology that puts muisc to use in a variety of contexts, academic and otherwise, including Education, Cultural Policy, Confli ct Resolution, Medicine, Arts Programming and Community Music”.  [see SEM website]

Members of the AE Section, when defining what they seek to do, say things such as:

  • “we are a group of ethnomusicologists with a strong desire to make the world a better place through our work”;
  • “if music is culture, and culture is a product of society, then we must realize how the study of music and those involved in it can benefit the world”;
  • “what distinguishes applied work is the advocacy and social justice aspect of it”;
  •  “we see music and musicians and ourselves as profoundly involved in social transformations”.

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add AM + Performing Ethnomusicology

add Klezmer at manchester + Social Engagement



The Applied and The Critical

If “what distinguishes applied work is the advocacy and social justice aspect of it” (see above), then AE as an area of practice has much in common with other areas of practice sharing those advocacy and social justice aspects, sharing the social transformative purpose and the aspiration to make the world a better place. One such area of practice is Linguistics (AL) in that applied linguists seek to bring language-focused thinking and research to bear in similar domains (e.g. Educational and Healthcare settings). However, the term AL has been in use for quite some time without an explicit focus on the above socially-engaged aspects. Therefore, relatively recently some of those working in this field felt the need to foreground the social transformative and other related aspects, and thus needed a more specific title to distinguish their focus from the main focus within AL. The result was Critical Applied Linguistics (CAL), as proposed and delineated by Alistair Pennycook amongst others …..