Area Studies in Ethnomusicology (Music 465/565)

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Music 465/565: Area Studies in Ethnomusicology:

Music of the Persianate World: Iran and Central Asia

Classes: Tue 2:00-4:50PM, HC 2-30

Instructor: Dr. Federico Spinetti

Office: 3-34A Arts & Convocation Hall; office hours: Wednesday 10:00-12:00am or by appointment. Tel. 492-7534;

Course description

This course explores the musical sounds, practices and concepts of selected areas of Inner and Central Asia, with specific emphasis on areas that are broadly characterized by the presence of Persian-speaking peoples or by cultural and artistic expressions that are related to or influenced by Persian literature and culture. We will focus on the musical cultures of Iran, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, and will bring into the discussion also other areas such as Afghanistan, Chinese Turkestan and the Caucasus. Issues addressed include music repertoires and structures; musical practices and concepts; the relation of musical practices, concepts and meanings to historical, social, ideological and political contexts; the relationship between music and learned or popular literary traditions; tradition, modernization, westernization and globalization; popular music, new technologies and the media. No formal knowledge of music, ethnomusicology, Islam, the Middle East or Central Asia is a prerequisite for taking this course. Undergraduates should enroll in Music 465; graduates should enroll in Music 565.

Aims and objectives

- to become acquainted with a number of musical genres of Inner and Central Asia.

- to study local musical idioms and aesthetic perceptions in relation to their socio-historical contexts, and to develop a critical understanding of the role of music in identity construction and political-ideological processes in the geo-cultural areas under consideration

- to use this specific area focus to as a means for students to familiarize themselves with or further their knowledge of ethnomusicological practice

- to explore the interrelation of music and poetry in Inner and Central Asia, and to appreciate its spiritual, ethical and social implications.

- to consider the role of the Persian language and Persian literary traditions as transnational unifying factors, and to evaluate their role in the formation of musical identities vis-a-vis other paradigms such as religion, local or national identities, ethnicity, inter-ethnic or syncretic cultural practices, global flows.

- to thereby become acquainted with the diversity of cultural practices, collective histories and identity perceptions in the context of the areas in question, and to critique the concept of “Persianate world” in the light of notions such as difference, subculture, minority and hegemony.

- to acquire extensive knowledge of the resources available for the study of the musical cultures of Inner and Central Asia, and to develop the critical and methodological awareness necessary to undertake independent research.

Course requirements

Regular class attendance and participation – including doing weekly readings and participating actively and pertinently in class discussions.

A short written review (500 words) of an article chosen from the required readings for this course. Although short, your article review needs to be polished and show some critical acumen. Due Week 4.

Mid-term assignment (to be submitted on Week 7).

This must be EITHER:

A transcription and analysis exercise, of a relevant music recording of your choice. Transcriptions and analyses need not be lengthy or highly detailed. However, they should be accurate and show some understanding of the musical idiom under consideration. You should also briefly address from a theoretical point of view your notational and representational choices.


A review of 2 relevant CDs/DVDs of your choice. You should comment on the content of recordings and booklet, on the selection of pieces made by the compiler/producer/record company/artist, and on the relevance of your chosen items to the scholarly study and public perception of Inner and Central Asian musics. Your reviews should be conceived as short essays (of about 1,000 words each): they should be polished, show critical insight and place your reviewed CDs in the context of other existing bibliographic or discographic references.


A review of a relevant monograph of your choice. Though short (2,000-2,500 words), your review should summarize the book in question as well as identify and critique its main arguments and themes. It should be polished, show critical insight and include bibliography or discography where applicable. For all these options, please do discuss your choice with me before beginning to work on your assignment.

Presentations for class discussion: students will be invited to take turns in presenting and leading class discussion on one or more assigned readings. As part of your presentation, you may be asked to locate relevant listening examples or other media sources to be played or shown in class. The timeline for presentations will be discussed and finalized on Week 2.

Final oral presentation (20-30 min) on the subject of your final research paper. Presentations will be distributed between Weeks 11 and 12.

Final research paper, due by 10 December. For undergraduates (Music 465): 3,000-4,000 words; for graduates (Music 565): 4,500-5,500 words. Word limits do not include bibliography, but do include footnotes, captions, graphics with a textual component, etc.

Please do discuss with me the topic and scope of your final research paper well before your final class presentation (weeks 11 & 12).


Each assignment will be marked according to the numeric scale of evaluation given below. Individual assignment marks will be combined to obtain a final numeric grade, which will be translated into the correspondent final letter grade. As a general rule, expectations for graduate students will be higher than for undergraduates.

A 4.0

A- 3.7

B+ 3.3

B 3.0

B- 2.7

C+ 2.3

C 2.0

C- 1.7

D+ 1.3

D 1.0

D- 0.7

F 0.0

The relative weight of each assignment on the overall grade is as follows:

Attendance and participation: 20%

Short reading review: 7.5%

Midterm assignment: 20%

Presentations for class discussion: 7.5%

Final oral presentation on research project: 10%

Final research paper: 35%

For all assignments, unjustified late submissions will be penalized by 0.3 points per day. Papers that do not respect the word limits set above will be downgraded by 1 full point on the numeric scale of evaluation.


There are no required textbooks for this course. Most class readings and a number of relevant sound recordings will be on reserve at the Music Library. Some of the readings are available online as well through the UofA Library database

Relevant bibliographic or audio-visual materials that may not be available in University Libraries will be handed out in class, included in this course mediawiki page or made accessible in my office.

Academic integrity

You should be familiar with the Code of Student Behavior as published in Section 26 of the 2009-2010 Calendar and available online at [1]

“Policy about course outlines can be found in section 23.4(2) of the University Calendar”. (GFC 29 SEP 2003)

“The University of Alberta is committed to the highest standards of academic integrity and honesty. Students are expected to be familiar with these standards regarding academic honesty and to uphold the policies of the University in this respect. Students are particularly urged to familiarize themselves the provisions of the Code of Student Behaviour (online at and avoid any behaviour which could potentially result in suspicions of cheating, plagiarism, misrepresentation of facts and/or participation in an offence. Academic dishonesty is a serious offence and can result in suspension or expulsion from the University.” (GFC 29 SEP 2003)

Classes and reading assignments

Week 1 - September 8: The Persianate world: introduction to Iran and Central Asia

Week 2 - September 15: Music and society in 20th century Iran and Central Asia

Week 3 - September 22: Mountain music of Tajikistan (and northern Afghanistan)

Week 4 - September 29: Tajik-Uzbek art music: Shashmaqom and related genres

Week 5 - October 6: The formation of musical canons: power, nationhood and cultural heritage

Week 6 - October 13: The voice, sung poetry and religion: aesthetics and ethics

Week 7 - October 20: Introduction to Persian art music

Week 8 - October 27: Regional and popular traditions of Iran

Week 9 - November 3: Popular music and media: the global and the local in Iran and Central Asia

Week 10 - November 10: no class

Week 11 - November 17: final class presentations

Week 12 - November 24: final class presentations

Week 13 - December 1: no class.



MPW bibliography 2009

MPW discography 2009