Introduction to Ethnomusicology: Music of Iran and Central Asia (Winter 2008)

From CCE wiki archived
Jump to: navigation, search

Music 365. Introduction to Ethnomusicology: Music of Iran and Central Asia.

Classes: Monday, Wednesday & Friday 11:00-11:50, FAB 1-23 (TELUS Building 134 from Friday, January 11 onward)

Instructor: Prof. Federico Spinetti

Office: 3-65 Fine Arts Building; office hours: Tuesday 10:00-12:00am, or by appointment; tel. 492-7534;

Teaching assistant: Melaena Grierson;

Course description

This course provides an introduction to the field of ethnomusicology. It addresses prominent methodological and theoretical concerns of the discipline at large by focusing, in particular, on music scholarship and resources related to the study of selected areas of Inner and Central Asia, such as Iran, Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and Chinese Turkestan. Issues addressed include music repertoires and structures; musical practices and concepts in the homeland and in the context of transnational migrations and diaspora; the relation of musical practices, concepts and meanings to historical, social, ideological and political contexts; the relationship between music and both oral and literary traditions; tradition, modernization, westernization and globalization; popular music, new technologies and the media. The course makes extensive use of audio-visual materials in addition to lectures and readings. No formal knowledge of music theory, analysis, history, notation or ethnomusicology is a prerequisite for taking this course.

This course is for undergraduate students only.

Aims and objectives

- To provide an introduction to the field of ethnomusicology and familiarize with the variety of its methodological and theoretical approaches.

- To develop familiarity with the research resources available to students and scholars in ethnomusicology, including scholarly literature, audio-visual documents and multimedia resources.

- To explore the possibilities offered by a number of methods and tools/media to both the process and the outcomes of research: fieldwork, analysis of texts and audio-visual documents, ethnographic writing, ethnographic film-making, field and studio recordings, etc.

- To become acquainted with a number of musical genres of Inner and Central Asia, including art, folk and popular musics.

- To study 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 Inner and Central Asia as well as among diaspora communities.

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

- To become acquainted with the diversity of cultural practices, collective histories and identity perceptions in the context of the areas in question.

Course requirements

- Class attendance and participation. No training in music or ethnomusicology are prerequisites for taking and doing well in this course. Class attendance and doing required assignments, however, are necessary.

- Reports & reviews, including:

2 reading reports (due Weeks 4 & 9). Each report should address one assigned class reading of your choice. They should be concise (not exceeding 500 words) and include a short description as well as a critical evaluation of your reading. Personal points of view are welcome, provided that you support your argument/s by referring to other relevant readings or materials, theory or class discussions.

1 CD review (due Week 11, Wednesday March 19). A review of one relevant CD 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 item to the scholarly study and public perception of Inner and Central Asian musics. Your review should not exceed 750 words. It should be polished and well-written, contain a description of the CD and raise some critical observations.

1 film review (due Week 14, Monday April 7). You will choose one film among those shown in class, watch it again on your own, and produce a review of it. You should briefly describe its content and comment on its making, on the type of representation conveyed by its author, and on its significance to the scholarly study and public perception of Inner and Central Asian musics. Your review should not exceed 750 words. It should be well-written and raise some critical points.

Mid-term questionnaire (Week 8, Monday February 25) . The questionnaire will contain from 10 to 15 questions asking you to provide basic notions and information relevant to the course content. Some questions will be multiple choice, while others will require you to fill in empty spaces or provide a brief definition. You will need to answer all of them in class in 50 minutes time. Weekly assigned readings and lectures will provide sufficient preparation for this assignment.

Final exam. A final exam paper containing a number of questions related to most of the course weekly topics and asking you to provide answers in essay-like form. You will need to answer in writing to three questions of your choice in 2 hrs time. Further readings (see under Class Schedule & Readings) are strongly recommended in preparing for this assignment. The final examination will take place on Tuesday, April 22 at 9:00 AM (location: TELUS 134).

NB: You should be familiar with the Code of Student Behavior as published in Section 26 of the 2007-2008 Calendar and available online at

“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 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)


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.

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: 10%

2 Reading reports: 15% (7.5% each)

CD review: 10%

Film review: 10%

Mid-term questionnaire: 20%

Final exam: 35%

For all assignments, unjustified late submissions will be penalized by one third of point per day.


There are no required textbooks for this course. A number of relevant books, articles and audio-visual materials (including sound recordings and films) are on reserve at the Music Library. Please note that some of the articles required for this course are available online through the University of Alberta library database. Relevant bibliographic or audio-visual materials that may not be available at University Libraries will be handed out in class, included in the course mediawiki page or made accessible in my office. Also, substantial additional audio material from my personal collection and field recordings will be used. The course mediawiki ( will be an important resource for media, readings and other materials. I will use it also to communicate changes of schedule, further assignment details or other messages to the class.

Useful journals: Ethnomusicology; Yearbook for Traditional Music (formerly Journal of the International Folk Music Council); The World of Music; Asian Music; Ethnomusicology Forum (formerly British Journal of Ethnomusicology).

Dictionaries/Encyclopedias: The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (Grove music online); The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music.

Websites: Society for Ethnomusicology: British Forum of Ethnomusicology: SmithsonianGlobalSound: International Council for Traditional Music:

Class Schedule & Readings

At least one hour every week will be dedicated to viewing and/or listening in class. As a general rule, weekly class contents will be organized as follows:

Lecture 1: topical issues.

Lecture 2: audio-visual materials.

Lecture 3: general issues, theory, research methods.

Course schedule follows, with reading assignments indicated by week. It is important that you complete required readings by the weekday/lecture in which they are assigned! Otherwise, you will fall behind and derive much less benefit from class meetings. Further reading assignments are provided for those who wish to explore a topic in greater depth and will be essential to preparing for the final exam. Note that full citations for all readings are given in the bibliography. The bibliography also contains additional works – not mentioned in the outline – which you may like to examine.

Week 1 - Introduction : Ethnomusicology and the musics of Inner and Central Asia

Week 2 - Music and society in Central Asia

Week 3 - Music and society in Afghanistan

Week 4 - Music and society in Iran

Week 5 - Popular traditions of Central Asia: contexts and meanings

Week 6 - Art musics of Central and Inner Asia: the Tajik-Uzbek Shashmaqom and related traditions

Week 7 - Reading Week

Week 8 - Mountain music of Tajikistan and Northern Afghanistan: ritual and poetry among the Ismailis of Badakhshan

Week 9 - Introduction to Persian art music

Week 10 - Popular musics: globalism and locality

Week 11 - Music and gender

Week 12 - Music and migration

Week 13 - The voice, sung poetry and religion in Central and Inner Asia: aesthetics and ethics

Week 14 - Revision week

April 22 - Final exam

Bibliography & audio-visual materials

Bibliography and AV materials

AV and other protected materials