Graduate Studies in Ethnomusicology

Prospective Ethnomusicology Students

Ethnomusicologists attempt to understand and interpret musical action and the interrelationship of musical and other social domains in world cultures. The fact that musical phenomena are constantly changing challenges the ethnomusicologist to provide continuing interpretations of the world’s various musics.

The overall aims of the Hunter College Graduate Studies in Ethnomusicology are to provide a theoretical and methodological foundation and to prepare individuals to develop new or adapt existing concepts for solving current problems. The curriculum, therefore, addresses a broad range of problems from a research perspective in which both humanistic and scientific considerations are integrated. The three core courses in ethnomusicology, along with the anthropology and musicology courses, are designed to enable the accomplishment of the central aims, while the variable topics seminars in ethnomusicology afford further preparation for the investigation of an issue or geographical region of individual interest. Ethnomusicology students have at their disposal the world-renowned Alan Lomax Collection and the Centro de Estudios Puertorriquenos.

Prospective Ethnomusicology students are strongly urged to contact; the Director of Studies in Ethnomusicology, Barbara Hampton, and the Music Department Graduate Adviser, Poundie Burstein, to find out more about our program and our admission policies. Current Ethnomusicology students are likewise strongly recommended to meet at least once a year with Profs. Hampton and Ewell to discuss their program.

Degree Requirements for Ethnomusicology Students

ANTH 701 (3 cr.) Ethnology
MUS 700 (3 cr.) Bibliography
MUS 751 (3 cr.) Advanced Studies in Music History I
MUS 752 (3 cr.) Advanced Studies in Music History II
MUS 753 (3 cr.) Transcription and Analysis in Ethnomusicology
MUS 775 (3 cr.) Seminar in Ethnomusicology I
MUS 776 (3 cr.) Seminar in Ethnomusicology II
Elective (6 cr.); ideally, 3 of these should be in a subject relating to the student’s main area of ethnomusicological interest; 3 of these credits may be in Advanced Studies in Music Theory MUS 724 or MUS 725. All Ethnomusicology students are strongly urged to consult with Prof. Hampton, the Director of Studies in Ethnomusicology, on what electives to take.
MUS 798 (3 cr.) Thesis in Ethnomusicology

Download the checklist of requirements for Ethnomusicology (PDF)

In certain cases, substitutions for these required courses may be made in consultation with the Graduate Adviser and the Director of Studies in Ethnomusicology. A maximum of 9-12 credits transferred from other institutions might be accepted toward the M.A. Degree (students might be asked to successfully pass the relevant proficiency exam before such transfer credit is allowed); see Hunter College Graduate Catalogue for details.

Ethnomusicology students must take proficiency exams in Western music history, music theory, keyboard skills, dictation, and sightsinging before beginning the program, and they also must take a foreign language examination. Students whose proficiency exam test scores suggest special problem areas might be asked to take remedial undergraduate courses to remedy these weaknesses. All students must pass the proficiency exams before completing more than 18 credits toward their degree.

The following is a description of the core courses in Ethnomusicology:

MUS 775 Seminar in Ethnomusicology I

Content: A history of the discipline; the development of theories and methods; selected problems.
Pedagogical Input: This course equips the student with skills necessary to describe and explain musical systems in various cultures. Seminars will assume the form of lecture-discussion sessions.
Student Requirements: Students are required to read assigned material relevant to theories which have gained currency in ethnomusicology, assess the theories and understand their place in the history of ethnomusicology. A written report of independent research on a topic relevant to ethnomusicological theory is required.
Potential Use: A knowledge of theories which have been advanced in the field of ethnomusicology prepares one for the formulation of new theories and for the testing and refinement of existing ones. The course prepares students for the interpretation of musical data from any society or historical period when the analysis is constitutive of a view of musical systems as cultural phenomena. The course further prepares non-ethnomusicology students to communicate with ethnomusicologists, anthropologists and other social scientists, both through the literature and verbally, in an age when interdisciplinary collaboration is becoming increasingly necessary.

MUS 776 Seminar in Ethnomusicology II

Content: Field research as a principal means of data collection and theory testing in ethnomusicology. Emphasis will be placed on research design, proposal preparation, application of data-gathering techniques, adaptation to the field, and methods of data analysis.
Pedagogical Input: This course attempts to transmit a knowledge of the specific data elicitation methods appropriate to both diachronic and synchronic musical studies. It also offers practical experience in working with documentary and oral data sources and management of computerized databases. Seminars assume the form of lecture-discussion sessions.
Student Requirements: Students are required to design and conduct independent field research projects at individually selected sites in the city and to report the results of that research. A research proposal and a term paper are required.
Potential Use: Students will find the techniques and methods covered in this course valuable to the conduct of inquiry into any musical or extra-musical problem, particularly in contemporary cultures. Students whose careers will involve music journalism and music criticism should find this course useful.

MUS 753 Transcription and Analysis in Ethnomusicology

Content: Critical examination and application of contemporary techniques of transcription and analysis to selected examples from various cultures.
Pedagogical Input: This course will be directed towards the development of proficient aural skills with respect to world music and the development of an awareness of the processes of structuring compositional units in a representative sample of world musical cultures. Current techniques of ethnomusicological transcription and methods used in the analysis of world musical systems will be introduced in a lecture-discussion format.
Student Requirements: Students will be required to transcribe compositional units from a representative sampling of world musical traditions throughout the semester and to transcribe and analyze a set of musical works (individually selected) as a term project.
Potential Use: This course will provide students with the critical tools for assessing the documentary requirements of particular musical situations, for evaluating and selecting from among current techniques and for implementing existing or formulating new techniques of transcription and analysis. This will include computerized techniques. Students will have the unique advantage of aural acuity with respect to musical products from world cultures and the ability to conduct a detailed examination of them.

For Frequently Asked Questions, see FAQs – Graduate.