The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music, by Bruno Nettl and Ruth M. Stone, advisory editors, James Porter and Timothy Rice, founding editors

October 1, 2004

garlandThe Garland Encyclopedia of World Music, by Bruno Nettl and Ruth M. Stone, advisory editors, James Porter and Timothy Rice, founding editors. New York: Garland, Routledge, 1998-2002. 10 vols.

What if you need to learn about "world music," but you specialize in the Italian Trecento or Baroque performance practice? You might be a teacher planning a new course or a graduate student taking a special topics seminar. Perhaps you simply wish to expand your knowledge or examine different research methodologies. Where would you search for suitable information, ideas, or music?

Whatever your circumstances, your best resource will be The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music. This reference work is to date the most ambitious compendium of information about musical practices around the world. Upon its completion of all ten volumes in 2002, it received the Dartmouth Medal for Best Reference Work from the American Library Association. Nearly 1,000 people were involved in creating the encyclopedia, from the contributing authors and managing editors (many of whom also contributed articles) to the countless musicians who shared their art and insight with scholars in the field. The entire project, which includes audio CDs and two abridged handbooks (with a third forthcoming), was ten years in the making.

The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music contains full-length articles and recordings encompassing a dizzying array of topics, plus extensive indices and resource materials. Most of the volumes represent an entire continent (e.g., vol. 1, Africa) or large parts of a continent (e.g., vol. 3, United States and Canada; vol. 8, Europe). Three cover the Asian continent (vol. 4, Southeast Asia; vol. 5, South Asia: The Indian Subcontinent; and vol. 7, East Asia: China, Japan, Korea) and three more are cross-continental in scope (e.g. vol. 2, South America, Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean; vol. 6, The Middle East; and vol. 9, Australia and the Pacific Islands). The final volume is a master index of the preceding nine. Upon locating this encyclopedia set in the library reference section, the prospect of perusing the pages of these immense books may seem daunting.

Non-ethnomusicologists especially might feel intimidated by the scope, depth, and sheer size of these encyclopedias. However, even those working within the field of ethnomusicology may experience similar feelings. Even the most progressive graduate programs cannot expose its students to the breadth of inquiry contained within this reference work. Ethnomusicologists themselves must develop selected areas of expertise, acknowledging the vast amount of subject matter that cannot be mastered even in a lifetime of study. Fortunately, the editors for the Garland Encyclopedia of World Music have provided several ports of entry into its contents that will appeal to both specialists and non-specialists.

The editors explain that each volume, although distinct for its particular geographical emphasis, adheres to an overall tripartite format of articles whose topics progress from general overviews to specific case studies. Ostensibly, these three sectional distinctions enable readers to browse in a consistent pattern from volume to volume, allowing them quick access to specific types or depths of information. The first group of articles describes each volume's representative regions by providing broad ethnographic information about the lands and their inhabitants. Authors describe the distinctive societies and languages of the people, including common rituals and musical traditions that dominant groups observe in order to delineate social and political boundaries. This overview prepares the next section of articles, most of which describe musical and research issues specific to the particular ethnographic area of the volume.

Topics for the second and third sections of articles reflect the distinctive nature of musical practices that comprise each volume of the encyclopedia. For example, in the second section of South Asia: The Indian Subcontinent (vol. 5), several articles describe the discrete genres and styles of both Northern and Southern India. Additional articles further define various subsections of musical practices, such as types of "Classical" traditions, dominant pedagogical systems in India, and selected vernacular traditions. Each essay (like those in the other sections) contains endnote citations, and bibliographic references for further study.

The articles in the third section of the encyclopedia volumes represent the most specialized topics and perspectives on world music. Most, if not all, of the authors featured in this final section present their research primarily as case studies, in-depth examinations of specific genres, styles, repertoires, instruments, or practices. These articles, although they are loaded with the specialized rhetoric of ethnomusicology, nevertheless also reflect the cultural or anthropological framework though which each author examines their subjects. These contextual components reinforce the framework of the preceding sections, which may therefore help non-specialists navigate through the terminology and narratives of unfamiliar musics. In addition, a glossary of terms (with the corresponding page number in which the term appears), an orthography for pronunciation, and an extensive "Resource Section" containing bibliographic references ("Guide to Publications," discography and filmography, general index), all provide useful and supportive components for studying world music, whether toward learning about a specific topic or toward learning a new research methodology.

The first nine volumes of the encyclopedia each include an accompanying CD of recorded musical examples corresponding to selected articles. These recordings are extremely helpful additions that will assist any reader's understanding of an author's point of explanation or discussion. An index, "Notes on Audio Examples," provides the title of the example, names of the performers, the date of recording, and, sometimes, additional information about the genre or instruments.

While ethnomusicologists can appreciate the Garland Encyclopedia of World Music for its critically designed components, non-ethnomusicologists will also appreciate the encyclopedia for its capacity to serve as a primer on world music. Its introductory sections and sequence of increasingly focused articles can facilitate a variety of pedagogical initiatives. Those wishing to teach themselves, whether independently or in a classroom situation, can create a strategy for reading through a selected volume, using not only the articles themselves but also the supporting materials. Thus, the Garland Encyclopedia of World Music contains ample and diverse materials capable of facilitating a variety of learning styles and goals.

Those who are new to exploring topics in world music may wish to consider the following three approaches to using this encyclopedia. The knowledge and perspective gained from studying even one topic within a single volume of the encyclopedia set will certainly enrich your own research. Moreover, whatever your teaching style, using this encyclopedia will clarify, if not augment and enhance, what you bring to any course that you teach.


Strategy 1: General Principles of the Discipline

One approach to using this encyclopedia is to begin at the end. Unlike the first nine volumes, which cover specific geographical regions, the tenth volume, The World's Music: General Perspectives and Reference Tools, serves as a kind of "über-index" for the others. It cross-references the authors, musical examples, bibliographies, discographies, filmographies, and glossaries of all the other volumes. Although the final volume does not contain three sections of articles like the others, it does include a section of essays, "Ethnomusicologists at Work," by authors who have contributed articles elsewhere in the set. A cursory overview of these personal perspectives demonstrates a multitude of viable approaches to studying topics under the rubric of world music. Ethnomusicologists are a diverse lot, and this is especially evident in these essays that disclose how they perceive themselves and their work. They may not all embrace a particular orthodoxy of method in either fieldwork or writing, but they do all share a passion for exploring the diverse ways in which humans create and engage with music.

As in any academic discipline, scholarship in ethnomusicology depends upon the application of critical method. The material in all of these volumes shows a thriving network of scholars who are thorough and precise in how they collect, interpret, and explain the musical practices they study and record. By reading the tenth volume first, non-specialists can acclimate themselves to the materials of the field. This information will appeal to readers who wish to learn about the discipline of ethnomusicology before engaging critically with specific subjects.

The extensive appendices that follow the section of personal essays in General Perspectives and Reference Tools reflect the breadth of subject matter represented in the series beyond its printed pages. Those wishing to survey the topical magnitude within ethnomusicology will find, by browsing the indices of bibliographic material in the volume, a thorough representation. In addition, by cross-referencing the author index, readers can locate additional articles by authors who contributed personal essays in this volume. Thus, an approach or philosophy that seems particularly accessible or informative may suggest related articles, perhaps ones that apply these principles in ways that will result in understanding an unfamiliar musical practice.


Strategy 2: Regional Immersion

Another approach for using the Garland Encyclopedia of World Music is to select a volume and read a few articles from each of its three sections. An overview of Africa (vol. 1), for example, demonstrates the effectiveness of the editorial plan to present three sections of articles. Although others have reviewed this volume for its accuracy and breadth of coverage, they have done so from the perspective of a specialist. Such reviews may not prove entirely useful at first for those wholly unfamiliar with topics in world music. Learning from scratch, whether to prepare lectures or to reframe research strategies requires a preliminary trust in the available facts and ideas. Nevertheless, if and when questions do arise, the resource sections of each volume can facilitate continued inquiry.

Ruth Stone's "African Music in a Constellation of Arts," an article within the introductory section of Africa, is an especially helpful essay for readers with training exclusively in the Western tradition. The author clarifies why Africans (and many others, as one will discover from reading other volumes) do not classify music in the same way that Westerners do. Articles in this section also demonstrate ways to anchor a topic in broad cultural and sociological contexts.

Another extremely important contribution to this first section is "The Scholarly Study of African Music: A Historical Review" by the renowned scholar Dr. Kwabene Nketia. His article outlines the core issues that have defined research in the field of African music. It contains several salient points of information under the subheadings "Goals of African Musicology," "Eurocentrism," "Dialogue between African and Western Scholars of African Music," and "Challenges for the Future." Readers with training primarily in historical musicology will recognize and appreciate the rigorous thinking and clear prose here. From this solid foundation of preliminary essays, readers will be well prepared to explore the topics in the subsequent sections of the encyclopedia.

Several essays in the second section of the volume on Africa, "Issues and Processes in African Music," explore their topics with exceptional clarity of expression and explanation. "Time in African Performance" (Ruth Stone) identifies perhaps the most discernible quality of the unique kinesthetic experience of African musical practices. This article, along with "Dance in Communal Life" (Patience A. Kwakwa), describes the intimate integration of the arts in African societies. "Compositional Practices in African Music" (Atta Annan Mensah), a survey of concert music genres that emerged from a hybrid of influences, complements the preceding two articles. On its own, the article seems vague in terms of delineating exact retentions of the musical idioms that contributed to these hybrids. However, a more detailed treatment of concert music follows in the next article, "Art-Composed Music in Africa" (Johnston Akuma-Kalu Njoku). The author's attention to describing repertoire foreshadows the kind of emphasis that characterizes the case studies of the third section, but the more general cultural framework places it rightly within the second section of the volume. These and the other articles in the second section present a rich image of African music as historically cohesive, diverse, and complex.

Chapters in this second section balance larger philosophical and contextual perspectives with more tightly focused analytical questions. As examples of discursive models, these articles might suggest some strategies for bringing deeper cultural perspectives to more traditional topics in Western music history. (Indeed, the second section of the "Western" tradition volumes The United States and Canada and Europe show clearly how to do this as well.) For example, "The Guitar in Africa" (Andrew Kaye), proposes a chronicle of acculturative processes that influenced African musicians to incorporate the guitar into their traditional repertories. This article may provoke some readers to argue that the author's narrative is oversimplified or reductionist. However, the article contains a section addressing a more focused point of argument, namely a specific middlepoint in the evolution of the guitar when a new African music reached a broader, global audience.

Although the citations and musical examples (along with the suggested discography) for "The Guitar in Africa" seem supportive of the proposed middlepoint, these very resources can also prompt arguments against the author's conclusions. The article's potential to support more than one conclusion will lead readers toward developing a more nuanced interpretation of the significance of the guitar in African musics.

In a similar manner, "Popular Music in Africa" (Angela Impey), another essay in this second section of articles, also encourages continued study. The author presents a critical survey of the styles, genres, and performers that native Africans and outsiders commonly recognize, all within a contextual framework reminiscent of the first section. Thus, while the details serve to prepare for reading related topics in greater depth in the third section of articles, the open-endedness of interpretation found in many of the middle section's articles encourages readers toward continued study. This is one of the best features of the encyclopedia.

For the volume on Africa, the editors grouped the third section of articles under five regional divisions of the continent: West, North, East, Central, and South. (Other volumes have different schema, depending upon the areas and topics covered.) Each subdivision begins with an introductory page describing the region, then proceeds to articles that address a specific musical practice, repertory, performer, history, custom, or ritual within that area. Readers completely unfamiliar with the regions and topics may wish to review (and possibly make note of) the important terms within these articles, using the glossary and linguistic tables, in order to facilitate a more informed and satisfying study.

Students and teachers new to the musical traditions of any culture or society may find, especially in the final section of articles for each volume, a prodigious amount of terminology that is new to them. Although each culture has its own system of classifying music, this should not be viewed as a deterrent for "outsiders" who only know one language, musical or otherwise. Learning by immersion can produce amazing results, and the task of acquiring a new vocabulary can commence while reading and listening to musical examples that are interspersed throughout each volume.

One or two articles within a volume's third section, when read thoroughly and carefully, can build knowledge and sharpen skills in critical thinking. Moreover, the diversity of topics seems especially evident and exciting in the third sections of these encyclopedias because the articles reflect each author's unique methods of inquiry. The writers have studied the diverse musical practices of a particular culture or community, and through this encyclopedia they have recorded their discoveries and conclusions so that others can learn. Collectively, the authors and the scholarship in this third section of articles address issues ranging from commercial and popular traditions, sacred rituals, local traditions, instrument making, notation, political and ethnic expressions, to narratives of performers and histories. The reader who recognizes or is inspired by this kind of passionate research will find that the process of learning new "foreign" terms will seem less like a task and more of an adventure, especially when coordinated with listening.


Strategy 3: The Music Itself

Perhaps this final strategy for using the Garland Encyclopedia of World Music seems rather obvious: start with the music itself. With the exception of the tenth, each volume includes a CD of examples, marked by an icon in the margin of the page with the number of the appropriate track. By engaging with the music on an aural kinesthetic level first, readers may explore the encyclopedias in a non-linear fashion, and thus discover some unique discoveries and insights that encourage further study. Asking a simple question, "What am I hearing?," can propel a truly personalized learning strategy through the articles. Be prepared, however, to search in many places for specific answers to any questions about the exact musical examples. The annotations and supporting material for the CDs are one of the few weak points of this encyclopedia.

Play, for example, a selected CD from start to finish, using the table of contents to locate the corresponding page number for each track. Searching in this manner through only a few tracks into the CD will reveal the tremendous variance in the amount of contextual information, notation, and analysis of the musical examples. Some authors refer directly to their audio examples and include a transcription (e.g. the examples for Caroline Card Wendt's "Tuareg Music" in Africa). Others explain their examples in explicit detail. In some instances, these explanations may be difficult for non-specialists to understand exactly how the music illustrates the author's point (e.g. the examples for Laura Arnston's "Praise Singing in Northern Sierra Leone" in Africa). If this is the case, the Resources section may provide links for finding additional or more detailed information.

Other discrepancies in the recorded musical examples may frustrate readers. In the case of examples with words or lyrics, not every author includes the words or a translation. Furthermore, the recorded examples may not include a transcription, especially in Western-style notation. This may surprise those unfamiliar with the arguments on why scholars do not or should not use Western notation to represent non-Western musics. The five-line Western staff cannot possibly record the nuances of pitch in, for example, the ragas of Indian classical traditions. If neither the musicians themselves nor the participating society under discussion notate music using the five-line Western staff (or, if they don't use a Western hierarchical classification of musical practice), then many scholars argue that they should not use staff notation either. Perhaps because of this, some authors include only a recording without translation or transcription.

Although this may account for some of the discrepancies in the musical examples, it does not explain why some volumes contain more generous annotations in the "Notes on the Audio Examples" following the articles than others. Depending upon the specific volume of the encyclopedia, the "Notes" appendix might appear extremely sparse or very detailed. The volumes on Africa, Europe, and South America/Mexico/Central America/Caribbean list the title, performers, region or country, and the date of recording for each CD track. A few more details about the type or genre of the music also appear in the annotations for the volumes on Southeast Asia, South Asia/India, the United States and Canada, and Australia and the Pacific Islands.

The encyclopedia volumes with the most generous annotations in their "Notes on the Audio Examples" are The Middle East (vol. 6) and East Asia (vol. 7). Like the other volumes, these include the title of the example, composer (if any), genre or style, the region or country or ethnic group it represents, and the names of performers (if known). In addition, the notes accompanying each track provide illuminating information on the role or function of the piece, the kinds of people who listen to or use the music (and for what purpose), the names of the instruments used, and other pertinent facts. If you are hearing such music for the first time, this is crucial information to have while you listen.

In light of the brilliant scholarship displayed in its primary function as a printed text, perhaps these flaws in the audio component of the Garland Encyclopedia of World Music should be overlooked. These volumes do not purport to be a set of world music textbooks, but rather a reference work that represents the highest caliber of research on musics of the world. Recordings, moreover, might be more accessible than articles in the commercial marketplace. World Music CDs appear to be in abundance in most record stores and on-line. But even the sparse descriptions of the audio examples in this encyclopedia acknowledge the importance of hearing the music, an activity that has been criticized as lacking in other areas of music research. If nothing else, the CDs might provoke a reader's curiosity toward continued and deeper study.

Ethnomusicologists, the experts in making "field recordings," unfortunately did not share their expertise via audiovisual recordings of their work in these encyclopedias. Nevertheless, the resources sections contain helpful lists of available film/video media. Ruth Stone is currently developing a video resource option for the encyclopedia set. With so much discussion, in every volume, on dance traditions and how dance shapes musical practice, an optimum learning environment would combine reading with listening and seeing.

The value and need for these encyclopedias is not necessarily contingent upon the opening scenarios. As reported in previous College Music Society publications and elsewhere, all who teach and study music can and should embrace the perspective of a global context, regardless of the subject matter. The methods and materials within ethnomusicology are especially helpful for understanding the Western canonical tradition in new and exciting ways. These encyclopedias are also essential for those who need a tutorial on what defines world music before they begin teaching it. If, however, the hard-bound collection of ten volumes is cost-prohibitive for a library's budget, then readers might consider purchasing the two supplemental handbooks on Africa and Latin America (the forthcoming third handbook is on African-American music), which are condensed versions of their respective hard-bound volumes.

While ethnomusicologists debate over the details of their very own reference set, non-ethnomusicologists finally have an unprecedented opportunity to view the vast scholarly riches of a sister discipline and, ultimately, awaken an inspiration to educate themselves and their students in new ways.


6261 Last modified on October 4, 2018