Resource Sharing for General Music: How To Teach A Diverse and Multicultural Curriculum Without Spending Extra Hours Reinventing the Wheel

October 1, 2009

As issues of multiculturalism and globalism have recently become increasingly important in classrooms and in academic circles, media industries have responded by producing a plethora of sources on music and culture. While the abundance of materials has made it possible to diversify our curriculum, it has not made it easy: few if any of us have the time we need to study and sort the material to the level necessary for classroom inclusion. The goal of this essay is to describe a small set of resources with suggestions for classroom use as a place to start, or continue, a curriculum diversification process. While this discussion is focused primarily on music courses in General Studies programs, these resources can also be used to illustrate the global connections of Western art music in a music history class. This list is purposefully incomplete, for a complete list would be too large to be manageable and helpful. Rather, it represents the items that have been successfully used in classes multiple times, have proven to be accessible, efficient, and informative, and are still available for purchase at the beginning of 2008.

The Appendices provides an annotated bibliography of these resources, many of which are self explanatory to music teachers: books that come with CDs, or CDs that come with extensive notes (Appendices I and II). Both of these types of sources provide an instructor with sounds and the information about the sounds needed to use them easily.

Many college libraries own the all-encompassing Garland Encyclopedia of World Music. The excellent articles are broad ranging, detailed, and written by the leading experts in each specific area, but while each volume is accompanied by a CD, it does not provide a sound example for every topic included in that volume. The Oxford University Press’s Global Music Series: Experiencing Music, Expressing Culture, does not yet cover as much territory as the encyclopedia, but each book is very affordable and includes a well-coordinated illustrative CD. These books are as valuable for teachers wishing to add a unit on a topic into a class as they are for students to use as textbooks. The Rough Guide series, originally travel guides, now includes music books and recordings. Even though the CDs and the books are sold separately and not consciously coordinated, there is much overlap. The authors have produced many different CDs from all over the world, and while the collections do emphasize popular music, they usually include some traditional music as well.

Appendix I, which lists series books, also includes several video sets, such as the forty-one volume JVC/Smithsonian Folkways Video Collection, which provides many different clips of traditional music making, each with a prose explanation in an accompanying booklet. The video series, Beats of the Heart, are documentaries on popular music that show a very close connection between music and society. One type of video that might not ordinarily appear on a music class resources list is the set of travelogues produced by Globe Trekker, frequently also called Pilot Guides. This specific travel series provides an excellent and culturally-informed introduction to a faraway location in an enjoyable and accessible format for the students. It is hosted by one of several engaging individuals close to their age, discussing information of interest to, and in a style easily understood by, the students. These one-hour movies show not only history and geography, but religion, food, clothes, arts, music, and festivals. Their length makes them appropriate for both in-class and homework viewing. For music teachers the bonus is that many of them show brief modern-day examples of live musical performance in modern contexts with historical background. The episode on Japan includes one of the street festivals that permeate the Japanese year, especially during the summer. The installment on Ghana includes a discussion with a talking drum. These movies also include issues that are both relevant and weighty, although the issues are so subtly introduced that when the students pick up on them, they feel as if they have made a real discovery.

Recently I showed the Pilot Guide to Jamaica. We saw what you might expect to see—beaches, tourists, and Bob Marley’s home. The video also showed two clips of African drumming, musical performances that were connected to keeping an awareness of African roots alive in Jamaica today. While discussing the historical slave trade and plantation cultures, the video illustrated a still very racially and economically stratified country. The students easily picked up connections between the presence of African-style drumming in Jamaica and the desire of a marginalized population to maintain its cultural tradition. While the footage does allude to this point, it does not explicitly discuss it, and so the students felt like they had made an important discovery themselves. The exercise as a whole not only showed them African drumming in modern contexts in the diaspora; it also increased their confidence in their own critical thinking skills.

Discussions I have had with the students suggest that not only do they enjoy these videos, but that the videos provide much fodder for thought while they see and hear the music in their cultural contexts. Places that have previously been only names to the students suddenly become real. These videos are less expensive than academic documentaries and there are a great many of them covering many different places worldwide.

While the internet has become the research tool of first resort for our students, it is also an important repository for music, containing not only textual information with graphics, but audio and video as well. Appendix III and IV highlight different types of Web-based resources. YouTube is becoming increasingly valuable as the number and types of videos available continue to increase. Because of the lack of gate keeping and quality control, teachers using YouTube must rely on their own knowledge. Another shortcoming of YouTube is that the videos posted might be only temporarily available, but it is extremely useful for short-term use. When I was unable to purchase Japanese Takarazuka videos to show in my world music survey class, I was able to find many wonderful clips on YouTube for my students to watch.

A different type of internet resource that contains high quality music journalism on current musical events is provided by National Public Radio at the website The search function on this homepage allows users to search on any key term, so for global music a country search pulls up all archive articles, and on the next page the searcher can limit this to music articles, and in a matter of seconds can read and listen to a fascinating array of articles on world music and world music in the United States. While all of these articles are the product of current journalism and therefore have a popular slant, many of them document the heritage holders of authentic folk and classical style in the contemporary world, as well as the popular manifestation of traditional styles. Using the keyword search capabilities, both teachers and students can easily find information on the newest trends and styles around the world at this site. NPR also has a large site devoted solely to music at that leads to a link devoted to world music. The World (, a news program produced by Public Radio International and the British Broadcasting Corporation, also has websites that contain world-music related articles, as does the BBC’s own website.

As an American news organization, most of the focus of the stories produced by NPR involves the United States, even in the world music category, so following world music links also provides a great deal of information that can be classified multicultural (with the U.S) as well as global. For example, looking up India from the home page, then specifying music located an article on Bhangra dancing as a competitive college sport/performance in the United States. Searching on specific genres such as Salsa or Klezmer will also lead to appropriate articles, as well. Simply browsing will easily locate interesting, if slightly more random stories, such as an article on Fania Records, the New York based Salsa recording label.

A more commercial journalistic website with easily accessible world music information is produced by National Geographic (see Appendix IV). One of the links will take readers to a glossary, several lead to video clips. Following links to videos leads to a large collection of international music videos in MTV style. National Geographic also has an audio podcast about music, and a video podcast that occasionally includes music-related items. The National Geographic video podcasts have a tendency to exploit the exotic and present their story with fairly slanted language (e.g. using “superstition” instead of “religion”), so these stories need to be screened and discussed carefully.

The newest type of resource on my lists is the podcast, audio files available on the internet that can be downloaded and saved to computers as well as to mp3 players (see Appendix III for a list of quality-assured podcasts). With the proper free software, they can be searched as easily as any computer catalogue and can be attached to internet-based learning platforms such as Blackboard. If music articles appear as parts of longer programs, these can easily be isolated and removed from the full program using sound editing software. ITunes, a common program that is available free for both windows and MacIntosh can be used to automatically download, store, and catalogue the podcasts. This program can automatically lead users to a web-based store that holds much purchasable music, but it contains free podcasts as well. Searching on the phrase “world music” in this iTunes store returned over 100 podcasts. One benefit of the iTunes program for downloading and storing programs is its searching capabilities. Many of these free programs are supplied with a short description. iTunes can keyword search on any word in these descriptions, whether it is by region, artist, or traditional genre. This capability is ideal for easy access for teachers who know which type of musical tradition they wish to reference.

Some podcasts, such as Public Radio International’s Global Hit, are always internationally focused; some, such as National Public Radio’s magazine of music articles collected from all of their programs and compiled into a single podcast simply called Music, include classical, popular, global and multicultural articles within a broad sweep. Other programs, like Tell Me More as well as Latino USA, are multicultural news programs that frequently include music articles. The commercial program of National Geographic has both audio and video world music podcasts available, although they do not publish them often or regularly.

What these types of articles provide that can be useful for the classroom is a mixture of audio commentary and simultaneous audio examples that really benefits the general music student. For example, when we study Puerto Rican Bomba and Plena in one of my classes, I supplemented the homework reading with a podcast on a New York-based Puerto Rican music ensemble. I had heard it on Latino USA. It took me five minutes to excerpt it from the 30-minute program and attach it to our web-based instruction platform to give the students access to it. The article provided an explanation of Plena by one of the musicians who was listing the instruments and playing the rhythmic patterns. This type of sound explanation and example provides general music students wonderful supplements for their assigned reading homework, as well as classroom use, for it connects the illustrations and explanations in an easily audible, accessible, and understandable format. Other benefits include currency and modeling. Regular subscriptions allow the class to keep current with the musical world, since the articles are usually connected to current events. They also provide an interesting and effective model for oral class presentations, which can be especially useful for general studies students who have no experience integrating musical examples into an essay or presentation.

During the first semester that I used these podcasts as homework, I also assigned the students to create their own podcast as a group oral presentation project. We did not record it and publish as a podcast, but rather they were simply to present their group project in class in the same style they had heard, i.e. they were asked to consciously use PRI’s Global Hit podcasts as their model. I was very pleased with the results, for the presentations were coherent, smoother, and more integrated than any previous set of group presentations. Since I teach more general studies students than music majors, I often encounter one common problem with group presentations, as well as written essays, in that the students have a difficult time integrating the musical examples into the text. They tend to delay giving an example until end of their presentation, expecting the audience to be able to automatically understand the connections the presenters are trying to make. In their podcast-based presentations they did not do this, because in the professional models that they had heard the broadcasters integrated the examples into the presentation. Calling the assignment a podcast rather than a group project also gave license to the students to have a bit of creative fun with the project, and the results were some of the best presentations I had ever had.

Because podcasts cover both world and American stories they are an easy way to learn first hand about the many rich artistic cultures that are thriving in the United States today. As well as the news programs that are focused on specific segments of the American population, such as Latino USA, the general news programs regularly have articles about some global tradition now performed in the United States, either on tour, or permanently. For example, the “Global Hit” from PRI for August 7, 2006 is the story of musicians playing ragas at the National Observatory in Washington DC. Classical Indian ragas are closely associated with a specific time of day, but because our society now has determined that the proper time for a concert is during the evening hours, there are many ragas that are not performed, because they are connected with other times. For this reason, the performers decided that they could keep these ragas alive and introduce them to audiences by creating the astronomical conditions of the necessary times in the observatory, and play them there. The episode that aired on May 5, 2006 highlighted the Red Bean Cantonese Opera Company in Oakland California, with their negotiations between tradition and modernity. These two programs both described Non-Western classical-music traditions that are thriving right now in the United States. These programs last 3 or 4 minutes, and have much to teach our students about what multicultural really means, as well as what classical music really means.

While this discussion has centered on classes or units whose content is primarily and consciously global, these resources can also be included in a class focusing on Western art music, in order to illuminate and illustrate its global foundation and reach. While considering the study of Western music history to be a global topic might be a controversial, or at least debatable point, what is not debatable is that European art music today is certainly a global phenomenon.

Since much of our Western art music has Non-Western roots and influences, illustrating these connections with examples provides memorable learning experiences for students, and these resources can make connections easy to reach. For example, the “Global Hit” for September 13, 2007 discussed an ensemble that plays the Arabic-Spanish Music from Spain’s medieval Golden Age, which can provide an excellent auditory introduction to a discussion of the Arabic influences on Medieval music. The JVC video anthology contains several exciting video clips of Indonesian Gamelan music of the sort that interested Debussy so much at the 1889 World’s Fair in Paris. Once students see and hear Gamelan music, Debussy’s stylistic innovations will mean something quite concrete. Of course, many modern American composers from John Cage’s generation on have been profoundly influenced by Non-Western musical sounds and ideas, and students will understand these influences more deeply if they are exposed to the originals as well as the imitators. Additionally, not all “Western-art-music” composers are “Western”—such as the Tan Dun (see an NPR article from June 15, 2006 at, who is currently producing amazing art music that fuses Eastern and Western sounds.

Time remains an eternal problem for teachers, for no semester is ever long enough to cover the Western content, much less the Non-Western content of any European and American art music course. Nevertheless, providing the students with a worldwide perspective is important since all of our students live in a global world, rather than merely a western one. These resources make it as possible to include global content in the classroom as they make it easy to find the content in the first place. The podcasts are an appealing size, media, and content for homework possibilities that take no time in the classroom, and most of the JVC video clips are small enough to illustrate points in short order. Students spend so much of their time on the internet anyway, that asking them to find relevant material takes no time for the instructor, and if the students have a 3-minute forum at the beginning or end of a class period to share what they find, all students can quickly benefit. When instructors ask students to report on their findings and require them to make connections themselves, the students are also learning valuable analytical skills that they can apply inside and outside the classroom. In my classes I have successfully used podcasts and internet sites for both regular short presentations and for extra-credit assignments that have strengthened both analytical and presentation skills, as well as the confidence of discovery. If students are allowed to find their own information to contribute, who knows what the class might learn? Someone might come in and discuss the Beijing International (classical) Musical Festival (“Global Hit” 10/10/07), or the operas that were composed by an Egyptian Sheik (“Global Hit” 2/16/06), and remind us just how global Western art music is today.

Globalizing the curriculum, whether for a course, a unit, or a sidebar, will both enrich the students’ experiences and help them connect with any musical topic, since much of the popular music they listen to is in some way global. Fortunately, there are many resources available to make this task easier for teachers than it has ever been before. The appendices that follow contain annotated lists of easily accessible resources for interested music teachers.


Appendix I
Series and Collections: Books, CDs, and Videos


Beats of the Heart. Edited by Jeremy Marre. Newton, NJ: Shanachie 2000-2003. (

A series of one-hour videos covering different kinds of music from all over the world, with one genre and/or place per video. There are fourteen different documentaries available at $17.95. Other videos available at the same site as well.

Nettl, Bruno, and Ruth M. Stone, eds. Garland Encyclopedia of World Music. New York: Garland Publishing, 1998-2002.

A ten-volume encyclopedia of very detailed individual articles by place and culture written by ethnomusicologists. Each volume comes with one CD of examples, which, while helpful, is far from complete. Cost is about $3200.00.

Global Music Series: Experiencing Music, Expressing Culture. Edited by Bonnie C. Wade and Patricia Shehan Campbell. Oxford University Press.

Paperback book and CD set, each volume under $30. Regions currently covered include Bali, Brazil, North India, South India, East Africa, West Africa, Trinidad, Japan, Mexican-American, Egypt, and Bulgaria, and each are written by ethnomusicologist specialists in those areas. See also

Globe Trekker Travel Guides (

These are video travel guides, but they frequently include a brief section on something musical. Each is listed by location, such as West Africa: Ghana and Ivory Coast. Los Angeles, CA: Pilot Film & TV Productions, 2002.

JVC/Smithsonian Folkways Video Collection. Victor Company of Japan, 1988-1996. (

A video series containing clips of traditional music and dance. There are 41 volumes organized by location, and each subset is accompanied by a booklet with excellent information about each clip. The tapes run about $60 each, new, and $1500 for the set. If your department and/or library can afford this, it is well worth the cost. Currently available only in VHS and DVD-R.

Broughton, Simon and Mark Ellingham, eds. World Music: The Rough Guide. 2 vols. 3rd ed. London: Rough Guides, 2006.

Originally a travel guide company, the Rough Guide series contains books and CDs (which are not necessarily coordinated but are useful together nonetheless). Book titles include Rough Guide to World Music, which is an encyclopedia filled with short articles arranged geographically. Other books include the Rough Guide to Reggae, as well as Rough Guide to Music in the USA. CDs are organized by location (e.g. Rough Guide to Cuba) or by style (e.g. Rough Guide to Cumbia).


Appendix II
Non-series sources of information and sounds


Ahlquist, Karen, ed. Chorus and Community. Urbana and Chicago, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2006.

A set of essays on choirs and choral music that includes choirs from America and beyond. Book accompanied by a CD.

Anderson, William M. and Patricia Shehan Campbell. Multicultural Perspectives in Music Educatio, 2nd ed. Reston, VA: Music Educators National Conference, 1996.

This book has information, lesson plans, and scores.

Bakan, Michael B. World Music: Traditions and Transformations. Boston, MA: McGraw Hill, 2007.

A standard text for a world music survey course, this is also useful for easily incorporating global music into any class. Book accompanied by a CD.

Levine, Theodore. The Hundred Thousand Fools of God: Musical Travels in Central Asia (and Queens, New York). Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1999.

A book accompanied by a CD.

Levine, Theodore and Valentina Suzukei. Where Rivers And Mountains Sing: Sound, Music, and Nomadism in Tuva and Beyond. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2006.

A book accompanied by a CD.

Long Road to Freedom: An Anthology of Black Music. Buddha Records, 2001. 5 CD set with book.

A collection of sacred and secular African-American folk traditions collected and produced by Harry Belafonte. CD set accompanied by a book.

Lornell, Kip, and Ann Rassmussen, eds. Musics of Multicultural America. New York: Schirmer Books, 1997.

A set of essays on a variety of different musical cultures within the U.S. Includes Mariachi, African-American quartets, Asian-American, Arab-American, Steel band, Native-American, shape-note, Klezmer, Polka, and Riot Grrl. Book accompanied by a CD.

Lornell, Kip and Charles C. Stephenson, Jr. The Beat: Go-Go’s Fusion of Funk and Hip-Hop. New York: Billboard, 2001.

Book accompanied by a CD.

Wong, Deborah. Speak it Louder: Asian Americans Making Music. New York: Routledge. 2004.

Book accompanied by a CD.

Titon, Jeff Todd, ed. Worlds of Music. 4th ed. New York: Schirmer, 2001.

Standard text for a world music survey course.

Wade in the Water–4 CD set. Edited and compiled by Bernice Johnson Reagon. Washington DC: Smithsonian/Folkways, 1994.

Recordings of African-American sacred music traditions collected and annotated by Bernice Johnson Reagon.


Appendix III
Free Podcasts

All Music is World Music (

This is a special series of podcasts based on the South by Southwest Music Festival in Austin Texas, with interviews and performance recordings produced by PRI’s The World.

3-5 audio articles on contemporary artists from traditional and popular musical cultures from across the world. These articles are then available as individual articles or as a regular subscription. Produced by Public Radio International’s news program, The World.

Latino USA (

A NPR-sponsored news program covering issues with a Latino focus, this program frequently includes articles on a variety of different musicians in the US.

The Tavis Smiley Show (

A PRI-sponsored news program covering issues with an African-American focus, this program occasionally includes articles on a variety of different musicians in the United States.

Tiny Desk Concerts (

A weekly video podcast of 10-20 minute performances in the NPR studios featuring musicians form all over the world.

Tell Me More (

A NPR-sponsored news program covering issues with a multicultural focus, this program occasionally includes articles on a variety of different musicians.


Appendix IV
Internet Resources


Nettl, Bruno, and Ruth M. Stone, eds. The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music (

The print encyclopedia is now on-line with audio and video clips on line. Subscription based.

National Geographic World Music (

National Geographic has branched out into world music. There are many video and audio clips to peruse that focus on popular music.

National Public Radio: NPR Music (

Many audio and video clips and articles covering classical, world, popular, multicultural and just about everything else.

National Theater of Japan (

This site has videos from Noh and Kyogen with much explanation. Video segments have English commentary.

National Theater of Japan (

This site has videos from Japanese Bunraku with much explanation. Video segments accompanied by English explanations.

Smithsonian Folkways (

This site has podcasts, vodcasts (video podcasts), and other free downloads including Tools for Teaching. It can be searched by country, language and ethnic group, and also has music files for purchase and immediate download. There is a subscription-based sound archive of the same material for libraries at (

YouTube (

This site contains videos that can be seen online or, with the right software, can be downloaded to your computer, or the computer in the classroom. You will probably need to download free viewing software to your computer to see them (try No instructional/educational information is available, and there is no filter to insure accuracy and authenticity, but for those who know enough to judge quality, this can be a rich source. Copyright issues may also be problematic.



Calabash Music (

Fair-trade on-line CD store with a world-music focus and free downloads.

Multicultural Media (

Web store for audio and video.

Smithsonian Folkways (

Smithsonian CDs usually have excellent notes.

World Music Press (

This store has books, scores, and recording collections for teaching songs in the classroom arranged and organized by culture.

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