AE | Volumes | Asian Ethnology 76 (2)

Victoria Lindsay Levine and Philip V. Bohlman, eds., This Thing Called Music: Essays in Honor of Bruno Nettl

Gisa Jähnichen


Victoria Lindsay Levine and Philip V. Bohlman, eds., This Thing Called Music: Essays in Honor of Bruno Nettl Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield, 2015. xxvii + 507 pages. List of figures, list of tables, index. Hardback, $55.00/£37.95, ISBN: 978-1-4422-4207-4. eBook, $54.99/£37.95, ISBN: 978-1-4422-4208-1.

This eighteenth volume in the series Europea: Ethnomusicologies and Modernities (edited by Bohlman and Stokes) celebrates the multifaceted research fields of Bruno Nettl, and the man as a teacher, colleague, and friend, on the occasion of his 85th birthday. The nature of Bruno Nettl’s research is all-encompassing as he is one of the few universally operating ethnomusicologists, who are becoming rare in recent times. The editors, Bohlman and Levine, have organized the volume in six parts: “Communities of Music,” “Intellectual History of Ethnomusicology,” “Analytical Studies,” “Historical Studies,” “Issues and Concepts,” and “Change, Adaptation, and Survival.” This structuring implies that the editors may not have had in mind to put up a genuinely coherent volume, but rather to give former students, colleagues, and friends an opportunity to contribute. The parts are not mutually exclusive, and emphasize different perspectives of “this thing called music.” The volume is widely inclusive and does not impose any disciplinary strictures on the contributors, although ethnomusicology somewhat stands out. Each part consists of five to seven chapters that are diverse in their approaches and exemplary in their topics and academic quality—sticking largely to American views on musicology as a discipline within an English-speaking world. The volume contains 34 chapters, of which 90% are written by female contributors, reflecting an above-average distribution of successful female researchers in the field of musicology. Some contributors re-work preceding research outcomes, others take up new topics and issues. Many of the chapters take a look at the relationship between the respective author and Bruno Nettl; however, in so doing, save a few exceptions, the respective authors tend to reduce the effects of Nettl’s research and teaching on their own experience of the discipline. Part I, “Communities of Music,” starts with an interesting chapter by Theresa Allison on medical humanities (3–14) reflected through observations in a nursing home— another emerging field of music research. This chapter is followed by Patricia Shehan Campbell writing on “Music in the Culture of Children” (15–27). Then comes Chris Goertzen’s piece, with a rather local focus, on layers of identity, taking the Mississippi Choctaw Fair and Veteran’s Day as an example (28–40). Margaret Sarkissian adds a rather auto-descriptive chapter on Malaccan Traditions (41–55) among or initiated by Portuguese descendants, followed by a more analytical approach in the last chapter in this part by Anna Schultz on performing translation in Jewish India (56–70). The communities introduced in this part are diverse and the chapters offer a wide range of resources available for further studies. Part II is about the “Intellectual History of Ethnomusicology,” which excludes discussions on technical and infrastructural preconditions of the discipline. However, the intellectuality is somewhat connected to these preconditions, and appears more or less in all chapters starting with Samuel Araújo on Brazil (73–89), followed by Zuzana Jurková on “Bohemian Traces in the World of Ethnomusicology” (90–101), and William Kinderman on Munich in the first half of the 20th century (102–12). These chapters are ambiguous in their interpretation of goals in gaining professional knowledge, as they show a certain tendency to superimpose national belongings and construction of narrow meta-identities that do not always correlate with the disciplinary contents of actually overcoming these identities. Nevertheless, they are impor- tant for the understanding of knowledge growth and the diversity of contemporary disciplinary thinking. Part II also consists of more general analysis, as provided in the following four chapters: Harry Liebersohn’s “Western Civilization” (113–24); Daniel M. Neuman’s general exposition of everything American musicologists reflect on and discuss (125–36); A. J. Racy’s reflection, in a rather anecdotal narrative, on dealing with the Cairo Congress of Arab Music (1932), especially the recording project connected to it (137–50); and Anthony Seeger on keeping track of ethnomusicological knowledge (151–63). This last chapter is outstanding for its innovative approach that will help future studies in the field. Part III, “Analytical Studies,” consists of five chapters. They submit to a rather bi- ased view on what analytical studies may deliver. While the first three chapters—Ste- phen Blum on “The Persian Radif and the Tajik-Uzbek Šašmaqom” (167–79), Robert Garfias on “The Saz Semaisi in Evcara by Dilhayat Kalfa and the Turkish Makam After the Ottoman Golden Age,” and Orin Hatton on Gros Ventre Songs (196–208)—try to go beyond this narrow focus on music analysis, the fourth chapter by Lars-Christian Koch on “Permutation as a Basic Concept of Rāga Elaboration in North Indian Mu- sic” (209–38) is a somewhat auto-descriptive approach enriched with technological applications that Koch finally recommends in order to research “ethnic music” (235). However, North Indian researchers and/or musicians may have problems with this interpretation, as permutation is rather conceptually applied by musicians of the South Indian classical tradition. However, the two strong categories of classical music in India are barely reflected as “ethnic music,” a questionable term even in other contexts.

The last chapter of this section is Albrecht Schneider’s chapter, “Aspects of Sound Recording and Sound Analysis.” This is quite an old contribution and is dedicated to general melographic issues that were discussed at the end of the 1990s. It is surpris- ing that the author describes some music related technicalities given that they became outdated in a relatively short time. Part IV of the volume, “Historical Studies,” again presents a wider field open to a rich diversity of researchers. The chapters include Philip V. Bohlman on music’s intimate moments, taking a composition of Viktor Ullmann as an example (241–54); Martha Ellen Davis on oral history, emphasizing biographical studies (255–66)—a very necessary chapter on historical studies in recent times; Beverley Diamond on Indian Residential Schools in Canada (267–79); Amnon Shiloah’s re-worked article about music in the accounts of medieval Arab travelers (280–290); Gordon Thompson on working with the Beatles (291–301); and the inspiring chapter by Philip Yampolsky on “Commercial 78s” as a resource for future ethnomusicologists (302–14). Historical studies seem to be less burdened with ethnomusicological distrust, as they are seen as a complementary necessity. However, this conclusion gives rise to the perception among the researchers and editors who contributed to this volume of the discipline as being naturally in need of historical depth. Part V takes a look at “Issues and Concepts.” The most outstanding contribution to this topic is the chapter written by Marcello Sorce Keller on musical knowledge (366–77). This wonderful composition of thoughts makes the entire volume special. In contrast, the other chapters in Part V are overarching looks at a wide variety of folk- defined music and fieldwork-based experiences. They are written by Stefan Fiol on Indian Folk Music (317–29); J. Richard Haefer on O’odham story and song (330–41); Melinda Russell on College Folk Music classes (342–53); Gabriel Solis on Multi-Sited Ethnomusicology (354–65), who defends comparative musicology in an appealing way; and Thomas Turino on theory and models, who is concerned about academic clarity (378–90). Part VI, “Change, Adaptation, and Survival,” is seemingly comprised of those topics and issues that did not fit the other chapters, but are most closely related to topics Bruno Nettl was working on himself over a longer period of time. Charles Capwell writes on music, modernity, and Islam in Indonesia (393–405), which gives an over- view by re-interpreting regional attitudes in performing arts using provocative terms such as “Islamic” and “Indonesian” in conjunction with “modernity”. Other chapters show well-observed facts and careful conclusions, such as Charlotte J. Frisbie on Navajo oral traditions (406–18); Frederik Lau on new Chinese work songs (419–32)—who in some instances simplifies his subject matter; Yoshitaka Terada on fusion music in South India (433–46); Stephen Slawek on Cross-Cultural Collaborations in Hindu- stani Music (447–57)—some of which no longer seem fresh. In the last chapter, Victoria Lindsay Levine provides a very detailed contribution on re-researching the Duck Dance observed among diverse Woodlands peoples (458–70). The volume includes a helpful classical index and the biodata of the contributors. The entire volume consists of 10 chapters that deal with Asian culture in a more or less detailed and focused way. Many chapters are interesting as parallel studies in an anthropology of music that includes a less rigid and more participatory approach to music research, in keeping with the fact that the volume is written and edited in honor of Bruno Nettl.