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Explore modern and historic music of various cultures around the world.

What does an Ethnomusicologist do?

An Ethnomusicologist is a researcher who studies the rich variety of music around the world, from Native American chants to Nordic folk music to the relaxing beats of island reggae. When you’re an Ethnomusicologist, your anthropological explorations always involve more than just the technicalities of the music, the lyrics, the instruments, or the key changes. They’re also about the people who create and the nations they call home.

When learning more about a particular culture’s music, you might start in the library where you have access to a stack of books to fuel your research, though musty old history volumes won’t cut it sometimes. In a way, all Ethnomusicologists have to step into the shoes of a Historian, but that doesn’t mean you have to waste away in a library all day. Music isn’t a visual art, so more often than not, you scan through sound clips and videos as well, using multimedia to create a well-rounded understanding of your research.

If you really want to know your stuff, then the only option is travel. Around the globe, you’ll find cultures with musical histories going back to the dawn of human time. Picture yourself whisked away to ancient ceremonies, village festivals, or grave rituals, all of which have music playing an integral part.

You might decide to visit the birthplace of Celtic harps, African drums, or Chinese gongs as you plan your journey. Sometimes, while away in a distant land, you might simply choose to be the observer; other times, you want to jump right into the music and celebration.

Like an Ambassador, you must bridge the gap between your own culture and the one you study. By collecting and publishing your research, you not only celebrate the brilliant individuality of each country’s musical heritage, but also compare and contrast them to find striking differences and unifying similarities.

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