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The Ethnomusicology Institute » About Ethnomusicology at IU


Ethnomusicologists at IU recognize that music sound is only one part of the musical phenomenon and that music, broadly defined, is a part of human behavior. The program thus focuses on human beings as thinkers and actors, and it unites the study of music sound, cognition, and behavior. Rather than being limited to the study of particular types of music, this integrative perspective is used to approach the study of any type of music with a variety of social, cultural, historical, and situational contexts.

The IU curriculum offers a full range of courses to provide solid training in the discipline of ethnomusicology, including theories and methods in ethnomusicology and adjacent disciplines; intellectual history; fieldwork; and transcription and analysis. The program has particular strengths in musics and cultures of Africa, East Asia, and North America as well as in the transregional and diasporic study of music, including music of the African diaspora, Jewish music, and popular music. Among the topics and approaches offered through our program are music and film, perception and cognition, music and identity, music and religion, and issues in the study and practice of applied ethnomusicology. The program also offers opportunities to study music performance in a range of traditions as well as training in multimedia applications, preservation, archiving, and the documentation of artists and performance.


The history of Ethnomusicology at Indiana goes back to 1948 when George Herzog joined the IU faculty as part of the Anthropology Department. He introduced courses in Comparative Musicology, folk music and poetry, promoting a synthetic approach to musical analysis and ethnographic study and setting the tone for interdisciplinary study of ethnomusicology at Indiana.

Over the years, distinguished scholars continued to bring new perspectives and expertise to this program, including George List (appointed in 1954), Alan Merriam (appointed in 1962), Charles Boiles, Walter Kaufman, and Anthony Seeger. The Ethnomusicology Program was formally recognized as an interdepartmental program in the Folklore Department in 1980 in recognition of its excellence and comprehensive nature.

The Ethnomusicology Institute at Indiana University was established in 2000 as part of the reorganized and renamed Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology. With its rich and diverse resources, the Ethnomusicology Institute attracts students and scholars from related disciplines. Its faculty, visiting scholars, and former students number among the most influential ethnomusicologists in the history of the field who work to promote the study of music and culture throughout the world. Today's Ethnomusicology faculty continues to represent Indiana University's tradition of an integrated approach to ethnomusicology.

While continuing these long-standing traditions, the Ethnomusicology program has expanded in many ways over the last half century. Today, the Ethnomusicology Institute consists of a dozen professors, approximately 60 graduate students and 30 undergraduate majors and minors, and a dedicated support staff.  We offer courses in the history, methods, theories, and practices of Ethnomusicology along with classes in particular world areas and music genres, theoretical perspectives and topics.

Joining the renowned Archives of Traditional Music, our resources have grown to include the African American Arts Institute, the Archives for African American Music and Culture, the Sound and Video Analysis and Instruction Laboratory, among many others. The student community is particularly diverse and vibrant, in terms of both individuals and students associations. Student-run publications, workshops and performance demonstrations, and conferences (such as the now annual “Pushing Boundaries” conference) enrich the life of the department, the university, the Bloomington community, and the field of ethnomusicology.