How to make of your ear an open ticket around the world

How to make of your ear an open ticket around the world

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Are you a music lover?  I would say most people are.  In fact, music does not exist without the man and his creative impulse.  In other words, there is no music in places free of human presence and his affective and cognitive contents. It is known that music is not the product of nature but of culture as it is an artistic expression through sound language. Throughout history, man has discovered and developed several wonders, one of the most important is music, considered as the art of combining sounds pleasing to the ear.  These sounds could be either from the human voice or from instruments, or both at the time.

You probably know a lot about your favorite singers and music genre.  It’s easy to find information about it online, download apps to listen to your favorite playlists or new playlists opening the doors to new songs or techno sounds.  However, here we are talking about music as a more simple and basic production of sounds that have no technology directly involved in the process of creation.  This might lead you to wonder about the origin of music, then, and you’ll probably feel amazed about the fact that primitive man found music in nature and in his own voice.  He made instruments out of rudimentary objects like bones, canes, trunks, and shells to produce new sounds, discovering with time sound frequencies that would transmit pleasing sensations to the ear; all this was intended to express or communicate a state of his spirit.  Although its physical and acoustic elements are relevant matter, music is more related to intangible culture for its abstract and spiritual nature.  Since music is not an entirely independent expression, it appears related and integrated to complex cultural configurations that give it meaning, significance, value and internal coherence.

Beautiful story, isn’t it?  But enough with the lecture, right?  So, how do we connect music to traveling?  Well, if you love the sounds generated by aboriginal or ethnic music and if you also feel passionate when seeing how cultural behavior is reflected on it, ethnomusicology opens the doors to worlds that you have not imagined would exist.  An ethnomusicologist is a professional that studies music but having as a reference the cultural context and understanding it as an expression of culture.  If you choose this as a profession, you will have to visit the study field and get familiar with the people in the community where you are; so you will identify the relation between the culture parameters and the sounds produced as a result of an organized human interaction.

Why is this job important?

  • Your work will help recover and preserve the musical heritage in traditional songs.  You will have to transcribe and analyze them based on your findings regarding cultural behavior.
  • Your work will help keep record of those beautiful sounds for the future.  You can use technology for this purpose as there are many devices that can help you record the sounds.  Once you have them, they will not only be useful for you to listen as many times as you need while you carry out your analysis, but it will also make these sounds available for other music lovers around the world.
Image courtesy of Robert Tyabji at Flickr.com
Image courtesy of Robert Tyabji at Flickr.com

What do you need to do this job?

  • You will have to travel to remote places maybe to visit or live for a while with communities.  You will be exercising, whether you like it or not, as some communities will be far away from home and you are likely to have to walk or even swim to get to the place.  However, you will feel rewarded by landscapes, animals, vegetation and mostly by people.  
  • You will be changing your routine a lot according to the place where you are.  There is no way for you to get bored as you will be learning new things all the time.  As a guest in a community with specific activities, you might be invited to participate in them, have the chance to try new food and beverages, go hunting, join a ritual, and so on.  You will be sitting on the first line to see how people live and express their feelings and emotions through music.
  • You will have to keep field journals for your notes and drawings from observations.  This research method is very popular to document findings on cultural expressions and it is traditionally used in the field of natural and social sciences, like cultural anthropology.
  • You will be responsible for using the latest technology while recording audiovisual material from the community you are visiting.  Remember that this will be a very useful tool to document your research, and might serve as a reference for further studies.  Additionally, don’t forget about the rest of the people eager to hear more about unknown cultures to them but cannot travel, as they can only count on you!  
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