Harris M. Berger
Beginning in the late 1970s, ethnomusicologists began to engage with ideas from phenomenology (a movement within continental European philosophy). This article discusses key concepts from phenomenology and explores how ethnomusicologists developed them to address fundamental issues in the study of music and culture—the problem of musical meaning and musical interpretation, the nature of the performance event, and questions of music and being. Tracing the intellectual history of phenomenological ethnomusicology, the article synthesizes findings from research on a broad range of world areas and offers new insights into a variety of topics of interest to contemporary music scholars, including embodiment, self-reflexivity, flow and musical involvement, trance, time and temporality, and research methods. The article closes by discussing the explosion of phenomenological work in ethnomusicology that has occurred in the last seven years and suggests new directions for research, including ethnomusicological inquiry into the politics of music.
The concept of raga in Hindustani classical music is a complex phenomenon not least of all because it is simultaneously an inventory of melodic elements, a performative process, and an aesthetic outcome. These different dimensions to raga pose challenges to systematised ways of accounting for how it works in performance. Symbolic modes of thought in the tradition have long taken recourse to analogies to attempt to portray the gestalt of raga and also provide alternate modes of pedagogical knowledge and aesthetic sensibility for engaging with raga. Building on the long-held predilections between music, food, and cooking in Hindustani music, this essay provides another vantage point from which to consider raga and also the significance of rasa in the performance of raga.
This article proposes a general definition of tonic and explores its ramifications across repertories and intellectual traditions (cognitive, historical, ethnomusicological, music analytical, and phenomenological). The proposed definition admits of both wide and narrow applications: from broad conceptions that detect tonics in a wide range of world musics to a more narrow definition that limits the term (and its theoretical entailments) to bourgeois musical cultures in the West. These ideas are illustrated through discussions of diverse musical examples, from the “common practice” (Bach, Schubert) to the postwar avant-garde (Lutosławski), French house (Daft Punk), and rust-belt hard rock (Akron-based band Dia Pason).