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How Musical Is Man? (Jessie & John Danz Lectures) Paperback – September 1, 1974

ISBN-13: 978-0295953380 ISBN-10: 0295953381 Edition: Reprint

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How Musical Is Man? (Jessie & John Danz Lectures) + The Anthropology of Music + The Study of Ethnomusicology: Thirty-one Issues and Concepts, 2nd Edition
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Product Details

  • Series: Jessie & John Danz Lectures
  • Paperback: 132 pages
  • Publisher: University of Washington Press; Reprint edition (September 1, 1974)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0295953381
  • ISBN-13: 978-0295953380
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 5.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #876,909 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By M. Levitt - classical music buff on June 26, 2005
Format: Paperback
John Blacking was an ethnomusicologist who spent two years living with, and studying the Venda, a tribe in South Africa. As opposed to Western classical music where the few (professional concert musicians) are revered by the many, and only a handful are regarded as "talented" while most believe they have no "talent," with the Venda, everyone is expected to be able to perform; no one is excluded. Music is their religion.

In the first chapter of his small yet very powerful book, Blacking writes that when he began to live with and study the Venda, he believed that music began and ended with Western classical music, but, that after two years of living and studying the Venda and their music, he no longer understood Western music. Put differently, his experience living with and studying the Venda forced him to question all prior beliefs he had both about Western music and assumptions underlying them. The Venda taught him that all people have talent or musical ability. It is only Western values or myths that create hierarchies of talent and ability. And that these underlying Western values and myths subjugate countless people, causing them to dismiss key aspects of their inherent human potential, because of widespread belief that it is pointless to pursue musical ambitions only a fortunate few possess, but most do not.

Blacking's book is important not only as an ethnomusicological study, but has, I think, universal application because its underlying theses directly question Western assumptions and myths that adversely affect people regardless of musical preference. The book forces one to think, to challenge values one might previously have taken for granted.

I have recommended John Blacking's How Musical is Man?
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By William Benzon on May 7, 2001
Format: Paperback
This slim volume may be the be best single introduction to ethnomusicology we have. It is based on Blacking's fieldwork among the Venda, an agricultural people living in the African Transvaal. Blacking provides extensive musical examples and photographs covering children's music, ritual, spiritual possession, the musical calendar, etc. Unlike Westerners, who believe that only a few people are musical, the Venda believe that all people are musical and so all members of their culture actively make music.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Though Blacking is sometimes given to high-minded philosophizing about man's innate musical nature, "How Musical is Man?" provides an important counter-argument to Western notions of musical ability and musicality. While these arguments face less resistance than they did in the 70s, I recommend this book if you're a budding musicologist, anthropologist interested in music, or just a plain old humanist (like the author). Pick up an inexpensive copy today!
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4 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 5, 1998
Format: Paperback
I think all the people should read this book if not for anything else then to learn how to appreciate different musical styles and cultures. Every ethnomusicologists must.
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