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How Musical Is Man? (Jessie and John Danz Lectures) Reprint Edition

4.3 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0295953380
ISBN-10: 0295953381
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From the Back Cover

'How Musical Is Man?' explores the role of music in society and culture, and of society and culture in music. The author, and anthropologist and ethnomusicologist, draws examples from Western music and from the music of the Transvaal Venda people.
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Product Details

  • Series: Jessie and 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: 5.5 x 0.3 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #505,943 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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
The first time I read this text for a Music Cognition class, I just couldn't connect. For reasons I'm unable to articulate, my second read on it for a Philosophy class completely transformed my understanding of music education. I highly recommend this text to any experienced or novice music educator. Per my experience, I also recommend giving it a second read.
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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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