The following is in outline that can be used to organize information about musical cultures or, more specifically, genres within cultures. 


Components of a Sound-Culture


I. Musical Specifics

            A.  Pitch -- scales, melodic tendencies, ambitus, (harmony)?    

B.  Rhythm -- tempo, meter, degree of variation and coordination

            C.  Form -- how is the music organized?  Repetition large and small

            D.  Texture -- monophonic, heterophonic, homophonic, polyphonic, layered?

E.    Timbre --

1.     instrumental preferences, typical instruments

2.     vocal preferences, techniques

            F.  Sound intensity -- loud or soft; dynamic range

II.  Social Organization of Music

A.  Who can participate (play, listen, make instruments) in this music?  Who is excluded?

B.  How many musicians are appropriate for an ensemble?  Is there a distinction between musician and audience member or is there a continuum of roles?  Is there such a thing as a “musician” or an “audience”?

C.  Transmission -- how is the music learned and passed on to others?

D.  Social status of musicians

III.  Ideas about Music

A.  Music and the belief system -- the relationship of music to spiritual, social, and cosmic order;  aesthetic preferences

B.  Contexts for use of music -- ceremonies (religious/political), for aesthetic enjoyment (?)

C.  History of music -- historical impacts on musical practices; importance of tradition or historical consciousness and awareness of change

D.   Composition -- what is a "piece" and how does it come to be?  What is the role/status/awareness of a composer? 

E.    What is the contribution or role of improvisation?

F.    Genres – what categories exist? What defines them? What maintains them?

G.   Theory – nomenclature, acoustics, ideas about music’s role in society

IV.  Allied Arts

A.  Texts – words to a song – not just “lyrics” – vocables?  What is appropriate or the usual subject matter?  narratives? poetic styles?

B.     Movement – dance

C. Theater

D.  Visual parallels – art, textiles, sculpture, architecture

V.  Listening & Personal Response

A.    1st hearing reaction

B.    After repeated hearings and discussion?

C.   What would the “ideal” trained & sympathetic listener-participant find in this music?


Acknowledgments: this outline draws on one used by Dr. Patricia Hennings at Skyline College and the writings Stephen Feld.