Music at Columbia: The First 100 Years

Ethnomusicology > Center for Ethnomusicology

George Herzog

Newspaper clipping, "Primitive Music of Aborigines Is Preserved for Posterity," by Joseph Mitchell, World-Telegram, November 5, 1938

Columbia University Archives, Rare Book and Manuscript Library


Ethnomusicology has been taught at Columbia since 1938 when George Herzog, a student of Erich M. von Hornbostel and Franz Boas, merged European comparative musicology and American anthropology into the particular brand of the study of music as a cultural phenomemon that we now call ethnomusicology. Béla Bartók, Curt Sachs, Walter Wiora, Willard Rhodes, and others were associated with ethnomusicology at Columbia in its early years.

The Center for Ethnomusicology and a graduate program leading to the M.A. and the Ph.D. were established in the 1960s. Dieter Christensen came to Columbia in 1970 to head the ethnomusicology faculty, becoming Director of the Center in 1971. The present faculty includes Daniel Ferguson and Aaron Fox.

Since the 1970s, ethnomusicology has been well integrated into the offerings of the Department of Music. In recent years, the Center has expanded its courses to include popular music in the Americas and Asian Music Humanities. At the same time, the ethnomusicology curriculum draws on the offerings of other departments at Columbia, the anthropology department in particular.

Courses are cross-listed and cross-required, in keeping with the conviction that enthnomusicology as a scholarly discipline must address both the social and the humanisitic dimensions of all music, and therefore must draw on all disciplines that can support its goals. Columbia, with its outstanding departments in many fields, its libraries, archival resources, and laboratory support — for instance the Computer Music Center — provides rich opportunities for research and professional development.

The Center for Ethnomusicology provides materials and facilities for specialized research projects. The Center houses an archive of music and video recordings, many of them original field documentations. The archive's holdings total more than 50,000 tape recordings and include a library of ethnomusicology books, periodicals, and relevant theses and dissertations. There are several special collections stored in the archive, including the Laura Bolton Collection of Liturgical and Traditional Music, the Collection of Contemporary and Traditional Turkish music, a Flamenco Collection (videotapes), and the Oman Collection. Recently, Dieter Christiansen has published the Dictionary of Omani Traditional Arts. He is currently at work on a volume on the Indian Ocean as a crossroads of musical traditions.


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