Ethnomusicologists: of the 20th Century: Badass Béla Bartók & beyond.

Ethnomusicologists: of the 20th Century: Badass Béla Bartók & beyond.

Ethnomusicologists – what do they study, and why?

Ethnomusicologists study the anthropology of music. They study how music develops and evolves in non-Western cultures in order to better understand the culture of the people.

I talked about the general aspects of the discipline in my previous post on the anthropology of music, titled “Ethnomusicology: the mysterious evolution of language, music, and the human brain.”

The term “Ethnomusicology”

In 1950, Dutch musicologist Jaap Kunst coined the term “ethnomusicology,” combining two disciplines: musicology (the study of music) and ethnology (the comparative study of different cultures).

Kunst published a paper in 1955 titled “Ethno-musicology: A study of its nature, problems, method, and notable figures, with a Bibliography.” However, in 1951, Alan Merriam had already used the term “Ethnomusicological” in the title of his doctoral thesis.

Whoever came first, prior to 1950, ethnomusicology was known as “comparative musicology”. Comparative musicology originated from early musicology studies. Guido Adler, of Austria, presented an essay in 1885 which laid out a basis for musicology.

Where is ethnomusicology studied?

Ethnomusicology is by nature a field study. This means that the researcher(s) must travel to the place whose music they are studying, in order to see it performed in situ.

However, there are a number of distinguished centers of higher learning where the scholarly study of ethnomusicology takes place. For the sake of simplicity, I will just leave a few links here. A more exhaustive list of centers of ethnomusicology can be found on the SEM website.

Ethnomusicology Centers

Who are the most famous ethnomusicologists?

(This is far from an exhaustive list…)

Béla Bartók

Béla Bartók: The Father of Ethnomusicology

Béla Bartók is considered by many to be the father of ethnomusicology. Béla Bartók was born in Hungary, and grew up during the final years of the Ottoman Empire (1299-1922). He was not only a skilled classical pianist, but also a passionate explorer of his homeland, embarking on challenging journeys to gather and preserve the rich tapestry of Hungarian folk songs.

As far as I am concerned, traipsing around Bohemia, Transylvania, and the Carpathian Mountains collecting folk songs is pretty badass. Go Béla!

Béla Bartók birthed the field of ethnomusicology as an academic discipline through his tireless pursuits of folk music, his exposition of the sound of the rural people, and his incorporation of folk-style into his own personal compositions. His work revealed to the world that folk music exists, is important, and stands as an independent academic discipline.

David Taylor Nelson :”Béla Bartók, the Father of Ethnomusicology”

Jaap Kunst

Kunst has a typically interesting “ethnomusicologist” biography. He studied the violin as a youngster. After finishing Law School in the Netherlands, he grabbed his instrument and joined a string trio and set off for Java. As you do, when you’re a badass. He stayed there for about fifteen years. Upon his return to the Netherlands, he was recognized as an expert in his field. In 1950, he coined the term “ethnomusicology”.

Alan Merriam

Alan Merriam was an American ethnomusicologist. His 1964 book, “The Anthropology of Music”, is credited with uniting the academic study of anthropology with that of music.

Alan Merriam published his Doctoral Thesis (Anthropology) in 1951. Songs of the Afro-Bahian Cults: An Ethnomusicological Analysis. Here are some of the field recordings made by him and his wife Barbara Merriam. They traveled around central Belgian Congo (later Zaire, and now the Democratic Republic of Congo) with an early “portable” reel-to-reel magnetophone . If that is not badass, then I don’t know what is!

Barbara Merriam – the forgotten ethnomusicologist

Women are almost always often erased from history. Alan Merriam was accompanied by his wife, Barbara, on his travels in Africa. I have spent some time searching the Internet for any biographical information on Barbara, or even a photo. So far, I have not had any luck, but I am sure that she was one badass researcher. Watch this space.

Bruno Nettl

Bruno Nettl was a former President of the SEM. He studied Native American music, and established the musicology program at the University of Illinois. Nettl conducted fieldwork in both Iran (in 1966, and I bet that it was both groovy and badass) and southern India.

The Language WithoutMusic

Before I leave you, I shall share with you an interesting documentary, “The Language With No Word For Music”. I found it on Reddit.

Summing up

The more I read and research Ethnomusicology and ethnomusicologists, the more my ind boggles. It is truly an expansive and enormous field. I will keep on writing. If you like what you read, please let me know. A little encouragement goes a long way!

Build Wireframes and Low-Fidelity Prototypes

After a short pause, I am back on the Google/Coursera UX Design Certificate course! “Build Wireframes and Low-Fidelity Prototypes” is the title of this unit, the third of seven.

Wireframes and Low-Fidelity Prototypes

Wireframes and Low-Fidelity Prototypes are the first step in creation of a solution for your product. That is a bit mealy-mouthed, isn’t it? Wireframes and Low-Fidelity Prototypes are a sketch of what you’re going to build. You take all that user research and start to turn it into something concrete – a design!

Whether you are working alone, in a small team or in a big team, the process of making ideas become realities is complex. Getting mislaid, off track or too granular too early is easy. The ideation stage, in which we created personas, empathised with them, understood their user journey and made problem statements has placed us in a position to now define what it is we are going to build.

Instead of a problem statement, we use a Goal Statement. We are building on the research we have already done by now defining what we are going to do and how we are going to measure the results.

User Flows

After that, we make a first user flow. They asked for a a sketch. I did that. But after submitting my work, I was that other students on the course had gone ahead and made a proper flow chart. It took me a little while to figure out where on Google Drive this can be done. I thought it might be slides, but it turns out to be Drawings. Once I got there, I faffed around a bit with design. But, I managed in the end. Funny, hey, how something relatively low-tech like a flow chart still has its learning curve. About a year ago, I started using Google Drive in earnest. I did a little certificate course (funded by the Valencian Government) and discovered that I quite like Cloud Computing. So, without further ado, here is my User Flow Diagram:

A user flow chart sketch for a service review app.  This is a typical Wireframe or Low-Fidelity Prototype for UX Design.
“create a service review app for a fitness trainer”

Where UX gets interesting!

This is where UX gets its hands dirty. Musicians attest that it is much harder to compose a song than to hum a melody. Getting ideas out of your head and into the world is hard, but it is the essence of any creative process. Creation requires patience, dedication, reiteration and plenty of self-doubt. I am happy to be back on the UX course! I took a little rest because I signed up for a dj course at MixPeople DJ School. It was awesome, and I learned a skill I have been wanting to polish for a long time. The Wireframes and Low-Fidelity Prototypes course began with a review of concepts from courses 1 and 2. I felt super chuffed (that is British slang for happy) to discover that the ideas, concepts and methods had stuck and I was able to remember them clearly after a nearly two months rest. Yay for my old brain.

Keep learning!

It is never the wrong time to study. It is always the right time to acquire new skills. Whatever strikes your interest, creates curiosity or stimulates serious reflection is worth learning about. It is tempting, these days, to read a few blog posts, scroll some forums or fast-watch YouTube tutorials, then consider yourself something of an expert. There is a certain humility is actually learning, in studying, trying to make new knowledge stick. I say go for it, get learning. UX does it for me right now. What would you like to learn?

The Elements of User Experience – J.J. Garrett

Rachel Rose with the book The Elements of User Experience.

The Elements of User Experience by J.J. Garrett proved a stimulating and thought-provoking text book which gave substance to my UX Design Course. I loved the book, and made time almost every evening to read a few pages. Upon awakening, I would try to remember what I had read the night before.

Studying is a slow and steady quest. Rarely can I dedicate large chunks of time to my course, but I chug along. I could have rushed into Part Two of the course, Start the UX Design Process: Empathize, Define and Ideate. But, I thought it wiser to buy the two books referenced in Part 1 and thus gain a more solid footing in the material. (The other book is The Design of Everyday Things. More on that later…)


User Experience (UX), like many things tech-related, is a relatively nascent field. As we have broadened and deepened our relationship with technology, we have become more discerning and habitual in the way that we wish to interact with the tech. Making the user adapt to the company’s or the programmer’s vision (or bias) is no longer acceptable. It is a sure path to ruin in today’s competitive online market.

Enter UX. Twenty-five years ago, with insensitive regularity, tech savvy folks would sniff that “the user just has to adapt to the interface”. Since then, certain standards have been established that make information design and interface design more predictable and, well, usable. After all, that’s it: what we want to achieve with UX is a usable site that aligns with the product objectives.

The 5-Elements UX Model

Garrett identifies 5 User Experience planes: Strategy, Scope, Structure, Skeleton, Surface. The Elements of User Experience is a model that accommodates both information and interface design.

The author begins by explaining that the two points of view are opposite but equally necessary. Those who look at the Internet as a big database, who think mostly about the search for and delivery of information, view web development from one perspective. Those who see the Internet as more of an “app”, as something that lets you do something, contemplate it from another perspective. JJ Garrett came up with a model that serves both standpoints.

The Elements of User Experience

The UX 5 Elements Model (graphic)

This image is adapted from Garrett’s original work (2010)

A full description of the theory and application of the Elements of User Experience Design is well beyond the scope of this post. What I hoped to do is comment on a few things about the book and the course.

Takeaways from The Elements of User Experience

First of all, it is perfectly possible to do the UX Design Course and not read this book. I undertook this as an extracurricular activity and am I ever happy that I did. The course description of the five elements of UX is more than adequate. But, the book gave history, breadth and depth to the subject.

Secondly, Garrett is extremely good at defining common terms. It can be easy to think that you know the difference between interface design and information design, but some assumptions are not always true. Furthermore, it is good to challenge your own understanding. I feel much more confident now in distinguishing between the different parts of a web site or app.

Thirdly, reading this book helped me to perceive a bias that I did not know I had: I am an information person and have always approached the Internet from that perspective. Despite being a lover of pretty things, I was always thinking about the information. I discovered that bias whilst reading this book and now look at UX Design from a different perspective.

Fourthly, there is some Google bias in the UX Foundations Course. This is a criticism that I had seen levelled at the course, so was looking out for it. A fair chunk of time is dedicated to the “Design Sprint“. The Design Sprint is typically a week-long intensive in which the prototype design of a project is hashed out. Interestingly, in the last section of Garrett’s book, he says:

“Product development is rarely a sprint…thoughtful, deliberate design decisions will cost you time in the short term, but they will save you much more time in the long term.”

The Elements of User Experience, page 160, JJ Garrett, New Riders Press.

Fifthly and finally, Garrett emphasises the importance of planning and documentation. Every site I have ever created has been done on the fly. When it is for personal use, this is fine. But for professional work, improvisation will only get you so far before confusion, conflict and cracks begin to show. So, point taken. From now on, planning, wireframes and design comps are the order of the day.


The Elements of User Experience was an invaluable book and an excellent time investment. I was really grateful to the print book! Why? Well, I am studying alongside my busy work schedule and I don’t always want screen time just before bed. We all know how that turns out, right? To have a real book to read, just before bed, highlighter in hand, was just…lovely.

I am halfway through the second part of the course. I will keep you posted. Thanks for reading!



IP: Intellectual Property Course (Part 1). Power to the Creators!

IP: Intellectual Property course

Intellectual Property, or IP, is a subject that affects all creative people. As a singer-songwriter, I compose songs (melody and lyrics). Using my Ableton DAW, I do enough production to be something of an arranger. A number of self-penned and self-published works is available in formats like Soundcloud, Youtube and Instagram. So, I wonder:

If I have published something online, is it mine or do I lose the right to it once it is in the public domain?


The answer may lie in the course I am currently following: “Curso de propiedad intelectual en el sector musical (nivel básico)” [Intellectual Property Course in the Music Sector (Basic Level)]. This four-module course is offered by Ainara LeGardon via her web site

Ainara LeGardon

LeGardon is a Spanish musician from the “Basque Country”, a mountainous coastal region of Northern Spain. She became specialised in IP out of necessity. Like many independent artists, LeGardon became increasingly wary of publishing and record deals, and so began self-publishing her art in 2003. Here she is in action:

LeGardon announced the course on her Twitter account. So, I immediately emailed to reserve a place and was fortunate to secure one as places were initially reserved for members of the musical collective Musika Bulegoa whose aim is to support artists working in the Basque language, Euskadi.

Module 1

I jumped right into the first module today. The content is interesting, and simple enough.

First and foremost: the UX is excellent. A layout that is simple and clean, with legible black text on a white background is always a treat for tired eyes. Infographics are provided for each section of the module. A well-recorded and equalised spoken soundtrack in which LeGardon expands on the subjects covered accompanies the written text. Finally, the entire course is available to download as a PDF. Well done – kudos!

The takeaway from today’s material:

Artist’s Rights vs Copyright

Artists’ Rights (Derechos de Autor), as they are known in Europe, are fundamentally different from Copyright, the format used in most Anglo-Saxon countries, including my native Canada. Artists’ Rights include “Moral Rights” to a work, something that copyright does not.

The copyright © sign

LeGardon says that using the copyright sign “seals” a creator’s enactment of their rights. But, also, not using it DOES NOT imply that they are relinquishing their rights. So, basically, if you created it, it’s yours.

Ideas vs. works

IP is not about ideas. Rather, it is about realised works. Having said that, a playwright does not have to stage a play. A manuscript and guide suffice. A musician does not have to score a work, a simple demo recording is enough.

A number of useful links were provided. One of the most interesting is “WIPO-PROOF” which defines itself as “an online service that rapidly produces tamper-proof evidence which you can use to prove that your digital file existed at a specific point in time.” As I delve into UX, I think that it is useful for me to keep IP front and centre. All creatives are eventually faced with the same sad truth. That is, our work requires investment, time and original ideas, but it is far too easy to mis-appropriate. I will never forget the time I shared an advertisement for a Yoga Festival in Alicante only to have my friend Suki Zöe, who lives in Bali, exclaim “that’s my photo“!

As the course lasts a maximum of four weeks, I will get through it at a sprightly pace and keep you posted. Meanwhile, ask yourself if you would register your IP, or perhaps better to ask “should I”?