Ethnomusicology has been defined as the study of 'people making music', encompassing the study of all musics, including Western art music and popular musics. What makes it distinctive as an approach within music studies is its emphasis on first-hand, sustained engagement with people as music makers. This engagement often takes the form of ethnographic writing following one or more periods of fieldwork, which usually involves some element of performance training and practice. Typically, ethnographies aim to assess the whole process and contexts through and within which music is imagined, discussed and made. Ethnography may be synthesized with a variety of analytical, historical and other methodologies, and may involve methods associated with music psychology, music education, historical musicology, performance studies, critical theory, dance, folklore and linguistics, among many other subjects. The field is therefore characterized by its breadth in theory and method, its interdisciplinary nature and its global perspective.
Ethnomusicology in the UK
The UK is home to a dynamic research community of ethnomusicologists who adopt a highly interdisciplinary approach and maintain strong links with colleagues around the globe. Ethnomusicologists seek to understand the human processes within which music is imagined, discussed and made, and to relate specific musical sounds, behaviours and ideas to their broader social, cultural and political contexts. Studying individuals and societies all around the world, including the West, ethnomusicologists aim to discover and document human musical life in its full richness and diversity. For further details about ethnomusicology in the UK, you may wish to download the survey from 2003.