Ethnomusicology and the City

One-day Conference of the British Forum for Ethnomusicology

Saturday 29th November 2014

City University London

The conference will take place in the Performance Space, Lower Ground Floor, College Building, St John's Street, London EC1V 4PB (nearest tube, Angel, Northern Line).

BFE One-Day Conference 2014 Schedule



To register please go to:


Delegate fees (includes lunch and refreshments):

Non-members £25.00
BFE members £20.00
Student non-members £15.00
BFE Student members £10.00


The autumn one-day conference of the British Forum for Ethnomusicology will be held at City University London on 29th November 2014. The theme for the day will be ‘Ethnomusicology and the City’.

According to the UN State of the World Population report, the percentage of people living in cities grew from an estimated 13% in 1900 to 49% in 2005. Sometime in the middle of 2007 we reached the so-called ‘tipping point’, with the majority of people living in towns or cities for the first time in human history, particularly in so-called ‘mega-cities’ with populations over 10 million. Recently the United Nations predicted that by 2050 75% of the world’s population will live in urban environments. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this rapid expansion of urban settlement has attracted scholarly interest in a range of disciplines across the humanities and social sciences. In this conference we want to build on these scholarly developments by asking what ethnomusicology offers to our understanding of the place of music cultures in relation to the cities in which they are found.

Whilst many early comparative musicologists were interested in certain urban musical traditions - particularly the high Art music traditions of Asia - with the emergence in the 1950s of an ethnomusicology closely aligned with the social sciences, and particularly with anthropology, much scholarly work tended to focus on rural traditions, and work in urban contexts was the exception rather than the norm. Not until the late 1970s was there a renewed interest in music and the urban environment, with landmark texts such as Bruno Nettl’s edited volume Eight Urban Musical Cultures (1978) and the work of Adelaida Reyes-Schramm, who in 1982 described urban ethnomusicology as a ‘new frontier’. Since then, ethnomusicological work in urban environments has grown substantially, together with thematic imperatives particularly associated with the urban, including an interest in popular musics, and a focus on questions of identity, mass media, and politics and ideology. Nowadays, studying music in urban contexts is arguably the norm for ethnomusicologists, many of whom are working across disciplinary boundaries in complex cultural settings.

Conference dates: 
29 Nov 2014
City University