Journal of World Popular Music, Vol 4, No 2 (2017)

The Moral of the Story: Making Ethnomusicology Matter in the Twenty-first Century

Michael B. Bakan
Issued Date: 6 Dec 2017


How can we make ethnomusicology truly matter and, more specifically, how can we at once build upon and transform its traditions in order to make it a more relevant, impactful, and humane discipline? These are the central questions addressed in this article, which was originally presented as the keynote lecture at the British Forum for Ethnomusicology’s (BFE) annual conference in 2017. The work is organized in four sections. The first deals with world music pedagogy,the second with the music and culture of Balinese gamelan beleganjur, the third with the author’s collaborations with funk music legend George Clinton, and the fourth with his research on the ethnomusicology of autism. “Tradition today”, the conference theme of BFE 2017, provides the conceptual groundwork for this wide-ranging exploration, which is further unified by Bakan’s choice of topics and issues deriving from his principal areas of research, teaching, and musical activity. The examples set forth are used to advocate for more engaged, activist, and representational (as opposed to representational) approaches in ethnomusicology.

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DOI: 10.1558/jwpm.35120


Bakan, Michael B. 1993. “Balinese Kreasi Beleganjur: An Ethnography of Musical Experience”. PhD dissertation. University of California, Los Angeles.

—1999. Music of Death and New Creation: Experiences in the World of Balinese Gamelan Beleganjur. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

—2007. World Music: Traditions and Transformations. New York: McGraw-Hill.

—2012. World Music: Traditions and Transformations. 2nd edn. New York: McGraw-Hill.

—2015. “‘Don’t Go Changing to Try and Please Me’: Combating Essentialism through Ethnography in the Ethnomusicology of Autism”. Ethnomusicology 59/1: 116–44.

––In press. Speaking for Ourselves: Conversations on Life, Music, and Autism. New York: Oxford University Press.

Clinton, George, and Ben Greenman. 2014. Brothas Be, Yo like George, Ain’t That Funkin’ Kinda Hard on You? New York: Atria Books.

Scholem, Gershom. 1995. Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism. New York: Schocken Books.

TEDx Talks. 2017. Making Change: Music, Meaning, and Autism. Michael Bakan at TEDxFSU. (accessed 17 May 2017).

Weir, Ian Edward. 2017a. Rainbow Concert of World Music—George Clinton, Danny Bedrosian & Omnimusica—“Funkentelechy”. (accessed 17 May 2017).

—2017b. Rainbow Concert of World Music with George Clinton & Danny Bedrosian—FSU Balinese Gamelan Ensemble [‘Atomic Dog’]. (accessed 17 May 2017).


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