Issues in Organology

    -- edited by Sue Carole DeVale, Los Angeles: UCLA Ethnomusicology Publications, 1990. 300 pages

This book is Volume VIII of the series Selected Reports in Ethnomusicology from the UCLA Ethnomusicology Department. The first article sets the stage for the entire volume as the editor lays out the main areas of organology. The “science of sound instruments” is described and diagrammed as a multidisciplinary, tripartite systematic network. Classificatory organology deals with matters of categorization. Analytic organology is concerned with elements such as creation, history, acoustics, function, and symbolism of instruments or instrument families. Applied organology considers the creation and use of instruments for various purposes. Research and ideas freely flow between these three branches of the field, and the different “flows” are illustrated with real-life examples (the instrument maker, academic researcher, and museum collector are some potential roles involved). These three areas of organology provide the framework for the rest of the book, and indeed for the whole field of study in the future.

One major article deals with the history of the Sachs-Hornbostel classification system, and includes a useful 14-page set of charts clearly showing all of the subdivisions and how they are related. Another article presents a recent system for the classification of electronic music instruments.

One or more musical instruments of the following cultures receive essays in the book: Norwegian, African-American, the Waipi of Brazil, the Lombok of Bali, and the Santería religion (transplanted from Africa to Cuba to New York City). A photographic essay on the Newar god of music (Nepal) describes the embodiment of supernatural beings in instruments (up to three “gods” in one drum!).

A helpful bibliography is included in each of the eleven chapters, and the volume as a whole is an indispensable resource for those interested in the academic side of organology and musical instruments.

    --reviewed by Paul Neeley

Published in Vol.1, No.4 of

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