Introducing Ecomusicology

We’re delighted to introduce to the Sounding Board a new regular feature from the field of ecomusicology, a branch of study that uses musicological methodologies to explore the long, various, and complex relationships between people, nature, and sound. 

The field is deeply interdisciplinary – ecomusicologists come from the fields of composition, acoustic ecology, ethnomusicology, historical musicology, biology, and others – and is similar in many fundamental ways to literary ecocriticism, the interdisciplinary study of literature and the environment.  Ecomusicology grew from a heightened sense of environmental awareness and concern that began in North America in the 1970s, and saw its first expressions in the work of such writers as the composer R. Murray Schafer.  It could be said that culture is shaped by the physical conditions of its production, and in a way, ecocriticism and ecomusicology represent efforts to grapple more meaningfully with the world’s art by considering literature and music through the lens of environmental science.

The most succinct explanation of what ecomusicology covers and where it comes from probably remains the definition that accompanies the term’s debut in the 2013 edition of the Grove Dictionary of American Music; it can be accessed at http://www.ecomusicology.info.

While many of the posts in this Sounding Board subsection will be republished from recent issues of the Ecomusicology Newsletter, we enthusiastically welcome submissions from anyone writing on a subject that touches the intersection of music and nature.  For instance, we encourage submissions by anyone writing about subjects like the following:

  • Music and Climate Change
  • Music in and about Landscape
  • Natural Sounds and Acoustic Ecology
  • Music in or about Landscape
  • Music and Environmentalism
  • Music and Place

For more information about ecomusicology or to inquire about the possibility of contributing, please contact Ben Cosgrove (bcosgrov@post.harvard.edu).

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Ben Cosgrove is the Assistant Editor of the Ecomusicology Newsletter, a writer, and a touring composer/performer.  More information about his work is available at www.bencosgrove.com.

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"Sounding Board" is intended as a space for scholars to publish thoughts and observations about their current work. These postings are not peer reviewed and do not reflect the opinion of Ethnomusicology Review. We support the expression of controversial opinions, and welcome civil discussion about them. We do not, however, tolerate overt discrimination based on race, sex, gender, sexual orientation, or religion, and reserve the right to remove posts that we feel might offend our readers.