Teaching Ecomusicology

This piece originally appeared in the October 2012 issue of the Ecomusicology Newsletter.


The interdisciplinary nature of ecomusicology makes for rich teaching possibilities. An initial survey of the members on the Ecomusicology Listserve revealed several people teaching new or recently created university courses on or related to ecomusicology. Many of us feel like we are doing this for the first time, and indeed some are currently teaching or developing ecomusicology related courses for the first time in our respective countries. The upside to this is that there is no standard ecomusicology course or singular approach, but the downside is that we may feel that we are working on these courses in relative isolation and possibly inventing the wheel simultaneously. This is an excellent time in the development of this field to review what people have taught and are teaching, and to share successful ideas and gather inspiration. 


Here are the results of this initial survey: Of eleven people, five are in the US, three are in Canada, one is in England, one is in Finland, and one is in Hong Kong. All but one are based in some sort of music department as their home department (from musicology to composition), though some have appointments in other departments as well, from anthropology to European studies to Chinese civilization. Out of sixteen reported courses, ten are fully devoted to ecomusicology in some way with the remainder including one-to-three-week units on ecomusicology. 


Even this relatively small sampling of courses reveals a breadth of topics and syllabi that draw on readings and approaches from biology to landscape and urban studies to composition. Notable course titles include “Landscape and German Music,” “Soundscape Composition,” “Pop Music and Urban (Ethno)musicology,” and “Other Species’ Counterpoint: Human Music and Animal Songs.” Perhaps surprisingly, only two courses seemed to focus on a particular geographic location, the ecomusicology course in Finland, addressing the northern perspective, and the urban music course, which had the students create installations having to do with Edmonton, Alberta. 


I plan to continue this survey, broadening the target audience and potential submitters and discuss the results in more detail in the next issue of the Ecomusicology Newsletter, so please contact me at sonja.l.downing@lawrence.edu if you have a related course you would be willing to tell us about. Many thanks, and happy teaching!

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