World Music: A Global Journey

Miller, Terry E. and Andrew C. Shahriari. 2006. World Music: A Global Journey. New York: Routledge.

This book is available for online access.


The book is designed to be a comprehensive study of the worlds music that includes seventy listening examples and listening guides from ten different regions. The book is framed as an "imaginary" global journey around earth - each region discussed contains an "itinerary" (i.e., musics to discuss/places to "visit"). In addition, each regionally focused chapter introduces a map of the area, describes the history and cultural implications of the area studied, and colored/labeled photographs that help provide excellent visual representations. Although this textbook is intended for the non-music major audience, the authors encourage its use in any world music/cultural diversity credit course that requires the teacher to survey different musics of the worlds. If the teacher has a class full of music-majors, the book is structured so that the teacher can access the provided resources and supplement extra materials as needed.

Target Readers:

In the preface, the authors address the issues of increasing diversity in not only individual's educations, but in the study population. With increasing frequency, students required to take diversity credits and wold music survey classes are often a way to satisfy this need. Although some ethnomusicologists believe that only they should teach these world music classes, many smaller universities cannot afford to hire an ethnomusicologist for this purpose. With these problems in mind, Miller and Shahriari set out to create a comprehensive world music text that provides enough resources for not only students who are not majoring in music, but for professors who are not necessarily ethnomusicologists.


Table of Contents

1. Before the Trip Begins: Fundamental Issues
2. Aural Analysis: Listening to the World's Music
3. Cultural Considerations: Beyond the Sounds Themselves
4. Oceania: Voices of Land and Sea
5. South Asia: Music with a Spiritual Dimension
6. Southeast Asia: A Land of Bamboo and Bronze
7. East Asia: Ancient Echoes in the Modern World
8. The Middle East: Music in the Cradle of Great Religions
9. Sub-Saharan Africa: The Rhythms of Community
10. Europe: Harmony and Hierarchy
11. The Caribbean: Musical Energy of Island Peoples
12. Central and South America: New World Recipes
13. North America: Diverse Peoples, Diverse Musics
14. Discovering Yourself Through Music

The first three chapters is a presentation on the elements of music, introducing the unfamiliar student to important musical, cultural, and theoretical terms that are presented again throughout the chapter. Chapters 4-13 focus on specific regional areas. The final chapter, "Discovering Yourself Through Music," consists of reflexive remarks that provides commentary on the complexity of musical identity. The chapter urges the student to research their musical roots while providing assistance and guidance on research tools, techniques, and methods.

Critical Review

- Each picture is in color and has a brief, informative description.
- Chapters begin with an excellent map of the region being described.
- Questions to consider are listed at the close of chapters.
- Rather than covering a single example, multiple cities are explored (Arrival: Turkey; Arrival: China) and several examples or "sites" are explored within the cities (Site 1: Islamic "Call to Prayer;" Site 3: Beijing Opera.)
- Features like "An Inside Look" (example: page 271) provide detailed examples of individual musicians.
- Colored "stamps" on the margins make it easy to flip through and find a country/region without consulting the table of contents.
- Listening guides provide detailed 'roadmaps' to the CD. Ethno-challenges, or extra research opportunities, are provided with these guides. (Ex: Write a praise poem/song about one of your own ancestors.)
- Extensive glossary with pronunciation guide.
- Chapters are formatted with consistency, unlike books that use multiple authors.
- The resources section provides materials not only for each chapter, but also in generic categories like audio files, dictionaries, books, etc.
- It is affordable ($50.00 on Amazon)
- Avoids using musical notation: "We feel the added space and expense it would require is not justified for a study at the beginning level. Instructors may wish to bring in some examples, based on their own focus, as a supplement to the materials" (xvi).
- The preface includes how the author's became ethnomusicologists; what first interested them and how they came to study what they studied.
- Has an online website
- Can approach the book from either concentration: music as sound or music as culture. Authors acknowledge that ethnomusicologists will not be the only ones to teach this course. Musicologists can choose which one they want to concentrate on.

- In the opening chapters, the authors spend a large amount of time addressing definitions without ever listening to music.
- Covering multiple sites means less attention paid to each.
- Chapters lack summaries on the regions as a whole, which could be a valuable opportunity for commentary on similarities and differences between countries.
- Wide coverage results in a lengthy book, which may be intimidating to students.
- Lack of pronunciation guides in the chapters - the glossary must be consulted.
- Lack of analytical information may bore musical students.
- Chapters lack lists of vocabulary words.
- Examples like "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" will be unappealing to later students as the references age, and will need to be updated with subsequent editions.
- Contains only 70 tracks of music. There are some world music books that cover less areas and have more examples.
- In the very first chapter, where the elements of music are discussed, the authors introduce the term semiotics as one of the explanations of how music works. If this is a book geared for non-majors/beginners, this term may be to advanced and can be omitted from discussion when addressing the elements of music.
- Too much discussion about the field of ethnomusicology, the history of ethnomusicology, and what ethnomusicologists do. Pages 9-12 are devoted to the topic of ethnomusicology alone. For non-majors, this may be too much emphasis. For example, briefly mentions post-modernism, positivism, and Merriam's book (1964).
- The glossary does not contain all of the pronunciations of regional terms. For example, jiangnan sizhu (referring to the "silk" and "bamboo" ensemble) is not listed in the glossary, nor is their any guidance of how to pronounce the phrase. It is a major genre discussed in chapter seven when Chinese musics are discussed.

7. East Asia: Ancient Echoes in the Modern World

Chapter seven discusses musics of East Asia, covering the following regions: China, Mongolia, Korea, Japan, and Tibet. This chapter concentrates mostly on the music of China, covering four different genres (qin, jiangnan sizhu ensemble, jingju, yangbanxi) within the region. In Mongolia, Korea, and Tibet, only one genre of music is discussed (khoomei /P’ansori/Buddhist Ritual), while Japan has two very short “blurbs” about gagaku music and kabuki theatre. Initially, the chapter is written methodically and is very organized when discussing the musics of China; however, as the regions change, the more disorganized and incoherent the chapter becomes. With the way the chapter is written, it seems as if China holds the most importance, while the other regions are just an arbitrary accessory because they just so happened to be located in the vicinity (East Asia). I much rather see the chapter keep is coherence and detailed organization by focusing on one or two areas versus creating a jumble of East Asian musics where much of the focus is placed on just one region and the others are just thrown into the mix.

On a more personal level, the section on Japanese music is very misleading and quite confusing. The second paragraph lists the different types of musics and instruments found in Japan. The authors mention the shakuhachi and then immediately mentions sankyoku, which is (in a sense) a “chamber” music ensemble (“san” means three) consisting of three instruments. The authors have sankyoku as a vocabulary word but mention nothing more about the genre, its music, or the shakuhachi’s (and the other instruments) connection with the ensemble. For example:

“Three instruments – the koto zither, the shakuhachi flute, and shamisen lute-are essential in Japanese music. When they play together with a vocalist, they comprise Japan’s chamber music, called sankyoku, meaning ‘three instruments’” (212). (There is also a photo displayed on page 213 of a “no-named” shakuhachi player and koto player)

The chapter moves on to discuss gagaku court music and kabuki. The sankyoku genre was developed years after gagaku court music and kabuki. In addition, the shakuhachi was originally used in the gagaku court ensemble, it has been known to accompany Kabuki and Noh theatre, and has been utilized as a religious tool in the practice of Zen Buddhism and as an aid in chanting sutras. To only briefly mention the instrument and then leave out the shakuhachi’s connection and influence in the different genres is misleading to the student and in some cases the instructor.

8. The Middle East: Music in the Cradle of Great Religions

Chapter 8 is a 38 page section with a large scope. It covers the following: an inside look at George Dimitri Sawa, Turkey (Islamic Call to Prayer, Arabic Instrumental Modal Improvisation), Iran (Dastgah for Santur and Voice), Egypt (Islamic Song with Takht Instrumental Accompaniment), Sufism (Sufi Dhikr Ceremony), and Judaism (Jewish Liturgical Cantillation.) The introduction includes information on divides such as the Maghreb and Mashriq, the ethnocentric nature of a term like "Middle East," the language Arabic, ancient civilization and culture, and the Ottoman Turkish Empire. The itinerary clearly states the scope and mentions several interesting musical traditions that won't be studied, creating an opportunity for interested and ambitious students to do extra research.

Each Arrival begins with a brief history of the city or faith, and the various Sites include First Impressions, Aural Analysis, and Cultural Considerations. Having an identical method of analysis in each section creates a consistency in the way students will read and learn the material. The authors create cross-cultural connections - for example, the Ud is the ancestor of the Chinese pipa, Japanese biwa, Vietnamese tyba, and European lute (named after al-ud.)

The chapter provides a fairly thorough overview of Islam, giving well deserved attention to Sufism and the poet Rumi. The photographs are colorful and interesting, but the chapter could benefit from an online resource with video footage of the Whirling Dervishes and other worshipping Sufis. Unfortunately, many of the vocabulary words are difficult to pronounce and many students won't bother looking up their pronunciation in the glossary. A revision of this book should include pronunciation in the margins. Overall, this chapter is a large but useful resource for teachers to assign to students, especially if class time is used to explore the region in greater detail.

About the authors:

Miller is Professor Emeritus of Ethnomusicology at Kent State University, where he taught until his retirement in January of 2005. His primary focus is Southeast Asia, especially Thailand and Laos. His interest in non-Western music began at a Ravi Shankar performance during his undergraduate years, and expanded during his years in Vietnam as a drafted Army soldier.

Shahriari is an Instructor of Ethnomusicology at Kent State University. He was first exposed to world music on an undergraduate trip to Russia. A primary focus of his teaching is challenging and recognizing cultural biases, which are presented in all media and unavoidably shape individual philosophies.