What is the role of music in the culture of a place?  

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The role of music in the culture of a place has more than one dimension, including the dimension that music expresses current changes in the culture and engenders further changes in that culture. 1. According to scholars of musical change, music may have the role of resisting change to culture thus holding cultural past and present together through its unchanging form. 2. Another perspective is that music "stands outside" of culture where its role is to comment on culture in such a way as to draw different cultures together, allowing the cultural outsider and insider to come together. 3. Another perspective points to how music springs from the culture of a place as expressions of deep-seated concepts of being.

1. As reported by ethnomusicologist Bruno Nettl, African music research conducted by Melville Herskovits draws the conclusion that in all domains of culture--from economics through to religion--music resisted change (remaining more African) more than any other cultural domain when face with a collision with Western culture.

2. As explained by Nettl, Daniel Neuman offered the proposition that a role of music in culture is to stand outside of culture to comment on it and to unite outsider with insider as a way to confirm the humanity of both groups, though from different cultures. Music standing "outside the rest of culture" can function to "build bridges between a society and the outside world."

3. As an example of how music springs from within the culture of a place as an expression of deep-seated concepts of being, consider Michigan State University's discussion of music in African culture. Music, perceived as embedded in African culture, is sprung from the earliest beliefs about being related to every aspect of living, including religion, death, birth, rites of passage, cultural values, marriage and interactions with outsider groups.

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