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Nonwestern Music Materials. Reflects/expresses world’s diversity. Each culture has its music practice. Some have all three—folk, pop, and classical. These musics influence western music. Especially true in the twentieth century. French composer Claude Debussy .

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Nonwestern Music Materials

Reflects/expresses world’s diversity

Each culture has its music practice

  • Some have all three—folk, pop, and classical

These musics influence western music

  • Especially true in the twentieth century

  • French composer Claude Debussy

  • British rocker George Harrison

  • Jazz artist John Coltrane


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Music in Nonwestern Cultures

Characteristics of Nonwestern Music

It reflects its supporting culture

  • Frequently linked with religion, dance and drama

  • Often used to communicate messages and relate traditions


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Oral Tradition

Frequently transmitted by oral tradition

  • Music notation far less important than in western culture

  • Many cultures do not have a music notation

  • When they do, it serves as a record, not for teaching or performance


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Improvisation is frequently basic to the music

  • Improvisation usually based on traditional melodic phrases and rhythmic patterns


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Singing usually main way of making music

Vocal approach, timbre, and techniques vary throughout the world

  • Nasal sound

  • Strained tone

  • Throat singing

  • Many others


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Four types based upon sound production:

  • Membranophones—stretched skin

  • Primarily drums

  • Chordophones—stretched string

  • Harp-type

  • Aerophones—performer’s breath

  • Flutes, trumpets, etc.

  • Idiophones—instrument’s body is sound generator

  • Bells, gongs, scrapers, rattles, etc.


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Style and application within culture causes particular types of instruments to dominate

  • Strings allow great flexibility of pitch

  • Idiophones/membranophones: rhythmic emphasis

  • Aerophones aid in outdoor performance

Geography and materials availability influences

Religion also influences instrumentation


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Melody, Rhythm, and Texture of instruments to dominate

Most nonwestern musics are monophonic

  • Sometimes accompanied by a drone

  • Some cultures use heterophony

  • All perform same melody with different ornamentation


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Scales in nonwestern music are frequently quite different than western musical scales

  • Intervals between tones can be larger or smaller

Much nonwestern music has very complex rhythms


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Interaction between Nonwestern than western musical scales

and Western Music

Nonwestern music has been greatly impacted by western influences due to:

  • Increased urbanization

  • Spread of technology

  • Almost worldwide access to recorded music

Some governments subsidize traditional music to preserve cultural heritage


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Music in Sub-Saharan Africa than western musical scales

Africa is divided into two parts: above and below the Sahara Desert

  • Above: Muslim, Arabic-speaking, music closely related to that of the Middle East

  • Below: Extremely diverse, many religions, cultures, and languages (over 700)


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Though Sub-Saharan music is diverse, there are some similarities:

  • Complex rhythms and polyrhythms

  • Percussive sounds

  • Wide variety of instrumental ensembles

  • Vocal music often a soloist and responding chorus


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Music in Society similarities:

Music permeates African life from religion, entertainment, and magic to rites of passage

It is so interwoven into life that the abstract word “music” is not used by many peoples


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Closely associated with dancing in ceremonies, rituals, and celebrations

  • Dancers frequently play and sing while dancing

Music is a social activity—everyone joins in

No musical notation—passed by oral tradition


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Elements of African Music celebrations

Rhythm and Percussion

Complex rhythms and polyrhythms predominate

Dancers choose to follow any of the various rhythms

The body used as an instrument

  • Clapping, stamping, slapping thigh/chest


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Vocal Music celebrations

Wide variety of sounds, even within a single piece

  • Call and response extremely common

Percussion ostinato frequently accompanies singers

Short musical phrases repeated to different words


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Texture celebrations

Often homophonic or polyphonic

  • This is unlike most nonwestern musics

Same melody often sung at many pitch levels


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African Instruments celebrations


Most common African instrument

Most are of indefinite pitch

Xylophones, a favorite, come in many sizes

“Talking drum” with slit in side can produce two to four tones


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Membranophones celebrations

Used in many ceremonial and work-pace applications

  • Drum manufacture often accompanied by special rites

Drums usually played in groups—multiple players

Variety of shapes, sizes, and forms


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Aerophones and Chordophones celebrations

Flutes and trumpets (of wood and horn) most common

  • Reed instruments less widespread

Chordophones plucked or struck, gourd resonators


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Listening celebrations


Song from central Ghana

Music of the Akan-speaking peoples in Ghana.

Listen for: Call and response

Solo vocalist and chorus

Percussion ensemble