Defining music

This all started as I was prepping for teaching an online world music class for this coming fall. I’ve taught online classes for several semesters and enjoy it very much. Every semester I try to change things up just a little, both to keep things interesting for my students but also to make sure that I don’t stagnate. I have, previously, always started the semester with a “what is music?” discussion. I’d have the students post their definitions of music and try to get them to engage with the definitions used in various textbooks. I couldn’t help but notice that this question is one of the first issues tackled by most world music textbooks.

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What does this button do?

**This post is the first in an on-going series on technological tools for ethnomusicology students**

I know next to nothing about technology. I probably know barely enough to get by in this day and age. This is something that concerns me because there doesn’t seem to be a lot written or even discussed concerning contemporary tools for ethnomusicologists. The SEM Student Newsletter available in the spring/summer of 2013 did dive into the moral and ethical issues of internet use and theory, online education, social media, etc. We all know about the internet, YouTube, Skype, Facebook, MOOCs, etc. But these seem to be seen as large, ponderous entities that are mentioned by name without any specificity, except to warn against misuse. Richard Daja’s piece “Digital Technologies and Music: Hardware and Habits” was the only article that addressed specific tools (specifically cell phones and smartphones), but he focused more on how people and musicians in South Africa were using them, not how he, as an ethnomusicologist, used them.

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