Music in Indigenous Societies

Subject MUSI30111 (2015)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2015.

Credit Points: 12.5
Level: 3 (Undergraduate)
Dates & Locations:

This subject has the following teaching availabilities in 2015:

Semester 1, Parkville - Taught on campus.
Pre-teaching Period Start not applicable
Teaching Period 02-Mar-2015 to 31-May-2015
Assessment Period End 26-Jun-2015
Last date to Self-Enrol 13-Mar-2015
Census Date 31-Mar-2015
Last date to Withdraw without fail 08-May-2015

Timetable can be viewed here. For information about these dates, click here.
Time Commitment: Contact Hours: One 2-hour seminar per week
Total Time Commitment:

120 hours

Prerequisites: None


Recommended Background Knowledge:


Non Allowed Subjects:


Core Participation Requirements:

It is University policy to take all reasonable steps to minimise the impact of disability upon academic study, and reasonable adjustments will be made to enhance a student's participation in the University's programs. Students who feel their disability will impact on meeting the requirements of this subject are encouraged to discuss this matter with a Faculty Student Adviser and the Disability Liaison Unit.


Contact Centre
T: 13 MELB (6352)

Melbourne Conservatorium of Music
VCA and MCM Student Centre

Subject Overview:

This subject examines the diversity of musical expression that arises as a response to particular physical environments among various Indigenous societies. Using seminal ethnomusicological writings and recordings, case studies are drawn from rainforest societies in Africa, Asia, South America and Melanesia, societies on the rim of the Arctic circle, and the nomadic herder societies of the grasslands and taiga of southern Siberia and Mongolia. The subject explores how sound, speech, song and ceremony are used to reflect the social, spiritual, sensory and sonic relationships between people and nature. Students will be encouraged to make intellectual and creative connections between acoustic epistemologies, sonic awareness, sound environments and musical responses in their own society.

Learning Outcomes:

On completion of this subject students should be able to:

  • Demonstrate an understanding of how different societies react sonically and musically to their physical environment
  • make critical, informed and sophisticated responses to new ideas, methodologies and theoretical frameworks in the study of music;
  • integrate a reflective knowledge and an informed understanding of cross-cultural and intercultural concepts and behaviours in musical production from different times and places into their professional and intellectual lives;
  • conduct independent ethnographic and secondary research in ethnomusicology;
  • make intelligent response to aural sources; and
  • write in a scholarly manner appropriate to the discipline.

Essay of 1500 words due at the end of semester (40%); a cumulative assignment of 2000 words due for review mid semester and final submission at the end of the semester (40%); a one-hour listening test at the end of the semester (20%).

Prescribed Texts:

All readings for this subject will be available on line through the LMS for this subject.

Recommended Texts:

Breadth Options:

This subject potentially can be taken as a breadth subject component for the following courses:

You should visit learn more about breadth subjects and read the breadth requirements for your degree, and should discuss your choice with your student adviser, before deciding on your subjects.

Fees Information: Subject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date
Generic Skills:

On completion of this subject students should have developed:

  • a capacity for independent critical thought
  • an openness to new ideas
  • knowledge and skills which provide a basis for independent critical inquiry and research-based writing
  • an informed understanding and appreciation of cultural diversity.
Related Majors/Minors/Specialisations: Academic Electives
Related Breadth Track(s): Music outside the western tradition

Download PDF version.