MUSI 515 (01) - Music in World Cultures

Music in World Cultures

Durham   Liberal Arts :: Music
Credits: 4.0
Term: Fall 2021 - Full Term (08/30/2021 - 12/13/2021)
Grade Mode: Letter Grading
Class Size:   50  
CRN: 12030
An introduction to musicking (participating in any way, including listening, in musical performance) beyond the Western tradition, this course offers students an opportunity to explore the music and culture of diverse regions from an ethnomusicological perspective. Through listening to and analyzing music, readings, lecture, discussion, and individual fieldwork projects, students discover how music functions within different world cultures and gain understanding of the ways people "make music meaningful and useful in their lives," as, through musicking, they articulate, resist, and transform cultural norms.
Department Approval Required. Contact Academic Department for permission then register through Webcat.
Only listed campus in section: Durham, Manchester
Attributes: World Cultures(Discovery)
Instructors: STAFF

Times & Locations

Start Date End Date Days Time Location
8/30/2021 12/13/2021 TR 8:10am - 9:30am PCAC M223
Additional Course Details: 

This course is divided into three distinct units —the first introduces  the concept of musicking and the basic elements of music and challenges the common concept of music as a "universal language" through exploration of differences in how basic elements of music are discussed, taught,  and conceptualized around the world; the second focuses on the music of Ireland and Egypt; and the third and final unit focuses on the music of Central Java and West Africa.

Depending on COVID-19 regulations this fall,  part of the course work may include participation in (possibly) two different events over the course of the semester, after which students will write a reflective response to each (writing usually is due 7 days after the event): everyone should plan to attend the NACA Powwow, usually held in the Granite State Room of the MUB on the first Saturday in November, if it is able to happen this fall.  If not, we will move forward with a different plan.
More flexibily, if these events restart, the other participatory musicking activities will be either participation in one of the monthly drum circles held, pre-COVID-19 at the Waysmeet Center on the first Friday of each month or  in one of the local contra dances held in the Durham UU Fellowship on Madbury Road or one of the almost weekly Friday gatherings of the Seacoast Set Dancers, also at the Durham UU Fellowship on Madbury Road.  These may not happen in the fall of 2021.

The trailer linked below from the Silk Road Project documentary The Music of Strangers (2017) offers a taste of both our course goals & central ideas the underpin both the course & what can be gained from listening to and studying musicking around the world.

Because this is a world cultures course, you can expect that the content will include a variety of foreign terms and each region that we study will have different terms for concepts related back to the basic elements of music.

Course work will include a semester-long mini fieldwork project exploring a topic of your choosing that will take you through the process of crafting a field-work oriented research question, locating and working with secondary sources, creating a bibliography, and planning your research, whether it involves qualitative methods —interviews, crafting a survey or surveys-- or a mix of qualitative and quantitative methods, and creating a virtual presentation to be uploaded to the class discussion board.  This is a project for which students have the option to work in pairs or small groups (3-4 students) or alone, as works best for individuals.

Note: Syllabus is the Spring 2021 syllabus; structure will be similar, but dates will, of course, be updated to match those of the Fall 2021 calendar; there will also be changes to adapt to impacts or lessening of impacts due to COVID-19, and I am also evaluating new (less expensive) textbook materials for the first two units and so have not updated those materials yet.  The new textbook material will most likely be in the form of an electronic textbook purchased through Perusall. 


Our textbook is an ebook from Oxford University Press, Sean Williams, Musics of the World, 1st edition (July 2021), and access must be purchased through Perusall; other materials beyond the Williams will be made available via Perusall as pdf documents, or static URLs. We will not be using every single chapter of the Williams book, but this is still considerably cheaper and more user-friendly than the 150.00 + 3-book set (if purchased new) or 90-100 if accessed via rental that we used through Spring 2021. Step 1: sign up for a free Perusall account: our course code is PRUIKSMA-3FBPT Step 2: purchase your book via Perusall with a credit card, or use an access code as sold by one of the college bookstores. Perusall offers three levels of access and 180 day access should be sufficient for your needs for this course, which is also the least expensive option. $89.95 USD | 1460-day online access (ISBN 9780190057824) Reflowable text $67.46 USD | 365-day online access (ISBN 9780190057824) Reflowable text $44.98 USD | 180-day online access (ISBN 9780190057824) Reflowable text You can purchase your materials directly from Perusall, with a credit card, or, via the MUB Bookstore; or, only in the case that you do not have a credit card, or you are getting your books paid for by an outside source, via the Durham Book Exchange ( -- you will have to contact them by phone for this option. You should also sign up for an educational account for the white-board, concept-mapping, brainstorming tools available via An education account is free for students and gives you two full years of access to this versatile easily collaborative set of tools.