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Listen to what you are reading about Ethnic Music

Ethnic music, often called traditional music (both terms having replaced folk music) are broad terms to describe how these music forms capture and express historical differences between peoples, and shape and maintain cultural identities.  Not only to they act as vehicles for maintaining and preserving cultural, tribal and family identities, they serve a critical role of preserving in over time in the face of cultural change. Ethnic music takes on different forms in religious cultures where both the content (lyrics, language, meanings, etc.) may overlap, or where the musical forms themselves may develop from the same historical sources and have great similarities.


In addition to the chronological and cohesive character and roles of Ethnic or Traditional music, it is also understood to promote and preserve culture by virtue of its major characteristics and functions, such as:

  • Ethnic music possesses a strong historical character.  Its music form and lyric content can be traced back to earlier forms or origins. For instance, the ethnic music of Greece uses the same music forms as Greek religious music (Byzantine chant), both based on the music forms (modes) of ancient Greece.
  • Most of the history of ethic music is characterized by oral tradition. Musical notation is a relatively late development, beginning in the Christian churches to preserve and transmit chant, which in turn gave rise to western notation. Most ethnic music pre-dates the development of notation, and was passed on generation to generation. In addition, since it is traditional or folk music, it was most common among the uneducated peoples of a culture, and this form of continuity is the norm.
  • Ethnic music is culturally specific: that is to say, it reflects and represents a specific people in a particular place and time. Ethnic music forms from a geographic region may share many elements, but still have their unique components. For example, the ethnic music of the Balkans share many elements since they all were part of the culture of ancient Greece, were Christian in the Byzantine empire and were occupied by the Ottoman Turks for centuries.
In addition to the usual human subjects of lost love, personal tragedy, etc., ethnic music also captures and preserves historic events of import to a people, a tribe or a culture. A notable example is the composition “Lament for the Fall of Constantinople: by the chanter and composer Manuel Chrysaphes, which was written to commemorate and express the anguish of the fall of the historic capital of Byzantium to the Turks. Interestingly, it meets all of the criteria of ethnic music, and of Byzantine chant save that the subject itself is not part of a religious service, per se.

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL offers the following additional content on this subject:

1. Worship in the early church

2. Early Eastern Orthodox Liturgics

3. The Byzantine Synthesis

4. Chant Development: Byzantine Music History

5. Early Western Chant

6. Development of manuscript notation

The Web Store offers:

1. Ethnic world CDs from those countries that share musical forms and heritage with Liturgical music (i.e. Greece, Bulgarian, Macedonian, Turkish, Celtic, etc.


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