Emic vs. Etic…Again.

iPhone post: Why are tuneful religious orations not considered music to those who present it?

Think Hebrew, Muslim, Buddhist.

Better yet, why do musicologists study it if this is the case, thus challenging the emic practitioner position from an etic point of view?



  1. It’s a cultural viewpoint.

    It IS a valid area of study, but the argument and attitude of the presenters must be adequately and fairly represented, or the culture of the student gets overlaid and impressed too heavily upon the subject.

    FYI, see point 1 on page 4 here:
    and the second-to-last paragraph here:
    (just a couple of items I recall from a study I once did; it would not be considered “music” to those particular preachers, as music is/was no part of their worship).

    Interesting point, dani.

    1. Being from the Northeast, I was surrounded by Quakers even in the past 20 years (the town I grew up in was founded by them mid-1700’s)….

      Agreed about the culture of the student being impressed too heavily upon the subject – that’s exactly what I’m referring to. That’s the ethnomusicologists’ aim of course ( to separate the two, or become one with the subject itself ), but I’ve read so much that is, unfortunately, not fairly represented from the emic perspective in all cases. Those bits of research generally get pushed toward publication, which makes it difficult for the field to progress.

      I’ll continue looking into religious ethnomusicology.. I know scholars have distinctly defined and categorized most everything, however the public and even, for example, folks teaching music appreciation, are still in the shoebox.

  2. I wonder if it’s the idea that “music” is a non-serious/non-religious/frivolous category. I have no idea if that’s the case with the groups you describe, but I’ve certainly met individuals who think that in general. Myself I’ve always thought emic and etic sound like categories of diseases… 😉

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