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Ethnomusicology, the study of music (and dance) in culture, including world music, traditional and popular musics, preservation, sustainability and change of musics, and practice-based research.


Dr Michael Webb, Professor Linda Barwick, Associate Professor Kathryn Marsh.

Research location

Sydney Conservatorium of Music

Program type



Ethnomusicology is the study of music (and dance) in its social and cultural context. While ‘world music’ is increasingly used to define genres of music that are hybrid, or which are associated with specific geographical regions, ethnomusicology as a discipline is an approach to study, and so is not, strictly, restricted to ‘non-Western’, ‘exotic’, or ‘Other’ musics. However, many ethnomusicologists are known for their work on specific music cultures, such as the music of China, Japan, or Indonesia. The ethnomusicological approach emphasises fieldwork and, typically, learning to perform. It is both practice-based in orientation and reflexive. It is increasingly applied and collaborative, seeking to place indigenous musicians at the centre of research. Ethnomusicologists also work with historical sources, apply analytical techniques, and use anthropological methodologies in order to understand the musics that are studied. Ethnomusicologists often work with traditional musics, and are concerned with the sustainability of the musics they study, but they may also work with contemporary popular and hybrid forms. There is an acceptance that music rarely exists in isolation, and so many ethnomusicologists incorporate studies of dance and other aspects of performance in their accounts.

Additional information

Potential research areas for PhD topics in ethnomusicology at the SCM include the musics of Africa, Australia, Central Asia, East Asia, Southeast Asia, Micronesia and Melanesia; music and religion; studies of composition and music education in geographical context; the preservation and sustrainability of musical traditions; popular musics; hybridity, ‘fusion’, and ‘crossover’; music and dance; music and the media; music and identity; practice-based research; organology (the study of instruments) and acoustics.

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Opportunity ID

The opportunity ID for this research opportunity is 1088