Laboratory of comparative musicology and anthropology of music

Comparative study of aesthetic evaluation criteria and taste judgments

Comparative study of aesthetic evaluation criteria and taste judgments

This project’s purpose is to determine the different manifestations of what we have called taste judgments, as well as the conception and aesthetic appreciation criteria involved in orally transmitted music. It will focus on some of the most representative musical repertoires from world music: ritual pygmy music (Republic of Congo, central Africa), Baganda wedding dances (Uganda), lullabies and pastoral singing from Uzbekistan, maqam from the Ottoman classical tradition (Turkey), kebyar gamelan pieces (Bali) and peasant singing from Salento (Apulia, Italy). These traditions have been chosen in order to diversify the objects of study and to take advantage of the research already carried out by our researchers, but also because they represent archetypes of traditional music forms. The main objectives of this study are: 1) to determine which musical parameters work as criteria for defining beauty in the music of these societies; 2) to analyse their nature and the way they are categorized by the tradition bearers; 3) to establish systematic typologies of the criteria used to establish the concept of beauty within each society for comparative purposes; 4) to correlate these criteria with the analysis of the musical object made by researchers; 5) to outline the most important of these in order to create hypothesis regarding possible aesthetic criteria universals.

Ethnomusicological theory traditions have often considered the evident function carried out by orally transmitted music as the only analytical paradigm, disregarding any analytical approach that considers music as an art object. Another goal of this study is to build a typology of parameters and criteria involved in individual or collective taste judgements, to understand the inner coherence that rules them, and finally to compare them to those of other cultures.

This research project will analyse: 1) the musical forms (recording different versions by different musicians of each one of the repertoire’s pieces); 2) the functions carried out by these musical forms, the place they hold within their culture, as well as the conventions, rituals and symbolism that are related to them; 3) the way in which musical forms are perceived by a member of the community regardless of whether he is a musician or not, or even by a larger audience (means of identification, value judgements concerning the performance, musician’s virtuosity, function and/or effect attributed to the music in relation to the individual or collective reactions which are expected; 4) and on a more conceptual level, the formal model that underlies the performed musical objects, their genesis, and finally the creator’s intention and his references, themselves of various nature. Other helpful strategies to carry out this project will consist of the documentation of all implicit physical behaviour (music, gesture, attitudes, facial expressions, etc.) and the documentation of teaching sessions, which are likely to deconstruct the musical object, suggest a more precise vocabulary regarding the intention or emotion involved, and outline the indispensable elements for the complete semantic identification of the musical object.

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