The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music: Europe. Timothy Rice, James Porter, and Chris Goertzen, editors. 2000. New York and London: Garland Publishing Inc. xxix, 1144 pp., maps, photos, musical examples, line drawings, glossary, bibliographic and discographic guides, index. Accompanying CD.

Appeared in Ethnomusicology, XLIX(2005), no. 3, pp. 476- 478.

Back in the Nineteenth Century, when a political movement was advocating independence for the Italian Peninsula, Clemens von Metternich, the guiding spirit of the Vienna Congress, disinclined to accept the idea of a future Italian State, is reported to have said: “Italy is a geographic expression!”. I was reminded of that as I took into my hands the „Europe“ volume of the The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music, a reference work which – in keeping with the habitual modus operandi in the field of ethnomusicology – follows the geographic approach. Each volume is devoted to a major area, broken down into minor units which are for the most part national states. The European tome of the Encyclopedia, however, is in a way different from all the others. In fact, volumes such as „Africa“, „East Asia“, etc. discuss territories that indeed are „geographical expressions“, whereas Europe (like Italy in the Nineteenth Century) is now trying to demonstrate it has all it takes to be a political entity as well. An underlying cultural unity of Europe, however, has thus far been more assumed than explained; probably because the European Union, as we know it today, was mostly planned by economists rather than by historians or anthropologists. Thus I thought it worthwhile to peruse this Volume and verify whether patterns of musical style and practice help understand what kind of entity Europe really is.

Like the other volumes of the Encyclopedia this one articulates in three Parts: 1. An introduction to the region, its culture, and its music as well as a survey of previous music scholarship and research; 2. Major issues and processes that link the musics of the region, and 3. A detailed account of individual music cultures. Not all of the volumes, however, define their target region as a “musical area” as this one does at the outset. Of course, the idea of Europe as a “musical area” has a long history, and Timothy Rice draws on all the pertaining literature for his opening article “The Music of Europe: Unity and Diversity”. This is a remarkable synthesis of an extremely complex and varied landscape in which the author nonetheless discerns a fundamental common ground (something like the Urlinie in schenkerian analysis). Some readers, on the other hand, may derive the impression of fundamental diversity, underneath some shared traditions among neighboring territories. A concise chapter by James Porter follows, “The Collection and Study of Traditional Music,” touching upon early collecting, the first impact of the phonograph, developments after World War II, the influence of anthropology and folklore, cognitive aspects of traditional music, urbanization, identity and conflict.

Part Two, “Issues and Processes in European Music”, deals with issues that cut across national boundaries. This section, consequently, highlights better than other sections the of continuity across the Continent. This is the section which, I suspect, required the most difficult editorial decisions with respect to the subjects covered and the depth of treatment. Four initial essays outline topics related to music history: “Archeology of Music in Europe” (Albrecht Schneider), “Ancient Greek Music” (Wanda Bryant), “Notation and Transmission in European Music History” (Tilman Seebas), “The Role of History in Contemporary European Art-Music Culture” (Bruno Nettl); and  “History of European Art Music” (David Schulenberg).

What follows in Part Two, under the heading of “Understanding Musical Performance and Ideas about Music,” raises issues relating to the transmission of genres, individual roles, performance contexts, dance, traditional instruments, ideology, popular, rock, immigrant and world music. Here one perceives how uncomfortable we are becoming with the partition of the musical spectrum into “classical”, “traditional”, “pop” and “rock” – terminology which we nevertheless retain for lack of better conceptualizations. Such categories reveal, in fact, both difficulty in dealing with modernization and a tendency to forget how traditions began among people who were not necessarily traditionally-minded. Worth particular mention in this section are Stephen Blum’s “Local Knowledge of Musical Genres and Roles”, which is dense, carefully thought out in its parts, and yet synthetic, and Timothy Rice’s “Dance in Europe”, which probably deserved more than the few pages it is allotted. In the West, where dance is largely ousted from the concept and practice of  “serious music,” music histories that are not at the same time histories of dance are common. In dealing with traditional music, pop or rock. However, the approach could be different, because the “Apollonian” and the “Dionysian” character of music (its ability to elicit a body response, often linked to sensuality and eroticism) are relevant categories for the construction of hierarchies among musical genres (if it has a copulatory rhythm it is no art-music!). Body motion, on the contrary is often part and parcel of other forms of music-making.

Part Three is devoted to “nations, ethnic groups, islands, sub, regions” (p. xiii). Significantly, it opens up with essays about “Transnational Ethnic Groups: Jewish Music in Europe” (Philip Bohman), “Rom (Gypsy) Music” (Carol Silverman), “Traveller’s Music” (James Porter), “Saami Music” (Richard Jones-Bamman), “Basque Music” (Denis Laborde), and “Celtic Music” (Lois Kuter). One transnational tradition which could possibly have been included is “Eurojazz”, not an irrelevant stream in cultural history since the 1920s. Jazz, however, does not appear in a preeminent position even in the volume devoted to “The United States and Canada”; a probable confirmation that we perceive it today as much closer to art-music then to folk, pop, or rock. Other transnational phenomena, such as “wandering tunes”, “tune families”, “melody types” and “variants,” once studied by folk music scholars are not very visible in this volume. No chapter offers a general picture which might emerge from melodic kinships. Still, the emphasis given to transnational traditions is quite new and significant because, once national states were developed, transnational cultural groups tended to be either overlooked, or perceived as disturbance. Paradoxically, today such groups might contribute to justify the need for a political entity of a higher order in Europe.

The remainder of Part Three, about some seven-hundred pages, is devoted to large regions (United Kingdom and Ireland, Northern Europe, Western Europe, Central Europe, Eastern Europe, and the Balkans), single nations, and rather clearly definable culture-units within them (e.g. England, Wales and Scotland in the United Kingdom, Faroe Islands, Corsica, Sardinia, etc.). Some of the best known scholars in those areas contribute to this section. However, one almost senses that Editors, in planning the section, had wished they could have done away with national states as units, but felt they could not really go that far in the Continent where the very concept of nation-state was invented.

Whatever criticism one may wish to raise over choices made in this volume, one should bear in mind what a daunting task it is to represent the musical geography and anthropology of Europe. One also has to consider that the sixty-one contributors belong to different scholarly traditions and cannot be reformatted according to a common standard (American scholars such as Philip Bohlman, James Porter, Pandora Hopkins, juxtaposed with Europeans such as Bernard Lortat-Jacob, Jan Ling, Wolfgang Laade, and other scholars like Izaly Zemtsovsky and Ankica Petrovic who reveal approaches we knew very little about until recently). The overall result of this collective effort is nothing short of remarkable. It is a work that indicates the enormous increase of sophistication brought to the study of music during the last one 100 years. At the same time, it illuminates the conceptual and analytical problems that still need to be tackled. The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music, and particularly this volume devoted to “Europe”, is likely to reopen the debate of how to deal with the musical phenomena on a global scale.

There is a CD included with 40 brief but well selected examples which give a good sense of the staggering variety of musical practices found across Europe. Substantial and carefully selected bibliographies accompany each article. They are particularly valuable as they provide translation of the titles, as well as items belonging to regional traditions which are not well known elsewhere.

In conclusion, one can concede today that Clemens von Metternich’s idea that Italy is simply “a geographic expression”, was once largely correct for Italy, as it is today for Europe. Ironically, from a point of view he could not have had: that of traditional music. The Peninsula is not at all homogeneous in that respect. In fact, the very people promoting its political unity never considered using “folk music” as a symbol. Italy was unified in its love for Opera, which effectively became a vehicle for the expression of political ideas. Similarly, the common ground for today’s Europe, is to be sought in areas other than traditional music. National states and supranational federations are modern phenomena, and the kind of unity they wish to exhibit can only be reflected, plausibly, in traditions more in touch with modernity. This is perhaps another way of saying that the task of defining Europe, already daunting for any cultural scholar, becomes next to impossible when the musical element is also taken into the picture. Of course, few European politicians will read the Garland Encyclopedia. Too bad. They would discover in Europe unsuspected dimensions of complexity which may be worthy of political attention. Ethnomusicologists, aware better than most of such complexity, will still benefit from this unique volume, which is likely to remain for some time the first and the best source of information for any future study of the European musical landscape.     


Stokes, Martin
2003    “The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music. Vol. 8, Europe”, in Journal of the American
Musicological Society, 56, no. 1, pp. 214-220