The idea of a global history of music may be traced back to the Enlightenment, and today, the question of a conceptual framework for a history of music that pays due attention to global relationships in music is often raised. But how might a historical interpretation of those relationships proceed? How should it position, or justify, itself? What would 'Western music' look like in an account of music history that aspires to be truly global?


The studies presented in this volume aim to promote post-European historical thinking. They are based on the idea that a global history of music cannot be one single, hegemonic history. They rather explore the paradigms and terminologies that might describe a history of many different voices. The chapters address historical practices and interpretations of music in different parts of the world, from Japan to Argentina and from Mexico to India. Many of these narratives are about relations between these cultures and the Western tradition; several also consider socio-political and historical circumstances that have affected music in the various regions. The book addresses aspects that Western musical historiography has tended to neglect even when looking at its own culture: performance, dance, nostalgia, topicality, enlightenment, the relationships between traditional, classical, and pop musics, and the regards croisés between European, Asian, or Latin American interpretations of each other’s musical traditions.


These studies have been derived from the Balzan Musicology Project Towards a Global History of Music (2013–2016), which was funded by the International Balzan Foundation through the award of the Balzan Prize in Musicology to the editor, and designed by music historians and ethnomusicologists together. A global history of music may never be written in its entirety, but will rather be realised through interaction, practice, and discussion, in all parts of the world.

part |17 pages


part |62 pages


chapter 3|19 pages

Analytical encounters

Global music criticism and enlightenment ethnomusicology 1

part |158 pages

East Asia

chapter 6|26 pages

‘The transformation of the world’

Silk Road musics, cross-cultural approaches, and contemporary metaphors

chapter 10|22 pages

Korean music

Definitions and practices

part |69 pages

South and South-East Asia

chapter 12|15 pages

Heavy metal bamboo

How archaic bamboo instruments became modern in Bandung, Indonesia

chapter 13|18 pages

Cultural autonomy and the ‘Indian exception’

Debating the aesthetics of Indian classical music in early 20th-century Calcutta

chapter 14|34 pages

Orientalism and beyond

Tagore, Foulds, and cross-cultural exchanges between Indian and Western musicians 1

part |149 pages


chapter 17|35 pages

From ‘abandoned huts’ to ‘maps of the Pampas’

The topos of the huella and the representation of landscape in Argentine art music 1

chapter 18|15 pages

‘Minor Mode and the Andes’

The pentatonic scale as topic and the musical representation of Peru

chapter 19|29 pages

‘The rending call of the poor and forsaken street crier’

The political and expressive dimension of a topic in Silvestre Revueltas’s early works

chapter 20|14 pages

Passion and disappointment

Waltz and danza topics in a Venezuelan musical nationalism masterpiece

chapter 21|20 pages

Festivals, violins, and global music histories

Examples from the Caribbean and Canada