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Syracuse University, College of Arts and Sciences

‘Father of ethnomusicology’ to deliver three lectures at SU, March 20-29

Bruno Nettl known for "pithy anecdotes and subtle humor"

March 19, 2013, by Rob Enslin

Bruno Nettl
Bruno Nettl
One of the pioneers of ethnomusicology—the study of global musical practices from a social sciences perspective--is serving a visiting professorship in Syracuse University’s College of Arts and Sciences.

Bruno Nettl, professor emeritus of musicology and anthropology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, is this year’s William Fleming Distinguished Visiting Professor in The College’s Department of Art and Music Histories. As part of his appointment, he will present three scholarly lectures that are free and open to the public. For more information, call 315-443-4184.

The presentations are as follows:

“Second Thoughts: Changing Attitudes in Ethnomusicology”
Wednesday, March 20, at 11 a.m.
Bowne Hall (309)
A Lecture of the Department of Art and Music Histories

“On the Origins of Music: The History of an Idea”
Thursday, March 28, at 7:30 p.m.
Hall of Languages (107)
2013 Fleming Doris Lecture

“Ethnomusicologists Contemplate Improvisation”
Friday, March 29, from 9 a.m. to noon
Tolley Humanities Building (304)
(Interested parties must register by Tuesday, March 26, by emailing

“Bruno Nettl is widely recognized as one of the founding fathers of ethnomusicology,” says Carol Babiracki, associate professor of music history and cultures. “He is not only a prolific scholar, but also a masterful communicator—one of who writes and speaks in a unique, compelling style. Using pithy anecdotes and subtle humor, he is able to convey the importance of key issues within a rich scholarly framework.”

A pioneer in the field of ethnomusicology, Nettl is the author, co-author, or editor of more than two dozen books, including “Nettl’s Elephant” (2010), a collection of essays on the evolution and current state of ethnomusicology, and “The Study of Ethnomusicology: Thirty-One Issues and Concepts” (2005)--the updated and expanded edition of his 1983 book, “Twenty-Nine Issues and Concepts,” which is considered a classic in the field. (All three books are published by The University of Illinois Press.) Nettl’s latest book is “Becoming an Enthnomusicologist: A Miscellany of Influences” (Scarecrow Press, 2013).  

Nettl’s fieldwork encompasses India, Iran, and Israel, as well as the Blackfoot people of Montana. In recent years, he has focused on the study of improvisatory music, the understanding of musical change throughout the world, and the intellectual history of ethnomusicology. He is the former president and publication editor of the Society for Ethnomusicology.

Born in Prague, Nettl earned a Ph.D. in musicology from Indiana University. He taught at Wayne State University before joining Illinois' faculty in 1964. Nettl retired in 1992 and has since continued researching, teaching, and advising part time. Last year, he was named the Charles Homer Haskins Lecturer by the American Council of Learned Societies and was a recipient of the inaugural Tai Chi Traditional Music Award by the China Conservatory in Beijing.

The Fleming Distinguished Visiting Professorship is named for William Fleming, a cultural historian who, in 1946, founded SU’s Department of Art and Music Histories (née Department of Fine Arts) and served as its first chair until 1969. It was during this time that he published “Arts & Ideas” (Wadsworth Publishing, 1955), the landmark book dedicated to the study of the arts in an interdisciplinary setting. Today, the department is one of the oldest of its kind in the country and offers a variety of graduate and undergraduate degree opportunities.