Barnard College is one of the few colleges in the US where you can complete an undergraduate major in the field of Ethnomusicology, specifically. This academic major track (please note that it does not focus on the performance of non-western music, although there are opportunities for doing this) provides a unique opportunity for BC students with a serious and scholarly interest in the field of Ethnomusicology. This track is especially intended to prepare students for graduate study and careers in music, anthropology, music business and technology, and library/information science, among other related fields.
This program offers undergraduates rich access to the faculty and resources of Columbia's highly-ranked graduate (MA/PhD) program in Ethnomusicology. The undergraduate offering has a long and distinguished track record as a "special major" at Barnard. In 2009, the special major was converted into a pre-approved major track within the BC Music major.
Please note, Columbia College and School of General Studies students cannot pursue this track in the Music major. Please contact Prof. Fox if you are a CC/GS student with a specific interest in pursuing Ethnomusicology.
If you are a Barnard College first or second year student and you are even considering declaring the special Ethnomusicology track in the BC Music major, please get in touch (as soon as possible) with the BC Ethnomusicology Adviser. The BC Ethnomusicology Adviser will always be a member of the Ethnomusicology Area faculty. For 2016-17, that person is Prof. Aaron Fox, whose email address is: aaf19 [at] columbia.edu
Again, even if you are just thinking about pursuing the Ethnomusicology track, you should contact the BC Ethnomusicology adviser sooner rather than later, and for certain during your sophomore year. (You are more than welcome to get in touch with the BC Ethno Adviser during your freshman year!) There will be an informational meeting on this major track each spring, before BC major declarations are required, which major-declaring sophomores (and first-years as well) are urged to attend. Watch for notification of this meeting in March or early April from Prof. Fox or Prof. Archer.
Entrance into the Ethnomusicology Track is not automatic or guaranteed and must be approved by the BC Ethnomusicology Adviser. In most cases entry into this track will be determined based on your performance in prior music classes, and especially in MUSI UN3400 "Topics in Music and Society," now required for all Music majors, or UN3420 "The Social Science of Music," offered in alternate years. For this reason, if you are considering the BC Ethnomusicology major track, you should strongly consider taking MUSI UN3400/3420 in your sophomore year, or possibly even your freshman year in some cases.
If that is not possible, it is ideal that you take at least one elective class with a member of the Ethnomusicology-area faculty (currently Profs. Fox, Ochoa, Washburne, Ciucci, and Fellezs) before the end of your sophomore year. If you have taken no courses with Ethnomusicology-area faculty, acceptance into the Ethnomusicology track will depend strongly on an interview with the BC Ethnomusicology adviser, which you should arrange before Major declaration.
The Ethnomusicology faculty will consider allowing students to "switch" into the Ethnomusicology track after declaring a "standard" BC Music major, but such a switch must be declared no later than the end of the first semester of the junior year, as it will become impossible to fulfill the specific requirements for the Ethnomusicology track if you wait longer than that. Those who switch "into" the BC Ethno track from the standard BC Music major must be enrolled in, or have already taken, MUSI UN3400 or MUSI UN3420. Be aware that while the western music theory and history and keyboard requirements for the Ethnomusicology track are reduced from the standard Major, that difference is more than made up in additional requirements for anthropology courses and thesis-related coursework. You must have a positive intention to pursue the Ethnomusicology major. It can never be a "fallback" option for students who have difficulty with required theory/history coursework in the standard Music major.
In general, the Ethnomusicology track is most suitable for students who have a primarily scholarly interest in music, combined with curiosity about music across the spectrum of human cultures and societies, popular music and music technology, and social scientific approaches to studying music as human culture. Because of the intensity of the thesis process in the Ethnomusicology track, it is not well suited for students who struggle with writing or who are not drawn to academic research or wish to focus on music performance in their studies. It is especially suited to students who are considering going on to graduate study in ethnomusicology (or related fields such as anthropology, library science, or popular cultural/media studies), as have many of the program's alumnae.
A final caveat: no BC student may declare a special (or self-designed) major that includes portions of the Ethnomusicology track (such as combining Ethnomusicology with an area studies focus, dance, gender studies, etc.) without consulting the BC Ethnomusicology adviser well in advance filing a petition for a special major with the Barnard Committee on Programs and Academic Standing (CPAS) and obtaining her/his approval for the petition. You may not propose or pursue modifications to the Ethnomusicology track requirements without approval from the BC Ethnomusicology adviser. Special major petitions to the BC CPAS that include coursework in ethnomusicology must be approved by the BC Ethnomusicology adviser, and we will work with you to make such a proposal effective.
Choosing the Ethnomusicology Track in the Barnard College Music Major
The Ethnomusicology track must be chosen no later than the fall semester of a student's junior year and ideally at the time of major declaration in the sophomore year. At or before that time, a student's intention to declare this track must be approved in consultation both with Prof. Archer and with the Barnard Ethnomusicology Adviser (the Head of the Ethnomusicology Faculty Area). The Ethnomusicology track is demanding and presumes a serious commitment to the subject.
Ethnomusicology track students must take Topics in Music and Society (MUSI UN3400) or The Social Science of Music (MUSI UN3420, offered irregularly) no later than their junior year, and ideally in their sophomore year. This course is considered the "gateway" course for the Ethnomusicology track curriculum. If you are considering the Ethnomusicology track, you are strongly advised to take this course (or MUSI UN3420) during your sophomore year, since in any case it is required for the general Music major as well. If you cannot do so, you should discuss this with the Barnard Ethnomusicology Adviser (the Head of the Ethnomusicology Faculty Area).
The ethnomusicology track emphasizes anthropological and cross-cultural perspectives on music. All Ethnomusicology track majors must take at least two courses (one introductory, and one elective) in anthropology at the recommendation of the Barnard anthropology department and in consultation with ethnomusicology faculty at Columbia.
The Ethnomusicology track also emphasizes music theory and musicianship. Ethnomusicology track students must begin the Diatonic Harmony and Ear Training sequences in the junior year, with only rare exceptions. A semester of Western music history is also required. This differs from the regular Music major, which requires two semesters of Western music history and two years of music theory.
Ethnomusicology track students are expected to produce a scholarly senior thesis project (NB: not a performance project) based on closely supervised original research. Generally this project will entail some ethnographic field research, and in most cases students are strongly advised to take Field Methods (MUSI GU4401) in their junior or senior year as one of their upper division elective courses. All Ethnomusicology track students must take the Senior Seminar (BC 3992) in the fall of their senior year, and complete their thesis in a 3-credit independent study with a faculty member in the spring of their senior year.
Course requirements for The Ethnomusicology Track
Gateway Class (3 credits)
Music Theory/Ear Training (8 credits)
Performance (up to 4 credits)
Music History (6 credits)
- One 3000-level western music history course (3 credits)
- One Asian Humanities-Music (AHMM) course (3 credits)
Anthropology (6 credits)
- Two courses in Anthropology, one at the introduction to cultural anthropology level; the other, an elective (6 credits)
Electives in Ethnomusicology (9 credits)
- Three ethnomusicology electives, one at the 2000 level and the others from the upper division electives (9 credits). It is highly recommended that one of the upper division electives be Field Methods Seminar (MUSI GU4401), to be taken either in the junior or senior year.
Senior Thesis Project (6 credits total)
- Ethnographic thesis of 30-40 pages, developed over the senior year for a total of 6 credits, divided as follows:
- FALL of Senior Year: 3 credits of Senior Seminar (MUSI UN3992)
- SPRING of Senior Year: 3 credits of Independent Study (MUSI 3999), Advised by Ethnomusicology faculty member assigned by the Barnard Ethnomusicology Adviser.
More details about the requirements of the Music Major and the Ethnomusicology Track can be found on the Barnard Catalog website: