GENERAL BACKGROUND TO NON-WESTERN MUSIC
The Western world has a vast musical heritage that has evolved over manycenturies; however, some Asian, Polynesian, African and Near-Eastern musicaltraditions have thrived for THOUSANDS of years. While Japan, China, India andIndonesia have long-standing
traditions (in which music is performed by aselect few well-trained artists),
the majority of non-Western societies do not haveart music ("formal concert") traditions
—instead, they perceive music-making as a
functional part of everyday life
in which the society as a whole participates. Much of this music is
and survives solely through oral transmission; thus, it cannotbe described in standard Western musical terms, or written down using Westernnotational symbols. Such music can only be studied through a painstakingcombination of musicological and anthropological means.
Important Musical Considerations in non-Western Music
Most types of Non-Western music are founded on concepts quite different fromthose of the Western tradition:
Non-Western music (especially African) can make greater and more creative useof rhythm than Western idioms.
Non-Western music rarely uses dynamics as an independent concept. Changes inloudness/quietness occur by increasing/decreasing the number of performers.
Non-Western music often uses
melodic intervals that are smaller or larger thanthose of the traditional Western scales
In general, harmony is not as important in non-Western idioms as it is in the West. Non-Western music may have no harmony at all, or it may base its harmonies on completelydifferent scale systems than Western music.
Though non-Western music is primarily vocal in nature, some cultures have also developedunique independent families of instruments. Colorful percussion sounds, and unique stringand wind instruments are most commonly employed.
Since harmony is not an important consideration, non-Western music is often either
(a single note or melody sounding alone) or
(two slightlydifferent versions of the same melody being performed at the same time).
Non-Western music is more freely-structured than Western music, and most types areheavily reliant on
(on-the-spot creativity). Such music is transmitted orally;thus, it is rarely—if ever—performed the same way twice.