16 Facts About Alan Merriam


Alan Parkhurst Merriam was an American ethnomusicologist known for his studies of music in Native America and Africa.

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Alan Merriam was a co-founder of the Society for Ethnomusicology in 1952 and held the elected post of president of that society from 1963 to 1965.

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Alan Merriam edited the Newsletter of the Society for Ethnomusicology from 1952 to 1957, and he edited the journal Ethnomusicology from 1957 to 1958.

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Alan Merriam undertook extensive field research among the Flathead Indians of Montana in 1950 and again in 1958.

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Alan Merriam's father was the Chairman of the English department at Montana State University, and his mother was a highly skilled cellist.

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Issues that Alan Merriam has weighed on in heavily in his opinion pieces are the way the field had been and should be defined and the directions it was taking during his lifetime.

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Alan Merriam continued his efforts to arrive at a more accurate definition of ethnomusicology by later suggesting that music was the study of “music as culture.

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Alan Merriam had, like all ethnomusicologists, completed fieldwork in his area of interest, but he was characterized by his peers in ethnomusicology as being more scientific and focusing on drawing conclusion from data.

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Alan Merriam is characterized by a drive to solve relevant problems using data gathered in the field hands-on.

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Alan Merriam's program emphasized learning to listen and hear without prejudice or ethnocentricity, rhythmic and tonal fluency outside of the Western tradition, and performance experience in non-Western vocal and instrumental performance with the last being what his program is most known for.

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In contrast, Alan Merriam's priorities lay in proposing a theoretical framework for studying musical data and using that analysis for application towards solving musical problems.

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Alan Merriam deconstructed Merriam's method as stated in The Anthropology of Music and described it as consisting of three analytical levels.

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Ethnomusicology, Alan Merriam posits, “has most often been made in terms of what [musicology] encompasses, ” being that the realms of musicology and ethnomusicology are exclusive to one another, and ethnomusicology has simply been relayed as being what musicology is not.

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Many ethnomusicologists, Alan Merriam asserts, are under the impression that the music of many non-western cultures are either abused or neglected, and that they are worthy of appreciation in western society the same way western music is appreciated.

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Alan Merriam's second listed goal of ethnomusicology is the preservation of the music of these cultures, a transformative phenomenon Alan Merriam describes as “a constant factor in human experience.

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Alan Merriam's own take on this perception is stated as “The problem of understanding has not always been well understood…the study of music as a means of communication, then, is far more complex than it might appear, for we do not know what precisely music communicates, or how it communicates it.

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