Alan Lomax

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Ethnomusicology as the Study of People Making Music. Source: Muzikoloski Zbornik . 2015, Vol. 51 Issue 2, p175-185. 11p. Author(s): Titon, Jeff Todd Abstract: This essay defines ethnomusicology as the study of people making music. People make sounds that are recognized as music, and people also make "music" into a cultural domain. The essay contrasts this idea of music as a contingent cultural category with earlier scientific definitions that essentialized music as an object. Copyright of Muzikoloski Zbornik is the property of Muzikoloski zbornik (Musicological Annual) and its content may not be copied or emailed to multiple sites or posted to a listserv without the copyright holder's express written permission. However, users may print, download, or email articles for individual use. This abstract may be abridged. No warranty is given about the accuracy of the copy. Users should refer to the original published version of the material for the full abstract. For access to this entire article and additional high quality information, please check with your college/university library, local public library, or affiliated institution.

Dance and Human History

DVD - rhythms-of-earth has:

  • Dance & Human History (1974) 40 min - This film examines two important parameters in the Choreometric study, the dominant trace form of the movement and single/multiple articulation of the torso, and relates them to geography and type of society.
  • Folk Song Style and Culture Alan Lomax, Edwin E. Erickson Editorial Assistance
  • Palm Play (1977) 27 min - This film examines the use of the palm in dance cross culturally.
  • Step Style (1977) 30 min - Examines the use of the foot in dance cross culturally.
  • The Longest Trail (1984) 59 min - This film uses Choreometric data as evidence that the Americas were populated by Siberian hunters.
  • Alan Lomax in conversation with Robert Gardner from Screening Room (1975) 34 min
  • Forrestine Paulay interview (2006) 17 min
  • Michael Del Rio (Global Jukebox programmer) in conversation with anthropologist and biostatistician Michael Flory (2006) 22 min
  • Michael Flory interview (2008) 16 min
  • Global Jukebox demonstration (1993) 10 min
  • TV Multiversity: Review of 'Dance and Human History' by Alan Lomax

The Atlas, SCCS and Douglas White contributions

"Lomax, Arensberg, Ayres, and Erikson worked with George P. Murdock's Ethnographic Atlas to derive the most representative sample of cultures within the world regions and sub-regions for which there existed corresponding recordings of music and dance. The Ethnographic Atlas (published from 1962 to 1967 in Ethnology and later expanded, digitized, and collated with Murdock's notes into one volume) accounted for 1167 well-described societies, ranging from hunter-gatherers to early historical societies (e.g., Romans), to village communities in industrial nations. In order to defeat Galton's problem (a statistical test to determine whether a hypothetically functional relationship between cultural traits is independently derived or the result of diffusion and shared historical background), Murdock grouped these societies by affinities of language, history, and geographic proximity into 400 clusters, to which he then applied more stringent criteria, reducing them to 200 sampling "provinces". In the late 1960s Murdock and Douglas White eliminated scantily documented provinces and combined others that were still too similar, resulting in a total of 186 sampling provinces (Murdock and White, 1968)."

"The Standard Cross-Cultural Sample (SCCS), as this was called, was thus designed to insure independence of cases and even representation of six major cultural-historic regions. For the purpose of testing relationships between cultural traits, it was possible to include only one case per province, since "all the societies included in a given sampling province shared...too many historical connections to assure independence of cases" (Silverman and Messinger 1998). The SCCS is still widely used in cross-cultural studies."

"With a few modifications made on Arensberg's advice and as a result of the first major coding trials in Cantometrics, the performance style studies adhered to Murdock's sampling format and provinces. The inconsistencies between the geographical taxa employed by Murdock and those emerging from stylistic analysis resulted in three modified groupings."

The paragraphs above are from Project History, Cultural Equity. See also how Doug White collaborated with Lomax to help create "the Global Jukebox", a finished work, with societies approximated by the SCCS and the Ethnographic Atlas. Lomax says in the youtube video: This is “the first democratic educational machine.” It is now available at the CoSSci Gateway.

Song style

Alan Lomax. Folk Song Style and Culture [Paperback].


See also Alan Lomax, Irmgard Bartenieff, and Forrestine Paulay Dance Style and Culture: “We regard the vast, endlessly provocative, prejudice-laden, existing sea of documentary footage as the richest and most unequivocal storehouse of information about humanity. We do not agonize over its limitations or those of the persons who shot or edited it. We come to it with an observational approach like that used by the ordinary person in everyday life, which enables him to differentiate constantly between different classes of visual experience and to behave appropriately in relation to these varieties of experience”

Re: Lomax's Global Jukebox at the CoSSci Gateway

On 12/30/12 9:55 PM, Thomas Uram wrote:

I'm sure you'll want the Global Jukebox project styled in some way, and placed into a larger organizational structure, but for now I've just embedded the video on the front page.

I am very intrigued by the things they mention in the video, and--as far as I understand it--what you intend to enable with the gateway!


Ok, a bit of explanation. The top flight database that the DOW-EFF function will analyze, this one having 2,000+ variables, is the Standard Cross-Cultural Sample (186 societies, selected from the 1400 societies in the Ethnographic Atlas that have only 100 or so variable). The SCCS construction was done by me and Murdock in the late 1960s. At is completion in 1970 Alan Lomax came to visit us at Univ Pgh. He was well into the process of build the world's largest and worldwide database of film, music, and dance, and coded data -- variables about the social traditions movements etc - in a form that is exactly comparable to our Cross-Cultural databases. Also comparable in that he collected data and coded his data tagged to the societies of the SCCS and our 1400 Atlas societies. On come to Irvine in the late 70's I also did Alan the favor of writing UCSD pascal code on the Apple II+ so that it could be transferred from the IBM mainframe to the laptop world where he did his work from then on. There is then a whole series of close connections between our statistical social science comparative approaches and his more humanistic visual, musical, dance style analysis, etc approach -- two linked databases of comparable size -- and in including his Global Jukebox completed just 6 years ago, we are showing on the Gateway the possibilities of connecting the social sciences and humanities in terms of coded data from both sides, and visual/song/dance recordings on his side, attached to the very same societies in our sample. Thanks for putting up the Global Jukebox - we'll figure out how to present all the various features of the Gateway. Alan Lomax as Builder and User of Ethnographic Film Archives by John Bishop] Department of World Arts and Cultures
Alan Lomax and Choreometrics by John Bishop
ALAN LOMAX (1915-2002) A REMEMBRANCE:Alan Lomax and Visual Anthropology by John Bishop

by Lomax

on Forrestine Paulay by Susan Tobin

"He was looking for correlations. Well, he would look at that, but he would also look at correlations between the Choreometric results and the Cantometric results (which he knew). He would look at the correlations between Choreometrics results and the societal results (he had done the work on George Murdock's Ethnographic Atlas, so he had that information)[1]. And correlations were run between Choreometrics, the Ethnographic data; Choreometrics, Cantometrics; Choreometrics, the Phonotactics (the other work that he did); Choreometrics — and he did some work with breath [Minutage]. So, all the various systems and things that he looked at — he would put those together and look at the correlations. And he would find that certain parameters would correlate with Cantometrics; certain parameters would correlate with the social data; certain parameters would correlate with Cantometrics and the social data. So this is what he was looking at. [It was] enormously complex work that he was doing." Doug 16:57, 2 October 2010 (PDT)

  1. More specifically, the Standard Cross-Cultural Sample. He met with White and Murdock in 1970. In 1982 White transferred Lomax's coded data archives from mainframe IBM formats to microcomputer Apple II formats. Doug 16:57, 2 October 2010 (PDT)

Discussions, interviews, Lectures

"Listening to this collection, it is possible to follow the development of Cantometric theory from its beginnings in the 1960s through various applications, including the development of performance style research, pedagogical tools and approaches (the Cantometrics teaching system and the Global Jukebox), and models of human migrations and intermingling. There is also extensive analysis of popular music and dance. Among the principals in these discussions are Alan Lomax's main collaborators in Cantometrics and Choreometrics research: Conrad Arensberg, Norman Berkowitz, Victor Grauer, Forrestine Paulay, and Roswell Rudd."

"Those interviewed include Mildred Antonelli, Godfrey Arnold, Irmgard Bartinieff, Anne Chapman, George Condominas, Stanley Diamond, Juanita Elbein, Halim El-Dabh, Jacob D. Elder, Edwin Erickson, Jack Ferguson, Pierre Gaisseau, Michael Harner, Alan Jabbour, Bess Lomax Hawes, Allison Jablonko, Edith Trager Johnson, Morton Klass, Margaret Mead, Paul Moses, Kal Muller, George Peter Murdock, Stanley Udy, Gilbert Rouget, Ted Schwartz, Judith Shapiro, Ralph Solecki, Gordon Tracey, Henry Truby, and Elizabeth Waldo."