One Ecology and Many Ecologies: The Problem and Opportunity of Ecology for Music and Sound Studies

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Aaron S. Allen, Associate Professor of Musicology and Director, Environment & Sustainability Program (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:

Abstract: The “problem of ecology” for music and sound studies, as I see it, is the invocation of ecology to mean something other than what ecological scientists mean by it. At the same time, however, this “problem” is an opportunity because, since its 19th-century development as a biological science, ecology has informed other realms of inquiry that resonate with music and sound studies. With this special issue of MUSICultures, we aim to address that problem and take advantage of the opportunity. In particular, we aim to help in understanding ecological science and to begin distinguishing the richness of the many ecologies that make useful contributions to music and sound studies. Given the diversity of definitions and uses of ecology already displayed in scholarship writ large (including those presented and not presented in this special issue), disagreements will surely persist, and individuals (myself included) will continue to use ecology in denotative and connotative ways that are understood harmoniously and discordantly in various scholarly communities. The upshots will be consternation and confusion but also creativity and even collaboration — that is, definitions will both hurt and help, and invoking the term ecology without clarification can be both detrimental and useful. My hope is that music and sound scholars will be aware of the distinctions and thus be able to choose wisely the appropriate definition, to studiously avoid such definitions, or at the least, to be cognizant of the implications of both approaches and be aware that not everyone understands equally the various uses of ecology. Such a diversity of possibilities would not solve the problem, and that diversity is simultaneously the source of the opportunity.

Additional Information

MUSICultures, 45/1-2 (2018): 1-13
Language: English
Date: 2019
ecologies, ecomusicology, music and sound studies

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