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I am interested in learning how to use techniques and paradigms from various non-Western cultures in my own music. I know how to use various scales to make my music sound “exotic”, but I’m looking to deepen my superficial understanding of what makes Hindustani, Middle Eastern, South African, Celtic, Javanese, and Chinese music “work” as they do, in the sort of way studying Western counterpoint and harmony has given me a feel for how common practice music “works”. All of the ethnomusicology papers I’ve found focus on the music’s role in that particular culture, which is interesting but not what I’m looking for. How have you as a theorist or composer learned enough about the theory behind non-Western music to integrate it into your own music? Are there any resources you can recommend?


Many thanks!
 

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I know nothing about music from any sort of academic perspective, but given the vast scope of non-western musics, it may be best to concentrate on one particular genre in great detail and concentration on your own, using your existing powers of analysis. This way you have a chance to become really insightful into another genre and can then transfer those insights and methods of study into whatever other musics you seek to examine. You become your own expert.
 

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comethalley, this might be helpful: Roberto Lorenz has a website devoted to flamenco, and discusses flamenco in terms of its melody, harmony, and rhythm (compás) using the language of musical analysis that you are likely familiar with. Here is the link:

http://www.timenet.org/detail.html

If you scroll down, you will find the discussion by Lorenz. Whether you like flamenco or are not familiar with it, Lorenz's approach may provide a template for the sort of study that you are either looking to find or looking to do.
 

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I am interested in learning how to use techniques and paradigms from various non-Western cultures in my own music. I know how to use various scales to make my music sound "exotic", but I'm looking to deepen my superficial understanding of what makes Hindustani, Middle Eastern, South African, Celtic, Javanese, and Chinese music "work" as they do, in the sort of way studying Western counterpoint and harmony has given me a feel for how common practice music "works". All of the ethnomusicology papers I've found focus on the music's role in that particular culture, which is interesting but not what I'm looking for. How have you as a theorist or composer learned enough about the theory behind non-Western music to integrate it into your own music? Are there any resources you can recommend?

Many thanks!
I knew someone who did this very thing 30 years ago. First, let me tell you a little of his musical background and training. He earned both a BM and an MM in Music Composition from a major school of music. That means he was also juried on a principle instrument for 6 years and a secondary instrument for 4 years. He could read an orchestral score and hear it in his head, even if he didn't know the music. And of course he had perfect pitch. He was also well read in Eastern Philosophy. So he was well trained to go to the next step in acquiring musical skills of another culture.

If I could echo something Strange Magic said, my friend decided early on to specialize in one area of Eastern music; the gamelan orchestra. He learned to play a gamelan instrument because he believed that the quickest way to understand another type of music is to do just that. He was skillful enough that he also performed in a gamelan orchestra. It was this experience that led him to introduce elements of gamelan music into his own compositions!

Although I'm nowhere near as talented as my friend was, I did something similar in my study of the history of song; you can listen to and appreciate John Dowland, but you can't really grok his art unless you pick up the lute.
 
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