Greetings everyone. I'm sort of new here, so let me introduce myself. I started out many years ago as an ethnomusicologist, but decided at some point to become part of the problem rather than part of the solution, so for many years after that I was what you might call "one of the natives," aka "wild man of Borneo," aka "creative artist," aka avant garde filmmaker, composer, poet, etc., you name it. A few years ago, however, after reading about recent developments in population genetics and the "Out of Africa" model of modern human origins, the ethnomusicological and also anthropological juices began to flow, so I have now returned to the old fold, only to find that it's changed rather drastically since I left. What interests me the most is not anymore what interests most social scientists.


Which would make me an old fogey, right? Only I'm not really THAT old. Well, maybe I am.  But how can I be an old fogey when my work is inspired by some of the newest and most revolutionary developments in anthropology, i.e., the amazing research on human origins and early migrations being done by so many young population geneticists? Significantly, hardly any of this research (literally many thousands of articles) has been published in anthropology journals -- almost all can be found only in journals devoted to biology and genetics. I've been studying an awful lot of this stuff, skipping what I can't understand and focusing mainly on certain phylogenetic maps, and the sections devoted to discussion and conclusions. And what I've been finding is extraordinary. But also, I fear, disturbing or threatening to most anthropologists, now accustomed to thinking along very different, far more narrowly focused, lines.


Long story short, I've been doing a lot of writing on the relation between the genetic picture and the musical picture (based on years of intense comparative research as Alan Lomax's assistant on the "Cantometrics" project, at Columbia U.) and I think I've come up with some results that should interest most anthropologists, assuming they haven't become too dogmatized into the current standard model. My latest offereing is kind of unusual, a book in the form of a blog, or blog in the form of a book. It's being assembled on a chapter by chapter basis and so far I've got nine chapters up. It's open access, i.e. free. Everyone here is invited to take a look, do some reading, and comment. Here's the link:


Victor Grauer


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Comment by Victor Grauer on August 21, 2011 at 5:01pm

This is to inform everyone that my book, "Sounding the Depths," discussed here earlier as an online resource(, is now available in hard copy, as a (self-published) paperback. The book can be ordered, for $18, either via CreateSpace (at or (at If you go to the Amazon link, you'll find a brief summary plus a preview of what's inside.

Unfortunately, due to issues explained on the latest blog post (, I was unable to include most of the figures (photos, diagrams, etc.) in the paperback version. This isn't as serious a drawback as it might seem, since I've prepared a special page on the blog where the figures can be viewed, and also a downloadable pdf file that makes it easy to print them all out. There's a special blog page for the many audio and video links as well.

I was excited by the possibility of making the book available as a blog, freely accessible to all, and I've been gratified to see that there have been a fair amount of hits since the first post, last February (over 10,000 to date), as well as several encouraging and helpful comments. The book will continue to be available online, but I've come to realize that for many, if not most (including myself, actually), reading a long text from a computer display can get pretty tiring very quickly. So I'm hoping that those who might have gotten discouraged trying to read the whole thing online will welcome the opportunity to read it in the more traditional way. I also like the idea that some copies might wind up on library shelves.

AND I'm wondering whether hard-copy publication might make the book more suitable for classroom use.


Now for some questions:


1. If any of you have read at least some of it on the blog, are you happy reading that way, or would you prefer a printed version?

2. What about price? My decision to charge $18 was to some extent dictated by the policies of CreateSpace (the service I used for self-publishing) and Amazon, but it's not written in stone and I do have some leeway. Does $18 strike you as too much? Too little?

3. Though the book places considerable stress on musical evidence, it deals, at heart, with fundamental issues of anthropology -- or at least the sort of issues that were once considered fundamental. And I'm wondering whether it's something any of you might consider using in your classrooms, either as a primary or secondary text?


4. Finally, I'm hoping some of you will be interested in writing a review suitable for journal publication. If that's the case, send me your current address and I'll get you a complementary copy. It's also possible to write a brief review on the web page, and if any of you would like to do that, I'd be really grateful. And please by all means, be honest. (If you'd rather not buy the thing, you can still review the blog version at Amazon. I doubt that they'll care and it would be helpful.)



Comment by Victor Grauer on May 20, 2011 at 4:55pm

This is to announce that my blog book, "Sounding the Depths:Tradition and the Voices of History," is now complete, accessible via the following link:

In addition to 18 chapters of text, there are also 84 audio and 13 video clips, mostly of musical performances by various indigenous groups.

I'm wondering whether anyone here might be interested in reviewing it. If so, let me know and I'll send you either an MS Word copy (easier to print) or a hard copy, if you prefer.


Keith, if you think this might be suitable for OAC Press, let me know.


As always, I appreciate comments, suggestions, criticisms, etc., either on this site, via email or as blog comments. Thanks.

Comment by Victor Grauer on March 5, 2011 at 8:58pm
Hi, M. Yes, I'm aware of the bamboo sticks and stick dancing. But I'm not sure if the sticks can be regarded as musical instruments. They do have an interesting distribution. Roger Blench has found traces of this dance in

"South China, on Hainan island, Taiwan, and on Flores" and notes also that [Jaap] "Kunst also notes it among the Dayak in Borneo, on the Kai islands, on Buru and on Saparua, suggesting that this dance must have come across the Taiwan strait and then spread out into island SE Asia with the Austronesian expansion. It is also recorded among the Karen in Myanmar which is more difficult to interpret, since this is quite remote from the other areas of distribution which are nearby geographically."


If you are interested in doing a study of these dances and other aspects of Austronesian music, Blench's two papers on this subject might be a good place to begin:

As far as any links between Taiwanese and Philippine music, I must warn you that this is a very diverse part of the world, culturally and musically, so it's necessary to refer to specific groups rather than "Taiwanese" or "Philippines" in general. I've noticed some intriguing similarities between the vocal music of the Taiwanese Yami and the Ifugao and Tagbanua of the Philippines. There may be some other interesting connections as well, but I'm waiting at this point for a statistical analysis of our database.

Comment by M Izabel on March 2, 2011 at 6:16pm

Hi, Victor.  I found this aboriginal dance from  Taiwan that's already modernized.  I'm interested to check its primitive form...   


In Luzon, Sakuting (bamboo sticks)  and  Tinikling (bamboo poles) are two separate dances that are  Hispanized (Spanish influence)...




and Tinikling... 


I was interested before about the split.  Is the Taiwanese aborigine's the mother percurssive dance and  the earliest form?  Can  I use it to develop a migration hypothesis?  I  also find the chants and  songs of  the  Taiwanese  aborigines  and  the northern peoples of Cordillera (Igorots)  somewhat similar in  monotonality and rhythm (I  don'tknow the ethnomusicological terms), the use of percussions and chorus, and the reference  to  environment in their content.     

Comment by Victor Grauer on March 2, 2011 at 4:06pm
I'm pleased to see that you're so interested in the Taiwan-Philippine connection, M. This is something I've been focusing on myself lately, as part of a study of the origins of Austronesian language and culture. Bamboo is widely used for many purposes throughout SE Asia and many instruments are made from it, yes. But what strikes me most about so much Taiwanese and also northern Philippine music (from Luzon, e.g.) is the almost complete absence of instrumental accompaniment to their vocal music, which is, for me, something of a mystery. What unites so many Austronesian groups, however, is the presence of the nose flute and I'm really curious to learn more about its history. Overall, I must say that the musical picture for Taiwan, the Philippines and that entire region is extraordinarily complex and very difficult to pin down. In Taiwan alone we find a very strange mix of similarities and differences and this complexity probably extends to the Philippines as well.
Comment by Victor Grauer on March 2, 2011 at 3:51pm
Yes, Nikos, the tuning of Are 'are pipes can sometimes be very strange. I believe Zemp has described at least some of these tunings as equidistant, which is very different from tunings we find in almost all other pipe traditions, which usually sound more normal to the western ear.  I too met Zemp many years ago and was struck by the very special stylistic characteristics of the Are 'are music he was presenting. For me, Are 'are music contains some truly spectacular examples of what I call the "African signature," and in addition as I see it, certain of their musical practices clearly link Melanesian and S. American Indian traditions. When I informed Zemp that, based on my research, his work among the Are 'are was especially important from a comparative persepective, he would have none of it. He insisted that such possibilities didn't interest him and he was only interested in studying Are 'are music in and for itself. I found his attitude to be dogmatic but also typical of a certain mentality that now pervades the field of ethnomusicology, very sadly.
Comment by M Izabel on March 2, 2011 at 3:11am
Yes, Victor, I'm familiar with the haplogroup M, but I'm interested to know more about the H as it  connects some populations in the Philippines to the aborigines of Taiwan.  This is the  most interesting part:  when I did a preliminary  research on early Southeast Asian migrations during  my undergrad, I found out that bamboo is  used in the aboriginal dances and music of Taiwan and by the northern peoples of the Philippines.  Too  bad my department  was so  into Postmodernism, Feminism, and Marxism  that I found no support and  professor  who  could advise me.  Well, maybe when  I retire, I'll continue where I left off.
Comment by Victor Grauer on March 1, 2011 at 10:26pm

Thanks for the encouragement, M. Did you know you're named after one of my favorite haplogroups? ;-)


And Huon, what you wrote about the contrapuntal-melodic opposition (technically contrapuntal-monophonic) is very much to the point. Some might say this sort of correlation could represent a universal, but as I see it, the opposition has more to do with historical contingencies and survivals. If you read on in the book you'll see why. And I agree completely about England's (and Britain's) history of (folk) choral singing, which very likely included contrapuntal structrures, though it's currently almost vanished from the folk repertoire. I discuss that history in my chapter on Europe. (After all, the famous canon "Sumer is icumen in" is from Reading Abbey in England.)

Comment by M Izabel on March 1, 2011 at 8:21pm
Welcome to OAC, Victor.  At last for a change, we have something new here: an anthropology that does not shy away from science--genetics in particular.  I find your field, the combo  of  genetics and ethnomusicology very interesting.  Both can give light to an early migration.   Musical instruments and musicalities like people who possess them did and do migrate too.  I don't wonder why my  people in the mountains listen to rap.
Comment by Huon Wardle on March 1, 2011 at 7:47pm

Victor, Thanks. I haven't had time to read your argument in detail, but I very much like the idea of exploring musicality in a global manner.


One sub-aspect of what you are laying out here about contrapuntality (versus melody?) has always interested me - the affinity between contrapuntal and egalitarian modes of action. In the region I know most about, the Caribbean, there is a tendency to see the contrapuntal recitative aspects as 'African' and the melodic as 'English/European' with an 'egalitarian' 'hierarchical' correlate. Historically though English traditional music had many contrapuntal dimensions. The link between literacy and orality / melody and contrapuntality is also interesting.


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