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Study Ethnomusicology at Otago

A world of music.

Ethnomusicology is sometimes described as the study of people making music, or the anthropology of music.

It is the study of music in its broader cultural context that examines music’s uses, meanings, functions and values.

The minor in Ethnomusicology seeks to understand music from the perspective of those who actually make and listen to it. This often entails talking to musicians and audiences, as well as observing and participating in performances.

At Otago, our Ethnomusicology courses enable students to put theories and methods into practice through a variety of scholarly and creative activities, including hands-on workshops on Japanese, Indonesian, African and Pacific instruments. Students can also study these instruments through performance pathways

Why study Ethnomusicology?

At Otago, we do not distinguish between one type of music and another in terms of its importance. Every type of music we teach we regard as equally worthy of study. We mix genres and styles in our theoretical studies because we can learn a great deal about one style by studying another.

Our Music programme was New Zealand’s first music department, and continues its excellent reputation through the quality and variety of courses offered and the international quality of its staff.

We also offer students the chance to play Javanese Gamelan, Japanese Koto, Taiko, Taonga Pūoro, ukulele and African drumming as practical studies in Ethnomusicology, either as stand-alone papers or within a specific area of study.

At the higher levels (4th year and above) students of Ethnomusicology undertake research in an area of music that interests them and in which we can offer expert supervision. Areas of staff expertise include Māori, Pacific and Asian musics, popular music, music migration, globalisation and localisation.

You can undertake research in Ethnomusicology at honours, masters and doctoral level.

Career opportunities

Many of our graduates have gone on to successful careers in the music industry, and sometimes the type of employment our graduates find is seemingly unrelated to music.

These areas include:

  • Cultural agencies (government and NGOs)
  • Recording industry
  • Education (all levels)
  • Community education and development
  • Archives, museums and libraries
  • Creative industries (including composition and performance)
  • Cultural research projects
  • Applied research projects

Music teaches, and requires, so many intellectual and life skills, which can be utilised in a variety of ways. These are the sorts of skills that are highly valued by employers:

  • Communication skills
  • Oral and written skills
  • Creative thinking and problem-solving skills
  • Ability to cooperate with others (teamwork)
  • Skills which build personal confidence

Background required

An interest in studying the musics of the world. No musical experience required.

Minor subject requirements

Ethnomusicology as a minor subject for a BA, BTheol, BSc, BAppSc, BCom, BHealSc, BACom, BASc or BComSc degree

Available as a minor subject for a Bachelor of Arts (BA), Bachelor of Theology (BTheol), Bachelor of Science (BSc), Bachelor of Applied Science (BAppSc), Bachelor of Commerce (BCom), Bachelor of Health Science (BHealSc), Bachelor of Arts and Commerce (BACom), Bachelor of Arts and Science (BASc) or Bachelor of Commerce and Science (BComSc) degree

Papers Points

Five of MUSI 103, MUSI 104, MUSI 105, MUSI 140, MUSI 141, MUSI 240, MUSI 241, MUSI 266, MUSI 267, MUSI 268, MUSI 269, MUSI 340, MUSI 341, MUSI 366, MUSI 367, MUSI 368, MUSI 369, MUSI 371, MUSI 386, MAOR 108, MAOR 208, MAOR 308

Must include at least two 200-level papers and one 300-level paper.

ANTH 105, 205 or 320 may be substituted for one paper.
MUSI 140, 141, 240, 241, 340, and 341 should be taken in an approved instrument.


Note: This minor subject is not available for students enrolled in the Bachelor of Music (MusB) or Bachelor of Performing Arts (BPA).

Key information for future students

Contact us

School of Performing Arts