Introduction to the Music of Central Asia (Autumn 2012 - Spring 2013)

This course is an ethnographic survey of the rich and diverse musical traditions of Central Asia. It approaches music both on its own terms and in relation to other aspects of culture and social life. After an introductory geographic overview, the course proceeds through a series of short ethnographic studies focusing on particular musical repertoires, genres, styles, musical instruments, and musicians in the two distinctive socio-cultural spheres whose symbiotic relationship has shaped Central Asian history: the nomadic world and the world of sedentary dwellers. The final section of the course surveys the effects of globalization on Central Asian music through the prism of musical fusion and hybridity, diaspora communities, and cultural revitalization initiatives. Coursework includes weekly reading and listening/viewing assignments based on music examples provided to each student on DVD, or accessible on the Internet. Assignments will also include short written critiques or analyses of music surveyed in the course. Several times during the term, musicians will be invited to the class to discuss and perform selections from their repertoire.

This course is open for all interested in Central Asian music and culture. No prior knowledge of music or ability to read musical notation is asumed. Classroom size ranges from 20 - 30 students.

The course materials and language of instruction is English. Students are required to be proficient in reading, writing, and speaking English.


29 September – 15 December 2012
11:00 – 2:00 pm

Aga Khan Humanities Project
47A, Druzhba Narodov Avenue,

William Sumits (PhD), Research Fellow, UCA


8 January – 26 April 2013
Mondays & Thursdays
5:00 – 6:15  pm

American University in Central Asia (AUCA), 205 Abdymomumov St., Bishkek

Elmira Köchümkulova (PhD), Senior Research Fellow, UCA


18 September – 25 December 2012
Tuesdays & Fridays
4:00 - 5:30 pm (Group 1)
6:00 - 7.30 pm (Group 2)

Kurmangazy Kazakh National Conservatory, Building B, 2nd Floor,
Room 216, 86 Abylai Khan Avenue, Almaty

Saida Daukeyeva (PhD), Research Fellow, UCA

Course material
Music in Central Asia: An Introduction. (pilot version).
Edited by Theodore Levin and Elmira Köchümkulova.

This new textbook introduces students without a specialized musical background to the diverse styles, genres, and traditions of music in Central Asia. The textbook focuses on music rooted in the region’s own cultural traditions rather than on musical styles imported from Russia or the West. Over 20 music specialists from 10 countries, both in Central Asia and the West, have contributed articles and audio/video material to the book. The textbook is accompanied by a DVD with audio and video performances, which are at the very core of the textbook’s pedagogy.
Students will familiarize themselves with these performances and become “connoisseurs” of the musical styles and traditions they represent. Listening guides and questions help focus students’ engagement with the audio-visual and textual material. A glossary of musical instruments is included in the DVD. After pilot-testing in Autumn 2012, the textbook will be updated and made available to colleges, universities, and high schools. This pilot publication is in English. A subsequent edition in Russian or Central Asian languages is anticipated.

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