Bruno Nettl

Professor Emeritus of Music and Anthropology

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A.B. (music), M.A., Indiana University; M.A. (library science), University of Michigan; Ph.D. (musicology, ethnomusicology, with minors in anthropology and folklore), Indiana University.


Bruno Nettl’s main research interests are ethnomusicological theory and method, music of Native American cultures, and music of the Middle East, especially Iran. Professor Nettl has done field work with the Blackfoot people of Montana, and in Iran, Israel, and India, and he has an interest in the music history and folk music of his native Czech Republic. Professor Nettl has been focusing in recent years on the study of improvisatory music, the understanding of musical change throughout the world, and the intellectual history of ethnomusicology. He has published many articles and more than a dozen books, the best known being The Study of Ethnomusicology (1983), The Western Impact on World Music (1985), Blackfoot Musical Thought: Comparative Perspectives (1989), Heartland Excursions: Ethnomusicological Perspectives on Schools of Music (1995), and Encounters in Ethnomusicology (2002), a professional memoir. Certain of his books have been translated into French, Spanish, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, and Persian. Professor Nettl has received honorary doctorates from the University of Chicago, the University of Illinois, Carleton College, and Kenyon College. He is an honorary member of the American Musicological Society and a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Professor Nettl has taught as visiting professor at Harvard, Northwestern, the universities of Chicago, Minnesota, Washington, and Texas, among others, and served as Benedict Distinguished Professor of Music at Carleton College. He is chairing a committee to organize an international and intercultural conference on the study of improvisation, and he is in charge of forthcoming celebrations to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the Society for Ethnomusicology. He continues teaching part-time in the University of Illinois School of Music.

Teaching Philosophy


Ideally, I would like to see all students develop (with their advisors) individual plans of study. Teaching of musicology, whether in lecture or seminar settings, should encourage students’ curiosity about fundamental questions and issues in music and culture, and help students to develop strong interests and skills of communication, which means independent projects, papers, and oral reports at all levels. Ethnomusicology has a significant role in musical education, as it provides for all students, no matter what their professional trajectory, a view of the musical universe as multi-faceted and diverse, and an understanding of music as an aspect of human culture related to social, spiritual, and material domains of culture. Students in their courses of study should be exposed to many intellectual and artistic options, and to a large variety of approaches and teaching philosophies.