By Lucie Rault
£30 Thames & Hudson
The making of music was one of humanity’s earliest and most universal desires. In this study, all aspects of the social and religious elements of music-making are explored and explained, with over 200 illustrations which celebrate the ingenuity and diversity of traditional music-making.
In a departure from conventional ethno-musicology definitions - which tend to group all instruments in types such as bells (metallophones) that are rung, drums (membranophones) that are struck, stringed instruments (chordophones) that are plucked, scraped or bowed, and horns and flutes (aerophones) that are blown - author Lucie Rault presents her study in five chapters entitled The Voices of Nature, The Body as Instrument, Religious and Ritual Uses, Instruments within Society and Giving Matter a Soul.
While never claiming to be a comprehensive survey of all the instruments of the world, she has been able to identify a basic commonality to all music making, wherever in the world it is found. These range from the earliest imitation of natural sounds and animal calls, the use of found objects to create sound, to the trial and error discovery of materials leading to the evolution of increasingly sophisticated instruments.
This book’s appeal stems from an intuitive rather than scholarly approach. A highly readable text explains the social role that music, voice and dance all served within diverse cultures. The author, Head of the Ethnomusicology department at the Musée de l’Homme in Paris, has chosen many of the illustrations from the Museum’s own collection.