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Mathew Hood, founder of musical study, dies

Sun., Aug. 14, 2005

Mantle Hood, a founder of ethnomusicology, the study of world music in its cultural context, has died. He was 87.

Hood died July 31 at his home in Ellicott City, Md., according to his son, Marlowe. The cause was complications from Alzheimer’s disease, the family said.

“Mantle Hood was the first scholar to take seriously the study of what was then called non-Western music, in the 1950s,” said Christopher Waterman, an ethnomusicologist and dean of the school of arts and architecture at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Hood joined the UCLA faculty in 1956 and created what is now the department of ethnomusicology in 1960.

He envisioned a complete approach to the study of his field. He wanted students to learn at least two music traditions, their own and that of a culture new to them. He also urged them to learn to play a native instrument – for example, drums for a student of West African music. Common practice now, it was considered novel when he introduced the idea, which he referred to as bi-musicality.

By learning several music traditions, “Hood proved that the two could exist in harmony,” Jacqueline Cogdell DjeDje, chair of UCLA’s ethnomusicology department, told the Los Angeles Times by e-mail. Hood saw it as a way to teach students respect and understanding for “people and cultures different from their own,” DjeDje said.

Hood had been traveling the world from the time he graduated from UCLA in 1951, where he earned a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in music. He earned a doctorate at the University of Amsterdam, where he wrote a dissertation on Javanese music.

After he joined the faculty at UCLA he was granted a Ford fellowship that allowed him to live in Indonesia for two years, studying the music. He later studied in India on a Fulbright fellowship.

An expert in the music of Java and Bali, Hood played all the instruments in a gamelan, an Indonesian symphony that consists of percussions, winds, strings and other instruments.

Several dozen of his UCLA students went on to teach ethnomusicology. Several of them founded programs at universities, including the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Washington.

Hood was born in Springfield, Ill.


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