Ethnomusicological bananas

In “A tropical meditation on comparison in ethnomusicology: A metaphoric knife, a real banana, and an edible demonstration” (Yearbook for traditional music XXXIV [2002], pp. 187–192) Anthony Seeger applies the Brazilian term recorte teórico (theoretical cut) to a banana, showing the various approaches to cutting one—ways of slicing the fruit itself, pieces of the stem or skin, and the air above it—and discusses the different perceptions that would result from considering only one of them as providing a definitive representation. He further notes that our definition of a banana fails to take into account the entire plant and its means of reproduction, nor does it involve its nonphysical features, such as its aroma and the feelings and associations that it evokes.

Seeger concludes that “Comparison in ethnomusicology requires a very careful examination of the results of all theoretical approaches, a cautious approach to a definition of what constitutes music, and an awareness of the implications of a common banana.”

1 Comment

Filed under Curiosities, Ethnomusicology, Food, Humor

One response to “Ethnomusicological bananas

  1. Anthony Seeger

    The demonstration of these points by showing how different a banana looks when cut across the stem, lengthwise as a slip of skin, diagonally and crosswise has served me well in exhibiting how the same phenomenon can look different depending on the angle taken to it. I have happily eaten my example when I was done–something you can’t do with most metaphors. You can cut your banana and eat it too!

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