Early years of the Society for Ethnomusicology

SEM founders

In its third issue the Journal African music published a brief article about a new professional society—“Society of [sic] Ethnomusicology” by Willard Rhodes (I/3 [1956] pp. 70–71).

In 1953 a group of anthropologists including Rhodes, David P. McAllester, and Alan P. Merriam, along with the musicologist Charles Seeger, had issued Ethno-musicology newsletter no. 1, a modest 10-page mimeographed pamphlet. In two years the mailing list had grown to almost 600 addresses, so a formal organization seemed warranted. The Society for Ethnomusicology was founded in 1955.

Rhodes was pleased to announce that the newsletter, which originally presented only Notes and News, Bibliography, and Discography, was recently enabled by the growth of the Society’s membership to over 260—plus a small grant—to include articles and book reviews. Hopes were expressed that this newsletter might one day follow African music’s path by expanding into a journal.

Above, the original core group in 1971 (left to right, Seeger, Merriam, Rhodes, and McAllester). Below, one of Rhodes’s field recordings was included on the Voyager golden record.

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