Surveys of music typically take one of two paths. They either advance
chronologically through their subject, seeking to elucidate a pattern of
development and evolution over time; or they focus on geography, tar-
geting cities or countries or regions, giving deference above all to consid-
erations of location and culture. Time or space. Space or time. These are
our sole choices, or so it seems. In recent years, jargon-prone commenta-
tors have preferred to label these perspectives as ‘‘diachronic’’ and ‘‘syn-
chronic,’’ but the approaches themselves long predate such fashionable
terminology. Like students of Einstein’s grand theory, we find that time
and space serves as our unfailing coordinates, our guides; the framework
in which any account of our subject must be told. Like longitude and
latitude, they appear to encompass all of the possible starting points and
destinations we might want to visit.
I have long been uneasy about both of these approaches. True, I have
adopted each in the past. Haven’t all chroniclers of the story of musical
sounds? But my firsthand experience as a ‘‘historian’’ and ‘‘regionalist’’
has made me painfully aware of the limitations of both roles, their as-
sumptions and blind spots. Most of human art making has taken place
without a calendar or map in hand. Why, I wonder, have we given these
frameworks such authority in our attempts to come to grip with the
stirrings that produce creative work?
For most of the last decade, I have explored a much di√erent way of
viewing artistic activities, one that takes cognizance above all of their
purposive and social nature. This volume, along with its companion
book Work Songs and a planned third book on Love Songs, represent my
e√orts in applying this alternative approach to the study of specific areas
of musical activity.
I would suggest that looking at a work of art is similar to the act of
exploring a house. The rooms of a house are organized according to how
they are used by living, breathing people. The contents and furnishings of
a kitchen, a bedroom, a bathroom are not selected arbitrarily but are
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