The Making of the Musical World - A Story in Sound - Andrew Killick

The Making of the Musical World - A Story in Sound - Andrew Killick

The Music Tree

The Making of the Musical World - A Story in Sound - Andrew Killick

Andrew Killick [+-]
University of Sheffield
Andrew Killick has been teaching and writing about the world’s music professionally since 1998. His passion for all forms of music has led him literally around the world, including studies at the University of Edinburgh, the University of Hawaii, and the University of Washington, periods of fieldwork in India and Korea, and teaching at Illinois State University and Florida State University before taking up his current position at the University of Sheffield in 2003. Originally trained as a classical pianist, he also plays the Korean gayageum zither and an English bagpipe, the Northumbrian smallpipes. His academic publications include two books on Korean music topics, about twenty refereed journal articles and book chapters, and substantial contributions to the Garland Encyclopedia of World Music and the Continuum Encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World. In his spare time he likes to compose “rounds” in a wide variety of musical styles.


The story begins with something very familiar: the drum kit as used in most American popular music. The drum kit is described using terms that may be less familiar, but that will be important for comparing instruments and musical forms across cultures. Through this description, some of the most fundamental concepts and terms that will be used throughout the book are introduced, including the general definition of “music” as a way of organizing sound that is different from speech, the difference between pitched and unpitched sounds, the basics of musical rhythm and meter, the terms used for classifying and comparing musical instruments cross-culturally, the need to avoid “ethnocentric” descriptions and judgments in general, and the challenge of representing musical sound in a visual form that is not ethnocentric. The solution to this challenge that is used throughout the book, a graphic notation based on the “piano roll” system used in much music software nowadays, is explained here. Also introduced is a metaphor around which the book is structured: the image of today’s global popular music style as a “tree” with its trunk in the USA and with roots and branches both reaching around the world. Two of the main “roots” are identified through a specific musical feature: the drum kit’s “backbeat,” which is seen to arise from an interaction of European and African approaches to rhythm in an American historical context.

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Killick, Andrew. The Music Tree. The Making of the Musical World - A Story in Sound. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. p. Sep 2024. ISBN 9781781793411. Date accessed: 07 Dec 2023 doi: 10.1558/equinox.27319. Sep 2024

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