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HUMBOLDT / Music / MUS 302 / What is balafon?

What is balafon?

What is balafon?


School: Humboldt State University
Department: Music
Course: Music in World Culture
Professor: H. kaufman
Term: Fall 2016
Cost: 50
Name: Music 302
Description: Mande, Mbuti, Ewe music and culture, musical terms/concepts
Uploaded: 09/30/2016
7 Pages 18 Views 3 Unlocks

Music 302 Exam 1 Study Guide  

What is balafon?



1. Balafon (wood sound)

-Xylophone (idiophone) with gourd resonators (to create the buzz)  used to use spider egg filaments on the gourds, now use rolling paper or thin plastic -Played with gum mallets on keys of different lengths  

2. Kontingo ('Ngoni more common)

-5 string lute with a skin face  

 skin used to be snakeskin, now is goatskin

 strings used to be horsehair, now are fishing line



-top string is the highest pitch and usually vice versa

-usually played sitting

-neck goes through the body of the instruments Don't forget about the age old question of What are the components of language?

-precursor to the banjo (which was brought to the U.S. through the slave trade) 3. Kora (unique to Mande)

What are the 5 string lute with a skin face ?

Don't forget about the age old question of What is the oxidation of aldehydes?

-21 strings with a raised bridge

-hybrid of the harp and lyre

-3 octave range

-gourd body

-cowskin face

-both hands needed to play


-metal plate for buzz



-Trumpet (aerophone) with a long tubular end

-Used in the Molimo Ceremony (major ritual) to communicate with forest spirits  1. Give thanks to the forest

 2. Find balance after a bad event



1. Hosho 

-gourd rattle

-accompanies Mbira dza vadzimu

2. Mbira dza vadzimu ("Mbira of the ancestors")

What is idiophones?

-22-23 key mbira

-most sacred instrument

-buzzers attached--buzz clears thoughts/worries

-mounted on wood

-keys pressed with thumbs

-pinkie in a hole while playing

-often played in a Deze (gourd or fiberglass shell or basin) for sound amplification  held upright on lap If you want to learn more check out What is bandwagoning?

 ringed with bottle caps

 to Shona, sounds like whispering voices or tapping



1. Axatse: gourd with shells/beads/nuts

 usually played sitting, hit against the thigh and palm of the hand

2. Gankogui: two-toned (low and high) bell

 usually played sitting

 'mouth' (the low part) must be closed off to enunciate

Membranophones If you want to learn more check out If only the price changes, what happens to the demand/supply curve?

-played in a 'family' of four usually from the same tree

-each has its own rhythm pattern

1. Atsimevu: the father, the tallest (must be tilted), open bottom; top and sides hit 2. Sogo: the mother, closed bottom

3. Kidi: the son, closed bottom like mother

4. Kaganu: the 'baby girl,' the smallest, open bottom like father, sounds as if is crying out for father,  pleading

Cultural Terms/Concepts


-What music means to the members of a given society

-Insider view/knowledge

 example: The Music of Africa (1974) by Kwabena Nhetia (born 1921)


-How music sounds to observers—not focused on the meaning

-Outside view/knowledge

-Music analyzed by comparative knowledge

 example: Anthology of Music (1964) by Alan Merriam  


Voice Styles 

1. Sataro 

-improvised declamatory style--sounds like speech

-prophetic proclamations



-root of rap

2. Donkilo 

-pre-composed basic melody of a song--sounds like singing We also discuss several other topics like What is an x company's estimate of monthly fixed factory cost?


1. BirmintingoIf you want to learn more check out What are the competitive conditions in food service?

-improvised virtuosic instrumental--interludes

2. Kumbengo 

-short, pre-composed, repeated instrumental patterns (ostinato)

Jali or Djeli (Guinee)

-Griots to the Frensh

-Bards to the English

-Praise singers who give culture rather than entertain

-Oral historians—nothing is written down but is sung

-Spoke for kings and other important people

-Both professionals and specialists—only played one instrument of three

-Although in the lower class, possessed respect and power because of knowledge of everything about  everyone

2 Classes

 Sula: upper class

 -royalty, merchants, farmers (landowners), Islam literates, warriors

 -non specialists who bought items rather than made them and are not trained in a craft  -intellectual, literate

 Nyamalo: lower class

 -occupational specialists—made things

 -doctors, musicians (also wordsmiths), metalsmiths, woodworkers, potters

 -by tradition, sons inherited their fathers' trades, and daughters married within their fathers' trades *Symbiotic relationship: both classes need each other


Molimo Ceremony (major ritual)

-If something goes wrong, the Mbuti believe the forest is asleep and awaken it with song and ritual  1. Give thanks to the forest

 2. Find balance after a bad event

 Molimo trumpet: long tubular end, blown aerophone

 communicates with forest spirits


Two Instrumental Interlocking Parts 

1. Kushaura: "to lead;" odd number beats

2. Kutsinhira: "to follow;" even number beats; starts one beat off from Kushaura -both same pitch

-echo effect, can sound like question and answer

-interlock is the most important idea in layout and music

Three Vocal Elements 

1. Huro: high pitched vocal yodeling style

2. Kudeketera: melody with words in normal (mid) vocal range

 usually poetry, prose, one line repetition to tell a story

3. Mahonyera: low-pitched syllabic moaning--just sounds

Bira Ceremony 

-A trans induction ceremony to inspire a spirit medium through music

-Held if someone is sick and medicine fails to heal him

-Seek healing and spiritual restoration through communication with ancestors -Mbira most direct way to communicate with the spirits of ancestors

-Professional Mbira players are hired to try to get an ancestral connection by playing songs ancestors  might prefer


Rhythmic integrity 

-the most important attribute of music

-maintaining rhythm in conflict and confusion, sticking to one's purpose

-relates to Anlo-Ewe outlook on life

Musical Terms

Organology: the study of musical instruments--how they're made and how their sounds are produced Self-Delectative: One person is both the producer and consumer of music.  


-What is beautiful/pleasing; one's sense of beauty

-Perception through the senses


-Discerning what is appropriate

-Often based on culture, society, personal liking or disliking


-Analysis and evaluation


-Separation of a whole into its components

Elements of Music


-Scientific definition: the frequency of vibrations per second

 more frequent- higher pitch

 less frequent- lower pitch

-Musical definition: the location of sound in the tonal range proceeding from low to high -Relative pitch: the ability to sing a melody at different pitches without identifying the notes Absolute pitch: the ability to identify notes by their differing pitches


-General definition: a pattern of movement in time

-Musical definition: a patterned configuration of attacks (strikes on the drum, plucks on the guitar) -Two types:

 Periodic: occurring at regular and measurable intervals

 Non-periodic: not occurring at regular and measurable intervals


-An underlying, periodic metrical pulse

-What the conductor demonstrates and what is danced to

-Metrical/meter: the pattern in which a steady succession of beats is organized  examples: in a meter of three, beats are groups in threes (1,2,3, 1,2,3)

 four is the most common meter


-The rate or speed of the beat


-The volume or loudness of a sound

Sounds have 4 common parameters:

1. Pitch- highness/lowness

2. Dynamic- volume

3. Duration- length in time (short clap or held note)

4. Timbre (pronounced 'tamber')- quality or tone color

 examples: nasal, scratchy, clear, sharp, fuzzy

 guitar vs. flute


-The structural organization of a piece: how it unfolds

-Do sections repeat throughout the piece? Are sections similar or different?

-Contrast, repetition, variation

 examples: Strophic form: same melody in each stanza but different lyrics

 Verse Chorus: verse (furthers the story), chorus (same melody and lyrics), bridge   (different melody and lyrics)

 Binary (AB): two contrasting sections such as a verse and chorus  AABA: the melody repeats after a contrasting one

 Call and response: one person plays/sings and a chorus responds with identical, similar,   or different rhythm or lyrics

 AA (identical) AA' (similar) AB (different)  part of non-Western cultures such as the Caribbean  Basic 12 Bar Blues: AA'B (two similar and one contrasting)

Consonant ('with sound'): agreeable

Dissonant ('against sound'): disagreeable

-What is consonant or dissonant varies for different people/cultures


Lamellophone: an idiophone with plucked keys arranged in a fan pattern

-the metal keys vibrate

-number of keys and thickness of keys varies

-lowest pitch is in the center

1. Aerophone: instrument that produces sound by the vibration of a column of air  subsets:  

 1. lip vibrated—trumpet

 2. mouth hole--flutes (transverse--held to the side), clarinet

 3. reed--single and double, sounds squeaky like a snake charmer

2. Idiophone: instrument that produces sound by the vibration of the body of the instrument. Sound is  not modified by string or skin.  

 examples: gong, musical saw, calimba, shaker

-Idiophones can be rubbed or struck--the activation doesn't matter but what is being vibrated

3. Membranophone: vibration of a skin (membrane)

 example: drum, which can be struck or rubbed

 varies by number of skins, how skin is stretched, its tautness, whether the drum is closed or   open bottom or double/single headed

4. Chordophone: vibration of a string (chord)

 example: piano


 1. zither: strings are stretched between two ends of a flat body

 often hammered or plucked, not usually bowed

 2. lute: strings are stretched between a neck and body

 examples: ukulele, guitar

 number of strings varies

 3. lyre: strings stretch from a yoke (crossbar with two side arms) to a body  4. harp: body with a triangular frame--strings stretch perpendicular to the body  example: bow

-Determine an instrument's class through elimination:


 No string

 No skin

 No blowing

 It's an idiophone

Musical Textures


-can be felt or seen

-In music, it is the pattern of sound created by elements (voice, melody) of a musical work. -elements are the number of parts, and the texture is how these parts relate to each other -Density: how thick or thin

 thick: multiple layers of sound or very active sound

 thin: few to no layers, little action

Four musical textures:

1. Monophonic 

-single part music; one sound

-melody alone, no accompaniment

-many voices in the same pitch are monophonic

2. Heterophonic 

-single part music performed by two or more people with slight variation

- two or more versions of a melody performed simultaneously

3. Homophonic 

-multi-part music with one dominant part

-melody with accompaniment

4. Polyphonic 

-multi-part music with no dominant part

-all parts are equal

Features of Sub-Saharan African Music

1. Interlock: fitting one idea (such as pitch or rhythm) into the spaces left by another to create a whole -like jigsaw puzzle—the pieces fit in spaces left by other pieces

-sometimes overlap, mainly not

2. Call and Response: alternation of leader and chorus parts or vocal and instrument parts -the most basic form of interlock

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