Music and Shamanism: The Main Methodological Approaches in Contemporary Anthropology and Musicology

Key words
music, shamanism, methodology, research approaches
Galina B. Sychenko
About the Author
Novosibirsk, Russian Federation.
PhD in Arts, Associate Professor, Independent Researcher
Date of publication

Work on this article was financially supported by the Russian Foundation for Basic Research (project No. 19–112–50214, competition “Expansion”, 2019). Received: December 3, 2020.


This article examines the main approaches to the study of music in shamanism that have been developed and those that are current in modern anthropology and musicology. The author characterises the different areas of research covered in each approach, giving examples and analyzing representative works. The presentation of the different approaches is chronological and reflects the logic of the development of scholarly knowledge in the given field.

The two earliest approaches — musical-ethnographic and musical-theoretical — continue to be used. Relatively recently, an integrative and textological approach has begun to be applied on their basis. These textually-oriented methods aim at studying the music in an ethnographic context. Subsequently context-oriented approaches have appeared, applying musical-anthropological and culturological methods that explore the conceptual and functional aspects of shamanic — and, more broadly, sacral — music in different traditions. Recently there have been an increasing number of studies that implement a music-psychological approach in various forms. The range of directions within this approach is broad, from culturological to neurophysiological; most such studies are conducted outside Russia. The author also identifies the most relevant current areas of research. These include: the comprehensive study of the verbal and musical texts of shamanic rituals; study of the nature of these texts’ relationship to altered states of consciousness; and comparative research on the most significant regional traditions. She looks forward to the development of a methodology appropriate for comparative historical research on the musical component of shamanic traditions


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For citation

Sychenko G.B. Music and Shamanism: The Main Methodological Approaches in Contemporary Anthropology and Musicology. Traditional Culture. 2021. Vol. 22. No. 1. Pp. 11–26. In Russian.