Nettl, Bruno (1930-2020) | University of Illinois Archives
Bruno Nettl (1930-2020) was born March 14, 1930 in Prague, Czechoslovakia. He is the son of the late musicologist Paul Nettl, who taught at Indiana University from 1946-1964. After emigrating to the United States at the age of nine, he began studying music. In 1950, he graduated from Indiana University with a bachelors degree in music. In 1951, he wrote his master's thesis entitled, "The Musical Culture of the Arapaho." Nettl completed his doctoral studies with the eminent musicologist, George Herzog, and graduated with a PhD in musicology from Indiana University just two years later. His dissertation, "American Indian Music North of Mexico: It's Styles and Areas," would later be expanded in several articles and books on Native American musics. After receiving his first faculty position as a musicologist at Wayne State University in 1953, Dr. Nettl received a Fulbright Lectureship at the University of Kiel in Germany in 1956. Four years later, Dr. Nettl received a master's degree in library and information science at the University of Michigan.
In 1964, Dr. Nettl was hired as an Associate Professor of Music at the University of Illinois. After being promoted to Professor of Musicology and Anthropology in 1967, he served as the head of the musicology department at Illinois from 1966-1968, 1969-1972, 1975-1977, 1982-1985, and 1987-1989. Dr. Nettl was instrumental in establishing a curriculum for the discipline of Ethnomusicology and his early courses at the University of Illinois show the interdisciplinary nature of his design. He offered a year-long survey in world musics as well as specific area studies geared toward graduate and undergraduate students. During his time at the University of Illinois, he served as the dissertation advisor to several important musicologists including: Stephen Blum, Philip Bohlman, Doris Dyen, Martha Ellen Davis, Marcello Sorce Keller, Daniel Neuman, Ronald Riddle, Ali Jihad Racy, Stephen Slawek, Theodore Solis, Christopher Waterman, and Robert Witmer. In 1992, he became Professor Emeritus and began teaching part-time. In 2000, Dr. Nettl and his wife, Wanda, endowed an annual lecture series featuring the work of eminent musicologists at the University of Illinois. Some of the participants of this lecture series include: Philip Bohlman, Pamela Potter, Thomas Turino, Martin Stokes, Jeff Todd Titon, Portia Maultsby, Alejando Madrid, and Kay Kauffman Shelemay.
Dr. Nettl's research includes three principal areas: Blackfoot Native American Music, Persian Classical Music (Radifs), and South Indian Music (Carnatic Music). Principally, his field research took place in Montana, Tehran, Jerusalem, and Madras between 1965 and 1982. In 1965 he began conducting research on various Blackfoot reservations in Montana. His research on the Blackfoot People would also bring him the Museum of the Southwest in 1984, where he consulted hundreds of early audio recordings of Blackfoot music. In 1966, he received a Fulbright Research Fellowship to conduct research in Iran. While in Tehran, he studied with the eminent Iranian pedagog Nur Ali Borumand. In the early 1970s, Nettl continued his research on Persian Radifs in Jerusalem, examining audio recordings at the Lachman Collection. His research on Blackfoot and Iranian music resulted in two of his most famous ethnographies: The Radif of Persian Music: Studies of Structure and Cultural Context (1987) and Blackfoot Musical Thought: Comparitive Perspectives (1989). In addition to these two primary research interests, he has written extensively about the history of the discipline of Ethnomusicology. His work on this subject includes the following books: Theory and Method in Ethnomusicology (1964), The Study of Ethnomusicology: 29 Issues and Concepts (1983), Encounters in Ethnomusicology, a Memoir (2002), The Study of Ethnomusicology: 31 Issues and Concepts (2005), and Nettl's Elephant: On the History of Ethnomusicology (2010). Dr. Nettl has also written and edited several editions of the popular world music survey Excursions in World Music (1992-2012) and has written several definitions related to his world music research for Oxford New Grove Dictionary of Music as well as The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music.
Dr. Nettl has served on numerous national and international councils related to ethnomusicology and folk music. In 1961, he became the editor of the Society for Ethnomusicology (SEM) Journal, Ethnomusicology. The Society for Ethnomusicology had been founded only six years prior to his engagement as editor. He would later serve as the society's president from 1969-1971 and as editor of the journal once more from 1985-1989 and from 1998-2002. In 1983, he was awarded the Charles Seeger Lecturer Prize and in 2005 the Society awarded him a lifetime service award as well as the title of "Board Member Emeritus." Since 2012, the Society for Ethnomusicology has offered the Bruno Nettl Prize for historical studies on the field of Ethnomusicology. Beginning in 1972, he served as the general editor for the Detroit Studies in Music Bibliography (DSMB). Between 1974-1977, he served as the editor to the Journal Yearbook of the International Folk Music Council. He has also served on the editorial boards for the Harvard Dictionary of Music, The Garland Encylcopedia of World Music, and Chicago Studies in Ethnomusicology. He became a member of the Executive Board of the College Music Society in 1977 and served until 1981. In 1985, he acted as the Spivacke Consultant to the Music Division of the Library of Congress. He also served on the Board of the International Society for Music Educators (ISME) In the early 1990s.
Dr. Nettl has also won several major awards for his research and his contributions to the field of Ethnomusicology. In 1981 he was named a fellow of the American Insititute for Indian Studies and a Senior Fellow for Independent Study and Research. Most recently in 2009, he received a Mellon Distinguished Emeritus Fellowship. He died after a short illness on January 15, 2020.
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