Brown, Robert E. (Robert Edward) (1927-2005) | University of Illinois Archives

Name: Brown, Robert E. (Robert Edward) (1927-2005)

Historical Note:

Robert E. "Bob" Brown (18 April 1927 - 29 November 2005) was a world famous ethnomusicologist, and the longtime president of the Center for World Music, a non-profit organization dedicated to fostering an understanding of world music and performing arts through workshops, concerts, lectures and study abroad programs. Bob Brown is credited with coining the term "world music," and during his lifetime worked extensively to increase awareness of non-western cultures and music, especially those of India and Indonesia.

Robert E. Brown grew up in Clinton, NY and spent his undergraduate and graduate years at Ithaca College and Cornell University. Although Brown had a background in a wide variety of instruments, in 1953, he entered the PhD program at UCLA as a piano major. After Mantel Hood, famous American ethnomusicologist, arrived at UCLA, Brown switched into the new ethnomusicology program and became Hood's first graduate assistant. Brown's time at UCLA resulted in his dissertation, titled The Mrdanga: A Study of Drumming in South India (1965).

In 1961, Bob Brown began teaching at Wesleyan University, where he founded the school's own ethnomusicology program. Brown's philosophy, following that of Hood, was that students should become musically proficient in two cultures, their own native culture, and that of another. Students would then become "bi-musical". The concept of learning from music masters from other cultures shaped the way Brown taught, and how he fulfilled the mission of the Center for World Music. During the 1970s, Robert E. Brown served as visiting lecturer at three universities, until Brown joined the faculty of the San Diego State University School of Music as chairman in 1979. While at SDSU, Brown introduced world music classes and performance groups, such as gamelan groups, to the school and the surrounding community. He remained chairman until 1982, and retired in 1992.

Throughout his life, Brown was also heavily involved with the organization called the Center for World Music. In 1963 Samuel L. Scripps and his wife Luise founded the American Society for Eastern Arts. Scripps, a life long supporter of the arts, saw the ASEA as a way of brining Asian artists to America to present workshop and performances. Robert Brown was a dedicated member of the ASEA from the start, and in 1973, he was named Executive Director of the ASEA and of the newly formed Center for World Music. At its inception, the Center for World Music was to be the physical meeting space for ASEA events and for performances of other music cultures, such as those from Africa and South America. By 1978, Scripps had left the ASEA, and the organization dropped the use of the name "American Society for Eastern Arts," becoming known exclusively the Center for World Music and the Related Arts. From 1978-1982, the Center for World Music and SDSU, where Brown was teaching at the time, developed a mutual program, which resulted in festivals, study abroad programs, and concerts. From 1982 until his death in 2005, Brown led the Center for World Music in the development of World Music in the Schools programs, and new study abroad opportunities in India, Turkey, and Indonesia, where he was the owner of Girikusuma (Flower Mountain), a center for traditional Balinese performing arts.

Note Author: Jessica Lapinsky

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