On the Limitations of Music Ecology

Brent Keogh


The term ‘ecology’, originally coined by German zoologist Ernst
Haeckel in 1869, has been used since the 1950s as a trope in various
ways for understanding aspects of human culture. The ecology trope has
been applied to a wide range of disciplines within the social sciences
and even within music studies. Terms such as ‘acoustic ecology’,
‘music ecology’, and ‘echo-muse-ecology’ have been used to describe
and legitimise a broad range of practices and relationships between
music cultures and their environments. More recently, the ecology
trope has been utilised to garner support for defending sustainability
arguments with regard to diverse music cultures perceived to be under
threat by hegemonic practices of global interests as they expand
economically. This paper explores the development of the ecology
trope, the ways in which it has been utilised in contemporary
discourse on music sustainability, and the limitations of applying
naturalistic tropes in support of the conservation of human cultural


Ecology, Sustainability, Diversity, Ethnomusicology

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