On the limits of music ecology

Brent Keogh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


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 forms.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of music research online
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • sustainability
  • conservation
  • ecology
  • ethnomusicology
  • tropes


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