University of California Seal



Mantle Hood

Professor of Ethnomusicology, Emeritus

UC Los Angeles




Mantle Hood, a pioneer in the field of ethnomusicology and founder of the ethnomusicology program at UCLA, died from complications of Alzheimer’s disease on July 31, 2005 at his home in Ellicott City, Maryland. He was 87.


“Mantle Hood was a seminal figure in the field of ethnomusicology and his influence was far reaching,” said Christopher Waterman, dean of the School of the Arts and Architecture at UCLA. “He trained numerous young scholars who went on to found ethnomusicology programs at the University of Washington, Brown, UC Berkeley, Wesleyan University, and Florida State University, as well as programs and research institutes in many other countries.”


Born in Springfield, Illinois, Hood earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree in music at UCLA. In 1956, he began teaching at UCLA, where he established the Institute of Ethnomusicology—which later became the Department of Ethnomusicology—in 1960. The UCLA program evolved into the largest graduate program of its kind in the world.


One of his major theoretical contributions to his field was “bi-musicality,” the idea that as a fundamental aspect of research method, ethnomusicologists—presumably musical in the Western tradition—should learn to play the music of the cultures they study. Considered controversial when published in 1960, the theory now has become an established part of the discipline.


He was a leading figure in research on Javanese gamelan music and arranged for one of the first gamelans to be taught at a United States university. This set of instruments (bronze gongs and metallophones) was cast in Java and given by the Javanese the honorific name “Venerable Dark Cloud” to describe its sound. It is widely regarded as the finest gamelan in the United States.


Hood is remembered for a seminal ethnographic documentary film on African drumming called “Atumpan,” a film that is still shown in classes on music cultures of the world. In 1971, he published “The Ethnomusicologist,” which outlined research issues and questions in what was still a nascent field. After leaving UCLA in 1975, he founded a graduate program in ethnomusicology at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.


He served as president of the Society for Ethnomusicology, the leading academic organization in the United States dedicated to supporting and publishing research in this field.


Hood is survived by his wife, Hazel; four sons; and three grandchildren.


Tim Rice