Detail of "Traditional African instruments" from The Music of Black Americans, 1st edition

Terms and Definitions

This glossary of names and terms relates to the scholarship of Eileen Southern and is intended as a starting point for users of this website who might be unfamiliar with academic terminology.

Academic journal

A journal dedicated to publishing the research of scholars in a particular field of study or on a particular topic. Often, these journals are peer-reviewed. The Black Perspective in Music, which Eileen Southern and her husband Joseph published from 1973 to 1990, was an academic journal.

Afro-American Studies

At the time Southern was teaching Afro-American Studies, it was a relatively new and multidisciplinary area of study centered on the history, politics, and culture of Black people in the United States, even as its focus was being challenged to embrace the Caribbean and the broader African diaspora. Definition of the field has constantly evolved as scholars embrace new terminology. Southern chaired the Afro-American Studies department at Harvard from 1976 to 1979. Today that same department is called African and African American Studies (AAAS).

Buxheim Organ Book

(in German: Buxheimer Orgelbuch) A manuscript dating from ca. 1460-70s containing over 250 compositions for keyboard instruments (various types of organ, clavichord) by many composers. It was compiled in the Buxheim Charterhouse, a monastery in Germany. The Buxheim Organ Book was the topic of Southern’s PhD dissertation.

Department Chair

A faculty member who manages and leads an academic department at a college or university. A chair’s responsibilities often include advocating for the department with the administration of the academic institution, mentoring faculty, and overseeing course offerings. Southern served as chair of the Afro-American Studies Department at Harvard from 1976 to 1979.


A large-scale research project compiled into a book-length document that is often the final requirement for completing a PhD. Southern completed her dissertation, The Buxheim Organ Book (Volume 1 and 2), at New York University.


At the time Southern taught at Harvard in the 1970s and 1980s, ethnomusicology was considered to be the study of music from non-Western cultures. It was defined in relation to its sister discipline, musicology, which focused largely on European-based practices. This definition was rooted in colonial practices from ethnomusicology’s early development, in which white researchers studied the musics of what many believed to be “less-developed” cultures. Today, the boundaries between these two subdisciplines of music are fluid. 


Borrowed from German, the term Festschrift refers to a collection of celebratory writing in honor of a scholar and presented as that person approaches retirement. Often, the Festschrift is written by the honoree’s students, colleagues, and friends. A Festschrift for Southern, New Perspectives on Music: Essays in Honor of Eileen Southern, was published in 1992.


The way in which a scholar or group of scholars goes about doing their research. Southern was primarily an archival researcher.


When Southern was teaching at Harvard in the 1970s and 1980s, musicology (or “historical musicology”) was understood to be the academic study of white European art music. 

Music Theory

The study of musical structures and elements (e.g. pitch, harmony, form, timbre, dynamics). Southern taught music theory early in her career.

Peer Review

The process used by academic journals to evaluate the articles they publish. Articles submitted to the editor are sent to scholars in the same field of study who then provide anonymous feedback on whether or not they recommend publication of the article in its current state. The editor then notifies the author about whether their work has been accepted as-is, accepted with revisions, or rejected. Southern’s journal, The Black Perspective in Music, was peer reviewed.

Renaissance Notation

Methods of writing down music during the Renaissance period in Europe. Renaissance notation was one of Southern’s areas of expertise and the topic of a course that she taught several times at Harvard. Her dissertation centered on transcribing the music of the Buxheim Organ Book into modern notation, which involved updating pitches, rhythmic values, staffs, and other features.

Western Art Music

The term used to denote sacred and secular music that originated in Europe from the medieval period to the present. Western art music has traditionally revolved around the compositions of European composers such as Ludwig van Beethoven or Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Art music is often considered to be “serious” or “cultivated” and is frequently construed in opposition to popular music. Southern’s education focused fully on Western art music, and she initially established herself as a scholar of Renaissance traditions. One of her main contributions to the field of musicology  was to reach beyond European cultures to study musics of the African diaspora.