Photo by Dale Preston
Roderic Knight
Professor of Ethnomusicology

Oberlin College Conservatory of Music

I taught the ethnomusicology courses at Oberlin for 32 years, starting in 1976.  I brought to Oberlin the Mandinka Ensemble, growing out of my research and music studies with the Mandinka people of Gambia.  While at Oberlin I expanded my research interests to the peoples of Central India and introduced a performing group devoted to this subject as well.  Information about these subjects is included below.  A third area of interest  has always been organology, or the scientific study of musical instruments.   Upon my retirement I gave my instrument collection to the conservatory.  With assistance from students in the organology seminar, 2007-08 and members of the library staff, the collection is now available online.  In conjunction with the collection, I have created  the Knight-Revision of Hornbostel-Sachs, a system for classifying musical instruments.  I also maintain a blog about organology and the collection. 

My latest interest is in the musical instruments built by Elisha Gray, who studied at Oberlin, then taught as Oberlin Honorary Professor of Dynamic Electricity, 1880-1900. Gray's instruments were the first in the world designed to produce sounds by electricity, and to transmit these sounds via telegraph to remote locations.  One could say he was Oberlin's first TIMARA professor (Technology in Music and Related Arts).

   Links to all of these subjects are listed below:

The Roderic C. Knight Musical Instrument Collection


Rod Knight's Organology Site

Elisha Gray and the Musical Telegraph

Here are some photos from Oberlin ensembles.  
The gamelan is now taught by my successor, Prof. Jennifer Fraser.

--Javanese Gamelan  

--Mandinka Ensemble  

Before the advent of the CD, the conservatory library amassed a large collection of LP recordings.  Before the collection was fully digitized, I prepared an online finding guide for the ethnomusicology holdings.  Here it is:

Conservatory Library LP Collection


Please feel free to email me with any questions or comments:


My principal research is on the music of the Mandinka of West Africa, and more specifically, the 21-string bridge harp called the kora. I have also studied Mandinka drumming. 

The Mandinka Kora Mandinka drumming

I will be posting my Africa publications in the future.  See below for India publications.

My research in India has focused on several tribal groups in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. See the following links for more information.  

The Baiga
The Muria Gond
The Pardhan

Some of my India publications (in the SEM Journal, Asian Music) are available through JSTOR.  Others are more obscure. Those that are difficult to find are posted here in pdf form.

India publications

In addition to print publications, I have devoted my efforts to producing educational videos.  Here is the information about them:


2018 © Roderic Knight | All rights reserved