The Robert E. Brown Estate Collection overview photo

The Robert E. Brown Estate Collection

  • Duration:Temporary
  • Location:Whitten Featured Object Case


The artifacts in this collection represent some of the materials donated to the University of Illinois by the Estate of Robert E. Brown. They were transferred to the Spurlock Museum from the University of Illinois Department of Music, the Center for World Music, and the Music and Performing Arts Library. Documents from the Robert E. Brown collection are located in the University Archives. These materials draw a close connection between the Museum and Robert E. Brown’s Center for World Music, located at the Department of Music since 2007.

Professor Brown (1927–2005) is renowned in the field of ethnomusicology, which is the study of music outside of the European tradition. He earned his doctorate in ethnomusicology at UCLA and served as Professor at San Diego State University’s School of Music and Dance from 1979 to 1992. His approach to “world music,” a term he is credited with inventing, is described on the Center for World Music website: “The idea behind the phrase was not that all kinds of music should be blended together to make a sonic stew, but that the study of music should take in the astonishing variety of the world’s traditions.”

The Brown collection reflects an interest in the daily life and traditional arts of South and Southeast Asia, with an emphasis on India and Bali. His research of world music took him to India and the Islands of Bali and led to his work with the Center for World Music. Bali held a particular appeal; it is there that he established Girikusuma, “Flower Mountain” in English, as a place to teach and encourage traditional Balinese performing arts.