Dr. Mantle L. Hood, 87, ethnomusicologist


Dr. Mantle L. Hood, a distinguished international scholar and pioneer in ethnomusicology who established a program in the subject at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, died from complications of Alzheimer's disease Sunday at his Ellicott City home. He was 87.

Dr. Hood was born and raised in Springfield, Ill. He studied piano as a child and played tenor saxophone in regional jazz clubs in his teens, but had no plans to become a professional musician.

After moving to Los Angeles in the 1930s with his mother, he wrote pulp fiction while working as a draftsman in the aeronautical industry.

He served in Europe with the Army during World War II, then returned to Los Angeles and held a variety of jobs including working aboard then-legal offshore ship casinos before enrolling in the School of Agriculture at the University of California.

He transferred to UCLA's music department and earned a bachelor's degree in 1951 and a master's the next year. Supported by a Fulbright fellowship, he earned his doctorate in 1954 at Amsterdam University in Holland, then spent two years in Indonesia doing field research funded by a Ford Foundation fellowship.

Dr. Hood was an authority on and wrote widely about the music and culture of Southeast Asia and West Africa. He also became an expert on Javanese and Balinese gamelan ensemble orchestras that include flutes, lutes, drums, gongs and bamboo xylophones.

"He will probably be best remembered for pioneering, in the 1950s and 1960s, a new approach to the study of music, and the creation in 1954 of the first American university program - at the University of California at Los Angeles - devoted to the then-fledgling discipline of ethnomusicology," wrote a son, Marlowe Hood of Paris.

In 1960, Dr. Hood founded the Institute for Ethnomusicology at UCLA, which "quickly became the most important American hub of this rapidly developing field at the crossroads of musicology, anthropology and performance studies," his son wrote.

Dr. Hood explained ethnomusicology as being the "study of music wherever and whenever."

"During all my years of travels and teaching, I've gathered a wealth of interesting information about various peoples, cultures and traditions," Dr. Hood said in a 1998 profile in Patuxent Publishing's Columbia Magazine.

He was fluent in French, German, Dutch, Italian and the Balinese and Javanese languages of the Indonesian islands.

"He was truly a brilliant and creative man who had the ability to work in many realms. In this regard, he was truly a Renaissance man. It's difficult to say exactly what he was because he was so many things. He had such broad knowledge," said Tom Hawley, a former student of Dr. Hood's and lecturer at UMBC.

"He was a man you never thought of as old because he had such passion and energy. That was his approach to life: Everything was done with passion and energy," Dr. Hawley said.

In 1973, Dr. Hood left UCLA and moved to Hawaii where he composed, wrote novels and served as an editor of The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians.

Dr. Hood moved to Ellicott City in 1980 when he founded the department of ethnomusicology at UMBC. He continued teaching in the program until retiring in 1996.

Dr. Hood had been a visiting professor at Harvard, Yale, Wesleyan, Indiana, West Virginia and Drake universities. He also had maintained a busy writing schedule throughout his career, contributing nearly 100 chapters to books while also publishing journal articles and encyclopedia entries.

His works include The Ethnomusicologist; Music in Indonesia; the three-volume The Evolution of Javanese Gamelan; and the film Atumpan: The Talking Drums of Ghana.

"He was a rather extraordinary man whose curiosity and innate intelligence took him all over the world, and he loved sharing his experiences with people," said a friend, Douglas W. Hamilton Jr., who was a trustee of what was then the Walters Art Gallery when he first met Dr. Hood 15 years ago. "He once told me that he was 'a romantic posing as a scholar.'"

Services are private.

Surviving, in addition to his son, are his wife of 42 years, the former Hazel Chung; three other sons, Maiyo J. Hood of Shanghai, China, Mitro A. Hood of Baltimore and Made M. Hood of Melbourne, Australia; and three grandchildren. An earlier marriage to the former Shirley Hawkins ended in divorce.

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