Rouget, Gilbert

Rouget, Gilbert – Ethnomusicologist of the MusĂ©e de l’Homme, Paris. Rouget is best known for his book Music and Trance (1985), in which he argues for a distinction between trance and ecstasy. Trance is said to involve and be induced by movement, noise, company, crises, sensory overstimulation, and amnesia and to lack hallucinations. Ecstasy, on the other hand, is said to be induced by stillness, silence, solitude, lack of crises, sensory deprivation, recollection, and hallucinations. Much of Rouget’s data relate to fieldwork in Africa and may be culturally specific. Alternatively, his use of ecstasy may be different from that of Mircea Eliade, especially in relation to Siberian shamans. Rouget’s trance may be closer to other scholars’ mysticism. In some cases, Rouget’s terms may apply to phases of shamanic performance and thus clarify stages of a shaman’s work. Similarly, Rouget’s argument that “possession trance seems to require, everywhere and at all times, a form of music belonging to the most everyday and popular system” may be true in African possession cults but is inapplicable in, for example, Korea, where shamanic music is distinct from everyday music, and in Amazonia, where shamans chant in languages unknown to those who have not been initiated. However, his argument that music, especially rhythm alone, is insufficient to induce trance or altered states of consciousness, and that it does not do so automatically, has been widely accepted among ethnomusicologists in contrast to some neoshamans and techno-shamans. Rouget argues that trances and altered states are induced only in those who have made a decision to enter them—and even then a variety of other factors is required both to induce a trance and to make the practitioner’s actions meaningful to others. Among the most important of these factors, as Roy Willis (1999) shows, especially in relation to the Ngulu spirit cult of Zambia, is the “quality of relations between the individuals making up the trancing group.”


Historical Dictionary of Shamanism by Graham Harvey and Robert J. Wallis 2007