International Symposium in European Ethnomusicology

By O'Connell, John Morgan | Bulletin of the International Council for Traditional Music, October 2007 | Go to article overview

International Symposium in European Ethnomusicology


O'Connell, John Morgan, Bulletin of the International Council for Traditional Music


An international symposium in European ethnomusicology was organised by the School of Music at Cardiff University (27th-29th April, 2007) in association with the Central European Music Research Centre (CEMRC) and the Centre for the Study of Islam in the United Kingdom (CSIUK). Entitled 'National Ethnomusicologies: The European Perspective', the meeting concerned the role of the nation state in developing distinctive ethnomusicological traditions, looking at the ways in which institutional and ideological considerations shaped distinctive readings of the discipline. The symposium also examined the limitations of the nation state, considering the position of intranational minorities and trans-national groups, the national sometimes being superseded by the multinational in a globalized world. In this respect, Europe provides an interesting locus for examining the issue, the emergence of new programmes in ethnomusicology counteracting the decline of established schools in the field, the recent expansion of the European Union contributing significantly to the promotion of relevant research at a national level. Attracting 25 scholars from Europe and America, the event was structured around a number of themes that encompassed the diachronic and the synchronic; that embraced the theoretical and the practical, showing the significance of ethnomusicology for critiquing old assumptions and for exploring new ideas about what it is to be European.

In Session 1, participants discussed national ethnomusicologies in theory and in practice. Philip Bohlman (United States) looked at the ways in which the nation and the discipline are interdependent, specific ethnomusicological traditions invoking particular hegemonic discourses to reinforce singular national identities. Svanibor Petten (Slovenia) examined the relationship between scholars and schools in the territories of the former Yugoslavia, showing how the notions 'diversity' and 'unity' have come to acquire new meanings after federal disintegration. John M. O'Connell (Ireland) argued for the emergence of a distinctive disciplinary voice in Europe, suggesting that the nation state could provide a platform for developing a synthetic paradigm in ethnomusicology. In Session 2, participants considered national ethnomusicologies in the past and in the present. Ursula Hemetek (Austria) traced the legacy of historic methodologies in contemporary practices, demonstrating how a multi-national conception of music folklore still informs current research in Austria. Iren Wilkinson (United Kingdom) emphasized the significance of the past for the present, noting in particular a long tradition of historical studies and applied methods in Hungary. Goffredo Plastino (United Kingdom) focused upon the complex relationship between an academic and a national archive, explaining why Alan Lomax has been recently denigrated by an Italian ethnomusicological institution.

In Session 3, participants examined national ethnomusicologies in terms of the region versus the nation. Ardian Ahmedaja (Albania) looked at the regional, the national and the trans-national dimensions in Albanian ethnomusicology, reflecting upon the relationship between Albanians and non-Albanians in terms of scholarly co-operation and methodological exchange. Tina K. Ramnarine (United Kingdom) showed how ethnomusiocological research into a regional minority is informed by a national canon in Finland, Saami culture being understood with reference to the Finno-Ugric epic Kalevala, a shared shamanistic legacy being utilized for political ends. Adriana Helbig (United States) discussed the rejection of regional ethnomusicologies in favour of a unified national ethnomusicology in Ukraine after independence. In Session 4, participants discussed national ethnomusicologies from the perspective of conflict or compromise.

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