Living Sounds: Democratizing and Reviving Musical Heritage

Recently I am assembling an international team of outstanding researchers to collaborate in a major pan-European project. The overall aim is to develop and test innovative approaches for online virtual experience of music to protect, preserve, restore and safeguard cultural heritage and the arts.

We seek to counteract serious threats to this sector due to the rise of digitalization and the disruptive conditions of the Covid-19 pandemic. The project will focus on tangible and intangible music heritage to develop, test, and popularize new research-based approaches to use music, not only in itself, but also to preserve, sustain and disseminate other forms of cultural heritage. We plan to also use digital collaborative strategies to revolutionize how cultural activities are funded and produced online, and thus create sustainable job opportunities within the cultural and creative industries (CCIs).

Hopefully we will manage to attract major funding for this unique project which promises to offer new approaches for cultural professions that have been negatively impacted by the recent pandemic. More information will be posted here later as project planning develops further.


Music Conference in Kiev

One of the world’s major music institutions is the Tchaikovsky National Music Academy of Ukraine, also known as the Kiev Conservatory. This prestigious music school was founded by Tchaikovsky himself and led by Rachmaninov and Glazunov.

I look forward to presenting a paper soon (via videoconference) for an international conference hosted by the World Music History Department of the Kiev Conservatory: Music Culture of China: Forms, Traditions, Practices, which will take place at the end of March. My paper title is “Research on Chinese Traditional Instrument Teachers at Prominent Conservatories in Europe and China.”

Here is a link for the conference program:



The Kiev Conservatory is home to a pioneering Music Confucius Classroom, for which my paper seems especially relevant. Here are a few links about Confucius Music Classrooms …  




Many years ago, I lived in Moscow, working as a Lecturer for Moscow State University while performing free improvisation with members of the Pan-Asian Ensemble affiliated with the other Tchaikovsky conservatory (Moscow Conservatory), and now I serve on the Editorial Board of the Eurasian Music Science Journal. It will be exciting to reconnect with colleagues in the fascinating field of Eurasian musicology via this conference in Kiev.

Below are videos based on excerpts from the Pan-Asian Ensemble's free improvisation sessions recorded in Moscow at the conservatory. This experimental music still has an unusually mysterious sound even several years after it was created.  



Each of the tracks here are interesting for different reasons. On the first, I play muted trumpet in some uncannily improvised gestures and harmonies in sync with two Russian shakuhachi players. In the second, I add lyrical trumpet lines after about one minute into the final track.

Below is something much more traditional that I recorded in recent years, a lovely song by Rachmaninov: 


Music in Urban Culture

In early March 2021, our research team (with a project in Vietnam, led by Stefan Östersjö) has an online presentation for the 18th Urban Culture Forum in Thailand. It is an annual event organized by the Urban Research Plaza, a collaboration between major public universities in Osaka (Japan) and Bangkok (Thailand), and held this year at Chulalongkorn University, a distinguished institution that I visited in Bangkok several years ago. The Urban Research Plaza also publishes the Journal of Urban Culture Research, for which I have offered some peer reviews as an external referee.


Our research team will discuss the changing role of music in urban spaces, including how musical practices are impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. Below is the abstract of our presentation for this event:

Authors - Stefan Östersjö, Nguyễn Thanh Thủy, David G. Hebert, and Henrik Frisk


Title - Studio Saigon: Telematic performance and recording technologies in light of the Covid-19 pandemic

As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to affect individual musicians, ensembles and concert institutions, streaming technology has become a central vehicle through which musicians and audiences can meet. This paper discusses how networked performance, a format which has engaged artists for decades as an artform in its own right, may contribute to the sustaining of cultural heritage among migrant/minority communities as well as to the development of innovative intercultural artistic practices. Building on the experience of our group, The Six Tones, we wish to develop a more robust understanding of the possibilities, and the limitations, that networked technology affords. The central source of our own work is drawn from Musical Transformations, an ongoing project which studies the intersection between traditional and experimental music in globalized society. 

The project has studied the dynamic history and contemporary performance practices of Vọng Cổ, a Vietnamese song which has experienced a radical set of transformations since the 1920’s. Recording technology has played a central role in this development, as evidenced even in the way its formal structure was shaped to match the duration of the 78rpm records on which this music was recorded on local labels still in the 1960’s (Gibbs et al 2013). We note that interactions both inside and outside recording studios contribute to urban culture. From the perspective of the street in Ho Chi Minh City, both recording studios used in this project blended into their surroundings, amongst residences, tiny convenience shops, hair salons, and restaurants selling pho and banh mi. Both studios also were negatively affected by traffic noise from a steady stream of motorbikes and trucks as well as construction projects. Local businesses were evidently accustomed to encountering foreigners leaving the studios for breaks in their recording sessions. Only a modicum of previous ethnomusicological studies have considered the role of recording studios in urban culture, which promote business in local communities while producing cultural products that have a lasting and expansive impact far beyond their neighborhood. Kay Shelemay observed that “recording technology is not only an integral part of our discipline’s intellectual history. It is an increasingly important part of our future as well” (Shelemay, 1991, p.288). We argue that the rise of telematic performance in the time of the pandemic also points to new avenues for recording technologies, inside and beyond the recording studio.



Music Talks Project

I am happy to report that the Music Talks project has just been awarded funding from the EU’s Erasmus Plus, specifically its program for Youth Education: Partnerships for Creativity

Music Talks is coordinated by the Baltic Regional Fund, and is a collaboration between the Info Front youth NGO in North Macedonia, and the Tava Muzikas Skola school in Latvia, with the Grieg Academy Music Education (GAME) research group of Western Norway University of Applied Sciences as the academic partner. 

The 2-year project will apply new technologies to guide music teachers and youth workers in strengthening their community music activities and developing a stronger appreciation for musical heritage.


Symposium on Comparative Educational Philosophy


UPDATE: Here is a link for those who would like to join our online presentation Comparative Philosophies of Education: https://baice.ac.uk/events/baice-students-roundtable-session-comparative-philosophies-of-education/


I look forward to giving an online presentation on January 29 for the British Association for International and Comparative Education. My role for our symposium is as a Discussant, responding to philosophical papers presented by a group of excellent PhD students from five different countries—Adam Switala (Poland), Thu Thu (Myanmar), Czarecah Tuppil Oropilla (Philippines), Luna Luo (China), and Dorothy Ferary (Indonesia)—who are among those that participated in my 2020 course PhD911: Non-Western Educational Philosophy and Policy.

It is exciting to see what these bright young thinkers are accomplishing, and a thrill to be part of it. They are from the same group of scholars who are collaborating with me in development of a special issue on Asian Philosophies for the Nordic Journal of Comparative and International Education

This BAICE event is hosted by Dorothy Ferary, to whom we are grateful for the invitation. We are eager to present our ideas, obtain feedback, and publish our work within a few months. A link to the event, with further details, will be posted here when it is made available. 

I am hoping we will also manage to attract a few more qualified students to the upcoming Bergen Summer Research School, which includes a new PhD course Internationalising Higher Education


Thanh Thuy Nguyen in Bergen

We are very pleased to announce that Dr. Thanh Thuy Nguyen has been awarded full funding from the Swedish Research Council for a 3-year position as Postdoctoral Researcher with the Grieg Academy Music Education (GAME) and Kairos research groups here in western Norway.

Dr. Nguyen is a renowned master performer on the Vietnamese instrument dan tranh—who works as a professional musician in both traditional and experimental genres—and is also an accomplished researcher. We look forward to mutually-beneficial collaboration in both research and creative music projects.     

Below are links for further information about her artistic and scholarly output:





Major Music Education Project in Uganda

East Africa is among the most dynamic regions of the world today, with many enduring opportunities for economic and educational development. I have long been interested in this region, and have lectured for University of Dar es Salaam (Tanzania) and University of Addis Ababa (Ethiopia), and mentored a doctoral student from Bagamoyo when I worked in Finland. More recently, Uganda has really captured my attention, especially through participation in several planning meetings with professors and lecturers from University of Bergen, Makerere University and Kyambogo University to develop a proposal for long-term collaboration between Norway and Uganda.

It is now a great pleasure to announce that we have been awarded a large grant from the Norhed program of Norad (Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs). It is to support the 6-year CABUTE project, which will develop the first PhD programs in music, education, and related fields to strengthen teacher training and higher education in Uganda. 

Steinar Sætre, a member of GAME research group, is the project manager, and I will have the main responsibility for PhD program development in music. Through the TeLEd research group and the CABUTE project, we will collaborate with Robert Gray (educational technology/higher education specialist, also at University of Bergen) and a team of professors and local experts based in Uganda. With Norad’s generous financial support we will be able to focus much of our attention on this project for a 6-year period (2021-2027). It is an amazing opportunity, and I look forward to seeing the outcomes of this promising collaboration.

Please note that the main project leaders in Norway will also be collaboratively teaching the online PhD course Internationalizing Higher Education for the 2021 Bergen Summer Research School, which is now open to applications from PhD students who can earn credits by taking this course from anywhere in the world. 

We also eagerly await the results of proposals for collaborative research and development projects with institutions and organizations in Europe (Erasmus Plus) and East Asia (Utforsk). Hopefully there will be more good news in early 2021 and opportunities to gain additional institutional support for these initiatives, including PhD stipendiats and Postdoctoral students. 


More information: https://www.uib.no/en/sdgbergen/141540/uib-sweeps-norhed-ii-funding#cabute

[Displayed here are the official Coat of Arms of Uganda, and the file Languages of Uganda, public domain, available here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uganda#/media/File:Coat_of_arms_of_Uganda.svg; https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Languages_of_Uganda.png].