Historical Ethnomusicology SIG

I have recently been elected chair of the Historical Ethnomusicology special interest group of the Society for Ethnomusicology (2009-2011). “Histo-Ethno” is a small but vibrant international community (known as a SIG, for special interest group) consisting primarily of young scholars who study music in all parts of the world. It appears that we currently have around 45 members, although only about one-third that number managed to come to the most recent meeting in Mexico City. I would like to thank the previous chair Dr. Sandra Graham (University of California) for her nomination and encouragement, and secretary Dr. Ann Lucas for her kind support and helpful collaboration.

Historical Ethnomusicology may at first sound like an excessively specialized field of study, yet recently enormous reference works have appeared in related fields that would appear to be much more specialized, such as medical ethnomusicology. Actually, historical studies have been a major part of the field of ethnomusicology for a very long time, yet in recent years both the distinctiveness and significance of historical inquiry are beginning to receive greater attention than ever before. According to Bruno Nettl, “The number of ethnomusicologists doing work of an explicitly historical sort has increased to the degree that the term ‘historical ethnomusicology’ has begun to appear in programs of conferences and in publications” (Bruno Nettl, University of Illinois, 2005, p.274). However, Nettl has cautioned that not all historical studies of non-western music are necessarily ethnomusicological, and that “historical studies, to qualify as proper ethnomusicology, should relate somehow to the central tenets of ethnomusicological definition – relationship to other cultural domains and a view of music as a world of musics” (Nettl, 2005, p.273). These are wise suggestions that require careful consideration.

Kay Shelemay has also made some very important points regarding historical ethnomusicology. While she acknowledged that "most ethnomusicological studies today take history into account when discussing the ethnographic present", she also asserted that "ethnomusicologists can contribute more to the understanding of history than the record indicates" (Shelemay, 1980, p.234).

Recently, another outstanding scholar has at least briefly entertained the notion that the subdiscipline of historical ethnomusicology may be unnecessary: “The claim might now be sustained that all ethnomusicology is historical, just more so or less so as particular research interests and available data allow. One implication of this point of view is that it may be unhelpful to sustain a named subdiscipline called historical ethnomusicology” (Jonathan Stock, in The New (Ethno)musicologies, ed. Henry Stobart, Scarecrow Press, 2008, p.198). Therefore, one of the important challenges across the next two years for the Historical Ethnomusicology special interest group of the Society for Ethnomusicology will be to clarify this subfield’s contributions and delineate its distinctive theoretical concepts and methodological approaches relative to the rest of ethnomusicology. Among our proposed projects is development of an annotated bibliography and definition of the field and its key theoretical issues, as well as a virtual conference on current issues in historical ethnomusicology. I look forward to seeing what we can accomplish over the next two years.

For those interested in learning more about this field, I recommend the following books:

  • Nettl, B., The Study of Ethomusicology: Thirty-one Issues and Concepts. Urbana: University of Illinois, 2005.
  • Stobart, H. (Ed.), The New (Ethno)musicologies. Lanham: Scarecrow Press, 2008.
  • Kurkela, V. & Vakeva, L. (Eds.), De-Canonizing Music History. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2009.
  • Blum, S., Bohlman, P. V., & Neuman, D. M. (Eds.), Ethnomusicology and Modern Music History. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1993.

Also, please see Kay Shelemay's article:
  • Shelemay, K. K. (1980). "Historical ethnomusicology": Reconstructing Falasha liturgical history. Ethnomusicology, 24(2).

[I took the above photos at the 2009 Society for Ethnomusicology conference in Mexico City.]


Ethnomusicology in Mexico City

After the planning meeting in Helsinki yesterday of the Nordic Network for the Integration of Music Informatics, Performance, and Aesthetics, I have now flown to Mexico City for the Society for Ethnomusicology conference.

I am currently visiting El Colegio de México, A.C., commonly known as Colmex, The College of Mexico (pictured here in my recent photo), which is a prestigious institute of higher education that emphasizes graduate studies in the humanities and social sciences.

Later this week, I will be chairing the meeting of the Historical Ethnomusicology SIG, and a paper session on nationalism in music. It is quite interesting to see new developments in Mexican higher education. This 2009 meeting in Mexico City is the first Society for Ethnomusicology annual conference to be held outside the United States and Canada, so I think it sets an important precedent.

Here is a link to a powerpoint of the agenda for the Historical Ethnomusicology meeting:


Before traveling, I suffered a minor injury, but I am getting my strength back and intend to get caught up on deadlines as soon as possible.


Musiques de Tradition Orale et Education Interculturelle

I have been invited to give a lecture on December 3-4 at Cite de la Musique in Paris, for the EU Culture Initiative Musiques de tradition orale et éducation interculturelle.

This promises to be a very interesting event with important implications for musical practices in European higher education.

My presentation title:

Former les musiciens professionnels dans une société multiculturelle : Nouveaux enjeux et nouveaux développements

(Educating professional musicians for a multicultural society: Emerging issues and new developments).

Here is a link to the symposium program in English:


Here is a link to the abstract of my presentation:


Intensity of Interaction in Instrumental Music Lessons

Congratulations to Dr. Tapani Heikinheimo for completion of his doctoral degree at the Sibelius Academy, with the acceptance yesterday of his academic dissertation Intensity of Interaction in Instrumental Music Lessons.

Here is a link to the study:


Here is its abstract:

Previous research on one-to-one instrumental music lessons in higher education has shown asymmetrical relations between teachers and students and an emphasis on expression and technique in both implicit and explicit strategies of teaching and learning. In order to rethink the practice of instrumental and vocal pedagogy, to better understand such multivoiced musical and pedagogical interactions and to enhance musicianship, this study introduced and examined intensity as a relational phenomenon and as constituting a factor in interaction between teacher and student. Intensity of Interaction offers an overview of the dynamic character of the musical and pedagogical dialogue. It aims to encompass both instrumental lesson activity as a whole, and to reveal detailed elements of the teacher-student work. In order to theoretically frame and conceptualize the instrumental music lesson as a teaching and learning activity, the present study draws on pragmatist philosophy and cultural historical activity theory. The following twofold question guided the study:

How does Intensity of Interaction constitute musical and pedagogical meaning construction in instrumental or vocal teaching and learning and to which features of verbal and musical communication is Intensity of Interaction connected?

This study gathered data during a period of 3 years, through interactive processes and events in 22 lessons, using observations, video and audio recordings, field notes, intensity ratings, and stimulated recall interviews. The analysis viewed the data from two parallel perspectives on the lesson interaction. The first perspective considered meaning construction in the lesson activity. The other perspective entailed interpretation of the intensity ratings, that is, the perceived meaningfulness of joint musical engagement. The analysis combined these two empirical sources of information in the framework of Activity Theory.

The study and the analysis of the data consisted of the following phases: (1) formulation and testing of methods for analysis of Intensity of Interaction based on the intensity ratings and the Method of Voices from the field of Activity Theory, (2) determination, through application of this theory and method, of ways that music teaching and learning strategies arise through internal contradictions within various forms of a) musical play, b) narrative play, and c) knowledge inquiry, (3) development of a description of the theoretical construct Intensity of Interaction as a key component of the teacher/student dialogue in music lessons.

As an outcome, the increased awareness regarding meaning construction and diversity of problem solving in music lessons has implications for both instrumental pedagogy and future research. Firstly, the results showed how Intensity of Interaction is related to teaching and learning strategies. Secondly, Intensity of Interaction highlights qualitative elements in teacher-student work, which create musical and personal growth and development. Thirdly, the findings of this study challenged the paradigm of efficiency, in which efficiency of teaching is related to high teacher intensity and inefficiency related to low teacher intensity in instrumental instruction. Fourthly, Intensity of Interaction is comprised of the continuity of tension between sense making and awareness of musical reality, sense making and conventional meaning, and musical-pedagogical concepts versus musical-pedagogical reality.

Articulation of the contradictions facilitates change as an outcome of relations in which the two polarities are not exclusive but are brought into accord through a dialogical process. Consequently, Intensity of Interaction opens up prospects of development in lesson content and structure. In all, this study highlights the sensitive nature of the teacher-student interactions and the pragmatic value of Intensity of Interaction in educating musicians and in developing the teacher-student work. This suggests the usefulness of Intensity of Interaction as a tool for self-observation and teacher education, elaborating more reflective teaching and learning contexts within instrumental pedagogy.

Congratulations to Dr. Tapani Heikinheimo!

It was a pleasure to serve as co-supervisor of Tapani's doctoral dissertation, along with activity theory expert Ritva Engestrom and music education philosopher Heidi Westerlund.


Rethinking College Music Theory Pedagogy

Yesterday, Dr. Nancy Rosenberg successfully defended her doctoral dissertation at Boston University, an extensive academic study entitled FROM ROCK MUSIC TO THEORY PEDAGOGY: RETHINKING U.S. COLLEGE MUSIC THEORY EDUCATION FROM A POPULAR MUSIC PERSPECTIVE.

Here is the abstract:

Popular music today permeates American youth culture and society at large to an unprecedented extent, disseminated through information technology and a vibrant concert and club culture. Nevertheless, the subject of popular music remains slow to infiltrate mainstream academic music discourse, especially discussions of music pedagogy. In the case of music theory, there is a discrepancy between popular music discourse on one hand, and pedagogical practice that excludes popular music on the other. In the absence of relevant training and materials, instructors desiring to include popular music in music theory curricula do so in relative isolation, often casually, and/or to a very limited extent. Along with practical concerns, unresolved philosophical questions further impede development of a coherent vision for including popular music in the undergraduate music theory curriculum.

This philosophical study explores numerous issues around the intersection of popular music and beginning music theory education. Its three parts progress from the general to the specific. Part One considers current music theory and theory pedagogy through an historical lens, clarifying reasons for the disciplines’ neglect of popular music.

Part Two grapples with major issues around popular music’s inclusion in today’s college music theory. Traditional textbooks serve to introduce primary themes relating to music theory content and methodology, as philosophical perspectives on popular music’s role in music education are considered. Turning to current practice, several theory textbooks that include popular music content to varying degrees are examined, along with relevant research on the pedagogical implications of popular music and its learning processes.

Finally, Part Three offers original lessons and ideas for approaching core theoretical concepts through popular music. Throughout, areas of convergence and divergence between classical and popular styles are explored with the aim of developing fresh, experientially based approaches to presenting popular music alongside art music repertoire in teaching beginning music theory. While this study focuses primarily on past and current rock-influenced popular music, it will serve as a useful tool for music educators wishing to expand the boundaries of traditional music theory pedagogy to include any and all styles of popular music as a means of imparting core music theory concepts.


Dr. Nancy Rosenberg is a prolific composer and music educator who has taught at Brown University and Emerson College for many years.

Dr. Rosenberg’s dissertation is the first major study to focus on the role of popular music in music theory pedagogy, and may also be the first academic study to examine the field of music theory from the perspective of music education philosophy.

Congratulations to Dr. Nancy Rosenberg!

It was a pleasure to serve as supervisory professor for this innovative doctoral dissertation. The study also greatly benefited from comments by committee members Andrew Goodrich (Boston University), Lee Higgins (Boston University), and Ben Bierman (CUNY).


Chiwalala Doctoral Ceremony

The following is a press release from the Sibelius Academy website (http://siba.fi/fi/?id=32402):

The public examination of Artist Arnold Chiwalala´s demonstration of proficiency for the Doctor of Music degree will take place on Monday, November 9, 2009 at 11.00 a.m. in Chamber Music Hall, Sibelius Academy, Pohjoinen Rautatiekatu 9, Helsinki.

Title of Arnold Chiwalala´s demonstration of proficiency: Holistic and Intercultural Artistry

Title of the written work: Chizentele: My Path to Original Artistry and Creative Fusion of Ngoma with Finnish Folk Music and Dance

The statement on the demonstration of proficiency will be presented by the Chair of the Board of Examiners PhD, Ass.Prof. Alfonso Padilla. Statements on the written work will be presented by Professor David Hebert and Professor Hannu Saha. The Custos of the examination is Professor Vesa Kurkela.

The combined experience of living in two cultures, Tanzanian and Finnish, has played a part in Arnold Chiwalala´s creativity which led him to undertake this doctoral degree. He came to Finland already equipped with his artistic skills and education from home, but experiencing a new environment and a different culture has developed him as an artist. It has broadened his perspective on creativity and it has broadened his artistic imagination. Here in Finland he discovered the kantele. With this instrument, he has invented a concrete new style of music to which he has given the name Chizentele, and established a two-piece band, PolePole, to play this style. He has performed this new style Chizentele in all of his doctoral recitals. Added to that he has developed different ways for creating intercultural fusion of music, dance and songs.

The skills and knowledge that Arnold Chiwalala inherited from his parents and obtained from other sources - from school, society, the Bagamoyo College of Arts in Tanzania, the Department of Folk Music at the Sibelius Academy in Finland, various experiences of living in a different culture, the experience of working with other artists, and observations of other people´s work - have given him the capacity as an artist to see and do things as a whole, especially while he is creating his art. In this document he will explain how he arrived at this holistic conception of artistry through cross-cultural experience.

Arnold Chiwalala is a Tanzanian musician, dancer, singer, choreographer, composer, song writer and a Teacher. He was born in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, in 1963. He was chosen to join the Bagamoyo College of Arts, Tanzania, in 1981. Arnold has worked as teacher and performing artist in the Bagamoyo College of Arts since 1985. Besides teaching he has been involved in various dance, music and theatre projects and performed in Africa, Europe and in the USA. Trip in November 1987 to Finland connected him with the country. Since 1989 he has traveled widely in the country to teach, give lectures and workshops in schools and in tertiary education such as Sibelius Academy, Theatre Academy, University of Helsinki and University of Tampere. He has also taught professionals in performing arts, school teachers and amateurs as well as worked with handicapped children and prisoners. As an artist he has collaborated with Finnish artists in various music, dance and theater projects, including Opera. Added to that, Arnold has performed for TV and his artistry works have been featured in Radio programs. In 2000 Yle TV 1 made a documentary film called “Musta Väinämöinen” about Arnold Chiwalala.


It was a great pleasure to mentor Dr. Arnold Chiwalala in developing the final document of his doctoral thesis, along with co-examiner Hannu Saha at Sibelius Academy. Dr. Alfonso Padilla (University of Helsinki) and Heikki Laitinen (Emeritus Professor, Sibelius Academy) did an outstanding job guiding and evaluating Dr. Chiwalala in his artistic work across several years of studies.

Also, I am pleased to report that the Finland Ministry of Foreign Affairs is now sending 10 copies of Dr. Chiwalala's thesis to its embassies in Africa.

Classics at the White House

President Obama and family have just hosted their first concert of classical music at the White House.

Here is a link to a related article:

According to the above article . . . “Asked after the workshop whether the Obamas’ gesture in celebrating classical music at the White House will help demystify the art form and bring it needed attention, Ms. Weilerstein said, ‘If that doesn’t do it, I don’t know what does.’”


RIP Claude Levi-Strauss

Anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss (b. 1908) has just passed away. Author of The Raw and the Cooked and other influential books, his ideas have had a considerable impact on how social scientists conceive of music in culture.



Link to an article on Levi-Strauss and music:



On music in human life:

“Since music is a language with some meaning at least for the immense majority of mankind, although only a tiny minority of people are capable of formulating a meaning in it, and since it is the only language with the contradictory attributes of being at once intelligible and untranslatable, the musical creator is a being comparable to the gods, and music itself the supreme mystery of the science of man, a mystery that all the various disciplines come up against and which holds the key to their progress.”

On scholarship:

“The scientific mind does not so much provide the right answers as ask the right questions.”

On the place of Europe in the world:

“Being human signifies, for each one of us, belonging to a class, a society, a country, a continent and a civilization; and for us European earth-dwellers, the adventure played out in the heart of the New World signifies in the first place that it was not our world and that we bear responsibility for the crime of its destruction.”

On the relations between historiography and social science:

“The anthropologist respects history, but he does not accord it a special value. He conceives it as a study complementary to his own: one of them unfurls the range of human societies in time, the other in space.”