Appel à communication – Ethnographical and Historical Perspectives on Music. Calling Disciplinary Distinctions into Question’ date limite 15/02/24

CALL FOR CONFERENCE PROPOSALS: ‘Ethnographical and Historical Perspectives on Music. Calling Disciplinary Distinctions into Question’

DEADLINE: 15 February 2024

DATE: 19-20 September 2024

LOCATION: Royal Academy of Letters, Stockholm

Organizers: Lars Berglund, Uppsala University and Søren Møller Sørensen, University of Copenhagen


Academic music research has long maintained a disciplinary division between (historical) musicology and ethnomusicology, the former devoted to the historical, analytical and aesthetic study of the Western art music tradition; the latter taking care of non-European music in general and traditional music in Europe. With this inherited distinction also came a division of labour, relating to different repertoires and geographies, but also to different methodologies: on the one hand, studying the past by interpreting different kinds of traces, mainly written sources; on the other hand, studying living cultures of music through ethnographic fieldwork.


Still, this notion of a strict division between the sub-disciplines of academic music research has never been truly in accordance with the realities of the respective subject fields and what scholars have really been doing. In practice, there is a large field of overlap. Pasts are always present in the ethnographic field. It is not a privilege of the West to have an art music leaving traces that can be studied by historiographic methods. Old art music traditions – for instance of the Ottoman Empire and the Indian subcontinent – have been the subject of extensive source-based historiography. More recent developments are at the fore in the rapidly expanding field of global music history. Diachronic narratives and imaginations of a rural past were also a crucial part of folkloristic research and documentation already in the nineteenth century, and ethnomusicologist have often incorporated historical material and perspectives in their work. Correspondingly, historical musicologists incorporate performative aspects and cultural practices in their inquiries as well as theoretical approaches borrowed from anthropology and social theory.


Nevertheless, it seems that these converging research practices seldom meet in an open interchange, and that there is a need for more knowledge exchange between the fields.

Ethnomusicologists dealing with history and historical musicologists engaging with social theory appear to search for inspiration either within their own sub-discipline, or outside the sister disciplines of music research.


This conference is meant to invite scholars to such an interchange by addressing convergences and disparities between the fields of ethnomusicology and historical musicology.  We invite analyses of actual research practices rather than abstract manifestos, following the principle that for the analysis of methodology, it is more rewarding to look at what scholars are actually doing rather than what they claim to be doing.


We invite papers that can provide material for the discussion of overarching issues such as:

– history in the ethnographic field. How do ethnomusicologists take issue with representations of pasts encountered in the field?

– learning from ethnomusicology. How, and to what extent, have ethnomusicological methods informed and inspired music history?

– the encounter with alterity or otherness is a condition of both anthropological experience and historical consciousness. But are we dealing with similar types of otherness and are our ways of approaching them comparable?

– synchronic and diachronic perspectives complement each other in both ethnographic and historical accounts. Do the two fields approach this issue of methodology similarly or differently?

– encounters in the archive. Both music historians and music ethnologists do archival studies. But do they meet the archival materials with different sensibilities, and is there a basis for a fruitful exchange of methods? Archives mirror structures of power and domination. Will a convergence between historical and ethnographic methods teach us to cope with biased archives and meaningful lacunae?


We welcome proposals for papers relevant to these themes. We aim at organizing this as a two-day, one-session conference, and therefore there will be a limited number of presentations. The organizers may therefore have to prioritize the papers of the highest quality, that most pointedly deal with the topic of the conference as outlined above.


We will apply for funding with the aim to cover travel, accommodation and meals for all active participants.


Please send an abstract of maximum 300 words (for a paper of 20 minutes + questions) to Søren Møller Sø<>, deadline for proposals 15 February 2024.


Institutionen för musik och bild/Department of music and arts

Linnéuniversitetet/Linnæus University



Société française d'ethnomusicologie