International Council for Traditions of Music and Dance

A Non-Governmental Organization in Formal Consultative Relations with UNESCO

Report on the 18th Meeting of the ICTM Study Group on Historical Sources of Traditional Music, Vilnius (Lithuania) 14–18 April 2010


The 18th Meeting of the ICTM Study Group on Historical Sources of Traditional Music was held in Vilnius (Lithuania) on April 14–18, 2010, thanks to an invitation by the Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre. The conference was made possible through the efforts of Rimantas Astrauskas and his colleagues in Vilnius, and was supported by the Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre and Saulius Karosas Charity and Support Foundation.

The chosen topic "Methodological approaches to historical sources in ethnomusicology" presented the opportunity to focus on methodological questions related to different kinds of historical sources, iconographic and written sources as well as sound recordings. The decision to extend the time for presenting a paper to 30 minutes and to allow 15 minutes for discussion was greatly appreciated by all participants and resulted in a compact program on an outstandingly high level.

Scholars from Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Finland, Germany, Lithuania, Poland, the Russian Federation and Sweden presented papers in high quality and discussed various methodological approaches to historical sources.

Problems of historical research in ethnomusicology were touched upon in papers given by Sławomira Żerańska-Kominek (Warsaw): “Myth and history. The problems of historical research in ethnomusicology” and Ulrich Morgenstern (Frankfurt a.M): “Imagining the past. The concept starina in Russian folk music discourse and in traditional culture”. It became quite clear that historical research in ethnomusicology does not follow a general line, but is subjective and depends to a great extend upon the researcher himself. So even reconsidering one’s own fieldwork from the historical aspect could bring new results, as Andreas Meyer (Hamburg) pointed out in his paper “Narrated Past – Experiences in the Caribbean”. The importance of a combination of historical archival material and fieldwork was also successfully demonstrated by Rimantas Astrauskas (Vilnius) in his paper: “Complementarity of fieldwork in historical research”.

Historical iconographical examples were also used as examples of methodological approaches. In his paper entitled “Iconography in Ethnomusicology – An Example of Polish Painting XIX and XX centuries”, Tomasz Nowak (Warsaw) demonstrated different types of methodological approaches in the study of Polish paintings.

The publication of historical sound documents was discussed in Gerda Lechleitner’s (Vienna) paper: “Publishing historical sound documents – a challenge of interpretation and presentation”; this resulted in a reflection about the latest CD-edition of the Vienna Phonogrammarchiv: Croatian recordings.

Transdisciplinary approaches and interdisciplinary research were the topics in papers given by Ingrid Åkesson (Stockholm): “Cross-disciplinary studies of traditional singing. Some practical examples of methodological approaches” and Susanne Ziegler (Berlin): “Methodological approaches and interdisciplinary research in historical sound recordings. Case studies from the Berlin Phonogramm-Archiv”. Studying historical sources in ethnomusicology can only benefit from interdisciplinary research and contribute valuable results from other fields of subject.

Examples of specific methodological approaches were provided by Anne Caufriez (Brussels) in her paper: “The approach of a Portuguese ballad, a case of methodology for historical sources” and by Erkki Pekkilä (Helsinki) with “Folk music and the study of the history of ideas: Contemplating the influence of H.G. Porthan, a Finnish 18th century scholar”, also using iconographic sources, and by Gaila Kirdiene (Vilnius): “Notations as historical sources of Lithuanian folk instrumental music”.

Historical research in musical instruments was addressed in papers by Alice Lumi Satomi (Paraiba/Brussels): “Towards a Brazilian organology” and Mikhail Shilnov (Gothenburg): “Fretless Zithers of Northern Europe in the Light of Historical Sources and Ethnological Data. An Attempt of Re-Evaluation”. Both papers delivered valuable information, which could also be a valuable contribution for the STGR of musical instruments.

Different methodological approaches in the study of wax cylinder collections were demonstrated in the papers of Aleksey Andronov (St. Petersburg): “On the history of E. Wolter’s phonographic recordings: collecting and storage”, and of Adelajda Merchan-Drazkowska (Berlin): “Reconstruction of the history of the Julius Block wax cylinder collection”. These scholars presented ongoing research projects, and again it was proven that historical sources are not accessible without cross-disciplinary research across borders.

Thus, interdisciplinary research and the successful application of different methodological approaches turned out to be the common theme in this meeting.

Thanks to the organiser the participants of this meeting also gained insight into research and public activities of the Lithuanian colleagues. A visit to the Archives of the Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre was followed by a reception and culminated in a party with music and dance. The visit to the Institute of Lithuanian Literature and Folklore was accompanied by short presentations by Rūta Žarskienė on “Collections of the Lithuanian folklore archives” and Austė Nakienė on “Records of the first Lithuanian choirs (1907–1918) and popular musicians (1930–1938)”.

A business meeting was held, and Ingrid Åkesson from the Svenskt visarkiv in Stockholm was elected to serve as co-chair, replacing Björn Aksdal from Norway. The STGR members were invited to hold the next meeting in Vienna in spring 2012.

Unexpectedly the volcanic-ash cloud from Iceland had its effect on the meeting by either preventing participants to take part or by forcing them to take a train or ferry instead of flying back home. But even the – in some cases – long trip home did not diminish the success of the conference and the feeling that Vilnius was a great experience. We again express our sincere thanks to the organisers.

Susanne Ziegler