International Council for Traditions of Music and Dance

A Non-Governmental Organization in Formal Consultative Relations with UNESCO

2008 - 1st Biannual Meeting Report: Historical and Emerging Approaches To Applied Ethnomusicology

The first meeting of the ICTM Study Group on Applied Ethnomusicology was held at the Slovene Ethnographic Museum in Ljubljana, Slovenia 9.-13. July 2008. The meeting was hosted by Svanibor Pettan, on behalf of the Slovene National Committee of the ICTM, Faculty of Arts of the University of Ljubljana, and four other institutions and associations. Over four days, forty people representing sixteen countries from all continents shared their experiences and perspectives on applied ethnomusicology in a variety of contexts. The program was based on the three principal themes: (1) History of the Idea and Understanding of Applied Ethnomusicology in World-Wide Contexts, (2) Presentation and Evaluation of Individual Projects – with Emphasis on Theory and Method, and (3) Applied Ethnomusicology in Situations of Conflict.


Anthony Seeger (USA) delivered the keynote, challenging ethnomusicologists to consider the choice they have: if/how their work should have an applied component and aim for larger social impact. He also cautioned that research on music and dance is important in its own right and need not be done with an immediate “applied” aim in mind.


In addition to individual papers and organized panels, “Talking Circles,” an efficient format for group dialogue inspired by Native American traditions, was introduced by Klisala Harrison. The first day there was a general talking circle in which all participants introduced themselves and shared their ideas on applied ethnomusicology. In subsequent days, attendees joined and remained with one of three circles for lengthy afternoon discussion covering three concerns running through the papers of the meeting: (1) “Threatened Music, Threatened Communities: Ethnomusicology’s Responses and Responsibilities to Endangered Music Cultures;” (2) “Applied Ethnomusicology Approaches to Music Therapy and Healing;” and (3) “Theorizing Music’s Role in Conflict and Peacemaking.” A large talking circle was re-assembled the final day of the conference and we heard reports back on the work of each circle. Talking Circle Reports are available on the ICTM’s web page for the Study Group on Applied Ethnomusicology.

The meeting made abundantly clear the wide variety of approaches to applied ethnomusicology. Approaches vary within “national ethnomusicologies” and practices vary greatly among the different iterations of ethnomusicology among nations. For a complete conference program, please visit

A rich offering of evening activities complemented the formal presentations and discussions of the meeting. On opening evening we were greeted by two local folk ensembles, while on the forthcoming evenings we practiced Slovenian and Central European folk dances, toured the innovative hostel Celica, enjoyed Ljubljanica river cruise, and were treated to an evening of Macedonian song.

General Assembly (business meeting)

Svanibor Pettan (Slovenia, chair) and Klisala Harrison (Canada, vice-chair) led the general assembly of the study group. We discussed elections procedures, publication of the papers, presence of the study group at the 40th ICTM world conference in Durban, and location of the next meeting of the study group. Agreement about three year terms for officers and other operating procedures has been reached. Liz Mackinlay (Australia) offered to explore the possibility of publication of peer reviewed papers in an edited volume with Cambridge Scholars Publishing. There was also considerable discussion concerning online publication that would allow greater accessibility to the papers. Participants of the meeting were encouraged to form and propose panels for the world conference in Durban, where the study group will also hold its next business meeting. Kjell Skyllstad (Norway) outlined plans for holding the 2010 study group meeting in Hanoi, Vietnam. This meeting, partly in conjunction with the meeting of the study group Music and Minorities, would coincide with the opening of the Vietnamese Institute for Musicology [] and a millennial celebration of Vietnam. There was general agreement that the meeting in Vietnam will encourage participation of Asian colleagues and highlight applied work underway in Vietnam and neighboring countries. Huib Schippers (Australia) agreed to join Kjell Skyllstad in further planning. The exact dates for the conference will be decided in Durban.

Eric Usner