International Council for Traditions of Music and Dance

A Non-Governmental Organization in Formal Consultative Relations with UNESCO

Report on the first meeting of the ICTM Study Group-in-the-making on “Sound, Movement and the Sciences” (SoMoS)

Institute of Ethnomusicology, University of Music and Performing Arts Graz, 20-22 September 2018


The first symposium of the aspiring ICTM Study Group took place from 20th to 23rd September 2018 and was hosted by the Institute of Ethnomusicology at the University of Music and Performing Arts Graz, Austria. The Vice-rector for Research and the State of Styria were the main sponsors. Sixteen scholars signed up for the symposium, of which twelve presented full papers. The keynote address was given by Martin Clayton, on the topic “Interpersonal entrainment in music performance: A cross-cultural perspective”.

The symposium lasted two full days, with all scholars invited for an opening reception with Persian classical and contemporary music (given by Massoud Shaari and Sina Shaari), and for a Styrian yodeling workshop (led by Daniel Fuchsberger) plus dinner on the second evening.

The steering committee included Flora Henderson, Lukas Park, Christopher Dick and Kendra Stepputat, the latter two also acting as the local arrangements team.

Two general meetings were held, the first one focusing on general topics concerning the group, and the second one on more practical issues. Following is a short rendition of topics that were addressed, discussed and decided upon in those two meetings.


1) Name of the Group

The topic most intensely discussed, yet still rather quickly agreed upon was the name of the study group. Several suggested terms such as “digital”, “empirical”, “computational” and the like were quickly discarded as too limiting and not to the point of our common research approaches. On the other hand, “transdisciplinary” and “interdisciplinary” were considered to be too broad and therefore also not suitable. Being aware of the term scientific’s ambiguity, we dedicated some time to discuss our understanding of it. Misunderstandings that might arise here are mostly a result of difficulties translating the English term into other languages, but even more so, the different concepts and divisions of academic disciplines in various countries and university traditions. However, staying close to the English meaning of the phrase “the sciences”, which are generally considered to be “natural”, “hard” or “formal” sciences, we agreed that this term is the most suitable for its ability to encompass all of our approaches and mindsets in our mostly inter– or transdisciplinary projects.

Considering the second part of the name, the vast majority considered the general terms “movement” and “sound” to be better suiting than “music” and “dance”. We opted against the “body”, because this term might easily be misunderstood by related disciplines. Several members emphasized, that the inclusion of both sound and movement studies is particularly attractive and should be stressed from the beginning. Hence, the group, after singling out one name from several other suggestions, voted on the new name “Sound, Movement and the Sciences (SOMOS)”.


2) Differentiation from Other Groups

In reference to already existing study groups that might be related in their approach or fields, we discussed how our study group differs. The two relevant existent groups are AAWM (Analytical Approaches to World Music), and FMA (Folk Music Analysis). The most prominent difference between the FMA group and ourselves is that, for us, ethnographic methods including fieldwork and participant observation are an important part of our research and stay at the core of our respective projects. With the ICTM as the mother organization, we want to state clearly that we are first and foremost ethnomusicologists/ethnochoreologists, but that we also use methods borrowed from the sciences, or work in inter- or transdisciplinary projects together with scientists from other fields.

The AAWM group bears more resemblance to our envisioned direction. The main difference between our proposed study group and AAWM is that we do not want to limit our approach to “analysis” of music and movement per se. This argument is also the most important in relation to the sub-study group on “movement analysis” in the Study Group on Ethnochoreology. Working with methods from the sciences does not necessarily mean that music or movement material itself is analyzed. Instead, we welcome all forms of research questions and approaches, from micro to macro level. In addition, AAWM focuses mainly on “music”, while the sub-study group on movement analysis focuses mainly on “dance”. We want to make sure that both sound and movement are included as potential fields; this will provide a home, for example, to research on gesture and performer interaction, which at present is rather peripheral to existing groups.

To have this approach within the ICTM reflects many researchers’ current projects in the evolving branches of ethnomusicology and ethnochoreology alike. Those scholars who already are ICTM members thereby get the chance to meet colleagues who work in related fields. We will be able to share knowledge and insights, as is the basic idea of any study group. In addition, the proposed study group will certainly bring more researchers into the ICTM (even this first meeting brought five new members into the ICTM), in particular those outside North America, which is in alignment with the important international orientation of the ICTM.


3) Organization of the Study Group

Under the premise that the group should be accepted by the ICTM as a new study group, we voted for potential board members who would take on their positions officially once the group is formally installed. In an open vote, a board consisting of Kendra Stepputat as chair, Lara Pearson as vice-chair and Christopher Dick as secretary was elected. The term of each function should be four years. Study group bylaws will be written and voted upon at the next study group meeting.


4) Proceedings and Reports

The group decided against publishing proceedings. Instead, results from the symposia, starting with this one, shall be published in form of a report including enhanced abstracts of all presented papers. The reasons for this are two-fold. First, most of us work in interdisciplinary projects, in which publications are generally a team-effort, while presentations at meetings, symposia and conferences count as individual achievements. In addition, the pressure to publish predominantly, if not always, in peer-reviewed journals, will cause many symposia participants to not submit their papers for the proceedings, or even worse, not present or participate in the symposium at all. The majority of the group was therefore in favor of a report that captures the presentations in a compact form without the pressure to publish as a full paper. It was also decided to focus on a digital version, which can be distributed quickly and sustainably. This does not mean that the report will not be edited; as with other full proceedings, the submitted abstracts will be copy edited and brought into a scholarly format consistent with that of ICTM publications.


5) Next Meeting

The group discussed possible locations for the next symposium in two years. Several members agreed to get in contact with their institutions and the relevant representatives of those institutions to look into the possibilities of hosting the next symposium.


The symposium was very intense, with a lot of stimulating discussions and exchange of information. Most participants felt well received and happy to be able to share their work with like-minded researchers in ethnomusicology and ethnochoreology. The high academic standards of presentations and discussions, in combination with the friendly cooperation between members at this first meeting were very promising and we hope that the study group will further develop in this direction.


Report written by Kendra Stepputat, on behalf of the steering committee (Christopher Dick, Flora Henderson, Lukas Park, Kendra Stepputat)

Graz, 13.10.2018

Corrigendum: this report was amended on August 22, 2019 in order to correct a mistaken affiliation of AAWM to SEM in its original version.