International Council for Traditions of Music and Dance

A Non-Governmental Organization in Formal Consultative Relations with UNESCO

Report on the 2nd Official Symposium of the ICTMD Study Group on Global History of Music

Report on the 2nd Official Symposium of the ICTMD Study Group on Global History of Music

The ICTMD Study Group on Global History of Music is pleased to inform about the successful completion of the 2nd Official Symposium which was held on June 7-9 2023 at the Antonio Pasqualino International Puppet Museum in Palermo – Italy. The meetings were held in an alternative format, seamlessly combining hybrid and in-person activities. The Symposium was a very special event: it was the first in-person meeting after the pandemic situated in the historical venue – world famous Antonio Pasqualino International Puppet Museum. The museum’s captivating interiors, coupled with Palermo’s overall beauty, lent a unique and picturesque charm to the meeting. The Symposium brought together more than fifty scholars from seventeen countries, including Russia, Italy, Azerbaijan, Canada, Germany, Austria, Portugal, Argentina, Kazakhstan, Netherlands, Ireland, China, USA, Albania, Kyrgyzstan, UK, and Malaysia.


The Symposium, entitled – “An entire ocean in a drop of water»: Island Musics, Performance Identities, and Sound Archives,” with reference to the great Persian Sufi poet Jalāl al-Dīn Muammad Rūmī (1207-1273), had the following main themes: (1) Archives in motion: from the preservation of immaterial memories to their uses and functions in the contemporary world; (2) Global paths of making music? Is difference the “third way”? and (3) Islands sounds and the echoes of diasporic cultures.


As formulated in the Call for Papers, “the problem of archives, of their nature and quality, of their arrangement and conservation, in this era of hasty technological innovations is crucial also in terms of methodological reflection and new questions on the roles of the observer and of the observed imposed by contemporaneity. Such a theme, fruitful and stimulating in itself, is declined in a specific way starting from the idea of an island, and from the many ways in which it can be articulated: in a geographical sense, first of all, but also in a linguistic, political, and cultural sense overall. There are islands within islands and there are networks of routes that connect complex archipelagos, and the latter often act as bridges to continents: small spaces at the intersection of large ones, not «a drop in the ocean» but «the entire ocean in a drop», as the great Persian Sufi poet Jalāl al-Dīn Muammad Rūmī (1207-1273) once said.”


Three distinguished keynote speakers explored these themes in their presentations:

Anthony Seeger (University of California at Los Angeles, USA), focused on Audiovisual archives and ethnographic recordings in the age of YouTube, Peter Wiegold’s (Brunel University, Director of The Third Orchestra, London, UK) presentation titled “Between two waves of the sea”: in search of the Third Orchestra’s performance identity, and Sergio Bonanzinga (University of Palermo, Italy) talked about The Sicilian sound: waves in the wide sea of tradition.


 There were three panel discussions: (1) Musical Heritage in Contemporary Audiovisual Narratives by Chinese Experience, organized by Cheng, Zhiyi Qiaoqiao, Xiao, Mei Liu, Guiteng Yan, Dujiukun); (2) Exiled and re-exiled performance practices from African, presented by Gisa Jähnichen, Chinthaka P Meddegoda, Rastko Jakovljevic, Lin Zhi; and (3) History and ethnography of double clarinets in the Mediterranean area: a shared approach between ethnomusicologists and instruments makers and players, introduced by Nico Staiti, Danilo Gatto, Rosario Altadonna and Giuseppe Roberto (Sicilian makers and players of various pastoral airphones, Messina, Italy).


Individual and team papers are responded to all three topics. The geographical scope of the research was broadened to encompass a diverse range of national culture. The papers included investigations into musical phenomena of Tuva; the Canary Islands; Cambodia; Indonesia; the Portuguese Сrypto-Jewish communities of Portugal; Azerbaijani music recordings from the 1920s; Burma; the Dungan diaspora in Kyrgyzstan; Bali; the Tunisian diaspora in Italy; the Orthodox diaspora in Sicily; the instrumental culture of the Kazakhs living in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in China and others.


It is worth emphasizing that most of the speakers were from Italy. While Giovanni Giuriati noted in his article that Italian ethnomusicology “little known outside of Italy,” (Yearbook for Traditional Music, 1995, Vol.27, pp.104-131) today, nearly 30 years later, it is evident that Italian Ethnomusicology has evolved into one of the most dynamic, influential, and globally recognized groups within the field of ethnomusicology. Today Italians are making significant contributions to the field of ethnomusicology, with a substantial number of books and journals being published. Additionally, they are actively engaged in the production of ethnomusicological documentary films. Furthermore, Italy plays an active role in numerous international conferences, often hosting them at their esteemed national universities. One remarkable example of such success was the symposium held in Palermo. We were delighted to witness the participation of numerous prominent Italian ethnomusicologists, along with leading experts, who made invaluable contribution to our symposium.  


The evening performances, showcasing Italian arts and music, were a remarkable highlight provided by the host country. On the first day, participants were treated to a captivating Sicilian Puppet Show. As the event reached its conclusion on the final day, the audience was enchanted by the mesmerizing sounds emanating from Sicily, Calabria, and Cyclades Islands (Greece) shedding light on lesser-known Italian musical genres. Performers were Rosario Altadonna and Giuseppe Roberto (Sicilian bagpipe a paro, monocalamus and bicalamus cane flutes, accordion, jew’s harp, voice); Danilo Gatto (Calabrian bagpipe menzetta); Nico Staiti (frame drum); Antoniou Yiannis (tsampouna, lyra); and Manos Vasilas (ntoumpaki).


We would like to express our heartfelt gratitude to our Italian colleagues Sergio Bonanzinga, Ignazio Macchiarella, Domenico Staiti, Serena Facci, Francesco Serratore, Giovanni Giuriati, Fulvia Caruso, and to the gracious host venue’s Director of the Antonio Pasqualino International Puppet Museum, Associate Professor of Cultural Anthropology Dr Rosario Perricone, for their exceptional assistance and hospitality during our Symposium, making those three days truly unforgettable.


Founded in 2019, the ICTMD Study Group on Global History of Music focuses on the global interaction of regional musical cultures, resulting in a global network of cross-cultural relationships largely neglected by conventional musical historiography. Our mission is to further cultivate this work, bringing together musicologists and ethnomusicologists to add value to work currently underway in both disciplines. Together, we aspire to contribute valuable insights and perspectives to the ever-evolving discourse in the realm of global music history.


Report prepared by Kanykei Mukhtarova, Study Group’s Secretary