Abgeschlossene Projekte


History and Philosophy of (Ethno)musicology

Dissertationsprojekt Malik Sharif

The musicologist, composer, music critic, social activist, and inventor Charles Louis Seeger (1886-1979) was highly influential for the development of Ethnomusicology after World War II. A recurrent issue in his writings has been the philosophy of musicology, that means meta-musicological questions regarding the epistemology, disciplinarity, and end of musicological research (understood in the broadest sense). A PhD research project by Malik Sharif is dedicated to the development of Seeger’s thinking in this area. Nevertheless, the project’s final aim is not primarily a historiographical account or an exercise in Seeger exegesis. Instead, Seeger’s meta-musicological theorizing is assessed regarding its value for nurturing interdisciplinary synthesis among the diverse and often fractionalized musicological disciplines of the twenty-first century and this assessment serves as a starting point for a further development of the valuable ideas.



Marimbaimprovisation in Mexiko und Guatemala

Dissertationsprojekt José Israel Moreno Vázquez

In der traditionellen Volks- sowie in der Popularmusik der Marimba wird in Chiapas und Guatemala oft ein Improvisationsteil eingefügt, in dem der marimbista principal sein Können unter Beweis stellt. Diese Improvisationen werden im Allgemeinen mit vier, manchmal auch mit zwei und selten mit sechs baquetas ausgeführt. Die frühesten derzeit bekannten Tonaufnahmen von Marimbaimprovisationen stammen aus den 50er Jahren des 20. Jahrhunderts, jedoch stellt auch die Suche und Dokumentation früherer Quellen einen Teil dieses Projektes dar. Improvisationskonzepte und -formen änderten sich im Laufe der Zeit. Vergleichbar mit Neuerungen im Jazz, zeichneten sich auch hier improvisierende Musiker durch Entwicklung persönlicher Stile oder durch Interpretationsneuheiten - etwa der Weiterentwicklung harmonischer Strukturen, Stimmführung mit vier baquetas oder rhythmischer Innovationen - aus.








Virtual Gamelan Graz: Disclosing Implicit Musical Knowledge

sponsored by FWF (PEEK-Programm, Projekt-Nr. AR 143-G21)


Gamelan concert by the Southbank Gamelan Players and interactive sound installation by Charles Matthews (KUG, April 27, 2015)  

Project Summary

The project aimed at investigating ways of unveiling tacit knowledge on musical concepts and current performance practice of classical Central Javanese gamelan music (karawitan) with the help of computer-assisted listening experiments. The two main areas to be studied were first, the way in which a given composition is actually transformed into a live performance (garap); second, the evaluation of the specific tuning of individual gamelan sets (embat). In the course of the project an attempt was made to program dedicated software that would emulate both an ensemble of gamelan musicians as well as the sound of various fixed-pitch gamelan instruments and drums.

    Bp. Suraji (on bonang) and Bp. Suyoto (on kendhang)

In spite of some progress towards implementing musical rules and performance principles of karawitan as well as facilitating the control of sound and tuning of virtual gamelan instruments, it turned out that within the project’s time frame an operational, autonomous software implementation could not be achieved. Therefore, as far as musical rules are concerned efforts were focused on preparing computer-generated audio examples which manually incorporated existing explicit knowledge so that an evaluation by Javanese experts would reveal shortcomings due to tacit assumptions disregarded in our virtual renditions. Concerning embat published measurements of 12 traditional (6 sléndro and 6 pélog) and two American gamelans (just intonation) were chosen as well as two experimental ones (equidistant) resulting in some 1360 digital samples of sound generators which had to be calculated and manually retuned.Audio examples of 18 traditional compositions taken from both tuning systems (laras sléndro and pélog) and their respective modes (pathet) were presented to three renowned senior musicians who are also instructors at the Academy of Arts (ISI) in Surakarta, Bp. Suraji, Bp. Suyoto, and Bp. Prasadiyanto. Their comments on both aspects, i.e., the rendition of the pieces and the sound of the various virtual gamelans with respect to their tuning, were highly instructive. By adopting an analysis-by-synthesis approach which incorporated only explicit and mainly generic principles of performance practice while largely omitting tacit assumptions or specific knowledge pertaining to individual pieces, it could be demonstrated that accomplished karawitan musicians have a more holistic view of this art so that “correct” notes are equally important as – or sometimes even less so than – other factors such as idiomatically adequate timing, phrasing, embellishments, articulation, and dynamics as well as contextual considerations.

Bp. Prasadiyanto (on gendèr) with Jonathan Roberts

While most of these insights might not be surprising to gamelan experts they nevertheless underscore the necessity to approach the endeavor of letting a computer emulate a karawitan performance in a much broader way than merely refining “structural” paradigms on the level of a musical grammar. Regarding the assessment of various tunings listening to different ones in direct comparison proved to be conducive to an in-depth verbal discourse on matters which might otherwise remain rather vague or abstract.The shortcomings in the domain of music computing notwithstanding, the project has successfully demonstrated that listening experiments with local experts in which musical parameters such as melodic gestures, timing, tuning, etc. can be controlled individually can be a useful tool in investigating musical concepts and particularly in disclosing how actual performance practices are shaped by – usually implicit – norms.

Recording of analytical live performances at the Southbank Centre, London, with Bp. Suraji, Bp. Suyoto, Bp. Prasadiyanto, John Pawson, Sophie Ransby, and Robert Campion


Main collaborators

• ISI Surakarta, Java

   Bp. Suraji: senior musician, lecturer at ISI  

   Bp. Suyoto: senior musician, lecturer at ISI   

   Bp. Prasadiyanto: senior musician, lecturer at ISI


• Southbank Centre London    

   Sophie Ransby, PhD: gamelan advisor, logistics   

   John Pawson, MA: gamelan advisor, translations   

   Jonathan Roberts, MA: gamelan advisor, transcriptions, translations   

   Charles Matthews, PhD: interactive gamelan software


• University of Music and Performing Arts, Graz   

   Babak Nikzat, MA: recordings, video editing, computer-based analysis


• University of the Arts, Berlin   

   Dominik Hildebrand Marques Lopes, MA: SuperCollider programming


Special thanks to the members of the Southbank Gamelan Players who performed for us. 

Download Project Report





Musik, Religion, Integration: MuslimInnen in der Steiermark

gefördert vom Zukunftsfonds des Landes Steiermark (Projekt-Nr. 6037)

Musikalische Präferenzen und der Umgang mit Musik sind zentrale Elemente der Identitätsstiftung von Menschen. Kulturelle Prägungen spielen dabei eine wichtige Rolle. So nimmt etwa der orthodoxe Islam eine skeptische bis ablehnende Haltung gegenüber den meis¬ten Formen von Musik ein.
Vor diesem Hintergrund soll durch eine Bestandsaufnahme unter MuslimInnen in der Steiermark ermittelt werden, welche Rolle Musik in ihrem Leben spielt und wie sie mit religiösen Restriktionen in Bezug auf Musik umgehen. Wie bewerten sie verschiedene Arten von Musik? Gibt es religiös begründete Vorbehalte? Welche Musi¬ken werden als „illegitim“ abgelehnt, welche gelten als „akzeptabel“? Musik wird in diesem Zusammenhang als Indikator betrachtet, der Rückschlüsse auf generelle Haltungen der untersuchten Personengruppe ermöglicht. Hört man die gleiche Musik wie andere Menschen in der Steiermark? Zeigt ein Vergleich zwischen MuslimInnen aus verschiedenen Herkunftsländern signifikante Unterschiede? Dient Musik eher als ein Mittel der Integration oder als ein Zeichen der Verbundenheit mit dem Herkunftsland?

Gerd Grupe (Institut für Ethnomusikologie),
Richard Parncutt (Zentrum für Systematische Musikwissenschaft/KFUG),
Hande Sağlam (MDW),
Babak Nikzat (Institut für Ethnomusikologie)