2021 Activities Report

Institute for Ethnomusicology – University of Music and Performing Arts

Although the Austrian government cleverly managed to negotiate a three-week, in-person shopping period before Christmas 2020, satisfying both shopkeepers and shoppers, the first weeks of 2021 were marked with rising covid case numbers (largely due to holiday super-spreader events) and the nation as a whole was back in lockdown shortly after the last fireworks exploded. This meant that the usual end-of-semester flurry of events was decidedly muted.  All courses were finished online, without any of the celebratory events. Despite the gloom of lockdown, the Institute welcomed Dr. Patrick Savage to deliver a guest lecture by zoom on 20 January 2021. Speaking from Keio University, Fujisawa Japan, Dr. Savage delivered a lecture entitled, ‘Comparative Musicology: The Science of the World’s Music’ arguing for new approaches to the study of music and music cultures that combine qualitative and quantitative methods. As many in the Institute are engaged in similar kinds of research, Savage’s talk generated a lot of discussion and debate and was generally regarded as an excellent way to begin the new year and to end Winter semester 2020-2021.

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We retreated to our houses for the non-teaching month of February hoping against hope that delayed projects and conferences might actually be able to move forward. But the case numbers and curves that occupied us, not to mention the ‘Traffic Light of Covid Doom’ failed to change back to green or even to yellow and so when March 2021 arrived, local and national administrators insisted we continue to teach online.

The Summer 2021 semester had the ignominious honor of being the only semester during the pandemic to actually begin and end entirely online, without any whiff of hope for in-person teaching assumed or predicted.  Surprising to many around the world who had never used an online teaching platform, a ‘Moodle’ or some other online tool was now essential as was learning how to effectively teach and engage with students through Zoom. Already seasoned with some online teaching experience, the Institute 13 team rose to the new challenge with enthusiasm and full engagement from their various living rooms and home offices. Meanwhile, the Institute plants occupied the offices, hoping not to be overwatered by well-meaning cleaning staff and leaning further and further toward the windows in an effort to feel alive and sun-warmed, all while wondering quietly whether or when the human co-occupants might return.

We note that there are actually several positive developments that have arisen as University communities have learned to accommodate themselves to the pandemic.  We even argue that the pandemic was a decolonizing force in university contexts in that it made it possible for people from around the world to attend public university events from their hometowns in their living rooms.  The lack of travel funds was no longer as powerful a limiting factor as it had been. The ‘privilege’ of traveling long distances to give or hear talks and research presentations was rendered impossible by the pandemic and simultaneously deemed less necessary.  Further, it turned out that the need to maintain distance from living humans outside one’s bubble, actually created opportunities for people to visit the classes of colleagues around the world through Zoom. Institute members received and extended invitations to visit classes from and to scholars around the world.

While many suffered problems due to isolation, it may be the case that our Institute had the opposite problem. In recent times, our institute has hosted between 3 and 5 guest lectures per calendar year.  But this year, in addition to many online visits by external scholars to our classes, the Institute hosted eight scholars as guest speakers. In addition to Patrick Savage, our official guest lectures included: Prof. Gregory Melchor-Barz, Dr. Raquel Campos, Prof. Rachel Harris, Dr. Adam Kaul, Dr. Kaustuv Kanti Ganguli, Prof. Florian Carl, Dr. Ameneh Youssefzadeh, and Dr. Mats Nilsson. Please visit our guest lectures page to read about the research these wonderful scholars presented.

Summer convinced the Covid case numbers to drop and Winter semester 2021 began in person much to the delight of students and teachers – even though it would no longer be possible to email and converse with family and friends while sitting in class or to bake bread at the same time that one was teaching. Also missing, sadly, were the pleasures of humorous conversations in private chats while on Zoom meetings.

The Institute hosted one international symposium in 2021. Imagined and organized by Babak Nikzat and Sarah Weiss, the Rethinking Musical Mode symposium was a fully hybrid event, with keynote speakers located in Iran, Prof. Hooman Asadi, and USA, Prof. Sumarsam and attended by people from more than 20 countries as well as an audience of more than 50 different people in the Kleiner Saal over the two-day event.  As part of the Mode Symposium a live concert performed by former institute student Sina Shaari and his father Masoud Shaari was presented and a workshop on improvisation was offered by Negar Booban, who also gave a talk at the symposium.

The Institute welcomed a new postdoctoral researcher this year. Dr. Felix Morgenstern won two years of FWF funding for his project entitled: ‘Irish Folk in Austria: Evading national Identity.

As we in Graz recovered the opportunity to host and attend live events, several members of the Institute participated in the now annual folk.art Festival Graz. Sarah Weiss gave the inaugural talk entitled: ‘Weltmusik: Was, Wo, und Wann in der Welt ist Sie??‘ and Magdalena Maria Wolf and Bernadette Planner hosted an event entitled: Tradition(en).

A number of Institute students completed their projects and graduated. Those receiving their MAs include Moamer Hadzic, Teresa Seiwald, Siavash Moazzami Vahid and those receiving their BAs were Karoline Krasser and Paul Probst.  In addition, several students received awards. PhD student Dora Dunatov won the Doctoral School’s Best Practice Award  at the June 2021 Doctoral Forum and Talieh Attarzadeh won the 2021 Genderprize from the Center for Gender Studies at KUG. Congratulations to all.

Over the course of 2021, a number of significant events connected to Institute personnel took place. In what was a very busy week just before the start of the teaching semester, on 29 September 2021, Ass. Prof Kendra Stepputat submitted her Habilitation thesis; on 30 September 2021, Prof. Gerd Grupe officially retired as Professor of the Institute; and on 1 October 2021, Sarah Weiss officially became the new Professor of the Institute.  As Teresa Seiwald completed her MA she left the Institute and her job as a student assistant. Magdalena Maria Wolf began her work as a student assistant. Kurt Schatz received a position as University Assistant funded by the Doctoral School.

In professional contexts outside of KUG: Kendra Stepputat was elected to a three-year term on the Board of the ICTM, her book The Kecak and Cultural Tourism on Bali (University of Rochester Press 2021) appeared, as did the volume she co-edited with Brian Diettrich, Perspectives In Motion - Engaging the Visual in Dance and Music in honor of Adrienne Kaeppler. A hybrid book launch on 12th April 2021 was hosted by East-West center in Hawai’i  and included more than 70 participants from around the world, including a greeting from her majesty Queen Nanasipauʻu of Tonga. Sarah Weiss was elected to serve as the Chair of the Austrian National Committee of the ICTM and her book Ritual Soundings: Women Performers and World Religions (University of Illinois Press 2019) was selected for the ICTM Best Book Prize (Honorable Mention).