News archive

The Study Group for Mediterranean Music Studies of the
International Council for Traditional Music (ICTM)
will hold its 10th Symposium at St John’s College, Cambridge
June 27–29, 2014


on the theme


Mysticism, Magic, and the Supernatural in Mediterranean Music


Because of its highly abstract nature,
its almost complete lack of explicit verbal or representational content,
music is perhaps the most sensitive indicator of the culture,
and of all the arts it is the most closely tied to the subconscious attitudes and assumptions
on which we build our lives within a society – which must be why,
in all cultures, music is the art most closely associated with the practice of magic.
(Christopher Small, Music, Society, Education, 1977)

In 1909, Jules Combarieu published La musique et la magie, the first extended study devoted to the relation between organized/meaningful sound and activities/rituals meant to give human beings power over nature or over realities thought to exist above or beyond nature itself.

The Mediterranean area is one where such relation has been frequently observed and investigated. What makes the Mediterranean especially fascinating from this angle is that its ethnographic present is frequently examined in historical perspective. In this respect, Ernesto De Martino’s The Land of Remorse: A Study of Southern Italian Tarantism (1961, English translation 2005), Gary Tomlinson’s Music in Renaissance Magic (1993) and Joscelyn Godwin’s Music and the Occult, French Musical Philosophies, 1750-1950 (1995) are landmark studies, but the topic still deserves more comprehensive attention. That is why in proposing the theme “Mysticism, Magic, and the Supernatural in Mediterranean Music” the ICTM study group Mediterranean Music Studies is seeking contributions from ethnomusicology, music history, and other related fields that will highlight significant aspects of this fascinating, and in some respects universal, relation between music-making and esoteric practices.

The programme committee for this Symposium consists of Stefano Castelvecchi (St John’s College, Cambridge), Ruth F. Davis (Corpus Christi’s College, Cambridge), Michael A.  Figueroa (University of Chicago), Goffredo Plastino (Newcastle University), and Marcello Sorce Keller (MMS Chair). All wishing further information, and interested in submitting a paper proposal (one page at the most), are cordially invited to contact me at this address: The submission deadline is January 15, 2014.

Marcello Sorce Keller
Chair, Mediterranean Music Studies

This conference seeks to explore the nature of research into the relationship between music, health and wellbeing. It will investigate how research and practice might become more inclusive, and therefore more ethical, through collaborative endeavours by bringing together researchers, practitioners, and students from various disciplines including: music (neuro) psychology; music therapy; applied/ medical (ethno) musicology; music sociology and anthropology to encourage the re-thinking of research methodologies and epistemologies and practices. See Programme and Plenary Speakers below.

We are delighted to announce that our incoming co-editor for Ethnomusicology Forum will be Professor Jonathan Stock (Head of the Department of Music at University College, Cork). Jonathan's research work will be well known to much of our membership. He is also an experienced editor, have worked with World of Music, Yearbook for Traditional Music, and Journal of Music in China. We are looking forward to continuing with Jonathan and Trevor Wiggins as co-editors, but we will of course be sad to see Simone Krüger go after a three-month hand-over period from this coming September.

Amanda Villepastour

David was the BFE/ICTM UK Chairman from 1992-94 and has been a committee member in 1987-2000 and 2011-13. During these periods, he has been Secretary/Treasurer, Publicity Officer, ICTM Liaison and a local BFE conference organiser. He has also been on the British Journal of Ethnomusicology editorial board (1991-9) and has been involved with SEM (Council 2005-8), ICTM (Executive Board 1993-99, Conference Programme Committee 1993 and 1999). 

We are sorry to see David depart from the committee but expect to see him as usual at our conferences. The committee would like to extend our sincere thanks to David for his enormous ongoing contribution to the Forum for Ethnomusicology. 

We are delighted to welcome Hettie Malcomson (University of Southhampton) as an incoming co-opted committee member.

Amanda Villepastour

Modernity, Complex Societies, and the Alphorn by Charlotte Vignau provides a fascinating examination of the musical instrument the alphorn, alphorn music and its performance. Indeed, it is the first book about this extraordinary instrument to appear in English. It not only analyses the alphorn phenomenon as a symbol of the Swiss nation, but also draws from case studies of Bavaria, the Netherlands, and Japan to shed light on the worldwide migration of alphorn practice in the modern world, as well as on the diverse concepts of a Swiss imagery. Read more on the PDF flyer below which also contains a code for 20% discount on purchase.

Frances Wilkins, who completed her PhD at the University of Aberdeen in 2009, has recently been appointed Lecturer in Ethnomusicology at the Elphinstone Institute, University of Aberdeen, where she will be continuing her research and teaching in the area of Scottish music and related musical traditions in North America. She has been working as a visiting lecturer in Ethnomusicology, Scottish Music, and Soundscapes studies in the Department of Music since 2010 and has been conducting field research in Scotland and Canada since 2005. Congratulations, Frances!

The first number of the biannual peer-reviewed journal El oído pensante is online and of free access. View articles by Allan F. Moore, Samuel Araújo or the critical reflection on ethnomusicology by the editor Miguel A. García here. The journal promotes critical thought aimed to dismantle usual concepts, discussing theoretical, methodological and epistemological dilemmas faced by different kinds of music research. Unpublished articles in Spanish, Portuguese and English dealing from ethnomusicology, anthropology, sociology of music, popular music studies, musicology, and cultural studies, among other disciplines, are received. See the homepage of El oído pensante for more information and the next deadline for submission.

The Journal of Creative Communication, being published by Sage (New Delhi) has appointed Dr. Subroto Roy as one of the Guest Editors for the forthcoming special double issue on 'Popular Music of Asia: Cultural Perspectives'. The journal is being produced under the aegis of Mudra Institute of Communication, Ahmedabad, Gujarat. Dr. Roy has completed three post-doc researches. His latest research paper which is under publication with the Music Academy, Madras deals with Sam Vedic communication. He is a fellow at the Center for Advanced Studies in Sanskrit, University of Pune with support from the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation for whom he completed a research on diminishing culture of Sam Vedic singing practices in India!

Stefanie Alisch recently completed a two-month stay in Lisbon where she undertook research into the local kuduro scene as part of her PhD project in musicology at the Bayreuth International Graduate School of African Studies (BIGSAS), Germany. Alisch interviewed DJs who were pivotal in the dissemination of the style in Africa during the mid-1990ies to 2002, visited music studios, attended kuduro events and participated in dance classes. She conducted a number of innovative participatory video interviews with kuduro dancers, in which she danced with practitioners, asked them to demonstrate dance moves, and recorded her attempts to copy the moves. The research trip was funded by BIGSAS. Read one of her posts at the "os kuduristas" website.

Image: Nelson Gomes (Príncipe Discos) and DJ Maboku (Pequenos DJs do Gueto) on stage at Noite Príncipe in Lisbon club Musicbox, December 2012

The Middle East and Central Asia Music Forum was established in 2007 to provide an opportunity for those researching the musics of the region. The Forum meets twice a year, usually in Senate House. With the support of the British Forum for Ethnomusicology and the Centre for Music Studies, City University London, the first meeting of the 2012-2013 academic year was held on Thursday December 6, 2012, at Senate House. The meeting featured presentations by John Baily, Carolyn Landau, Simone Tarsitani, Miranda Crowdus, Owen Wright, Nina ter Laan, Stephen Wilford, and Sara Manasseh. Review on this event, written by Marie Saunders, PhD student at City University, is available below.