by Andreja Vrekalić (Croatia)

Music and Ecology International Multidisciplinary Symposium 2015

28 – 29 August 2015, Ljubljana, Slovenia

City Museum Ljubljana


A considerable effort of five associations – (1) the Secretariat of the International Council for Traditional Music (ICTM), located in Ljubljana since 2011; (2) the Imago Sloveniae, one of the national agencies organizing music and performing arts events around Slovenia; (3) the Department of Musicology of the Faculty of Arts, University of Ljubljana; (4) the Cultural and Ethnomusicological Society Folk Slovenia; and (5) the Institute of Ethnomusicology of the Scientific Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts – made the old city center of Slovenia’s capital, Ljubljana, a hub of ethnomusicological encounters. Initiated in August 2011, these events have been a part of the festival Nights in Old Ljubljana Town and consist of scientific symposia enriching the festivals through their thematic focus. The symposia reflect the themes of concerts and workshops presented during festivals as well as contribute to ethnomusicological topics of global significance. Since the beginning of collaboration of the above-mentioned institutions, the symposium themes were as follows: Whither Accordion? in 2012, Music and Protest in 2013, and Music and Otherness in 2014. The 2015 symposium theme of Music and Ecology, while continuing this thematic tradition, initiated a discussion about the potential of intertwined/ecological perspectives in (ethno)musicology in this part of Europe (or continued a systematic and scientific consideration of music’s relationship with ecology since its inception and surpassed Merriam’s tripartite unit) (cf. Merriam 1964). Its ecological and holistic attributes reflected beyond symposium presentations, for instance in the City Museum Ljubljana or boat trip along the Ljubljanica River after the first day of symposium.

During a two-day symposium held in the City Museum of Ljubljana, a group of 17 scholars offered a plethora of perspectives, reflections, and ideas on music and ecology and on the role of the (applied) (ethno)musicologist as a scholar and social activist (depending on the understanding of the concepts and contexts of ecology). The first day started with an introductory lecture by Svanibor Pettan (Faculty of Arts, University of Ljubljana, secretary general of the ICTM) entitled Singing Fish and Other Sound Phenomena of Batticaloa: What Soundscapes Tell Us about Culture? Pettan provokingly used Steven Feld’s thesis on acoustemologies as an idea of experiencing culture being exposed to sonic phenomena. He presented his personal experience of soundscapes of Batticaloa, a city in Sri Lanka where he conducted fieldwork in August 2015. Reflecting on the coherence of the terms of music and ecology and seeking a direct link to their more concrete use, the keynote speaker Huib Schippers (Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia) discussed Applied Ethnomusicology and Intangible Cultural Heritage: Developing the Concept of “Ecosystem of Music” to Focus Sustainability Initiatives. He presented core ideas of an international research project Sustainable Futures and emphasized the significant role of researchers in raising global awareness needed to preserve and safeguard music cultures and to find the interconnections between music ecosystems and biological entities. Speaking from the perspective of historical musicologist, Ljubica Ilić (Academy of Arts, University of Novi Sad, Serbia) in her paper The Soundscapes of (Dis)Order questioned contemporary musicological approach to the understanding of nature and culture. She listened to, analyzed, and studied the ambivalence (ordered and/or disordered) of soundscapes of Munich and Istanbul. In Fields of Green: Addressing Sustainability and Climate Change Through Music Festival Communities, Matt Brennan (University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, United Kingdom) introduced a new research project to reveal (im)possible environmental/sustainable/cultural actions among artists, audiences, and organizers of Scottish music festivals (doers, knowers, and makers, according to the typology by Lundberg, Malm, and Ronström 2003). Investigating the attributes of “environmental” and “ecological” in the works of several composers and sound artists, Jono Gilmurray (University of the Arts London, London, United Kingdom) presented an audiovisual report, Ecoacoustics: Ecology and Environmentalism in Contemporary Music and Sound Art. He critically reviewed the purposefulness of ecoacoustic music and sound art as a mediating tool for expressing global environmental changes.

In contrast to these presentations, Nataša Jazbinšek Seršen (the Head of the Department for Environmental Protection of Municipality of Ljubljana and Head of the European Green Capital 2016), talked about raising environmental awareness in Ljubljana. She discussed changes which have occurred within the city infrastructure and resulted in Ljubljana winning the European Green Capital Award for 2016. She also focused on projects which should be undertaken to make Ljubljana even greener. The only panel session at the symposium was presented by six scholars currently engaged in a research project City Sonic Ecology: Urban Soundscapes of Bern, Ljubljana, and Belgrade. Mojca Kovačić (Institute of Ethnomusciology of the Scientific Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts, Ljubljana, Slovenia) focused on Conflicting Religioscapes in Ljubljana. She researched the Islamic community and its religious and cultural independence as well as its attempts to build a mosque in Ljubljana. Srđan Atanasovski (Institute of Musicology of Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts, Belgrade, Serbia) discussed Belgrade Sonic Policescape and the Act of Listening: Between Entrainment and Resilience. His presentation focused on three levels of dichotomies – private and public, activity and passivity, and democracy and obedience – to highlight issues of using external stimulus to control internal and personal soundscapes. Further, Starogradska muzika in Skadarlija as Nostalgic Sound Environment by Marija Dumnić (Institute of Musicology of Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts, Belgrade, Serbia) and Reculturization Projects in Savamala by Ivana Medić (Institute of Musicology of Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts, Belgrade, Serbia) presented two types of nostalgia. Dumnić’s nostalgia, focused on Skadarska Street in Belgrade, has its continuum; exists at the certain point; and is interwoven with performances of “old urban music” which present unspoiled, old and authentic Belgrade as a powerful tool to attract tourists. Medić’s paper connected nostalgia to religious/ethnic identity, by presenting the case of tourists and Saudi Arabian investors attracted to Savamala quarter of Belgrade. This type of nostalgia arises from the fear of loss – i.e., losing one’s culture, music, and traditions. The topics of urban development and identity representation emerged also in a paper by Britta Sweers (Center for Cultural Studies, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland) entitled The Sonic Representation of Traditional and Modern Identity in the Public Urban Context of Bern, Switzerland. She interpreted soundscapes of Bern as representing identity shifts between traditional and modern. Ana Hofman (Institute of Culture and Memory Studies of the Scientific Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts, Ljubljana, Slovenia) introduced the concept of Music Activism in a Neoliberal City and the use of soundscapes appropriated by a political identity seeking to become socially and culturally visible. The second keynote speaker Kjell Skyllstad (Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand) concluded the first day of the symposium with Music and Ecology: A Question of Survival. He traced the beginnings of ethnomusicological thoughts on music and ecology to a symposium held in 2010 in Hanoi, Vietnam, a collaboration between two ICTM study groups (music and minorities and applied ethnomusicology); this symposium served as a great example whereby scientific and artistic agencies have brought sociocultural improvements to community ecosystems of Southeast Asia.

Amra Toska (Academy of Music, Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina) opened the second day of the symposium with Traditional Music and Its Environment: Examples from Bosnia and Herzegovina. Her paper explored relationship between traditional music genres of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the influence of space (natural, architectural, rural, and urban) on the act of performance and the structure of music performed within a particular space. The question of sustainability and viability of musical culture of the indigenous Tao from Taiwan in the context of policies of penetration was the main concern of the paper Social Inclusion Through Music Making: Theories in Practice in the Case of the Tao, an Indigenous Ethnic Group in Taiwan by Wei-Ya Lin (University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna, Austria). By accentuating relationships (similarities and differences) between human and non-human environments, Bernd Brabec de Mori (Institute of Ethnomusicology, University of Music and Performing Arts Graz, Austria) sought to identify the sources of the origin of music through researching indigenous ontologies. His paper was entitled Indigenous Animic and Analogic Conceptions of Sonic Human-Environment Interaction. The final keynote address, Linnaeus, Zoomusicology, Ecomusicology, and the Quest for Meaningful Categories, was given by Marcello Sorce Keller (independent scholar from Lugano, Switzerland). Keller was as thought-provoking as Pettan in problematizing ethnomusicological perspectives and definitions on music. He pointed out that abandoning anthropocentric perspectives results in introducing the new field of zoomusicology, bringing a new twist to Blacking’s idea of “how musical is man.”

The collaborative efforts of the program and organizational committee – consisting of Svanibor Pettan (chair), Jerneja Jamnikar, Janoš Kern, Teja Klobčar, Mojca Kovačić, and Carlos Yoder – successfully attracted eminent scientists and scholars whose open-mindedness, multidisciplinarity and eagerness will certainly contribute to the growth of research in ecomusicology and the expansion of the field of (ethno)musicology.





Lundberg, Dan, Krister Malm, and Owe Ronström. 2003. Music, Media, and Multiculture. Stockholm: The Centre for Swedish Folk Music and Jazz Research.


Merriam, Alan Parkhurst. 1964. The Anthropology of Music. Evanston, Illinois: Northwestern University Press.