This article looks into the history of the disciplines folk music research and ethnomusicology (comparative musicology) using the Viennese case as a rather representative example for both disciplines. It includes a personal account as the author has been an eye witness of the developments during the last 40 years. It is the research on “music of minorities” that played an important role in this process. The example of Roma music very well demonstrates the changes in the attitudes from around 1900 up to 2014. The topics of terminology as well as of methodology are raised, and by comparing approaches of both disciplines differences and similarities become obvious. Attention is paid to institutional developments as well as political circumstances. The development of the disciplines that is shown in this case study seems to have led to a situation that would meet Svanibor Pettan’s demand for a definition of “modern ethnomusicology”, no matter whether it is called folk music research, comparative musicology, or ethnomusicology.


[1] Terminology is important, even more so if it defines the object of research. The discipline of folk music research defines itself by also naming the object; ethnomusicology does so to a certain extent. Both terms, “folk music” as well as the “ethno” in music, are subject to constant discussion. The discussions about folk music seem to be especially emotional in the German-speaking area, while discussions about the “ethno” in music are to be found worldwide, but primarily in postcolonial discourses.

As a discipline is not defined only by its object but also and more importantly by its methodology and theories, I think we can answer a lot of questions by looking into the history of the discipline itself and how methodologies and theories have corresponded to the objects of research. This is what I want to do here, using the Viennese case as a rather representative example for both disciplines, and because I have been an eye witness of the developments during the last 40 years.

The focus of my paper will be on minorities in Austria, a topic that has been at the center of my activities in research, teaching, and cultural policy for more than 25 years. In the specific history of my institute—the Institute of Folk Music Research and Ethnomusicology—the focus on minorities, introduced in 1990, was perceived as dealing with musical “otherness” because the institute had formerly concentrated on Austrian folk music. Minorities were the reason for the renaming of the institute in 2001: “Ethnomusicology” was added to the former “Folk Music Research.” The object of research had been broadened, and because of that it seemed necessary to add another discipline’s name.[1] But that is not the whole story. New methodologies and theories were applied as well. Minority studies actually served as a midwife for these changes.

Svanibor Pettan is a colleague from Slovenia whose work I appreciate very much. We were in similar situations doing Roma research at a time when this was rather unusual in folk music research traditions, with both of us somehow facing limitations from our national scholarly surroundings. Therefore, I would like to use one of Pettan’s articles as a point of departure.

1. National roots versus global framework: Pettan’s provocation

What I am going to do here is theorize ethnomusicology in the sense that Timothy Rice (2010) suggested in one of his articles in the yearbook of the ICTM.[2] I will use Svanibor Pettan’s model and try to develop it further by using my own experience and research results. Pettan’s article is called “Encounter with ‘The Others from Within’: The Case of Gypsy Musicians in Former Yugoslavia.”[3] It is one minority that serves as an example for his thoughts: the Roma in the former Yugoslavia. It is so interesting for me because Pettan interlocks the object of research with the research tradition and methodology itself. In my interpretation of his article, there is a clear dichotomy between conservative folk music research on the one hand and modern ethnomusicology on the other. And these are personified in the objects of research. The Roma have been living in the territory of the former Yugoslavia for decades but are defined as the “other.” Svanibor suggests that because of their lack of a sense of national belonging, because they adopt any music that can be used creatively and therefore have no “national” musical idiom, Roma musicians personify the counterpart to what conservative folk music research is searching for.

He says:

“Dispersed all over the world, having no nation-state of their own, and even lacking a strong sense of belonging to a national (Gypsy) body, Gypsies seem to personify conditions that are as far as possible removed from conditions a (conservative) folk music researcher would wish for his or her own ethnic group. Gypsy musicians do not perform one ‘Gypsy folk music’ and even do not necessarily distinguish between own and adopted music.”[4]

I have made a table using some keywords from Pettan’s conclusion which corresponds to the approaches of the two disciplines personified by the objects of research. It reads as follows and underlines the differences and oppositions:


Table 1
Table 1: Disciplines and their objects of research, keywords from Svanibor Pettan


Pettan uses the Roma as an example to analyze and to challenge the methodologies and theories of folk music research and ethnomusicology. For me this analysis was rather enlightening at that time, and it was provocative. It was provocative for certain parts of Europe, especially some states of Southeast Europe, but also for Austria. Pettan was clearly defining his own position as a modern ethnomusicologist in confrontation with conservative folk music researchers, the latter being a model of an academic discipline which was still dominant in some national scholarly traditions at that time.[5]

2. The Viennese example

[2] I think it is very important to look carefully into the different individual national histories of the discipline and not to generalize. There are immense differences between specific national traditions, very much influenced of course by political circumstances and institutional representation. The individual persons acting in the field are also important. This holds true for methodologies as well as for objects of research. Therefore, I will now look into the Viennese situation, which I know best as I am part of its history.

The term ethnomusicology itself was only introduced in 2001 as the name of an institution where I have been working since 1987, the Institute of Folk Music Research and Ethnomusicology at the University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna. It was founded in 1965 as the Institute of Folk Music Research by Walter Deutsch, who was followed by Gerlinde Haid in 1994. I started to work there in 1987 and introduced minority research in 1990. In 2001 the institute was renamed, adding Ethnomusicology to its title.[6]

I was involved in this process. The change in the institute’s title arose from my research and teaching activities concerning the music of minorities in Austria. Minorities were mainly defined by the perception of “differences” to the majority: in language, customs, and musical traditions. Obviously these seemed to personify the “other,” and the term ethnomusicology was used to denominate this. On the other hand, it was not only the object but also the methodology I used that was to a certain extent different to the folk music research tradition. I strongly supported this renaming to ethnomusicology, but what I had in mind was a definition of the discipline similar to Svanibor’s definition of “modern ethnomusicology.” This renaming also coincided with my habilitation in ethnomusicology, which meant that from that time there were two PhD disciplines at our institute. Gerlinde Haid was the folk music researcher, and I was the ethnomusicologist. A dissertation project has to be integrated into the discipline with the help of the discipline’s theories and methodologies. As the institute’s title suggests, there were now two possible options: folk music research and ethnomusicology. As differences and similarities were not clearly enough defined to categorize PhD projects, we had to start redefining our disciplines.

There were definitely difficulties at the beginning, because the old definitions of the “own” and the “other” would not quite work in some cases, for example with a dissertation project on the Aşık tradition in Sivas by Hande Sağlam, who was of Turkish origin but was writing her dissertation in Vienna.[7] Are the Aşık something that would be considered her “own” tradition? So we decided to look into the history, theories, and methods of both research traditions, and this was a lively ongoing discussion until the sudden death of Gerlinde Haid in the year 2012. The topic was also raised by a book including the different approaches of all institutions in Austria and edited by Gerd Grupe from the Institute of Music Ethnology in Graz in 2005.[8] (In the meantime this institute has been renamed the Institute of Ethnomusicology at the University of Arts Graz).

I would now like to give a personal account of some of the discussions Gerlinde and I had,[9] not to claim the “truth” but rather as a witness of a discussion process and the creation of a narrative.

2. 1. Where it all comes from: History around 1900

When we were presenting our institute in public together, which we did relatively often, history was always involved in a kind of a playful competition. My part was often the following: I would say that ethnomusicology is said to be derived from comparative musicology, and that this term was first mentioned in a Viennese document in 1885. This is the year when the musicologist Guido Adler (1855–1941) used the term “comparative musicology” for the first time, at least in the German speaking area, in an article called “Umfang, Methode und Ziel der Musikwissenschaft.”[10] I would use this as an argument for the long tradition of the discipline. Gerlinde would then say that folk music research dates back to the 18th century, a tradition commonly understood as starting with Johann Gottfried Herder in Europe (at least in the German-speaking area). So it is much older of course. But most interestingly, in Vienna the institutionalization of both disciplines nearly coincides.

As an overview, I have put together some data on the founding of Viennese institutions at that time.


Table 2
Table 2: Institutions in Vienna around 1900


In commenting on these data it is important to mention that at that time the dichotomy of the “own” and the “other” functioned as a denomination of two research areas that did not cooperate at all and behaved as if they had nothing in common.

Adler’s concept meant dealing with the phenomenon of music on a very broad interdisciplinary basis. The subdivision of musicology—which, by the way, still exists today at the institute that was once Adler’s workplace—into historical musicology and comparative musicology was later on renamed to historical and comparative-systematic musicology. The systematic part included psychology, acoustics, physiology, sociology, and aesthetics, while the comparative part tended to concentrate on “ethnomusicological” issues. Adler did not develop the comparative approach in his further activities as head of the Institute for Musicology. The actual founder of the so-called Viennese school of comparative musicology was Richard Wallaschek (1860–1917), who also taught at Adler’s institute. His underlying concept was the evolution of music from “primitive” music to “elaborated” European classical music. Comparison was therefore necessary, and this is supported by the title of his most important work: Primitive Music. An Inquiry into the Origin and Development of Music, Songs, Instruments, Dances and Pantomimes of Savage Races.[11]

In Wallaschek’s approach, difference was defined by deficiency; the “other” was primitive. His means of selecting where to find this primitive music seems to be very random. The field where the “primitive” was located was, of course, far away from Europe, with two exceptions. Two “savage races” were found in Europe as well: the Gypsies and the Jews.[12] So here we do find an approach to the Roma but certainly not in Svanibor Pettan’s sense. Comparative musicology in Wallaschek’s sense was actually a very racist and colonialist approach.

[3] In Vienna, sound recording techniques were related to the emerging discipline. The foundation of the Phonogrammarchiv in Vienna in 1899 created for the first time an institution that aimed at the “production and collection of recordings.” Music was one of the subjects (the others being languages and voice portraits of well-known persons). In the founding document of this institution, this reads as follows:

“Als besonders fruchtbar dürfte sich die Sammlung von Musikvorträgen wilder Völker für eine vergleichende Musikkunde erweisen, die wohl auf diesem Weg erst möglich wäre”

[The collection of music of savage peoples for comparative musicology would be especially fruitful, enabling comparison for the first time].[13]

The Berlin Phonogrammarchiv was founded only one year later, with recordings made by Carl Stumpf. In Vienna, the Institute of Musicology as well as the Phonogrammarchiv were both most influential for comparative musicology and only marginal for folk music research at the beginning of the 20th century.

The beginning of systematic folk music research in Austria is said to have taken place with the founding of the monthly series Das deutsche Volkslied in 1899.[14] This happened in the same year the Phonogrammarchiv was founded and one year after Guido Adler became professor of musicology. The title is programmatic, in the sense of national identity. Josef Pommer, the founder and main editor, outlined the program in an introduction: The “real German folk song,” the “authentic folk treasures,” should be saved and cherished, especially by the choir “Der deutsche Volksgesangsverein” in Vienna, which was closely connected to the series. They wanted to combat pan-Slavism and pan-Romanism with pan-“Germanism.” The goal of the research was to find “authentic” folk treasures by doing systematic fieldwork and to publish them. A programmatic sentence at the end of the foreword reads as follows:

“Das Deutsche Volklied wollen wir erkennen und verstehen lehren: man soll es sammeln und singen, hören und genießen, schätzen und hochhalten als das, was es ist: das eigentliche Kunstwerk der Nation“

[We want to learn to recognize and understand the German folk song: it should be collected and sung, listened to and enjoyed, appreciated and held up as that what it is: the nation’s real work of art].[15]

I pointed out above how, in comparative musicology, Wallaschek categorized the “Gypsies” as an object of research. Now I want to have a look at how folk music researchers approached “Gypsy” music. Normally Gypsies were not an object of research at all, because of (see Pettan above) their lack of “national tradition” and because they were categorized as the essential “other” in Europe. Therefore, in Austria there are no accounts from folk music research on Gypsy music up to the 1990s as far as I know. In other countries there are. As pars pro toto I use Bartók’s approach. He actually did fieldwork with Gypsy musicians. In an article from the year 2000, Katie Trumpener analyzed Bartók’s views on Gypsy music and their influence on what he thought to be “Hungarian national” music:

“Hungary’s Gypsies live an openly parasitic existence. Without a music of their own, Gypsy musicians can offer the Hungarian public only ‘the melodic distortions of an immigrant nation,’ only a deformed and deforming version of Hungarian folk music”.[16]

This strategy of “othering” has, of course, much to do with trying to define the identity of one’s own nation. Gypsies were the most popular musicians of that time in Hungary. To call them “immigrants” after—at that time—500 years is a strategy for downgrading their music. It suggests that it is simply not worth bothering with on a scholarly basis because it is “foreign,” “stolen,” “deformed,” or simply “filth.”

What Gerlinde and I also did was to look into the methods in the history of both disciplines. Here I have roughly outlined the main differences in the subject and object of the disciplines in the table below.


Table 3
Table 3: Objects of research and methodology in comparison


The object of research is one main difference between comparative musicology and folk music research. Both use transcription. But of course it makes a difference whether you transcribe something that is stylistically familiar to you or something completely new. Therefore, the methods of transcribing differ, as do the methods of analysis and the conclusions drawn from it. Early folk music researchers in Austria rarely used the phonograph; they wrote down the melodies by ear, whereas the comparative musicologists had to use recordings as well as tools from natural sciences. We find rather a lot of armchair ethnomusicologists in the history of comparative musicology, while in folk music research there was intimate contact between researchers und informants from the very beginning. The evolutionary aspect of early comparative musicology is absent in folk music research, while the nationalist element is not in the foreground in comparative musicology. The comparative aspect seldom appears in folk music research, whereas it is very present in comparative musicology. Folk music researchers produced large collections of folk music in order to save the heritage as well as to apply their findings actively in founding folk music choirs and folklore ensembles. Comparative musicologists used limited samples to find the evolution of music and stayed in their ivory towers.[17]

2.2. The Nazi regime

[4] The Nazi regime (Austria from 1938 to 1945, in Germany from 1933–1945) had great influence on the disciplines. Folk music research especially was instrumentalized by politics. Although the situation in Germany is not my topic here, it is important to mention emigration of intellectuals as a great loss to comparative musicology especially in Germany. Albrecht Schneider writes about this topic,

“When the Nazi regime came into power (January 1933) it soon forced many intellectuals to leave Germany, among them Hornbostel, Sachs, Kolinski and other prominent scholars of comparative musicology.”[18]

The immigration of musicologists to the USA in particular had a certain influence on the development of the discipline in the United States. Also, the later eminent figure of ethnomusicology Bruno Nettl fled from the Nazi regime in his childhood with his family in 1938, although from Prague. The situation in Austrian comparative musicology was somewhat different, due to the political positioning of its major figures Robert Lach and Erich Schenk. Guido Adler had already retired in 1927 and did not leave Austria. He had to suffer from severe discrimination, as he was not allowed to publish any longer until his death 1941 and was the victim of attacks on his integrity as a scholar because of his Jewish background. Robert Lach had been appointed full professor in musicology to succeed Adler. He covered comparative as well as historical musicology and cooperated with the Phonogrammarchiv. He openly supported the Nazi regime and so did Erich Schenk to a certain extent, who followed Lach in 1940. Schenk, a music historian and former student of Adler, managed to get hold of Adler’s library after his death by using the regime’s power. The very dubious political role of Erich Schenk was openly discussed only in the 1990s. Before that he was a highly decorated and respected scholar. After Schenk had followed Lach, there were no courses in comparative musicology offered until 1952.[19] So Lach was the last representative of comparative musicology until Walter Graf was appointed in 1952 and a new era began. It can generally be said that the political attitude of Nazism was much more obvious in historical musicology than in comparative musicology at that time in Vienna.

Much more influential was the regime’s power in folk music research, or maybe rather in what is called in German Volksmusikpflege, which was very much connected to folk music research. As shown above, the nationalist and racist attitude of some of the protagonists of folk music research before 1938 in Austria was obvious. Therefore, the Nazi regime was welcomed by many. The Nazis saw folk music as a very important vehicle for German national identification.[20] Although the Folk Song Society was shut down, for many of the protagonists the Nazi times seemed prosperous, because folk music and dance were paid much attention and also presented in gigantic stagings.[21] The Nazis’ talent for event propaganda was applied to folk music as well. It was especially the so-called Volksmusikpflege that profited from the attention of the Nazi regime. I just want to quote one person, Tobi Reiser (1907–1974). He was a central figure of folk music activities during the Nazi times. After 1945 he founded the “Adventsingen” in Salzburg and is said to have invented the folk music style “Stubenmusik.” He was a highly respected musician, activist, and expert. In my first research project at the institute in 1988, it was my task to transcribe some of the older recordings. Among them was one with a lecture by Tobi Reiser. I was quite upset to hear what he said publicly in 1966 about the Nazi times. For him it was a very good time for folk music, “fruitful” as he calls it. Young, talented musicians were provided with instruments, there were publications on folk music, and even films were produced. Ensembles were invited to big events to represent “Germanic culture,” and he was one of the most important organizers. Tobi Reiser seems to regret that the Nazi regime is over, because “it was so good for folk music.”[22] I think this shows some of the forces at work in the folk music scene at that time in Austria.

The Folk Song Society was re-established as “Volksliedwerk” in 1946 and concentrated on collecting and promoting Austrian folk music. The above-mentioned tendencies were noticeable even in the 1980s when I had my first contact with the Volksliedwerk.

Concerning folk music research I would like to mention the approach to minorities at that time because it mirrors the ideological attitude very closely. The German Sprachinselforschung in the beginning was a concept first published by Walter Kuhn in 1934.[23] He may be seen as the first scholar to theorize that kind of research, to provide the history, preconditions, and methodology of Sprachinselforschung. It became influential during the Nazi regime but also remained so afterwards. The German-speaking minorities were seen as “bastions” of German or Germanic culture, and the genetic aspect was foregrounded, backed up by linguistic and other cultural expressions, very often by customs. They were seen not only as an extension of a “nation” but also as the superior culture, surrounded by inferior peoples.

The later use of Walter Kuhn’s methodology[24] during the Nazi regime might lead one to expect very dubious approaches in his book, especially because it was written in 1934, but actually his book seems to be not that strongly influenced by racist Nazi ideas. Some formulations are of course not acceptable any longer, like the comparison of the “isolated minority” with “an island that is threatened by the rough sea around,” the rough sea a metaphor for foreign (alien) culture. What we do not yet find in this book are the then prevalent value judgements of cultures that ranked the German much higher than the Slavic; but we do very soon afterwards, for example in the works of Karl Horak, an Austrian folk music researcher, as well as Alfred Quellmalz, who by order of the SS Ahnenerbe did field research in South Tyrol in order to document the music and customs of German speakers who were to be transferred to other parts of the German Reich.[25]

This research was clearly ideologically influenced and should be seen as an example of “musical racial research,” which intended first of all to prove the superiority of the “German race.” Thomas Nußbaumer has commented on that collection extensively[26] and on how the national concept of minority research is turned into an explicitly racist one.[27]

2.3. Approaching modern times

[5] I will now show the institutional situation around the 1960s and 70s in Vienna, when folk music research was introduced as an academic discipline.


Table 4
Table 4: Institutions in Vienna around the 1960s


The object of research at the Deutsch institute was limited to Austrian folk music, and the definition of what folk music was derived mainly from stylistic and partly genetic definitions. Wiora’s work[28] was of a certain influence, dealing with the relationship between folk music and European art music. Collecting folk music in rural areas of Austria and trying to find out by musical analysis what the nature of Austrian folk music was seemed to be one of the main goals. Popular music was definitely excluded.

The object of research at Födermayr’s institute was not limited at all. It was the music of the whole world in all contexts. Methodologically speaking, one of the focuses was sound analysis, at that time by the sonagraph. Popular music studies were included.

Both institutions placed a certain emphasis on music as text, although in folk music research the context was considered as well, but musical transcriptions were important. The way of analyzing differed greatly. In folk music research it was an interpretative transcription building on the knowledge of the researcher and on how it “should” sound, whereas in comparative-systematic musicology it was sound analysis using the sonagraph. Folk music researchers made collections. The numbers of song and music documents mattered, and they were selected due to their originality and “authenticity.” The applicational aspect seemed to make a great difference as well. In folk music research, everyone seemed to actively sing and play what he or she had collected in order to revive it, while at Födermayr’s institute music making was not common at all. There was little cooperation between the institutions.

At that time the notions of the “own” and the “other” could obviously not be upheld any longer, although folk music research focused on Austrian folk music. But Rudolf Pietsch, who was working at the Institute of Folk Music Research in the 1980s, wrote a dissertation on Burgenland immigrants in the Chicago area at the Födermayr institute[29]. What he found was definitely not Austrian folk music in Walter Deutsch’s definition.

I wrote my PhD on wedding music of the Burgenland Croats and was supervised by Franz Födermayr. During the research for my dissertation I found out that it would be helpful to contact the Institute of Folk Music Research, namely Walter Deutsch, because I was dealing with a topic which in Austria was somehow connected to “folk music.” There were collections of folk songs in the library that were useful for comparison, something that was missing in the library of Födermayr’s institute. I was well received and was given a great deal of support. The institute was well known internationally, and had contacts to Croatia as well, and I also owe my participation in the first conference on music and minorities organized by Jerko Bezić to this institute.[30] This was my first international conference and it had tremendous influence on my later engagement in music and minorities studies.

I actually felt the differences between the institutions and the methods, but my topic demanded an approach that was somehow in between or rather combined both. Minorities are part of Austria, the main research field of folk music research, but minorities do not only identify with music that can be defined as folk music. Minorities are not the “other,” but are maybe perceived as the other, but definitely from within. This sandwich positioning or, from another perspective, umbrella positioning of the topic of music and minorities in Austria finally led to the use of the term ethnomusicology much later on—in 2001—in the name of the institute.

3. The elephant parable

[6] This is a well-known and very useful parable. One version of the story tells that six blind men were asked to determine what an elephant looked like by feeling different parts of an elephant's body. A blind man who feels a leg says the elephant is like a pillar, the one who feels the tail says the elephant is like a rope, and the one who feels the trunk says the elephant is like a branch of a tree, while the one who feels the ear says the elephant is like a hand fan, the one who feels the belly says the elephant is like a wall, and the one who feels the tusk says the elephant is like a solid pipe.

In order to avoid being a blind person and include as much information as possible, I want to close with some examples that show how important it is to include both positions in one’s own research and that the categories of one’s own and the other do not really make sense any longer.

I made my first recordings of wedding songs in Stinatz in 1978, equipped with an old Uher tape machine. In this explorative fieldwork situation, I recorded many songs that ended on the melodic 3rd. Why was it the 3rd in this music culture that seemed so obviously based on the major-minor system, why did it not end on the tonic? In the Födermayr seminar many different explanations were offered, some of them very spectacular. Please take into account that I was very inexperienced at that time, but that is usually the case if you go into territory that you do not know, a very common situation in comparative musicology.

Now I know that it is the so-called Überstimme that is usually sung when singing solo, but musically this only makes sense in two-part singing in thirds when the main voice is added—which ends at the tonic of course. So the main voice is only imagined when singing solo. This is a practice which is quite common in Austrian folk music, especially in Burgenland. When I played the example to Walter Deutsch I immediately received an explanation which was much less spectacular than the ones offered at the seminar. So in this case the Walter Deutsch explanation was actually an “emic” one concerning the musical style. He was an insider concerning the musical practice of this region, although not concerning the Burgenland Croats.

As we know from many works of ethnomusicologists worldwide, emic and etic or, if you wish, insider and outsider positions in research are no longer seen as opposite categories in ethnomusicology. To include both is a sine qua non in ethnomusicology nowadays.

When starting to work in the institute in 1987, I was given the opportunity by Walter Deutsch to apply for research projects on minority cultures in Austria.[31] It was Roma music that I focused on. This object of research produced new challenges and conflicts as well. After having achieved the trust of some musicians, I began recording repertories. As we know from many works of colleagues,[32] Roma always have adapted their music to the tastes of the audiences, so what I recorded were all kinds of genres, from traditional to popular. I remember very well when Prof. Walter Deutsch, who had really encouraged me in this research, once said with a solemn face and somehow disappointed and doubtful when I showed him some of my findings, “But is this folk music?”

My approach to research on Roma music had not been guided by the principle of recording something that could be called “folk music.” I wanted to find out what kind of music Roma identify with. And there were a lot of different musical categories, depending on the different Roma groups,[33] depending on the situation of the performance, and depending on the age of my informants. Pettan’s findings on the ever-changing styles of Roma musicians, and on the many different styles they are able to play depending on the respective audiences, were my guiding principles,[34] as was Carol Silverman’s suggestion to look “at any music Roma perform, regardless of its origin, and see what they do with it.”[35] So many categories of styles were included that could be called popular music. But I finally arrived at a categorization of Roma music styles that omitted categories like “folk music” or “popular music” and seemed to be fitting for the subject: regional styles influenced by the region the Roma had been living in for a certain time period, group styles to be found with a certain Roma group wherever they live, and ethnic mainstream, which would be a category including group or regional elements but transformed into appealing mainstream formats, meeting the expectations of majority audiences.[36] So there was a certain discrepancy between the expectations of Walter Deutsch and the outcome of my research projects.[37] This was in the year 1990. Things have changed since then.

4. Vienna today: Modern ethnomusicology as a synthesis

The cooperation between the Viennese institutions has improved tremendously since the time of Adler. This was actually quite obvious in public when the ICTM World Conference was organized in Vienna in 2007. The 39th World Conference of the International Council for Traditional Music, ICTM, in Vienna, was organized by researchers from the Institute for Folk Music Research and Ethnomusicology, the Institute of Musicology, the Vienna Phonogrammarchiv, and UNESCO.


Figure 1
Figure 1: Ruža Nikolić- Lakatos at the World Conference of the ICTM in 2007,
presented by Ursula Hemetek, Photo: Lisl Waltner


[7] In this picture you see Ruža Nikolić- Lakatos performing at one reception during the World Conference. In the meantime it has not only become common to do research on Roma music in Vienna, but Roma music was chosen to represent Vienna’s musical diversity to the world of ethnomusicology at that event.

From looking into the history of the discipline in Vienna, which is also part of my personal academic history, I draw the conclusion that our object of research, in my case music and minorities, deserves an approach that needs to be as broad as possible. Both disciplines offer a broad variety of methods and theories. In the case of my institute, “ethnomusicology” used to denote the “other” in the beginning. But in the course of the discussions with my dear colleague Gerlinde Haid over the years, different connotations emerged. We started to divide the dissertation projects according to our areas of expertise, not according to the history of the discipline. In the meantime, interculturality/transculturality has become a topic for the whole institute and is applied to Austrian folk music studies as well as to Roma music studies. Different approaches due to different backgrounds of knowledge are appreciated and respected.

And the whole situation in Vienna has changed tremendously—here again a table with the current institutions:


Table 5
Table 5: Institutions in Vienna in 2015


I do think that Pettan’s definition of modern ethnomusicology is now reality in Vienna, no matter whether it is called folk music research, comparative musicology, or ethnomusicology. The above-mentioned Folk Song Society also hosts symposia that raise the topic of “otherness,” as it did in 2014. My institute was represented by a young colleague, Marko Kölbl, who is a Burgenland Croatian talking about minorities’ music. At the other institution, the Institute for Musicology at the University of Vienna, I gave a lecture in team teaching with Ivana Ferencova, a Romni, about Roma music (winter term 2014/15). So this is an indicator that Roma have changed their role from being a “savage race” in Wallaschek’s time into active subjects of ethnomusicology.


Figure 2
Figure 2: Ivana Ferencova teaching at the Institute of Musicology at Vienna University, Photo: Ursula Hemetek 2015


I think that research on music and minorities has played a certain role in this process of change. My closing statement comes from Elka Tschernokoschewa, a German scholar working on the Sorbian minorities. It is about the potential of minorities, the “others from within,” and corresponds to Pettan’s quote from the beginning.

“For me the defining feature of ‘minority culture’ is the fact that it implies more than one perspective (i.e., it is multiperspectival). Minorities are in a position to look at a problem from more than one angle; they know that there is more than one truth. They know that the familiar and the unfamiliar are not diametrically opposed to one another, because one can appear within the other; familiar and foreign elements can merge and may even become inseparable.”[38]


  1. It is important to mention that up to that point “ethnomusicology” had not been used in Vienna in the title of any institution. At Vienna University the discipline was and still is called “comparative musicology.”
  2. Timothy Rice, “Ethnomusicological Theory,” 2010 Yearbook for Traditional Music 42 (2010): 100–134. I refer here to an argument in Rice’s article which states that one way of theorizing ethnomusicology is to use scholarly work of others in order to evaluate it, to discuss it (in written form or personally), and to develop the argument further. Rice sees a certain lack of such practice within the discipline.
  3. Svanibor Pettan, “Encounter with ‘The Others from Within’: The Case of Gypsy Musicians in Former Yugoslavia,” The World of Music 43, no. 2/3 (2001): 119–137.
  4. Ibid., 132.
  5. I am drawing here mainly from my personal experience during international meetings and concerning my activities in the foundation of the “Music and Minorities” study group (cf. International Council for Traditional Music website, accessed October 27, 2015, http://www.ictmusic.org → Study Groups). When Svanibor Pettan organized a symposium of that group in 2000 in Ljubljana, the tensions within the discipline in Slovenia were quite obvious, deriving from the different generations of researchers involved. This holds true for other states of the former Yugoslavia, one exception being Jerko Bezić, who, belonging to the older generation, was extremely open-minded towards new research approaches.
  6. Cf. Institute of Folk Music Research and Ethnomusicology website, accessed October 28, 2015, http://www.mdw.ac.at/ive/ 
  7. Hande Sağlam, “Die Âşık-Tradition in Sivas. Eine Untersuchung über sunnitische und alevitische Besonderheiten der Âşık-Tradition in Sivas” (PhD diss., Universtität für Musik und darstellende Kunst Wien).
  8. Gerd Grupe, ed., Musikethnologie und Volksmusikforschung in Österreich: Das “Fremde” und das “Eigene,” Musikethnologische Sammelbände 20 (Aachen: Shaker Verlag, 2005).
  9. Part of these discussions were later published, and here I rely on the publications Gerlinde Haid, “‘Vom Volkslied zum Evergreen.’ Geschichte, Methoden, Aufgaben und Probleme der Volksmusikforschung in Österreich,” Gerlinde Haid. Eine Biobibliographie, klanglese 8, ed. Ursula Hemetek and Ulrich Morgenstern (Vienna: Institut für Musikforschung und Ethnomusikologie); Ursula Hemetek, “The Past and the Present: Ethnomusicology in Vienna. Some Considerations,” Muzyka Rocznik 54/1, no. 212 (2009): 57–68. Gerlinde Haid’s text existed much earlier, and she actually used it in our team teaching lectures. But it was only published after her death in the bio-bibliography in 2013 (Institute of Folk Music Research and Ethnomusicology online publications, accessed October 27, 2015, https://www.mdw.ac.at/upload/MDWeb/ive/downloads/klanglese%208-Gerlinde%20Haid-Eine%20Biobibliographie-1.pdf).
  10. Guido Adler, “Umfang, Methode und Ziel der Musikwissenschaft,” Vierteljahresschrift für Musikwissenschaft 1 (1885): 5–20.
  11. Richard Wallaschek, Primitive Music. An Inquiry into the Origin and Development of Music, Songs, Instruments, Dances and Pantomimes of Savage Races (London: Longmans, Green and C., 1893).
  12. Cf. Memo G. Schachiner, Politik und Systematik. Wiener Musikwissenschaft im Wandel der Zeiten. Die Ära Guido Adler (1898–1927) (Vienna: MC publishing, 2008).
  13. Sigmund Exner, “Bericht über die Arbeiten der von der kaiserl. Akademie der Wissenschaften eingesetzten Commission zur Gründung eines Phonogramm-Archives,” Anzeiger der kaiserl. Akademie der Wissenschaften in Wien, mathematisch-naturwissenschaftliche Klasse (Beilage), 1. Mitteilung der Phonogrammarchivs-Kommission (Vienna, 1900), 3.
  14. Josef Pommer and Hans Fraungruber, Das deutsche Volkslied. Zeitschrift für seine Kenntnis und Pflege. Unter Leitung von Dr. Josef Pommer und Hans Fraungruber. Herausgegeben vom Deutschen Volksgesang-Vereine in Wien, vol. 1 (Vienna, 1899).
  15. Josef Pommer, “Was wir wollen,” Das deutsche Volkslied, vol. 1 (Vienna 1899), 1–3.
  16. Bela Bartók, “On Hungarian Music,” Essays, ed. Benjamin Suchoff (1911; repr. London: Faber and Faber, 1976), 29; quoted from Katie Trumpener, “Bela Bartok and the Rise of Comparative Ethnomusicology: Nationalism, Race Purity, and the Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire,” Music and the Racial Imagination, eds. Ronald Radano and Philip Bohlman (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press), 410.
  17. Cf. Hemetek, “The Past and the Present.”
  18. Albrecht Schneider, “Comparative and Systematic Musicology in Relation to Ethnomusicology: A Historical and Methodological Survey,” Ethnomusicology 50, no. 2 (2006): 250.
  19. Ibid.
  20. Cf. the website of the Österreichisches Volksliedwerk, accessed October 27, 2015: http://www.volksliedwerk.at
  21. Cf., e.g., Reichsbauerntag in Goslar. Walter Deutsch and Ursula Hemetek, Georg Windhofer (1887–1964). Sein Leben–Sein Wirken–Seine Zeit (Vienna: Verlag A. Schendl).
  22. B 53 in the audio-visual archive of the Institute of Folk Music Research and Ethnomusicology.
  23. Walter Kuhn, Deutsche Sprachinselforschung. Geschichte, Aufgaben, Verfahren (Plauen, 1934).
  24. Ibid.
  25. Due to an agreement between Hitler and Mussolini in 1939, people of German origin could declare if they wanted to be settled in the German Reich. Those who wanted to were called “Optanten.”
  26. Thomas Nußbaumer, “Alfred Quellmalz und seine volksmusikalischen Forschungen in Südtirol (1940–42). Eine Studie zur musikalischen Volkskunde unter dem Nationalsozialismus” (PhD diss., Universität Innsbruck); Thomas Nußbaumer, Accompanying booklet to Musica alpina V& VI. Ötztaler Alpen, IDI-Ton Nr. 29/30, CD, 2004.
  27. Cf. Ursula Hemetek, “Approaching Studies on Music of Minorities in European Ethnomusicology,” European Meetings in Ethnomusicology 12 (2007): 37–48.
  28. Walter Wiora, Europäische Volksmusik und abendländische Tonkunst, Die Musik im alten und neuen Europa 1 (Kassel: Hinnenthal, 1957).
  29. It was not yet possible to write dissertations at the Institute of Folk Music Research at that time.
  30. I have written about the importance of this conference for minority research in ethnomusicology and the influence it had on my later activities elsewhere. Cf. Ursula Hemetek, “Applied Ethnomusicology as an Intercultural Tool: Some Experiences from the last 25 Years of Minority Research in Austria,” The Oxford Handbook of Applied Ethnomusicology, eds. Svanibor Pettan and Jeff Todd Titon (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2015), 229–277.
  31. The first research project was on the topic “Music of Burgenland Croats and Roma” in 1989.
  32. Cf. Pettan, “Encounter with ‘The Others from Within,’” and Svanibor Pettan, Rom Musicians in Kosovo: Interaction and Creativity, Gypsy Folk Music in Europe 5 (Budapest: Institute for Musicology of the Hungarian Academy for Sciences, 2002).
  33. In Austria there are six major groups that differ greatly in language and cultural traditions as well as the music they identify with: Burgenland Roma, Lovari, Sinti, Kalderaš, Arlije, and Gurbet.
  34. Pettan, Rom Musicians in Kovoso. Pettan’s dissertation was written much earlier as Svanibor Pettan, “Gypsy Music in Kosovo. Interaction and Creativity” (PhD diss., University of Maryland, 1992), and known to me at that time; its publication as a book followed only in 2002.
  35. Carol Silverman, “Gypsy Ethnicity and the Social Contexts of Music” (lecture, 76th Annual Conference of the American Anthropological Association, Houston TX, 1981); quoted from Pettan, Rom Musicians in Kosovo, 224.
  36. Cf. Ursula Hemetek, “Roma, Sinti, Manush, Calé,” Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart, Sachteil 8 (Kassel, Basel, London, New York, and Prague: Bärenreiter, 1998), 443–457.
  37. I have published about the development of the minority focus elsewhere: Ursula Hemetek, “Kulturkontakt–Kulturkonflikt? Erfahrungen und Reflexionen aus 25 Jahren ethnomusikologischer Minderheitenforschung in Österreich,” Jahrbuch des Österreichischen Volksliedwerks 63 (2014): 97–112; Hemetek, “Applied Ethnomusicology as an Intercultural Tool.”
  38. Elka Tschernokoscheva, “Hybridity as a Musical Concept: Theses and Avenues of Research,” The Human World and Musical Diversity, ed. Rosmary Statelova, Angela Rodel, Lozanka Peycheva, Ivanka Vlaeva, and Ventsislav Dimov (Sofia: Insitute of Art Studies, 2008), 20.


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