Balzan Research Project

Towards a global history of music

A research programme in musicology – 2013-2017



Director: Reinhard Strohm

Deputy Director: Laurenz Lütteken

Reinhard Strohm, Emeritus Professor of Music at Oxford University, won the 2012 Balzan Foundation Prize for Musicology. He devoted half of the prize (CHF 375,000) to a scholarly programme in music, which supported the research of mid-career academics.


Studies on a Global History of Music. A Balzan Musicology Project

Ed. by Reinhard Strohm

London and New York: Routledge, 2018 (SOAS Musicology Series)

ISBN: 978-1-138-05883-5 (hbk)

ISBN: 978-1-315-16397-0 (ebk)

with contributions by:

Martin Stokes, David R. M. Irving, Estelle Joubert, Philip V. Bohlman, Jason Stoessel, Max Peter Baumann, Rinko Fujita, Oliver Seibt, Jin-Ah Kim, Keith Howard, Nicola Spakowski, Henry Spiller, Matthew Pritchard, Suddhaseel Sen, Leonardo J. Waisman, Tomasz Jeż, Melanie Plesch, Julio Mendívil, Roberto Kolb-Neuhaus, Juan Francisco Sans and Tina K. Ramnarine.

Studies on a Global History of Music, 2018

cover image: Guillaume de L’Isle, Mappe-Monde, amsterdam: Covens et Mortier, 1732. Map reproduction courtesy of the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center at the Boston Public Library.


Events in the academic year 2016-2017

The workshop Transcultural Music Traditions, organized under Reinhard Strohm’s Balzan research project Towards a Global History of Music, was held from 7 to 9 April at the Humboldt Universität in Berlin.

The workshop was introduced by a Keynote Lecture on 7 April, and involved two sessions: A Global View on Bach: Latin America and Asia in the 20th Century on 8 April, followed by a performance of the Asambura Ensemble, and Music, Media Geography, History on 9 April.

This was the last of the long series of international workshops, seminars and meetings that were distributed over the five years of of Reinhard Strohm’s highly articulated project, which has united six important academic institutions and a great number of researchers from all over the world, thus providing a global approach – both in terms of the project’s vastness and its depth – to the history of music, the fruit of different voices and points of view.


The Programme

In collaboration with six university departments of musicology, the award-winner Prof. Reinhard Strohm (University of Oxford)designed a programme entitled Towards a global history of music. This research programme was carried out in the academic years 2013-2017 by the Faculties/Departments of Music/Musicology at the following universities:

Humboldt University, Berlin;

The Hebrew University, Jerusalem;

King’s College, University of London;

University of Oxford;

University of Vienna;

University of Zurich.

The Programme Director, Prof. Reinhard Strohm, and the Deputy Director, Prof. Laurenz Lütteken, were supported by a Steering Committee mainly representing the

Music Departments of these universities. The programme also had an Advisory Board consisting of international specialists of musicology and ethnomusicology.

Research Co-ordinators:

Marie-Alice Frappat ( for London and Oxford; Angharad Gabriel-Zamastil ( for Vienna and Zurich.


The Research Question

Towards a global history of music aims to promote post-European historical thinking. The programme was not intended to create a global history by itself, but to explore, through assembled case studies, parameters and terminologies that are suitable to describe a history of many different voices.


Project Overview

The idea of a global history of music, which may be traced back to enlightenment forerunners, and has been reiterated in the 1970s by the music historian Leo Treitler, among others. The present situation in various branches of western musicology is characterised by specialisation – on European music history on the one hand, on ethnological or sociological fieldwork on the other. Research on specific musical cultures sometimes lacks comparative outreach or is insufficiently reflected in the wider discipline. The historical depth of other civilisations is often underrated by western scholarship, and a concern for the world’s musical past, shared with non-western speakers, is rarely visible.

Postcolonial critique has challenged the West’s self-ascribed position at the heart of world history. In the light of this challenge, how might a historical understanding of western music in the world proceed? How should it position, or justify itself? Who might be authorised to speak for, or against, it? What would ‘western music’ look like in an account of music history that aspired to be truly global?


Research visitors 2015-17:

Faculty of Music, University of Oxford

Dr Christina Richter-Ibañez (University of Tübingen, Germany): A global view on Bach

July-August 2016

Prof. Andrea F. Bohlman (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA): Music and Unofficial Media in Communist Poland

June-July 2017

Dr. Luis Velasco-Pufleau (University of Salzburg, Austria): European new music festivals and the emergence of an intercontinental history of contemporary art music

January-February 2016


Institut für Musikwissenschaft, Humboldt-Universität, Berlin

Dr Gabriela Currie (University of Minnesota, USA): Sounding Alexander’s legacy: the Gandharan nexus

May-July 2016


Department of Music, King’s College, University of London

Dr James Mitchell (Khon Kaen University, Thailand, and Monash University, Australia): The Rabbit and the Hound: A reassessment of the impact of western recording activities on non-western music traditions (1900-1950), using Siam/Thailand as a new case study

May-June 2016


Department of Musicology, The Hebrew University, Jerusalem

Dr Lisa Nielson (Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, USA): Concerning Music and Musical Instruments: A 15th century collection of anti-samāᶜ treatises


Institut für Musikwissenschaft, Universität Wien

Dr Barbara Titus (University of Amsterdam): The West in musical retrospect: South African maskanda music as historiography


Musikwissenschaftliches Institut, Universität Zürich

Dr Avra Xepapadakou (University of Crete, Greece): Western European opera and operetta companies touring in the south-eastern Mediterranean during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuriesApril-May 2017


Department of Musicology, The Hebrew University, Jerusalem

Dr Anna G. Piotrowska (Jagiellonian University, Kraków, Poland): Gypsy Music in European Culture. October-November 2015


Institut für Musikwissenschaft, Universität Wien

Dr Morag Josephine Grant (Independent researcher, Berlin, Germany): Martial music in global historical perspective. January-February 2016


Department of Music, King’s College, University of London

 Dr Margaret Walker (Queens University, Kingston, Canada): Orientalism and Exchange: The Indian “Nautch” as Musical Nexus. January-February 2016


Research visitors 2013-14:

Humboldt Universität Berlin:

Prof. Jonathan Goldman (Faculté de Musique, Université de Montréal, Canada) The Invention of a Gamelan Tradition in Avant-Garde Music, 1970-1995 

Dr Tobias Robert Klein (Humboldt Universität Berlin, Germany): Panafrica and the “Idea of Non Absolute Music”: An Exercise in the Global History and Aesthetics of Music

Prof Henry Spiller (University of California Davis, USA): Javanese and Sundanese music and dance in European historical reflections 


King’s College, University of London: 

Dr David R. M. Irving (School of Music, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia): Analogues of Antiquity: World Cultures, Ancient Greek Music, and Comparative Anthropologies, 1500–1800

Dr Suddhaseel Sen (Stanford University, USA): Intimate Strangers: Cross-Cultural Exchanges between Indian and Western Musicians 1880-1940


Faculty of Music, University of Oxford:

Dr Jason Stoessel (University of New England, Armidale, Australia): The role of the singing voice and concepts of song in encounters between Latin, Persian and Mongol cultures during the time of the Mongol Empire, 1206–1368

Prof. Estelle Joubert (Department of Music, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Canada): ‘Analytical Encounters’: Global Music Criticism and Enlightenment Ethnomusicology


Research visitors 2014-15:

Institut für Musikwissenschaft, Universität Wien:

Dr María Cáceres-Piñuel (Institut für Musikwissenschaft, Universität Bern, Switzerland): The International Music and Theatre Exhibition in Vienna 1892


Dr Tomasz Jeż (University of Warsaw, Poland): Music in the cultural strategies of Jesuits in Latin America (17th-18th centuries)


Department of Music, King’s College, University of London:  

Dr Jia, Shu Bing (Musicology Department, Central conservatory of Music, Beijing, China): The dissemination of Western music through Catholic missions in High Qing China, 1662-1795)


Faculty of Music, University of Oxford:

Dr Melanie Plesch (Department of Music, University of Melbourne, Australia): Towards an understanding of the rhetorical efficacy of Latin American art music: topics of landscape


Musikwissenschaftliches Institut, Universität Zürich:

Dr Kim, Jin-Ah (Institut für Musikwissenschaft, Humboldt-Universität, Berlin): Transfer, Reception and Appropriation of music: East Asia and Western Europe


Events 2015-16

25-26 October 2015, Department of Musicology, The Hebrew University, Jerusalem

Workshop: Musical cultures under relationships of power: Europe and the Middle East

Convenors: Anna G. Piotrowska, Ruth HaCohen


22-23 January 2016, Institut für Musikwissenschaft, Universität Wien

Workshop: Towards a global history of martial and military music: Comparative perspectives for the early and pre-modern period

Convenor: Morag Josephine Grant


16-17 June 2016, The British Academy, London

Workshop-Conference: Places of Interaction: Histories of Music and Dance in India, Africa, and South-East Asia

Convenors: Margaret Walker, Reinhard Strohm and James L. Mitchell.