Study Group on Folk
Musical Instruments

14th International Meeting Markneukirchen 2000
Musical instruments and the contemporary forces of
globalization, modernization and the mass media
Invited by the Westsächsische Hochschule Zwickau (Department of Musical Instrument Construction, Markneukirchen), the Study Group on Folk Musical Instruments met June 21-26, 2000, for a meeting organized by Erich Stockmann and Andreas Michel in the Saxonian Vogtland region of central-eastern Germany. This area holds a special significance in the history of musical instrument making: until the 1930s, it produced and exported a lion’s share of the professionally made (particularly, western) musical instruments of the world. In addition to delivering and discussing papers, participants also visited instrument workshops, museums and exhibits in the area. Of particular interest were recent efforts being made to revive the area’s instrument-related economy since German reunification, including the new slogan for the region as "Musicon Valley". The international character of this fourteenth meeting of the study group was emphasized by the participation of scholars from not only Europe but also Asia, Africa and North America.

Paper topics focused around the theme of musical instruments and the contemporary forces of globalization, modernization and the mass media. Max Peter Baumann delivered the opening paper on "Local and Global Traditional Musical Instruments and Modernization," describing mental constructs and cultural concepts of emerging importance in the course of globalization. Dan Lundberg focused upon the Swedish didjeridoo as an example of the re-localizing of "world music" instruments, by which the originally Aboriginal instrument is used to reinforce the "Swedishness" of folk music. Linda Fujie discussed Japanese taiko drumming in the age of the mass media, using contrasting examples of two groups, one traditional, the other of more recent origin. In a paper on "Traditional Musical Instruments in a Modern Context", Gunnar Terhag analyzed the relationship between instrumental revival (primarily by musicians) and research (by scholars), and the aesthetic constructs of the former.

In his paper entitled "No Fiddle", Rembrandt Wolpert described the nonlexical, mnemonic syllables of Irish and Scottish music and the kinds of musical information conveyed through the lilting (or camteireacht) vocabulary. Bernhard Garaj reported on the revival of the dudelsack tradition in Slovakia during the past ten years, in part related to that country’s political changes. Folk musical instruments in Poland were the object of Piotr Dahlig’s lecture, particularly their popularization and spread through various channels in the course of the late 19th and 20th centuries. In his paper on the "Nordamerikanische Vorsatzflöten zwischen Tradition und Kommerz", Rudolf Conrad examined these instruments in regard to their transformation from a spiritual instrument to one linked to Indian rights and identity, tracing their increased market orientation and transformation into art objects.

Oskár Elschek surveyed the development of the professional manufacture of folk music instruments, in terms of not only technological but also mental and cognitive changes (e.g., hierarchies of sound ideals). Using Russian examples, Ullrich Morgenstern reported on professional instrument construction and folk music practice, describing the links between instrument construction and the development of various kinds of solo playing as well as folk music ensembles.

Papers delivered by two Latvian colleagues dealt with musical instruments from that country. Irisa Priedite reported on the Latvian psaltary kokle and its development, geographical distribution and structural characteristics. Valdis Muktupavels discussed relationships between traditional and modern Latvian musical instruments, focusing on the recontextualization of traditional elements and particularly the development of folklore in the late 19th and 20th centuries.

Andreas Michel, who directs the Department of Musical Instrument Construction at the Westsächsische Hochschule, presented a paper that served as a framework for the group’s discussions and observations. Beginning with a historical review of the Saxonian Vogtland region’s activities in musical instrument construction, he then focused upon industrial production of folk music instruments and its consequences in the 20th century. Angela Waltner, Heidi von Rüden and Eberhard Meinel, students at the Hochschule, reported on their research project on the well-known guitar maker Richard Jacob "Weißgerber," while Alexander Stauch described the historical and contemporary construction of the Sorbian fiddle.

Gisa Jähnichen gave a paper on the professional manufacture of traditional musical instruments in that country, focusing upon the champassak ceremonial ensemble in its musical and ritual context. Rinko Fujita reported on the Japanese mouth organ shô, having conducted systematic experiments on its sound production and tonal characteristics. Changes of values associated with musical instruments comprised the focus of Andreas Meyer’s paper on drum carvers of Asante (Ghana) and their path "from musical instruments to interior design". Timkeht Terrefa examined the masinqo one-sided spiked lute of the Ethiopian highlands, contrasting in its musical use, symbolism and consumption among residents of the cities and of rural areas.

Rudolf Conrad organized an exhibition for this conference entitled "Masked Dance and Festival for the Dead-Traditional Music of Native Brazilians Today" and led an informative tour of the objects. Workshops were given by Martina Claus-Bachmann on a CD-ROM project she developed with students on the drum in Sri Lanka and a demonstration by Max Peter Baumann of a Website project of the University of Bamberg on the concertina of Franconia.

During the business meeting, study group members acknowledged with warm gratitude Erich Stockmann’s many years of leadership and the important role he has played in the intellectual and organizational growth of the group in the course of more than thirty years. Together with co-chairman Oskár Elschek, he achieved the feat of regularly bringing together scholars from East and West, stimulating lively and friendly communication at each meeting, and ensuring the broad distribution of the meetings’ results through numerous publications that he planned and edited. Unanimously elected as new chairman of the study group was Andreas Michel and as co-chairmen Gunnar Ternhag and Linda Fujie. The next meeting is planned for the summer of 2002 in Sweden, to be organized by Gunnar Ternhag and Dan Lundberg.

Linda Fujie

14th Meeting: Papers
Studiengang Musikinstrumentenbau Markneukirchen