Altered social conditions can often be attributed to political changes affecting governments, economic systems, conflicts, social programmes, jobs, commerce, and/or the environment.  Evidence for such changes sometimes can be seen in the record of material culture, but we will examine the extent to which these changes leave behind sonic traces. Evidence can include notation systems, writings on music, music-related iconography, musical instrument remains, acoustic spaces, and ethnohistorical and ethnomusicological testimony.

Using examples from around the world, the proposed workshop will feature sixteen papers exploring conditions leading to changes in public musics and soundscapes and what these changes might have meant for the people in those affected cultures. Knowledge about changes in sanctioned soundscapes on the state level will help us to understand unsanctioned ones that simultaneously existed.  Furthermore, there may be cases where sonic evidence can answer questions about social changes where visual evidence cannot.  This possibility has great potential for music archaeology as a research tool for cultural systems of the past.  The five disciplines or strands are suggested because of their unique and pertinent perspectives, and their interconnectivity.

To elaborate on the former: if changes in certain musics today can be attributed to political changes, it is likely that the same happened in the past.  If so, ethnomusicology can offer contemporary examples.  In a related vein, changes in music might be evident in depictions in public artwork, a purview of art historians.  And, as material artefacts are not culture, archaeologists who focus on the people behind the artefact can add to our knowledge of the holistic nature of societies, including their soundscapes.  As set out in the proposal, there exist examples of ancient philosophers writing about state-level music.  This is illuminating, but it would be equally valuable to go beyond the statements themselves, to learn where these notions came from and what information philology can shed on the sounds of the soundscapes being described. Ultimately, music archaeologists specializing in sound-making objects are trained to detect changes in sound-makers through time and what these alterations might have meant for the people who were familiar with those instruments and/or soundscapes.  It is hoped that evidence presented in papers and subsequent discussions will prove or disprove the premise set forth in the workshop.  Either way, much will be gained, theoretically and methodologically on the subject of music and soundscapes in ancient societies.

The advent of music systems in the Near East and the evidence of changes in those systems through instrument development, diffusion, and abandonment are amongst Ricardo Eichmann’s related concerns. Graeme Lawson
has written on continuity and change in musics of medieval Britain and northern Europe, and the role of sound in defining cultural identity. Amongst Mark Howell’s specialisms is continuity and change in the music and soundscapes of pre- and post-Contact cultures in the New World.

Ricardo Eichmann/Mark Howell/Graeme Lawson

Proposed strands

  • (A) Ethnomusicology: Music in Societies Undergoing Change
  • (B) Iconography: The Moods of Music in Images
  • (C) Archaeology: Archaeological Evidence Beyond Material Culture
  • (D) Philology: Sources for State-Level Ideas About Music
  • (E) Music Archaeology: Instrument Assemblages of Cultures Under Stress


Cristina-Georgeta Alexandrescu
Arnd Adje Both
Veronique Alexandre-Journeau
Ricardo Eichmann
Ingrid Furniss
Ralf Gehler
Stefan Hagel
Mark Howell
Graeme Lawson
Alexandra von Lieven
Eleonora Rocconi
Susanna Rühling
Dahlia Shehata
Christophe Vendries