Akin Euba, Director

A new research unit, the
Centre for Intercultural Musicology at Churchill College, has been launched and the details of it appear below.


The movements of people around the world and the cultural contacts arising therefrom have always resulted in the mixing of musics. One can hardly find any "authentic" music existing in the world today and even the so-called traditional types have in historical times been subjected to innovation through cultural contact. It can therefore be said that interculturalism in music is likely to be as old as music itself. At the same time, specific musical cultures and traditions of instrumentation, composition and performance indubitably exist.

However, as a result of new developments in music technology and increasingly better means of music transmission, together with improved air travel facilities, intercultural activity in music intensified during the closing decades of the twentieth century. The world’s great music cultures became more easily accessible and composers were encouraged to explore new music in which elements from different cultures were combined. Moreover, performers became specialists in the musics of other cultures. As a result, composers around the world (especially those from non-Western countries) are producing music in which resources derived from traditional and folk music (normally the province of ethnomusicology) are combined with Western techniques of composition (normally the area of specialization of historical musicologists and music theorists) and neither ethnomusicologists nor historical musicologists are adequately equipped for the analytical study of such music. Hence the need for intercultural musicology. The study of this kind of composition requires a new theoretical approach by scholars who possess combined expertise in analytical techniques that have hitherto belonged to separate fields of scholarship.


The objective of the Centre for Intercultural Musicology at Churchill College (CIMACC) is to provide a forum that will lead to the development of such expertise.

Intercultural musicology combines features of historical musicology with those of ethnomusicology, so both these fields will be represented. Another area of interest for the CIMACC is the phenomenon of musical appropriation, whereby regional types of music are being globalized. For example, the symphonic tradition (which was a manifestation of European classicism in music) has become world music and no longer belongs to the West. What kind of mechanics produce such globalization? Can the process be reversed and can the Javanese
gamelan, the Japanese gagaku, or the jembe drumming tradition of West Africa also one day become world music? The CIMACC will also be a platform for the exploration of the transcendental nature of music – that aspect of music which, for example, enables Asian performers to become masters of the European practice (Yo Yo Ma, Fu Tsong, Zubin Mehta, Seiji Ozawa, to name a few) and vice versa. In addition to its purely artistic value, does musical transcendentalism have political or economic implications? Is it in any way symbolic of power?

These are some of the questions in which the CIMACC will be interested. The Centre will promote the concept of intercultural musicology through lectures, seminars, workshops, residencies, symposia, concerts, festivals and publications. In all of its activities, the Centre will ensure that opportunities exist for composers, performers and scholars to interact with one another. The practical dimension of actual music-making and experiment will be vital to the Centre, since musicians (comprising composers, performers, and scholars) learn by doing. Intercultural musicology may be described as the study of specific musics using techniques that are applicable to all musics. It will be an important (perhaps necessary) adjunct to existing musicologies.