Reinhard Strohm

Regno Unito/Germania

Premio Balzan 2012 per Musicologia

Progetto di ricerca

Towards a Global History of Music

Reinhard Strohm is Emeritus Professor of Music at the University of Oxford. His research project aimed to promote post-European historical thinking, beginning with the consideration of what ‘western music’ would look like in an account of music history aspiring to be truly global. The project was not meant to create a universal (or global) history in itself, but to explore, through assembled case studies, parameters and terminologies that are suitable to describe a history of many different voices.

The programme’s Steering Committee consisted mainly of the representatives of the six collaborating institutions (Faculty of Music, Oxford University; Department of Music, King’s College, University of London; Institut für Musikwissenschaft, Universität Zürich; Musicology Department, Faculty of the Humanities, The Hebrew University, Jerusalem; Institut für Musikwissenschaft, Universität Wien; Institut für Musikwissenschaft und Medienwissenschaft, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin), and an Advisory Board of international specialists of musicology and ethnomusicology.

The Programme

In collaboration with six university departments of musicology, the award-winner Prof. Reinhard Strohm (University of Oxford) designed a research programme entitled Towards a Global History of Music. This 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 Coordinators were Marie-Alice Frappat for London and Oxford, and 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 may be traced back to enlightenment forerunners, and was 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, and 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 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?

The following account contains a summary of events that took place for the duration of the project. For more detailed information on all activities and events associated with the research project from its beginning in 2013 and publications, see previous editions of the Overview on the International Balzan Foundation website:

The highlight of the 2016-2017 academic year was the workshop Transcultural Music Traditions, organized under Reinhard Strohm’s Balzan research project Towards a Global History of Music. It was heldfrom 7 to 9 Aprilat the Humboldt Universitätin Berlin. Introduced by a Keynote Lecture on 7 April, it involved two sessions: A Global View on Bach: Latin America and Asia in the 20th Centuryon 8 April, followed by a performance of the Asambura Ensemble, and Music, Media Geography, Historyon 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.

Research Visitors 2015-17

Faculty of Music, University of Oxford
Dr Christina Richter-Ibañez (University of Tübingen, Germany): A Global View on Bach.
Prof. Andrea F. Bohlman (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA): Music and Unofficial Media in Communist Poland.
Dr Luis Velasco-Pufleau (University of Salzburg, Austria): European New Music Festivals and the Emergence of an Intercontinental History of Contemporary Art Music.

Institut für Musikwissenschaft, Humboldt-Universität, Berlin
Dr Gabriela Currie (University of Minnesota, USA): Sounding Alexander’s Legacy: The Gandharan Nexus.

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.

Department of Musicology, The Hebrew University, Jerusalem
Dr Lisa Nielson (Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, USA): Concerning Music and Musical Instruments: A Fifteenth Century Collection of Anti-Samac Treatises.

Institut für Musikwissenschaft, Universität Wien
Dr Barbara Titus (University of Amsterdam): The West in Musical Retrospect: South African Mask and Music as Historiography.

Musikwissenschaftliches Institut, Universität Zürich
Dr Avra Xepapadakou (University of Crete, Greece): Western European Opera and Operetta Companies Touring in the Southeastern Mediterranean during the Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries.

Department of Musicology, The Hebrew University, Jerusalem
Dr Anna G. Piotrowska (Jagiellonian University, Kraków, Poland): Gypsy Music in European Culture.

Institut für Musikwissenschaft, Universität Wien
Dr Morag Josephine Grant (Independent researcher, Berlin, Germany): Martial Music in Global Historical Perspective.

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.

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 Jez (University of Warsaw, Poland): Music in the Cultural Strategies of Jesuits in Latin America (Seventeenth-Eighteenth 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, Germany): Transfer, Reception and Appropriation of Music: East Asia and Western Europe.

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.


Towards a Global History of Music has come to an end, but Reinhard Strohm has discussed the wish to continue these studies of a global history of music with Jin-Ah Kim (2015 research visitor who convened the Zurich workshop), and many of the other specialists involved in the project, as well as funding institutions and advisers around the world. The director of this new research group on Global Music History is Jin-Ah Kim, assisted by an international steering committee and an advisory board.


  • Strohm, Reinhard, ed. Studies on a Global History of Music: A Balzan Musicology Project. London and New York: Routledge, 2018. SOAS Musicology Series.
  • Strohm, Reinhard, ed. The Music Road: Coherence and Diversity in Music from the Mediterranean to India. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019. Proceedings of the British Academy.
  • Strohm, Reinhard, ed. Transcultural Music History: Global Participation and Regional Diversity in the Modern Age, Berlin: Verlag für Wissenschaft und Bildung (Intercultural Music Studies, series editor Max Peter Baumann), October-November, 2020.