Symposium Report

Music and Science in the Time of Pandemic: The 12th International Musicological Symposium Music in Society

Between December 10th and 12th, 2020, the twelfth edition of the biennial International Musicological Symposium Music in Society was held, organized by the Musicological Society of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Music Academy of the University of Sarajevo. This year’s symposium, in accordance with the current situation caused by the global COVID-19 pandemic, was conducted in the form of video conferences via the online Zoom platform. In addition to Zoom, the symposium program was also made available to the public through live streaming on social platforms Facebook and YouTube. The symposium’s program concept included fifteen sessions (two thematic) and two plenary lectures, with the participation of 59 contributors from 10 countries (Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Croatia, Canada, Portugal, Serbia, the United States, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom).

The program of the first day of the symposium was organized into five musicological sessions and 1 plenary lecture, covering areas of regional music historiography, discography, and popular music culture in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The first session featured Vjera Katalinić shedding light on the life, musical engagement, and historical significance of the Croatian noblewoman Sidonija Rubido Erdődy. This was followed by a co-authored presentation by Lada Duraković and Marijana Kokanović Marković on the operatic realization of Kukuška (Tatjana), composed by Austro-Hungarian composer Franz Lehár. The session concluded with Ana Popović’s presentation on the symbolic musical landscape of the Croatian city of Osijek.

The second musicological session presented diverse works in the field of music historiography. Lana Šehović Paćuka discussed the premiere of Beethoven’s Eroica and Pastoral Symphonies in Austro-Hungarian Sarajevo. Sara Ries illuminated the network of Bosnian correspondents of Franjo Kuhač. The session concluded with Vilena Vrbanić’s presentation on musical instruments from the collection of the Cultural-Historical Museum “Dubrovnik Museums.”

The third musicological session began with Tatjana Mrđa discussing the social role of the Vršac Serbian Church Singing Society during the time of Karel Navrátil. Marija Tomić introduced the academic audience to the concert activities of biologist and flutist Siniša Stanković in interwar Belgrade. Tatjana Čunko concluded the session with a presentation titled “Far from Eyes, Far from the Heart” on the migration of Croatian composers after World War II and the impact of migration on the performance of their works in Croatia, exemplified by public concerts of the Radio-Television Zagreb ensembles.

The fourth session focused on research in the history of Croatian discography. Jelka Vukobratović presented research on early discography in Croatia and the penetration of Western popular music into Croatian territory. Tanja Halužan discussed the local character of the early discographic industry in Croatia, focusing on the example of the Kajkavian pop song. Naila Ceribašić spoke about the localization of the discographic industry in the period between the two world wars, using the example of Croatia.

The fifth musicological session, titled “A Look at Music in Popular Culture in Bosnia and Herzegovina,” opened with Senka Hodžić’s research on the reception of Bosnian-Herzegovinian popular music based on articles in the daily newspaper Oslobođenje from 1964 to 1974. Vesna Andree Zaimović discussed the conceptual album Modra rijeka by the cult Sarajevo pop-rock group Indexi. The session concluded with Ognjen Tvrtković’s presentation on the musical numbers of Jurislav Korenić in the humorous TV series Karađoz.

The program of the first day of the symposium concluded with a plenary lecture by Bosnian-Herzegovinian musicologist Lana Šehović Paćuka (Music Academy of the University of Sarajevo). The presentation, titled “Changing Perceptions of the Presence of Female Artists on the Concert Stage: A Case Study of Sarajevo’s ‘à la française cafés’,” represented only one segment of the much broader musicological research compiled in the book “Female Identities in the Musical Life of Austro-Hungarian Sarajevo,” published in 2018 by the Music Academy in Sarajevo. The author provided insights into the general historical, social, and cultural context of Austro-Hungarian Sarajevo, illuminating the origin and identity of the artists in question, the context of their performances, and the repertoire they performed. The presentation particularly focused on the activities of the then-current female performing groups, known as Damenkapellen. As emphasized in the closing remarks of the lecture, this research represents a kind of beginning of feminist discourse in contemporary Bosnian-Herzegovinian musicology, which could (and should) expand to other, younger periods of Bosnian-Herzegovinian musical history and present in terms of research.

The second day’s program was reserved for research in the fields of music theory, pedagogy, and ethnomusicology, covering four sessions, one thematic session, and a plenary lecture.

The working session titled “Reflections of Tradition in the Works of Bosnian-Herzegovinian Composers” opened with Naida Hukić’s presentation on harmony in postmodernist discourse of Bosnian-Herzegovinian concerts. In the same session, Zdravko Drenjančević analyzed the presence of Slavic traditional quotes in art music, while Snježana Đukić Čamur dealt with the influence of the literary work of Mak Dizdar on the compositional opus of Vojin Komadina.

The session titled “Pedagogical Implications of Music in the Community” featured Ana Čorić discussing the phenomenon of community music, while Snježana Dobrota focused on the connection between attitudes towards refugee children, intercultural attitudes, and preferences in world music. Aleksandra Pavićević spoke about the influence of children’s music events on music culture in Serbia from 1958 to 2019.

The eighth session focused on contemporary perspectives in music education. Valida Akšamija Tvrtković and Nermin Ploskić opened the session with a presentation highlighting the need, significance, and challenges of introducing modern technologies into the music education process. Goran Sučić discussed the development of the experience of a work of art through an integrated curriculum in artistic areas in early preschool education. Nerma Hodžić-Mulabegović presented research on creative teaching techniques in solfeggio classes. The final presentation in this session was the result of collaborative research by Ivana Hadžihasanović, Merima Čaušević, and Indira Mahmutović on the effects of music-dance workshops on specific motor abilities of hearing-impaired children aged 13 to 15.

The session dedicated to the results of current ethnomusicological research opened with Mirza Kovač’s presentation on selected digitized Islamic ritual melopoetic forms from the legacy of academician Cvjetko Rihtman. Vesna Ivkov discussed the characteristics of interpreting sevdalinka on the accordion, followed by a presentation titled “Perspectives on Researching Musical Phenomena within Qualitative Methodology,” authored by Anči Leburić and Lidija Vladić Mandarić. The session concluded with Jakša Primorac’s presentation, explaining the hypothesis about the origin of Balkan bitter diaphony.

This year’s symposium program also included a thematic session commemorating the 100th anniversary of the birth of the doyen of Bosnian-Herzegovinian sevdalinka, Zaim Imamović. Maja Baralić Materne, Nirha Efendić, Damir Imamović, Lejla Kalamujić, and Tamara Karača Beljak spoke about Imamović, sharing insights into Imamović’s private and professional life and emphasizing his overall importance in the currents of Bosnian-Herzegovinian music history and the affirmation of folk songs.

To conclude the second day’s program, a plenary lecture was delivered by David Clampitt, a renowned music theorist and professor (Ohio State University, New York). Clampitt spoke about self-dual systems in Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 14 op. 131 (1826) and the solo song Der Doppelgänger from the cycle Schwanengesang D 957 by Franz Schubert. This analytical research shed light on the influence of Beethoven’s creativity on Schubert’s compositional expression through a comparison of specific and related musical patterns in the titled compositions, detailed and explained in Clampitt’s lecture.

The third day of the symposium featured a diverse and thematically varied program, spread across five sessions (including one thematic) and concluded with a final discussion among participants.

The program opened with a session dedicated to interdisciplinary approaches to music. Sarina Bakić discussed issues in music criticism in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ivana Seletković presented research on the phenomenology of opera, and Ana Perunović Ražnatović spoke about the commemoration of Beethoven’s jubilee in Montenegro during the global pandemic. The session concluded with presentations by Alma Ferović Fazlić and Sanja Nuhanović on the directorial aspects of concert organization.

The thematic focus of the eleventh session was on the connection between music and politics. Timur Sijarić opened the session with research on elements of sociopolitical criticism in the musical numbers of the popular American animated series South Park. Vladimir Đurišić discussed the reflection of social and political events in art, using the example of Montenegro in the context of the “post-postmodern era,” while Amila Ramović addressed the connection between aesthetic and political elements in the oeuvre of Heiner Goebbels inspired by the artistic work of Hanns Eisler. As Azra Imširović was unable to participate in person, the abstract of her paper, titled “Creating a State through Music: Palestinian Sounds of Resistance in the Political Occupation Context,” was read at the end of the session.

The session titled “Music through Space and Time” opened with research by Olena Ushchapivska, focusing on the musical evocation of Brodsky’s poetry in Petričenko’s vocal cycle Monologues. Patrick Huang presented a comparative study of selected texts from ancient Greece and early China titled “Harmony of Spheres throughout Eurasia,” while Matthew Sergeant critically compared the practice of curating online music streaming and independent music distributors.

The thirteenth session covered three presentations on the theme of musical experience during the global COVID-19 pandemic. Damir Imamović opened the session, discussing the issue from the performer’s perspective, emphasizing the importance of physical presence in the process of learning and receiving music, as well as the limitations that arose with the pandemic situation. Inspired by the global situation, composer Stefania de Kennesey spoke about the role of silence as an essential component of musical expression, referring to examples from Monteverdi’s Orfeo and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5. Lucas Wink’s research focused on online musical activities of Portuguese bombos ensembles during the pandemic.

The third thematic session, which paid tribute to the distinguished Bosnian-Herzegovinian musicologist Dr. Zija Kučukalić, took place during the third day of the symposium. Former colleagues and students who are now respected experts, including Ivan Čavlović, Maja Baralić Materne, Svjetlana Bukvich, Mladen Milićević, Ankica Petrović, and Aleksandra Wagner, spoke about Kučukalić’s unparalleled contributions to the initiation and affirmation of music science and life in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The session participants shared personal memories of Professor Kučukalić, touching on his teaching activities at the Music Academy in Sarajevo and his editorial role at Radio Sarajevo. The session also announced the upcoming publication of a collection of memories and works titled “Zija Kučukalić (1929–2020),” which will be released under the auspices of the Musicological Society of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. This collection represents a significant and systematic record of Kučukalić as a pioneer of music science in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the founder of musical institutions, organizer of musical events, researcher of musical history, and author of important studies on music in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The final discussion of this year’s symposium concluded the program, summarizing the most significant observations from individual sessions and the overall symposium program. The panelists for the concluding session included Amila Ramović, Maja Baralić Materne, Vladimir Đurišić, Merima Čaušević, Damir Imamović, Lana Šehović Paćuka, Timur Sijarić, and Ognjen Tvrtković. In their concluding remarks, participants emphasized the importance of historiography as a kind of foundation for further research, highlighting the need to develop awareness of collecting significant documents and sources of the contemporary era that could serve as valuable testimony and a starting point for research into the historical and cultural heritage of the current time (including active documentation of musical experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic). Furthermore, the necessity of expanding academic discourse in terms of strengthening interdisciplinary approaches was emphasized, along with the significance of continuous scholarly inquiry into the correlation of music, media, technology, politics, and reflections on their impact on shaping musical discourse and value systems within it.

This year’s edition of the Musicological Symposium “Music in Society” represented a focal point for the exchange of the latest scientific knowledge from various domains of music science and related disciplines. It is also considered a significant success that the continuity of holding the symposium was not interrupted despite the extraordinary circumstances and challenges faced by both the organizing team and participants.

Reference: Vrpčić, Emina. “Music and Science in the Time of Pandemic: The 12th International Musicological Symposium ‘Music in Society’ Held.” Journal of Music Culture Muzika no. 2 (2020): 98-104.