Guest Lecture – Stefan Östersjö

Musical Transformations: Artistic Research Approaches to the Development of Decolonised Methods

This presentation seeks to demonstrate how a combination of stimulated recall and collaborative autoethnographic strategies can be applied to artistic and scholarly work at the intersection of ethnomusicology and artistic research. Building on recently collected material from fieldwork in Vietnam, the presentation also refers to the long-term method development within the Vietnamese/Swedish group The Six Tones, of which Östersjö is a founding member. The discussion centers around the inter-subjective forms of stimulated recall analysis, developed through the creative work of this innovative intercultural music ensemble. In “Shared Listenings”, a new book for Cambridge Elements, Östersjö, along with three more researchers from the Musical Transformations project, argue that these methods may form part of developing a decolonized methodology—for both music performance and research. The central argument is built on how the artistic research practice of The Six Tones was successfully shared with three master performers in the south of Vietnam as part of Musical Transformations in 2018–2019.

Musical Transformations is an international research project, funded by the Marcus and Amalia Wallenberg foundation, concerned with the ways musical change can be related to processes of transculturation. The project has studied the dynamic history and contemporary performance practices of Vọng Cổ, a song which has undergone a radical set of transformations since the 1920s. Its syncretic history also pertains to the development of the Vietnamese guitar, and this chapter seeks to outline the connections between processes of transculturation and urbanization, and specifically the duality between tradition and modernity they involve. The Musical Transformations project seeks to develop decolonizing methods for music research, and uses stimulated recall of video documentation of artistic process as a means. Hereby, the project aims to include the perspective of each participating musician in the analysis, seeking intersubjective and collaborative approaches to the emic-etic problem of ethnomusicological research. In the first phase of the project, set in the Mekong delta and the city of Sài Gòn, The Six Tones invited masters of Tài Tử, a form of chamber music which is discussed further below, to document versions of the Vọng Cổ, and also to experiment with the tradition and create new versions of the song. This work was carried out in recording studios in Sài Gòn, and resulted in an album which features Phạm Công Tỵ, Phạm Văn Môn and Huỳnh Tuấn, together with The Six Tones.

Stefan Östersjö

Stefan Östersjö is Chaired Professor of Musical Performance at Piteå School of Music, Luleå University of Technology. He received his doctorate in 2008 for a dissertation on musical inter­pretation and contemporary performance practice. In 2009, he became a research fellow at the Orpheus Institute. He is currently also a guest professor at Ingesund School of Music, Karlstad University of Technology, Professor II at Western Norway University of Applied Sciences, and associate professor at DXARTS, University of Washington.

Östersjö is a leading classical guitarist specialising in the performance of contemporary music. As a soloist, chamber musician, sound artist, and improviser, he has released more than thirty CDs and toured Europe, the USA, and Asia. He has collaborated extensively with composers and in the creation of works involving choreography, film, video, performance art, and music theatre. Between 1995 and 2012 he was the artistic director of Ensemble Ars Nova, a leading Swedish ensemble for contemporary music. He is a founding member of the Vietnamese group The Six Tones, which since 2006 has developed into a platform for interdisciplinary intercultural collaboration. As a member of the Landscape Quartet he has developed an articulated performative practice within ecological sound art. As a soloist he has worked with conductors such as Lothar Zagrosek, Péter Eötvös, Pierre-André Valade, Mario Venzago, and Andrew Manze.