Towards an alliance for distributed ethnomusicology data

Framework: ASEA-Uninet
Project lead mdw: Alex Hofmann (IWK)
Project lead TU-Vie: Andreas Rauber (IFS)

2018 – Towards an alliance for distributed ethnomusicology data (ASEA 2018/mdw/6),
2019 – Elaboration of a strategy for distributed ethnomusicology data (ASEA 2019),
2021/22 – Evaluating a strategy to make ethnomusicology data FAIR (ASEA 2021),
2022 – Winners of the Bernd Rode Award 2022 of the OeAD in the category "Project-based"
2023/24 – Interoperable storage systems for Musicological Data Collections: Exploring connections of Manila-Vienna-Kuala Lumpur (ASEA 2023)


Project Description:

While the South-East Asian musical heritage is particularly rich, it is highly diverse and scattered across multiple countries and regions. The same holds for existing ethno-musicological resources. Research in musicology involves various kinds of data, ranging from written sources (manuscripts, music sheets, publications, etc) to audio and video recordings in different formats (analogue, digital) with varying additional information (Metadata) about contents and contexts oft he performances, the performers, their ideas and viewpoints, musical instruments and the way of their use and so on. Until now, researchers and institutions have developed primarily individual ways to collect and store such data, either digitally or in a card-index cabinet. Data search in such self-contained storages is difficult and searching across multiple storages can be very time consuming. This presents a barrier for conducting contemporary, computer-aided musicological research. For instance, incompatible data structures prevent applying automated data analysis and indexing across music collections to provide new ways to access the data and gain new insights. This includes the use of visualization techniques and state-of-the-art machine learning methods on existing data sets, which may reveal hidden connections between different areas within music research.

This project will examine the current situation of data sets in ethno-musicology towards the development of standardized ways for data storage and data access between partner organizations. To this end, we plan to form an initial alliance that collects the requirements for an interoperable data infrastructure for digital musicology projects in the South-East Asian region and builds first examples of tentative applications by means of automatic content and metadata analysis.

Goal of the project is to design a strategy that allows the storage of data sets in a standardized way that supports an exchange of (meta) data between partner organizations.


The following ASEA-UNINET members and external partners actively contribute to this project:

  • Austria (ASEA):
    • The Department of Music Acoustics (IWK) at the University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna (mdw), is specialized in fundamental and applied research on the acoustics of musical instruments and musician-instrument interaction. This involves the development of physical models of musical instruments to predict their quality and behavior, as well as using empirical methods to understand musician-instrument interactions.
    • The Department of ethnomusicology (IVE) at the University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna (mdw) has expertise in different fields of ethno-musicological research. In the work of the Research Center for European Multipart Music housed at this institution interaction, intervention and coordinated behavior of performers (singers, instrumentalists, dancers) is of particular importance. The multi-sensorial and polysemic processes involved in making and perceiving this music are remarkable and lead to the necessity to puzzle out a complex set of strictly contextual codes. Dr. Ahmedaja is an expert for European Multipart Music and did fieldwork in several Balkan and Mediterranean countries and in the USA. Dr. Saglam works as head of the institute's archive and is deputy director of the IVE at the mdw.
    • The Information Management and Preservation Lab at the Institute of Software Technology and Interactive Systems (IFS) at the TU Vienna holds specialists (Prof. Rauber, Prof. Knees, Dr. Miksa) in Music Information Retrieval (MIR), long-term preservation of data and machine learning. This team develops new methods to store and retrieve audio recordings and meta-data.
  • Thailand (ASEA):
    • The Mahidol University College of Music (Thailand) holds the Southeast Asian Music Museum, a place for collecting music history of the country. Objectives of the museum are to collect musical instruments, roles of the music that relate to society, and the sound of Thai, folk, and Southeast Asian musical instruments. The enormous collection is in the size of 19,000 square meters and among the largest in this region.
      Prof. Joseph Bowmann (College of Music)
      Prof. Dr. Boonsit Yimwadsana (ICT),
      Dr. Krit Buranavitayawut (College of Music)
  • Malaysia:
    • Dr. Pek Lin Chong (private collection) A capella and informal group-singing, often including multipart singing and simple dance movements of songs of the Kenyah were collected over a period of 20 years, initially using Sony video-cameras and audio-recorders, stored in Hi8 videocasettes/Sony digital video casettes tapes and audio-casette tapes. Subseqeuntly transferred to VHS tapes/audio-casette tapes. Specific sections were digitized and combined for presentations and teaching (wmv, avi and mp4 formats).
    • Prof. Dr. Clare Chan (Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris)
  • Philippines:
    • The name, “U.P. Center for Ethnomusicology“ was established in 1997 by the U.P. Board of Regents, in recognition of Professor Jose Maceda’s visionary work and authorship of putting together an ethnomusicological collection of about 2500 hours of recorded music in open reel and cassette tapes, field notes, music transcriptions, song texts, photographs, music instruments, music compositions, personal files, about 2000 books and journals, all of which he personally initiated and developed as a unified institutional resource for music research. The UP centre now has as a digital collection of audio recordings, texts, videos and images stored in external hard-drives. Data is catalogued and this metadata information is available in a online public access catalogue. Accessing the actual material would require researchers to either visit the centre or request for access per letter or email, sending a research proposal which will be evaluated by the management. The process of digitizing old material is currently ongoing.
      U.P. Center for Ethnomusicology: Bakk. Roan Opiso
  • Latvia:
    • The Research Centre at the Jāzeps Vītols Latvian Academy of Music (JVLMA) has expertise in different fields of musicology, including ethnomusicology. In addition, it hosts the Archive of Traditional Music in which audio and video recordings from different local music practices, mostly in Latvia, but also in the neighbouring countries are stored. The recordings have been made by ethnomusicologists during their fieldwork using different recording devices. The large audio collection (1988–1991) was collected in cooperation with the professional movable recording studio. Most of the collections of the archive have been digitized, and the archive continues to grow.
      Prof. Dr. Anda Beitāne (Jāzeps Vītols Latvian Academy of Music (Riga, Latvia)




  • Following a preparatory data collection, a workshop at the Mahidol University Bangkok from 28-30th January 2019, which brought together ethnomusicology and ICT experts from Austria, Thailand, Malaysia and the Philippines, all four research facilities presented their current data holdings and infrastructure.
  • The 2nd workshop aimed at designing a strategy that allows the storage of data sets in a standardized way that supports an exchange of (meta) data between partner organizations. The alliance met for an in-depth exchange on future strategies in data management, technology transfer, practical implementation and exchange sessions.
  • The results of this action were presented at the ICTM 2019: Sağlam, H., Ahmedaja, A., Hofmann, A., Knees, P., & Miksa, T. (2019). Towards An Alliance For Distributed Music Data (Abstract). In Abstracts of The 45th International Council for Traditional Music World Conference (pp. 226–227). Bangkok, TH: Chulalongkorn University.
  • A follow-up publication has been submitted to Empirical Musicology Review: Hofmann, A., Miksa, T., Knees, P., Bakos, A., Saglam, H., Ahmedaja, A., Yimwadsana, B., Chan, C., Rauber, A. (2021). Enabling FAIR use of Ethnomusicology Data - through Distributed Repositories, Linked Data and Music Information Retrieval. Empirical Musicology Review – Special Issue on Open Science in Musicology.
  • The 3rd workshop will be held at the University Malaya College of Music Campus on 15 & 16th July 2022
  • The 4th workshop will be held at the University of the Philippines Dec. 2022
  • The 5th workshop will be held at the University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna April 2024