From Fridolin to the Digital Age – The Visual Anthropology of Ethnomusicology

A symposium on practice-based research on music around the world

Aarhus | June 1-2 | 2017

About the Symposium

When the Danish ethnomusicologist, Andreas Fridolin Weis Bentzon, died, far too young (he was only 35), in 1971, it was not only a shock to Danish anthropology in general, it was a profound setback for a sub-discipline that he pioneered through his world famous doctoral studies of the Sardinian ‘national’ instrument, the three-pronged flute called launeddas ( He would have been pleased to know that his approach is the source of inspiration for a symposium being organized more than 45 years later. He knew that to understand the sense-based phenomenon of music required research methods that went beyond ‘simple’ observation, in his short life managing to produce hundreds of audio-recordings and photographs, and many feet of 16 mm film recordings. It is therefore in his spirit, and in two cases directly referring to his work, that the planned symposium will showcase different projects that all, in one way or the other, contribute to the further development of two areas of anthropological research at Aarhus University, firstly the kind of research that acknowledges the main implications of the so-called ‘anthropology of the senses’, often related to phenomenological approaches, when it comes to practice-based research. Secondly, and linked to this, the ways in which notions of visual anthropology and ethnographic film may contribute to such research.

The symposium will be based on the work of scholars as well as practitioners in the field of ethnomusicology and ethnographic film. The programme will run over two days, allowing ample time for the presentation of projects, in slots of approx. two and a half hours, something that is very often not possible at ‘normal’ academic events.


1 June

– Moesgaard Museum, Room 301

09:00 –  Registration and welcome by Peter I. Crawford

10:00 – 12:00 Dante Olianas &  Gianluca Piras

12:00 – 13:00 Lunch

13:00 – 14:00 Relocation to Nobelsalen

14:30 – 16:00 Eva Fock

16:00 – 16.15 Break

16:30 – 18:00 Mauro Patricelli

18:00 – 19:30 Soirée with music and wine

20:00 Dinner at Restaurant Olive

2 June

– Moesgaard Museum, Room 301

09:00 – 09:30 Coffee

09:30 – 10:45 Maria Mendonca

10:45 Break

11:00 – 12:30 Balz Andrea Alter & Otu Bala

12:30 Lunch

13:30 – 15:30 Peter I. Crawford and Sebastian J. Lowe

15:30 – 16:00 Coffee and cake

16:00 – 17:00 Closing


Dante Olianas
feat. Gianluca Piras
Launeddas Player

Fridolin’s Work Enlightened the Ancient Launeddas: A Presentation about the Life and Work of A. F. W. Bentzon

In 1962, A. F. W. Bentzon arrived in Sardinia with a movie camera (a spring-wound «Agfa Movex») with no connection to the tape recorder (a «Majak» also spring-wound), and with this equipment he shot a series of scenes portraying the daily life, music and world of the launeddas players: the religious rites their music accompanied, the economic situation of Sardinia and, in general, the way of life of Sardinian people. In 1981, I visited the Danish Folklore Archives and, while listening to a recording of a woman singing, noticed a strange camera noise which alerted me to the possible existence of film footage. I then found a tin containing 20 rolls of 16 mm B/W film with a total running time of 50 minutes. The footage consisted of scientific working material. According to Bentzon’s wife Ruth, Bentzon himself was not planning to edit it into a documentary film. In fact, he didn’t list this footage with the hundreds of documents relating to Sardinia he left to the Danish Folklore Archives.

Once the places, persons, instruments and tunes played were identified, the problem was to produce a documentary, out of this scientific footage with no synch, which could reach a wider audience than just the experts. I then asked Fiorenzo Serra, a well-known Sardinian director and good friend of Bentzon’s, to cut the film. Fiorenzo had to deal with a work of pure ‘archaeological cinematography’ and it took him several months to finish, achieving, as result, a film that became “one of the most significant documentaries in Sardinia”.

In 1976, as a language student at the University of Cagliari, I discovered the book ‘The Launeddas’ by A.F.W. Bentzon, translated it and began to walk in the footsteps of the Danish researcher. Thanks to two scholarships from the Danish Ministry of Education, in 1981 and 1982, I worked at the Danish Folklore Archives on the material left by Fridolin Bentzon. I soon realised that this material needed to be disclosed urgently, to reach a much wider audience, and in 1985, with a group of intellectuals and artists, I founded the Iscandula Association, whose mission was, and still is, to disseminate Fridolin’s books, films, pictures, recordings, diaries etc. In addition to publishing Bentzon’s works, in my role as president of Iscandula, I have organised countless conferences, meetings, festivals, music schools, collaborations and have played a great role in the disclosure of Bentzon’s knowledge and work.

Eva Fock
Independent ethnomusicologist and teacher

Addressing the world through Google 

When I recently brought photos of musical instruments from around the world into a class room in Copenhagen, starting a project about building string instruments, one of the children said: ’Why do we spend time on this? We could have found these examples ourselves’. This comment started an interesting discussion in the class: what should we look for? Something similar happened, when I worked with weddings as examples of aesthetic events, rituals and narratives in a local high school. Here the students started searching themselves, getting loads of worthless videos and a huge waste of time. We have an illusion of a globalised Internet, with unlimited access to information, which is far from the reality. While a lot of material can actually be found on the Internet, through Google, YouTube etc. (though be aware that some things cannot!!!), it is harder to find ethnomusicological quality material from around the world, if you do not know exactly what to look for. The Internet has a Western focus and a strong echo-function. How can this be addressed in the schools? I want to discuss this issue and present examples of how I used my own video material in thematic approaches in music education in schools.

Mauro Patricelli
Composer, Pianist and Music Researcher

Dansejægeren (The Dance Hunter)

My latest documentary opera, Dansejæger – Dance Hunter – is a biographical music tale of Denmark’s first ethnomusicologist,  Andreas Fridolin Bentzon, who despite his short life documented one of the probably oldest folk music traditions in Europe, and thus helped to save it from oblivion. By singing the story of Fridolin Bentzon the opera also offers a poetic tale about an essential period in the history of music, where in the 1950s ethnomusicologists made efforts to document and preserve the last vestiges of European oral tradition that was dying as an inevitable result of modernisation. This way my opera aims to create resonance between a purely scientific area – as ethnomusicology research is – and a post-modernistic approach to themes such as the need to be confronted with the archaic, roots and the fear of oblivion.

Maria Mendonça
Associate Professor in Asian Music and Culture
Kenyon College

Gamelan in Britain: Encounters and Imaginaries

The gamelan ensemble and its music has traveled widely outside Indonesia. One frequent characteristic of this spread has been the development of performance groups. However, only a few of these gamelan groups (for example, in Surinam and Singapore) have developed as the result of migration of Indonesians. Instead, and in contrast with many other traveling music cultures, gamelan outside Indonesia is largely powered by performers of non-Indonesian nationality. For the majority of these performance-based cultures, a dialogue with Indonesia and Indonesian artists plays an important role in their development; however gamelan outside Indonesia exists, for the most part, firmly outside any notion of heritage music labelling. Instead, in many of its transnational spaces, gamelan has been part of a complex process of re-imagining, by both individuals and institutions. My current film, ‘Gamelan Encounters’ (2017), explores different aspects of gamelan’s re-imagining in Britain, including  the ensemble’s use in community music-making at London’s Southbank;  a Balinese dancer’s exploration of Javanese dance performance, and a gamelan-martial arts collaboration involving retelling of the Mahabharata at York University.

Balz Andrea Alter
PhD in Visual Anthropology,
feat. Otu Bala
Singer & Songwriter

Sensations of Sound & Compositions of Music in the research and film project “Je est un Autre”

We can shut our eyes but we cannot shut our ears physically.  Our self can hear voices speaking to it even in the very absence of the body speaking to it. We can talk to a sleeping self and be sure that it listens to us, sometimes the sleeping body even responds – revealing what remains often silenced in the light of the I/eye. The music and film project “Je eat un Autre” I draw on in this presentation is part of a long run (artistic) research project in close collaboration with Otu Bala, a Camerooian intellectual and musician. In the framework of the on-going research project I’ll elaborate on our ability to listen carefully –– drawing on reflections of my embodied, shared and filmic experiences. At the core of this process we enter into a dialogue with Otu Bala, the protagonist of the film project and Hans-Georg Gadamer’s speaches on “Hören” and “Horchen”. In between Cameroonian song writing and German philosophy we aim to reveal rhythms of perceptions through projections, evocations, and partial analysis of actual compositions (Sephiroots 2018). In this case study the rhythms are given by the montage of the audiovisual material which will be revisited to give an insight into the very structures and dynamics of presence and absence of sound and music in the experimental film project. We therefore understand film as an extended method of ethnographic enquiry and means of research (findings) communication within anthropology, ethnomusicology and beyond.

Peter I. Crawford
Anthropologist, filmmaker and publisher

Mola’a revisited: Reef Panpipes

The first main shoot for the Reef Islands Ethnographic Film Series in the Solomon Islands, in 1996, was seriously affected by the unexpected death of one of the main characters and partners in the project, Alfred Melotu, the paramount chief of the Aiwoo-speaking people on the island of Ngasinue. His death and funeral resulted in the first film we produced from the series, Alfred Melotu – the funeral of a paramount chief (2002), and footage from this plays an important role in the installation film, Passage (2014), that forms a crucial element of the ethnographic exhibition, The Life of the Dead, at Moesgaard Museum (MOMU). In 2005 I revisited the Reef Islands and Mola’a, a small settlement on the northern tip of Ngasinue, where Alfred had settled with his extended family only a few years prior to his death. It was mainly a courtesy visit to his descendants, especially Agnes, his widow, and sons, daughters and grandchildren. The main surprise, however, was the apparent emergence of a completely new music form and practice, or was that what it was?

Sebastian J. Lowe
Visual Anthropologist, Musician

Filming Taonga Pūoro: The Potential of Experimental Film in Anthropological and Ethnomusicological Enquiry

In this talk I discuss the potential of experimental film as an extended method of ethnographic enquiry within anthropology and ethnomusicology. Taking a point of departure in Aotearoa/New Zealand, with Māori carvers, composers, and musicians in and around the discourse of taonga pūoro (traditional Māori musical instruments), we examine how anthropologists, through the medium of film, may get ‘closer’ to understanding alternative approaches to music-making within the discourse of the contemporary taonga pūoro tradition. Drawing inspiration from ethnographic film I explore the possibilities and also representational implications regarding the use of experimental film-making as a research tool within the canon of anthropological scholarship. I argue thatthere is space for experimental film in the anthropological discipline, as it is not only a widely accessible medium that intersects cross-culturally, but also allow one to enter into the mimetic dimensions of the Māori sound-world. This talk is based on the recent article written for “Sites: a journal of social anthropology and cultural studies” in Aotearoa/New Zealand by Lowe and Crawford (2017).

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Should you have any questions or queries, please feel free to contact the organisers:

Peter I. Crawford
Direct ph.: +45 8716 2994

Sebastian J. Lowe
Direct ph.: +4551627230

Register now!

100 DKK per day, 50 DKK concession (60+, students)

Please make a payment to the following bank account and mark payment with FRIDOLIN2017:


IBAN: DK3761 8000 1166 4601

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