Sustainable Futures for Music Cultures

Towards an ecology of musical diversity

Sustainable futures for music cultures is a five-year, five-million dollar project that investigates key factors in musical sustainability, with the purpose of enabling communities across the world to forge musical futures on their own terms.

With the developments in migration, travel, and technology over the past fifty years, musical diversity has simultaneously come to our ears and under threat. Almost anywhere in the world, music from myriad backgrounds is accessible live or through recordings. But at the same time, many ‘small musics’ are in danger.

We live in an era when much music—in the words of the leading ethnomusicologist Tony Seeger—is actively ‘being disappeared’ with globalisation. These changes go well beyond the dynamics of musical styles and genres emerging and disappearing organically as a result of changes in society. This phenomenon is now causing a substantial reduction in the diversity of music across the world.

A better understanding of the ‘ecosystems’ of music cultures can help to address this situation. In all cultures, the interplay between a large number of musical and non-musical factors is decisive for the longevity of music genres. This includes the relation to communities, systems of transmission, dissemination through media and industry, as well as more intangible factors such as underlying values and prestige.

By conducting nine detailed case studies across the spectrum from ‘endangered’ to ‘flourishing’ music cultures on four different continents, Sustainable futures seeks to identify mechanisms that affect the longevity of specific music styles and genres.

Built on a partnership between the International Music Council, the World Music & Dance Centre, the Music Council of Australia and six universities, Sustainable futures aims to develop a freely accessible, user-friendly web-based resource that will enable communities–by themselves or in partnerships–to preserve, safeguard or develop the music they value, in the way they value it.

Click here to go to the project website

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