Svensk forskning i musik – de senaste 100 åren

English summary

Swedish research in music – the last 100 years
This article aims to offer an overview of the rise, growth and diversification of academic music research in Sweden. ‘Research in music’ is suggested as a comprehensive term, covering all kinds of research relating to music.

In 1915 the Swedish University Chancellor’s office established a syllabus for ‘music history and theory’ at Lund University. The syllabus was initiated by Tobias Norlind, and its confirmation may be seen as the start of musicology as an academic discipline in Sweden. Already from 1863, however, the director musices at Uppsala University had lectured on music, a practice that had been taken up also at Lund University. Dissertations on music were made within scientific or aesthetic disciplines until 1885, when the Uppsala student Karl Valentin produced a dissertation in comparative musicology at Leipzig University, on the theme of Swedish folk song style. Also Norlind studied in Leipzig and Munich towards the end of the nineteenth century, and hereby contributed to the influence of German musicology on the new, Swedish branch.

In 1918, Norlind moved from Lund to Stockholm where he succeeded Valentin as a teacher of music history at the music conservatoire and also became the director of the Museum of Music History. He had been active in the Internationale Musikgesellschaft and in its Swedish sections. Out of them grew Svenska samfundet för musikforskning (Swedish society for music research) and its journal Svensk tidskrift för musikforskning (Swedish journal of music research) in 1919.

A first licentiate degree (comparable to a present-day doctor’s degree) in musicology was taken at Lund University in 1918. Once Stockholm University College (predecessor of Stockholm University) had accepted the syllabus, graduations could occur also there. One of the first students who graduated was Carl-Allan Moberg in 1927.

During the 1930s and early 1940s, research in the history of primarily Swedish music and church music was conducted by Norlind at the Museum of Music History and by Moberg at Uppsala University. Norlind also made extensive research in folk music, dance and organology. While his scholarly roots were in the evolutionism of comparative musicology, Moberg approached culture in terms of social and economic interaction.

In 1947, the long-awaited first professorship and university department in musikforskning (cf. German Musikforschung) were established at Uppsala University. With Moberg as professor, this was the start of the so-called ‘Uppsala school’ with its focus on the history of Swedish music, church music and folk music. A younger generation of researchers who graduated in the early 1950s and whose front figure was Ingmar Bengtsson (he succeeded Moberg as professor at Uppsala University in 1961) added the perspectives of contemporary art music and performance practice. The post-war period, with the German scholar Ernst Emsheimer as director of the Museum of Music History, also saw a continuation of research in organology and the introduction of ethnomusicology. In 1951, Svenskt visarkiv (the Centre for Swedish Folk Music) opened in Stockholm. Later it became a centre for ethnomusicology in Sweden, and so it remains today.

In 1969, the discipline musikforskning was renamed musikvetenskap (cf. German Musikwissenschaft), and this was also the name of an influential handbook by Ingmar Bengtsson. Using externally financed projects, Bengtsson widened the scope of the discipline to include interdisciplinary collaboration with psychology and technical science. This led to the establishment of music psychology at the Department of Psychology at Uppsala University and of musical acoustics at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm. These new branches of research in music were later followed by biomusicology, music archaeology and music therapy.

The aim of creating professorships at each of the four Swedish universities was gradually realised when new departments were founded at Stockholm University (1956) with Martin Tegen (sociology of music) as its leader, at Lund University (1965) with Folke Bohlin (church music and choral research) and at University of Gothenburg (1967) with Jan Ling (folk music and music in society). The department in Gothenburg quickly developed its own research profile, studying a range of musical genres in their social contexts. This ‘Gothenburg model’ still forms the core of that department, while the Uppsala department has retained its long-time profile of research on Swedish music history. However, all Swedish departments of musikvetenskap conduct research in the wider area of humanistic musicology. 

Bengtsson, Tegen, Bohlin and Ling all became heads and sole professors of their departments of musikvetenskap. During the following two decades, a number of reforms in higher education changed the landscape in many ways. A reform of the third-cycle courses and the introduction of time-limited doctoral scholarships led to a considerable increase of the number of graduated musicologists. Further, the introduction of a promotion system radically increased the number of senior lecturers and professors, and the establishment of a system where heads of department were elected resulted in leadership being distributed on several colleagues.

While this growth was beneficial in many ways, the fact that some of the reforms did not come with government funding also made them problematic for the departments. Moreover, the Swedish government began redirecting funding from universities to research councils. Today, promoted professors no longer have the benefit of research accounts tied to their positions. Instead, like the majority of researchers, they normally depend on external funding of time-limited research projects. 

In 1977, a major university reform for the first time included music conservatories, from then on called musikhögskola (cf. German Musikhochschule), in the university system. A new and expanded programme for the education of music teachers was introduced at the same time. In theory, it was now possible to conduct research at these institutions, but putting this into practice proved to be a long-term project. Research in music education was developed in close collaboration between the conservatoires, and the first graduation occurred in 2001. Artistic research was developed in collaboration between all conservatoires and academies in the area of the arts, particularly on the initiative of those in Malmö/Lund and Gothenburg. The first graduations in artistic research in music took place in 2008.

The numerous reforms, and the way researchers have responded to them, have resulted in a new dynamic in the area of research in music. Today, the research in music – much like in the sciences – is increasingly conducted by research groups or research teams that often involve more than one university and more than one discipline. Attempts are made to approach the challenges of interdisciplinary communication within the broad field of research in music itself, but such communication largely remains an unused potential. For example, the growing academic interest in the media of music creation, production and consumption points towards a field that relates to all branches of research in music and so holds great potential for interdisciplinary study.


History of research in music in Sweden; artistic research in music; biomusicology; ethno-musicology; folk music research; music acoustics; music archeology; music therapy; musicology; psychology of music; research in music education.



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