Issue 1, November 1997 - Wim van Zanten, Ethnomusicology in the Netherlands since 1960

4. University institutes and conservatories

Department of Music, University of Amsterdam
In 1942 Jaap Kunst became privaat-docent (that is, an unpaid staff member who, on request, is granted the opportunity to teach) at the University of Amsterdam. In 1953 he became a reader (lector) in ethnomusicology. After his death in 1960 ethnomusicology gradually became well-established in the Department of Music under staff members Ernst Heins, Bernard Broere, and Leo Plenckers. In 1970 Felix van Lamsweerde was nominated privaat-docent for the music of the Indian Subcontinent. Frank L. Harrison was extra-ordinarius in ethnomusicology at the University of Amsterdam from 1970 to 1976. His wife Joan Rimmer was a musicologist as well. They left upon Harrison's retirement, and no new professor was appointed until 1990. Rembra ndt Wolpert then became the first ordinarius in ethnomusicology. His interest in Chinese and Japanese music, 'literate ethnomusicology', and computer-aided analysis, widened the regional and theoretical scope of the department. Before coming to Amsterdam, both Rembrandt Wolpert and his wife, Elizabeth Markham, worked at John Blacking's institute at Queen's University in Belfast, and were members of the Cambridge research group on Chinese music of the Tang court, headed by Laurence Picken.

During the 1960s and 1970s the Jaap Kunst collection became the core of the ethnomusicological archives of the Department of Music. The third edition of Jaap Kunst's Music in Java (1973) was edited by Ernst Heins, and other work of Jaap Kunst was continued, such as compiling a supplement to his bibliography of ethnomusicological publications. The department focused some of its research on the music and dance of Surinam, a former Dutch colony that gained independence in 1975. In 1990 archival m aterial on music and dance in Surinam was published on microfilm (Gieben and IJzermans 1990). The undergraduate course in ethnomusicology includes practical training in gamelan playing. In recent decades an increasing number of students majoring in ethnom usicology have done their MA fieldwork in the Netherlands among minority groups.

The Department of Music at the University of Amsterdam is the only Dutch institution with a full programme in ethnomusicology. Faced with great financial difficulties, the Faculty of Arts of the University of Amsterdam planned to close down this unique p rogramme in 1993. The major justification given for discontinuing ethnomusicology was that the new profile of the Amsterdam Faculty of Arts should be more focused on European Studies, in contrast to the Faculty of Arts in Leiden, which is focused on non-W estern languages and cultures, and the Faculty of Arts in Utrecht, which is focused on general linguistics (Beleidsplan 1993:15). Therefore, 'Music studies fit this profile, in the category of fine arts. However, the focus of ethnomusicology is mainly non-European and therefore it does not fit the profile' (Beleidsplan 1993:20). The Department of Music then pointed out that ethnomusicology has an essential role to play in the multi-cultural Dutch society, and that any student of music shoul d become acquainted with the scope and methodology of ethnomusicology. They succeeded in convincing the Faculty: the Department of Music had to take its share of financial cuts, but ethnomusicology was not only saved but became proportionally the stronges t part of the department, with the only professor of musicology now an ethnomusicologist.

This balance changed again in 1996. New budget cuts and a thorough re-organization made ethnomusicology part of a larger cluster of arts studies. There is now greater emphasis of the Department of Music on 20th century Dutch music, and it is to be feared that there will be no chair in ethnomusicology after the present occupant (Rembrandt Wolpert) has left in February 1998.

Research School CNWS, Leiden University
The Research School CNWS for Asian, African and Amerindian Studies was founded in Leiden in 1988, following recommendations by the Frits Staal Commission to the Minister of Education and Science on studies of foreign languages and cultures which attract o nly a small number of students. The minister decided to support these studies because of their very significant contribution to scholarship. Most of these Asian and African studies are concentrated at Leiden University. The Research School CNWS became the umbrella for the 'non-Western' departments of languages and cultural studies and the Department of Cultural and Social Anthropology. It also includes sections of history, art history, archaeology, and law departments. Within the Research School C NWS research is organized in clusters with a regional base (for instance, South East Asian Studies), and in clusters with a thematic base (for instance, the one on Fine Arts and Material Culture, and Inter-cultural Study of Literature and Society). These clusters have members from different disciplines, and within a particular cluster one may find a range of different approaches.

Fieldwork in the region of study is very much stressed, and with respect to the performing arts it is 'learning by performing'. This means that there are skillful musicians, dancers, and actors on the staff. The cluster on (the world's) Fine Arts and Material Culture is unique in the Netherlands. The Research School CNWS regularly offers seminars for PhD students on oral literature, music, dance, and theatre. For undergraduate students there are courses on similar subjects, for instance on t he world's theatre and music. Some of these courses include practical work, such as Balinese solo singing (kakawin), Turkish folk theatre (orta oyunu), and West Javanese Tembang Sunda Cianjuran music (Plate 1).

Students of cultural anthropology, Leiden, performing Tembang Sunda Cianjuran from West Java at the Festival of Indonesian Traditional Music and Dance, Anthropological Museum, Leiden 1992
Photo[1]: J.I. Boog

The Research School CNWS published the editions of Oideion; The performing arts world-wide, in co-operation with the Dutch Society for Ethnomusicology 'Arnold Bake': van Zanten (ed.) 1993 and van Zanten and van Roon (eds) 1995.

In 1996 the Research School CNWS started the research project Verbal Art in the Audio-Visual Media of Indonesia [VA|AVMI]. It is a programme 'concerned with the performance of written and oral literature, drama, and other alluring discourse on audio cassette, radio, and television' (Arps et al. 1997), and headed by Ben Arps. There are several PhD students involved, and more information on this fascinating VA|AVMI project may be found on the given web site.

International Institute for Asian Studies
The International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS) was founded in 1993, also on the recommendation of the Frits Staal Commission to the Minister of Education and Science. This research institute in Leiden co-ordi nates postdoctoral research in the Netherlands. On the occasion of their moving to a new building, the IIAS, the Research School CNWS, and the Kern Institute held a seminar on the performing arts in Asia and Africa (Brakel-Papenhuijzen ed. 1996). On this occasion the Assistant Secretary of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, Aad Nuis, pointed out that

'the unity between science and art, between classical and contemporary studies, has been preserved in the study of the non-Western world. [...] The most daunting challenge facing our domestic cultural policy over the next few years will d oubtless be the successful creation of an atmosphere in which an open-minded, non-threatening cultural conversation can take place between the various ethnic groups. This is why it is so important for the Netherlands to have knowledge of other languages a nd cultures at its disposal, for this will enable us to fine-tune our views of the various world trends' (IIAS Newsletter 5:3).

Aad Nuis also stressed that the Netherlands is a small country. This has its advantages: 'owing to its size [it] has always managed to avoid being regarded as threatening or domineering. It is precisely this combination of freedom within a well-ordere d space not crushed under the national weight of the host country which in this context has made the Netherlands the ideal meeting place for people from all over the world who are keen to get in touch with each other.' (IIAS Newsletter 5:3).

In its short lifetime so far, the IIAS has undertaken many activities, and devoted much of its attention to the performing arts. In May 1997 it started the research project Performing Arts in Asia; Tradition and Innovation (PAATI) with the present author as programme director. The full PAATI research programme may be found on the WWW site of the IIAS. The set-up of the electronic journal 'Oideion; Performing arts online' is connected to the PAATI project.

Recently the IIAS started making overviews of films in Dutch (film) museums, with short descriptions of the contents. Although the historical films are mostly on other topics, bits and pieces are sometimes relevant to the performing arts.

Department of World Music, Rotterdam Conservatory
In the 1980s Rotterdam Conservatory developed full courses for professional musicians in flamenco guitar playing, North Indian music (notably singing, tabla, sitar, sarod, sarangi, flute, and santur), and Latin Am erican music. In 1990 the Department of World Music, headed by Joep Bor, was created. Nowadays the regular curriculum also includes gamelan playing. The Department of World Music regularly invites foreign musicians to teach. One of the major problems in teaching such courses in the Netherlands is the lack of teaching materials. Spending many hours in the house of a teacher is not possible in Rotterdam - nor for that matter in most changing traditional settings - and therefor e new teaching methods have to be developed.(13) The Rotterdam Department of World Music tries to send its students for a year of study to the country of origin of the music. However, this is becoming increasingly dif ficult because of budget cuts.

Other conservatories have also started to include courses on non-Western music and dance, notably the Sweelinck Conservatory in Amsterdam and the Koninklijk (Royal) Conservatorium in The Hague.

13. An additional problem is how to make use of musicians. Good musicians are not necessarily good teachers. Programmes have been set up to train them. See van Amstel and Schippers (1995:57-61 ). Also very instructive is Chapter 2 in Epskamp and Thoolen (1991a:39-53) about Dutch experience in training and assisting the world's theatre producers and actors in the last twenty years. There is a need for professionalizing, and this will necessarily mean a shift away from theatre w hich looks after the interests of a minority group, to theatre determined by more artistic criteria (Epskamp and Thoolen 1991a:51-52).(back)