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On-going projects

Ethnographic films of Mantas Kvedaravičius: from documentaries to sensory ethnography

Ethnographic films have been made since the technological inventions of the nineteenth century enabled Westerners to record encounters with other cultures.Nevertheless, the great number of ethnographic films produced in the first half of the twentieth century were often mere illustrations of studied cultures ordidactic material. The situation started to change in the early 1960s with the emergence of observational cinema, frequently embraced by visual anthropologistswho find in it a possibility for multiple interpretations and multiple screenings. Even though some anthropologists-cum-filmmakers continue to oppose thefictionalisation and aestheticization of ethnographic film, which is primarily associated with documentary practice, nowadays there are a number ofanthropologists who have begun to make films that call for a reformulation of the understanding of ethnographic film, as they clearly seek new modes of seeing,knowing and experiencing, and thus look at fiction and sensory ethnography as one of the possible filmmaking strategies. One of the most prominentanthropologist-turned-filmmaker who used both – documentary and fiction film – strategies in his ethnographic films was Mantas Kvedaravičius. By emphasisingthe importance of interdisciplinary interaction between art and anthropology, Kvedaravičius’s films, be it “Barzakh” (2011), “Mariupolis” (2016), “Parthenon”(2019), “Prologos” (2022), or other unfinished projects, prompt us to rethink the definition of ethnographic film. Moreover, Kvedaravičius, with some otherfilmmakers, might have encouraged the so-called ethnographic turn in Lithuanian cinema, the process which can be witnessed in contemporary Lithuaniancinema as more and more filmmakers have started using ethnography as a primary resource to create their cinematic vision, be it documentary, fiction film, or video art. Thus, the postdoctoral research project aims to analyse Kvedaravičius’s films in the context of global and Lithuanian ethnographic filmmakingencouraging the discussion on a broad scale of questions: from anthropological ones to aesthetical.


 Identities and Democratic Values on European Digital Screens: Distribution, Reception, and Representation 

The project focused on the contribution of digital audiovisual platforms to the transformation of social and cultural dynamics in Europe at a time when digital platforms provided access to film and television from all over the world.

DIGISCREENS sought to find out how the increased possibilities for audiences to watch audiovisual content from a great geographical diversity affected (a) the construction of identity and understanding of the other through global, yet culturally specific, mediations of gender, race, class, sexuality, and other social aspects, and (b) the negotiation of democratic values such as equality, inclusion, and solidarity.

By investigating distribution, representation, and reception in Norway, Sweden, France, Spain, and Lithuania, the project examined the possibilities for transnational distribution and consumption of the audiovisual content to create social encounters and a sense of global integration. It also explored how the promise of creating common democratic values and models of identity was preconditioned by different national distribution policies and individualised algorithms that governed commercial platforms, potentially creating “filter bubbles” in the consumption of films and television.

DIGISCREENS was a transdisciplinary project that connected studies of distribution, reception, and representation in the light of the last decades’ policies for increased diversity and inclusivity on screen. It contributed to academic and societal knowledge by linking representations and receptions of sociocultural identities for the formation of democratic values.

DIGISCREENS mixed methodologies from media studies, cultural and political analysis as well as ethnography, literature, and psychology involved PIs from Norway, Sweden, Spain, and Lithuania. The project’s comparative approach contributed to the understanding how members of different social and cultural groups perceived their roles, rights, and democratic participation in contemporary Europe.

Duration: 11-01-2022–10-01-2025

Moral Imagination in the Twentieth and Twenty First Century Lithuanian Music

At the end of the short 20th century, an ethical shift emerged on the international contemporary music scene, reflected in music criticism and musicology as a morally sensitive response to the extramusical – political, socioeconomic and technological – challenges of contemporaneity. Through the conceptualisation of the experience of the present, actual music reflected on the artistic expression of modernity in a unique manner and used it to develop a moral content.

In the Lithuanian music of the twentieth and the twenty first century, the manifestations of moral imagination often intertwined with the trend of politically and socially engaged music, in which the political events and historical transformations of the last centuries resonated. The research is based on the premise that music created in Lithuania and in emigration significantly enriched the national discourse of moral feeling. Covering more than a century of Lithuanian music creation, the study aims to deepen the understanding of the relationship between music and moral imagination and to include phenomena that have been little studied in national musicology in the international art research milieu. The conceptual subtopics chosen for the analysis (evil, trauma, memory, nostalgia, ecocriticism etc.) and the original interdisciplinary research model allow for the interaction of the moral content of music and the semantic universe to be examined from several problematic angles.

The results of the research will be summarized in a monograph, international scientific articles, and conference reports. The research is relevant as the first work looking at the Lithuanian homeland and émigré music culture from a selected problematic perspective, prepared in collaboration with competent international musicological institutions, and bringing a critical review of the national music into global cultural history and scholarly, educational, and cultural usage.

Duration: 09-01-2022–12-31-2024

Critical Text and Digital Interactive Database of Čiurlionis‘s Piano Music

In response to the exceptionally rapid development of digital humanities in the international space, the interdisciplinary project initiated a critical revision and analysis of the piano repertoire of Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis (1875–1911) based on MusicXML. The period of editing and publishing Čiurlionis’ musical works covered more than a hundred years. His individual pieces had been published in 8 to 10 different editorial versions, and the music was catalogued in as many as 5 different types of numbering. The significance of the research was revealed by the fact that critical text and a canonical version of the works, which met the needs of the modern music community, were not yet available for research, education, or practical performance/interpretation (at national and international level). In the project, over 200 Čiurlionis’ piano works were revised and for the first time presented in a form of a digital system (an interactive database), including primary sources (autographs and accompanying documents/letters/sketches) and all of the existing editions, connecting them through a specially designed interactive database and applying a unique search algorithm that allowed to recognise and compare texts, both as a whole and on the scale of a single bar or individual text element/code. The research contained graphological, textual, and comparative music text analyses as well as automated data processing methods. Various users would have access to the digital archive and its parts after transcribing and encoding each of Čiurlionis’ piano pieces in XML format and submitting them through the output system of this code. The digital critical text of Čiurlionis’ works with musicological commentaries would be accessible in the Lithuanian and English languages and published on a specially created website/database, initiating its active dissemination and publicity on international MEI platforms. From the international perspective, the open database of music works initiated in this project would open a wide array of opportunities for the use of research results, lay new foundations for further research of Čiurlionis’ music texts, and strengthen the international context of the legacy of the composer as a central figure in modern Lithuanian music.

Duration: 07-01-2022–12-31-2024

Lithuanian History and Mythology on Opera Stage

Opera occupies a unique place in the heritage of Lithuanian themes: not only Lithuanian composers, but also foreign opera writers used to exploit Lithuanian historical and mythological narratives, bringing them into universal (Baroque), national (Romanticism), and global (post/meta/modernism) historical contexts. Lithuanian narratives dominate the national tradition, and a number of great foreign composers (from Alessandro Scarlatti and Amilcare Ponchielli to Alexander Skriabin, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, Krzysztof Penderecki and others) took interest in Lithuanian history and mythology. The planned research is based on the premise that operas on historical and mythological themes written in Lithuania or by Lithuanian authors as well as those by foreign composers employing narratives of Lithuanian history and mythology comprise an integral whole, disclosing the expression and reflection of Lithuanian cultural identity in the world in a specific way. The aim is to refresh the understanding of operas on Lithuanian themes, putting to use unresearched sources and to bring phenomena, insufficiently ecplored in the national scholarly context, into the international environment of the research on arts. The chosen research development routes and an interdisciplinary model of analysis, embracing art philosophy, music and fine art studies, semiotics, performance studies, etc., enable a complex analysis of the emergence of the body of operas on Lithuanian themes and of the historical and cultural dynamics of the spread of those operas (staging and performance traditions) and their reception (canons, commercial success, and popularity). The research results will: be summed up in a collective monograph (by Helmutas Šabasevičius, Rūta Stanevičiūtė, Jūratė Katinaitė), seek scholarly evaluation  in international publications and conference presentations, and be introduced in the programmes of cultural dissemination. The research is relevant as the first work on the representation of Lithuanian history and mythology in the operatic art from a problem-based perspective, prepared in collaboration with competent international institutions of opera and/or music documentation and research, and bringing a critical review of operas on Lithuanian themes into global cultural history and scholarly, educational, and cultural use.

Duration: 04-01-2021–03-31- 2024

 The State Music School (1920-1933): Lithuanian Conservatory de facto

The State Music School that operated in Kaunas in the period of 1920 to 1933 was the first state institution of that type in which the strategic directions of Lithuanian music education and the guidelines for the training of professional musicians were formed. To commemorate the centenary of the school, the project aimed at fundamental investigation of the preconditions for the emergence of this institution through highlighting the attention paid by the restored Lithuanian state to its culture and education, identifying the curriculum principles and links with the music education traditions in Europe, and analysing the scope and development of the school‘s activity viewing it in the broader sociocultural context of Lithuania.

The rich documentary material stored in the collections of Lithuanian archives, museums, and libraries created preconditions for conducting research in several directions: 1) circumstances of the school‘s establishment and the historical context; 2) activity evaluation (curricula, teachers, students) in the Lithuanian and international contexts; and 3) the school’s influence on the development of Lithuanian culture and music education. In various school documents, the key word “conservatory” presupposed that the school was to be seen as a model of higher education prevalent in Europe at that time, the establishment and validation of which was achieved only after 13 years of purposeful work. The aim of the project researchers was to prepare a comprehensive collective monograph presenting the facts and critical evaluation of the activities of the State Music School and its historical and cultural context, richly illustrated with visual material and additional appendices (reconstructed lists of students, curricula, etc.).

Duration: 04-01-2021–12-31-2023

Lithuanian Sutartinės Polyphonic Songs: their Past and Present

The book presented a holistic view of Lithuanian archaic polyphonic music (the sutartinės songs), currently a symbol of Lithuanian cultural identity. The aim was scholarly examination of the sutartinės polyphonic songs as a Lithuanian cultural phenomenon. Different performance styles and syncretic expressions reflected the viability of the sutartinės from ancient to present times. Descriptions of semiotic differences in the gender role traditions of the sutartinės performance regarded them as a local and a universal phenomenon to highlight alternative expressions related to community lifestyles and interdisciplinary and intercultural projects.

The presentation of the sutartinės as spiritus movens, highly diverse cultural processes, not as relics or even as heritage, was unique. A renaissance of ancient folk music appeared in Lithuanian cities. The UNESCO List of Intangible Cultural Heritage included the sutartinės in 2010, which called for their in-depth study, especially due to the discovery of analogies in the genesis and ethnogenesis of folk music.

From a holistic point of view, the sutartinės represented a system of the polyphony of seconds disrupted by passing centuries. Semiotician Algirdas Julius Greimas developed structural semantic methods to partly reconstruct the sutartinės through rebuilding a cultural environment instead of a historical period. Practical and theoretical experiences combined for a new approach to the sutartinės research. Hermeneutic scrutiny became a methodological key relevant to tackling the issues of the “eternal” sutartinės. Self-reflection, highlighted in the book, allowed for the examination of the sutartinės and summarisation of the practical experience.

Duration: 02-01-2022–12-31-2023

Voices from Lithuania: Polyphonic Singing in the Lives of Local Singers

Little is still known about Lithuanian ethnic music in the world (with the exception of the sutartinės multi-part songs, which were inscribed on the UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage List in 2010). Compared to numerous audio publications from other European countries, Lithuania is almost terra incognita. The project sought to become a breakthrough in spreading the word about traditional Lithuanian music to the world and at least partially fill the existing gap. Even rather random publications of authentic Lithuanian music (e.g. via a YouTube channel) tended to attract the attention of young people, sometimes becoming one of the most important reasons to study in Lithuania. Authentic singing was increasingly perceived around the world not only as a valuable part of a nation’s intangible cultural heritage, but also as an important part of its identity and a way of expressing its worldview. 

During the implementation of the Voices from Lithuania project, Voices from Lithuania. Multipart Singing in the Life of Village Singers, a publication representing Lithuanian multipart ethnic music traditions, was prepared. It belonged to the audio-visual series European Voices: Audiovisuals, initiated by the Department of Music Folklore and Ethnomusicology at the University of Music and Visual Arts in Vienna. The publication included audio and video recordings from five localities, representing different ethno-cultural regions, made in the period of 1986 to 2017. Those were samples of singing from Nibragalis (13 items), Seda (11 items), Prienai-Garliava (9 items), Lynežerys (8 items), and Lazdiniai-Adutiškis (9 items) rural districts, which reflected different traditions of Lithuanian multipart singing.

The unique local singing traditions were presented not only in audio/visual examples (50 items), but also in scholarly commentaries (by Daiva Vyčinienė), as well as numerous comments of the village singers themselves, reflections on singing, etc. The publication was illustrated with photographs (27 items) and maps of audio/video recording sites (2 items). The lyrics and the singers’ comments were presented in two languages, Lithuanian and English. The audio and video recordings were on 2 CDs: CD I: Northern Samogitia and northeastern Aukštaitija (24 items); CD II: Eastern Lithuania, Suvalkija, and southern Dzūkija (26 items).

Duration: 01-03-2022–05-31-2023

Enriching Digital Folklore Resources and Opening up Access for Consumption                                                                                                                               

The project aimed to update and promote the intangible cultural heritage by providing convenient, easy-to-use, and comprehensible access to archival information for both professional and amateur users. A large part of the Music Folklore Archive of the Lithuanian Academy of Music was digitised as part of the EU project Development of a Virtual Cultural Space Meeting the Needs of Society. The current project aims to make available for public use folklore publications, including sutartinės multipart songs and Song Festival recordings inscribed on the list of the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage as well as Shrovetide, lullabies, and sutartinės multipart songs of individual regions of Lithuania and regional singing traditions inscribed on the  List of the Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Lithuania. This way, the attractiveness and popularity of the intangible heritage will be increased and the preservation and continuity of the heritage ensured. In total, access to ~500 archival folklore items will be organised. The material will be published with updated texts and supplemented with new up-to-date archival material, as well as with still unpublished sutartinės multipart songs.

The project contributes to capacity building and competence development in the areas of ethnic culture and intangible cultural heritage by creating a user-friendly access to archival folklore material and accompanying commentaries on the LAMT website. The material is of particular interest to youth music groups using folklore sources in their activities, to student and regional school folklore ensembles, to researchers and specialists. The creation of easy-to-access, easy-to-use, and easy-to-understand access to folklore archives will widen the range of users of such information and increase the use of folklore material in other cultural sectors (e.g, incorporation of folklore music into contemporary musical compositions and popular music, the use of sound recordings and excerpts in cinema, advertising, and theatre) and innovation (e.g. the use of sound recordings and visual material in the creation of virtual expositions, in the recording of various natural and cultural tourist routes, in the development of innovative educational products, etc.).

Duration: 02-01-2022–07-31-2023

Juozas Žilevičius and his Epoch. Research and publishing

The works of Juozas Žilevičius (1891–1985), accomplished in Lithuania and in exile, affected all areas of Lithuanian musical culture. The project seeks to explore the life course of that undeservedly forgoten musician and to evaluate his activity in the context of social, political, and cultural processes, while simultaneously revealing the development of the twentieth century Lithuanian musical culture and national awareness – from the ethnic identity to the thinking in state-related categories. As the basis of the research, unknown or merely superficially analysed deposits of musical heritage, stored in public and / or private archives of different countries, have been chosen. That determined concentration on four geo-cultural areas: Lithuania, Russia, Belarus, and USA. Based on the studies of the history of music and methodologies developed in musicology, Žilevičiusʼ contribution to Lithuanian culture shall be revealed, and, through his relations with contemporaries and institutions, the panorama of his life shall be opened.

The chosen directions of the research development make it possible to present Žilevičius through several problematic sections, as a composer, organist, choir conductor, researcher in the history of music, teacher, and creator of national traditions, and to contextualise him in the processes of the history of Lithuanian music against the background of the multi-layered phenomena of the twentieth century. After the analysis of the newly opened sources, the findings of the research shall be published in 3 scientific articles and 2 popular science studies in national and international publications, 3 conferences, and a monograph (35 quires). The research is relevant as the first work to assess J. Žilevičiusʼ activity and simultaneously to depict his epoch.

Duration: 06-01-2020–05-31-2023

Breakthrough Innovations for the Development of the Digital Music Industry

The implemented project enabled the launch of a new, unparalleled product: a platform for publicising, publishing, distributing, and selling musical works as well as licensing and distributing royalties. The aim of the platform was to distribute remuneration to both copyright and related rights holders and to offer the public the lowest price for listening to and buying music, moreover, to give the buyer the opportunity to support the artist and the author if they liked the work. The project sought to maximise fairness by paying remuneration to all rightholders (whereas Spotify, Youtube, iTunes only pay remuneration to publishers). This is to be a breakthrough in both technological and scientific progress, ensuring that Lithuanian businesses can integrate into the modern cultural dissemination economy in line with the highest technological and legal standards.

The innovative music platform developed during the project intended to significantly expand the possibilities of generating revenue from the dissemination of culture and to increase the potential and scope of Lithuanian business in the digital dissemination of culture. Lithuanian business had not so far offered a platform for music distribution that was in line with global trends, which resulted in failing to receive funds from this area. The global somewhat similar music platforms generated hundreds of millions of euros, and given the fact that the platform to be developed during the project was unprecedented both in terms of payment and administration of property rights, opportunities were provided for the development of a new business area in Lithuania.

The project sought to become a significant step in public education, as consumers could see how the money they paid influenced the subsequent development of the author and artist, which in the long term guaranteed the understanding that there was no such thing as free music. In such a way, the project also contributed to reducing “piracy”. The innovative concept of music distribution allowed the public to get involved in and contribute to the development of culture, where voluntary payment for music led to the further growth and development of the composer and performer and to the launch of new quality products on the market.

Duration: 06-01-2020–05-31-2023

Figures of Modernity

Recent scholarly discussion on global music histories led to the rethinking of national music history writing in changing political and cultural contexts. At the same time, the paradigm of contemporary cultural musicology stimulated more active research into transcultural and transnational topics. One of such theme groups which the scholars from different countries currently directed their attention to for diverse reasons (conceptual shifts, archival revolution etc.) covered the history of the International Society for Contemporary Music. Founded in Salzburg in 1922, it was the first international association dedicated to the promotion and dissemination of new music, which evolved into the global forum for cultural exchange before the Second World War. The initiated project focused on the activity of the Lithuanian Section of the ISCM, its pre-history, and reception which was seen as integral part of the modernisation of Lithuanian and international musical culture.

With the aim of including Lithuanian modern music movement in the international context, the project presented a critical review of ISCM strategies and a history of festivals in the interwar and early Cold War periods. The monograph Figures of Modernity. International Society for Contemporary Music and the Modern Music Movement in Lithuania by Rūta Stanevičiūtė (in Lithuanian, 2015) summarised the experience acquired in critical reconstructing of marginalised episodes in the history of the ISCM and the new data collected in the libraries of eight European countries, museums of music, and media archives. The project was aimed at the preparation of the English version of the monograph that would contextualise new sources and include a critical overview of Lithuanian musical processes in a more general history of culture and research space. The project was carried out in collaboration with competent international partner Hollitzer Verlag (Austria).

Duration: 04-01-2021–03-31-2023