Intercultural Musicking

Intercultural musicking is core research area within the Music Department.

The researcher-practitioners in this group explore the theory and practice of intercultural musicking ranges from close-up investigations of intercultural music-making in Manchester and other fixed locations (including Georgia and Greece) to studies of transnational networks and developments in cultural tourism.

Particular interests include the potential of music as a tool for intercultural awareness and collaboration, collective resilience and personal transformation, and the role of world-music ensembles in higher education.

The department’s gamelan and klezmer ensembles serve as living laboratories while also providing a platform for applied and community outreach work.

Intercultural Learning through World Music Education

(2020-ongoing) Richard Fay & Zhuo Min Huang

The study uses creative-arts methods to explore students’ intercultural development through klezmer performance as a particular type of World Music Education (WME).

Conference Papers & Other Talks:

Fay, R. & Colleagues (2021).’Klezmer return to college’: An experience of intercultural musicking. Workshop/Paper to be hosted by Ss Cyril and Methodius University, on 5th April in Skopje, Republic of North Macedonia.

Fay, R., & Huang, Z. M. (2020). The role of arts-based research into world musical experience for lifelong learning: Intercultural learning and social engagement through klezmer. Symposium paper given online for the re-arranged ACE 2020 conference, Zagreb, Croatia. ppt / Abstract

—- Video Clip 1 // Video Clip 2

Huang, Z. M., & Fay, R. (2020). The role of arts-based research into world musical experience for lifelong learning: Using creative arts methods to understand intercultural personhood. Symposium paper given online for the re-arranged ACE 2020 conference, Zagreb, Croatia. ppt (as a pdf) / Abstract

Fay, R., Hawley, R., & Sherwood, E. (2016). ‘Klezmer returns to college’ – intercultural experience and social engagement through musical performance. Paper presented at the 2nd BIBAC (Building Interdisciplinary Bridges Across Cultures) International Conference, hosted by the Cambridge University, UK, 30th July – 01st August, 2016.

Fay, R., Hawley, R., & Sherwood, E. (2015). Ethnomusicological bridges and social engagement through klezmer: Interdisciplinary dialogues and intercultural performances. Paper presented at the 15th IALIC Conference Intercultural Communication in Social Practice, hosted by Peking University, Beijing, November 27th-29th, 2015.

Working Paper/Article (under review for LAIC):

“Intercultural musicking: Learning through klezmer”

Richard Fay, Daniel J. Mawson, & Caroline Bithell

(The University of Manchester, Departments of Education and Music)

Long abstract: This article focuses on a particular kind of creative practice – the teaching and learning of World Music Ensemble Performance (WMEP) within a largely Western ‘Classical’ music curriculum. To do so, it examines a particular WEAP context – the teaching and learning of klezmer performance at The University of Manchester. Simply put, klezmer was originally the wedding music of largely Yiddish-speaking Jewish communities in Central and Eastern Europe. Through late c19th / early c20th migration from the ‘Old World’ to the ‘New World’, it became a diasporic musical culture, and through the revival processes of the 1970s and the transcultural musical flows characteristic of recent years, it has become a world music genre. (For more on this historical development of klezmer, see: Rogovoy, 2000; Slobín, 2000, 2002). Immersion into klezmer not only provides most of our students with an encounter with a cultural other, but it also requires them to variously negotiate: the potentially essentialised understandings of ‘authentic’ klezmer; the commodification of klezmer with sometimes scant regard for epistemic justice and respect for indigenous understandings; the fluidity and hybridity of the emerging cultures of klezmer in popular culture; and the ethics of cultural appropriation versus cultural translation (Waligorska, 2013).

WMEP courses tend to be conceptualised using Solis’ (2004) term performing ethnomusicology. Through such courses, music students are immersed in a typically unfamiliar musical culture. Emphasising the musical learning involved, an oft-mentioned objective of these courses is the development of students’ bi-musicality (Hood, 1960). This enduring terminological anchor emphasises – for contemporary ears perhaps – the musical more than the cultural dimension. To foreground the intercultural learning involved, our preferred term is intercultural musicking, a term linking WMEP experiences to the performative aspects similarly emphasised in current applied linguistics terminology (e.g. translanguaging and languaging) and in intercultural thinking (e.g. Street’s (1993) culture is a verb; Holliday’s (1993) emergent small cultures). Our term also embraces the social justice championed in applied ethnomusicology (Harrison, Mackinlay & Pettan, 2010) which, for us, shares much DNA with the critical stance in applied linguistics (e.g. Pennycook, 2001) and intercultural communication (e.g. Piller, 2011). With this emphasis, we understand WMEP to be a creative practice space and process in which learning through socially-responsible musical performance takes place beside and beyond language-based processes.

In this article, we will first outline our klezmer provision, before presenting in more detail the pedagogical model underpinning this type of creative practice. As we do so, we will foreground the modalities of teaching and learning and the place of language alongside other more prominent modalities, and consider how the course, as informed by the intercultural musicking stance, addresses the ‘ethno-’ dimension of this ensemble performance component of the music curriculum. In the final part, we consider both the arts-based methodology and emerging insights of research exploring student perceptions of the music-and-intercultural development space provided by the klezmer module.


Harrison, K., Mackinlay, E. & Pettan, S. (Eds.)(2010). Applied ethnomusicology: Historical and contemporary approaches. Newcastle-upon-Tyne: Cambridge Scholars.

Holliday, A. R. (1999). Small cultures. In Applied Linguistics, 20(2), 237-264.

Hood, K. M. (1960). The challenge of bi-musicality. In Ethnomusicology, 4, 55-59.

Pennycook, A. (2001). Critical applied linguistics: A critical introduction. London: Routledge.

Piller, I. (2011). Intercultural communication: A critical introduction. Edinburgh: University of Edinburgh Press.

Rogovoy, S. (2000). The essential Klezmer: a music lover’s guide to Jewish roots and soul music, from the Old World to the Jazz Age to the Downtown Avant-Garde. Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Algonquin Books.

Slobin, M. (2000). Fiddler on the move: exploring the klezmer world. Oxford, Oxford University Press.

Slobin, M. (Ed.) (2002). American klezmer: its roots and offshoots. Berkeley, CA., University of California.

Solis, T. (Ed.) (2004). Performing ethnomusicology: teaching and representation in world music ensembles. Berkeley, CA.: University of California Press.

Street, B. V. (1993). Culture is a Verb: Anthropological aspects of language and cultural process. In D. Graddol, L. Thompson & M. Byram (Eds.), Language and culture. (pp. 23–43). Clevedon: British Association of Applied Linguistics in association with Multilingual Matters.

Waligorska, M. (2013). Klezmer’s afterlife: An ethnography of the Jewish music revival in Poland and Germany. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Short abstract: This article focuses on a particular arena of creative practice: music students’ largely sonic experience of Otherness through world music ensemble performance of klezmer (music with its roots in Jewish weddings in eastern and central Europe). Having briefly introduced klezmer, we situate our university ensemble into the traditions for teaching/learning it. We then present in some detail our pedagogic framework which combines ethnomusicological and intercultural thinking. We conclude with observations on how the module enables both increased transmusicality (through experience of a musical Other) and increased intercultural awareness (through the cultural encounters which klezmer performance generates).

Keywords: heterophony; intercultural musicking; klezmer; transmusicality; world music ensemble performance