A discussion on terminological issues of Volksmusikforschung is hardly possible without considering the history of folk music research and related fields, such as comparative musicology, ethnomusicology, and folkloristics. Thus, before approaching the questions posed by the editors of Musicologica Austriaca I would like to discuss some aspects of the scholarly past. Of course, this is not the place for an overview of German-speaking Volksmusikforschung, which has been carried out in the case of Austria by Wolfgang Suppan and in a detailed study by Gerlinde Haid. The history of Vergleichende Musikwissenschaft, at least in the 20th century, and of post-war ethnomusicology is also well represented in numerous contributions. Therefore, I would like to focus in general on aspects of history that, while less well known, are yet crucial for current discussions within Volksmusikforschung and beyond. It will be necessary to reintroduce more than one forgotten pioneering work—and to reduce the paradigmatic significance of more than one famous name.
My aim is to show how key issues of 20th century comparative musicology and ethnomusicology were developed (implicitly or explicitly) far earlier. The role of European folk music research for the conceptual development of the anthropology of music in particular has to be seriously re-evaluated.
Folk Music as a Subject of Scholarship (from the Enlightenment to 19th-Century Realism)
The concept of Volks-Musik was used for the first time by German universal scholar Jacob von Stählin in 1770. His Nachrichten von der Musik in Rußland stands for an open-minded observation on the musical life of different classes in Russian society. In the age of Enlightenment, Stählin was not alone with his scholarly curiosity towards the music of the “common people.” Russian polymath Nikolai Lvov focused on ethnographic and historical aspects of folk music in the preface to his Collection of Russian Folk Songs and developed genre concepts derived from functional and structural criteria.
Friedrich David Gräter: The First German Folk Song Scholar
All these key issues of later folk music research and folkloristics appear in more elaborated form in the essay Ueber die teutschen Volkslieder und ihre Musik by German philologist Friedrich David Gräter from the year 1794. Gräter has been called “the theorist of the first period” of German folk song research. For Julian von Pulikowski, “the scholarly involvement with folk song probably begins with Gräter [die wissenschaftliche Teilnahme für das Volkslied beginnt wohl mit Gräter]”. Hermann Bausinger devoted a special article to this “pioneer in the humanities.” Both scholars made special mention of Gräter’s observation on the specific repertoires of different social groups—a concept now more usually attributed to Ernst Klusen’s theory of Gruppenlied. Leopold Schmidt and Csilla Schell emphasized Gräter’s innovative role and scholarly ethos. In recent years, Adeline Mueller has introduced Gräter to English-speaking musicology and demonstrated in detail his fundamental role in “modeling the values of precision and attribution in folk song transcription.”
As Paul Lévy has pointed out, Gräter gave the earliest definition of the Volkslied: “actual folk songs” [eigentliche Volkslieder], that is, “songs, originally sung by the people, commonly known and preserved solely through oral transmission and folk singing” [ursprünglich von dem Volke gesungene, allgemein bekannte und allein durch mündliche Überlieferung und Volksgesang erhaltene Lieder].” Thus, orality is a cornerstone in Gräter’s folk song concept. Gräter, who is also considered to be the founder not only of Volksmusikforschung but also of Nordic studies, focused on German folk songs essentially from a historical-comparative perspective. His source criticism raises issues of ethnographic methodology, considering ways of transmission of folk songs and also time and circumstances of the situation in which they were documented:
Thus, when comparing our folk songs with the folk songs of related peoples one must never confuse the lyrical flower-picking of the best and oldest poetswith a collection of songs, sung by the folk and taken up from the mouth of the folk.
And even this distinction is far from being enough. The question arises at what time and under what circumstances songs were written down from the mouth of the folk.
Man muß also, wenn man eine Vergleichung unserer Volkslieder mit den Volksliedern der verwandten Völker anstellen will, niemals die lyrischen Blumenlesen aus den besten älteren // Dichtern mit einer Sammlung von dem Volk gesungener und aus seinem Munde aufgenommenen Lieder verwechseln.
Und auch dieser Unterschied ist noch bey weitem nicht hinreichend. Es fragt sich, zu welcher Zeit und unter welchen Umständen Lieder aus dem Munde des Volkes aufgeschrieben werden.
Friedrich David Gräter (1768—1830)
Source: Friedrich David Gräter, Lyrische Gedichte nebst einigen vermischten (Heidelberg: Mohr und Zimmer, 1809). I have to thank Hans Dieter Haller (Bad Cannstatt) and Dietrich Gonser (Sandelsche Museum, Kirchberg/Jagst) who have made this source available to me.
 The late 18th century reader would easily associate Gräter’s criticism against the priority of aesthetics with collections by Thomas Percy and to some extent even Johann Gottfried Herder (to whom I will return in the next section). The fundamental difference between Herder’s pre-romantic idealism and Gräter’s realism would deserve a separate study, and Mueller’s “Alternative History” is an important step. Nevertheless, the focus on functional context of the repertoires and its relation to the what and how of singing corresponds to a Herderian perspective:
the real folk songs too are exceptionally different from one another only by their content, origin, and occasion.
One has other songs at folk festivities, others at banquets and dances. The guild and the peasant sing differently; the free and more sensitive people differently; young men and girls differently; children differently.
auch die wirklichen Volkslieder sind bloß nach Gegenstand, Entstehung und Gelegenheit ungemein unter sich verschieden.
Man hat andere Lieder bey den Volksfesten, andere bey den Schmäusen und Tänzen. Anders singt die Zunft und der Bauer; anders das freye und feiner fühlende Volk; anders die Jünglinge und Mädchen; anders die Kinder.
A key issue in Gräter’s genre concept, alongside functional criteria, was the poetic content. He suggested dividing all folk songs “into lyric and narrating ones [in lyrische und erzählende].” But Gräter also paid attention to what anthropologists much later called “the native point of view” or “emic perspective.” Concerning the dances of the Schleifer type, he observed that they are “divided by the folk into narrow and wide ones [von dem Volke in enge und weite eingetheilt].”
Extremely inspiring are Gräter’s observations on different expressive behavior in different performance situations, for instance the contrast between the Schleifer when “everything is joke and joyful play, jump and pleasure [alles ist Scherz und frohes Spiel, Sprung und Freude]” as opposed to the Reihentanz, characterized as “grave and quiet [ernsthaft und stille].”
Gräter was also concerned with the mental states that gave birth to folk songs:
It’s only the language of nature, and what matters for the people or for the nation, that can touch the uneducated man . . . so vividly that he bursts into singing or lets the sentiments of someone else, if they are natural enough to be of common significance, speak for his own. From there originate the actual folk songs.
Den ungelehrten Mann . . . kann nur die Sprache der Natur, und das was den Menschen, oder die Nation interessiert, so lebhaft rühren, daß er darüber in Gesang ausbricht oder die Empfindungen eines anderen, wenn sie natürlich genug sind um allgemein zu gelten, für die seinigen sprechen läßt. Daraus entstehen die eigentlichen Volkslieder.
When Gräter asks which phenomena of real life became worthy of representation in folk song he poses a question which was central to theoretical folkloristics of the 20th century. But Gräter’ short essay is of significance not only for folkloristics and folk music research. Here, principles of comparative musicology (comparison in historical perspective) and ethnomusicology (reflexive ethnography, native point of view, focus on performative behavior) are worked out in the late 18th century.
Unfortunately, Gräter was nearly forgotten in folk music research, even in German speaking countries—at least in the writings of such influential scholars as Walter Wiora, Ernst Klusen, Doris Stockmann, Walter Deutsch, Wolfgang Suppan, Marianne Bröcker, Gerlinde Haid, and Max Peter Baumann. Wilhelm Schepping refers to Gräter, yet in a most surprising way. Enumerating what he calls “essentialist-normative approaches” to folk song—according to Schepping orality, popularity, variability, anonymity, dignity, and ancientness, he casually mentions the “Herderian Gräter” as a proponent of the concept of dignity and ancientness. Though Gräter attributed to some folk songs a centuries-old age, he never understood ancientness “as a criterion for a folk song.” According to Schepping, Gräter introduced “attributions of quality” and “aesthetic postulates” (i.e., value criteria Schepping describes with dignity). In fact, Gräter’s concept of aesthetic criteria is ambiguous. In the first issue of the Bragur (1791), together with the co-editor Christian Gottfried Böckh, he expressed his aim “to gather together research on ‘the best’ in ancient German and Nordic literature.” In his own article from 1794, however, he rejected aesthetic criteria for the study of folk songs. With regard to seasonal songs on the struggle between summer and winter he writes:
All these songs are mainly very old, but either entirely local, or different at every place. They are rarely of high poetic value, and therefore they are generally more of interest for the moral history of Germany than for the spirit of poetry.
Alle diese Lieder sind meistens sehr alt, aber entweder ganz lokal, oder doch an jedem Orte verschieden. Ihr poetischer Wert ist selten groß, und sie sind daher meistens mehr für die Sittengeschichte von Teutschland, als für den Geist der Poesie merkwürdig.
 Gräter even went so far as to contrast, in a slightly ironical tone, his realistic approach to Herder’s folk song aesthetics:
But what am I saying? After all, I was not going to set myself up as a eulogist of our folk songs, which befits only a Herder . . . . I only wanted to say what is there or could be there.
Doch was rede ich? Wollt’ ich doch nicht den Lobredner unsrer Volkslieder machen, das nur einem Herder ansteht . . . . Ich wollte nur sagen, was da ist und da sein könnte.
Thus, Schepping’s reduction of Gräter’s folk song concept to criteria of dignity is highly questionable.
Schepping’s concept, as a simplified paraphrase, makes up a good fifth of an article by Walter Leimgruber and Karoline Oehme. Following Schepping, the authors consider not only Gräter’s musical ethnography but also Franz Eibner’s Schenkerian analysis of Austrian folk music to be a manifestation of the Dignitätsthese. As a matter of fact, Eibner made a case for an aesthetic value of particular folk music styles, such as multipart singing in Carinthia. But he never postulated “aesthetic value” as a general criterion for a folk song. I would not mention this text if it did not contain a completely inacceptable accusation against the “so called Viennese school of folk music research led by Gerlinde Haid and Walter Deutsch,” who allegedly “through their focus on the Gestalt of the song neglect the cultural dimension of singing.” It is sad to read such an uninformed and misleading statement in the preface to a book devoted to the hundredth anniversary of the Schweizer Volksliedarchiv.
Early Comparative Musicology
Some decades after Gräter’s foundation of German folk music research, pioneers in comparative musicology extended the scope to non-Western music cultures. British journalist William C. Stafford in 1830, François-Joseph Fétis in 1837, and later also John Frederick Rowbotham (1885) offered systematic approaches to a global music history. Interestingly, this fascinating chapter of comparative musicology has been discussed in some detail by historical musicologists but much less in ethnomusicology. It is not very well known that Fétis spoke in glowing terms of Ancient Indian culture. In his book on Stradivari (nearly half of which is in fact a pioneering work of comparative organology) he writes, “I can now reiterate, without any reservation, there is nothing in the West which has not come from the East.”
Notwithstanding this strong interest of European music writers on non-European, particularly Asian, music, comparative musicology and musical anthropology also have deep roots in the study of European folk music. An initial interdisciplinary and fundamentally anthropological concept of folk music research, and even of musicology as a whole, was conceived by Russian music critic and composer Aleksandr Serov in 1868. His metaphor “musical embryology” could not serve as a distinct name for the emerging discipline. Two decades later it was Russian-Ukrainian chemist and composer Pëtr Sokal’skii (1830–1887) who used the label muzykal’naia ėtnografiia. In his monumental opus Russian Folk Music. Great-Russian and Little-Russian. In Its Melodic and Rhythmic Structure and Its Difference from the Fundaments of Contemporary Harmonic Music, he observed in Russian and Ukrainian folk songs pentatonic elements (“The Chinese scale”), chromatic (“Magyar”) tetrachords, and particularly diatonic pentachords similar to the modes of the European Middle Ages and Ancient Greece. But he hesitates to give an explanation for such parallels:
Were these borrowed fundaments or did they arise among the Russian folk individually, from certain qualities of the musical material . . . ? All such questions have been little studied and we leave their solution to a science of the future: the musical ethnography.
Pëtr Sokal’skii (1830–1887)
 Later, Sokal’skii, who was essentially inspired by Hermann von Helmholtz, argued that a “comparative musical ethnography” could help to explain non-musical cultural parallels in terms of diffusion or evolution. He also spoke of the coming “new science, comparative folk-musical archaeology and ethnography.” At the turn of the century, this new science was established within the framework of the Musical-Ethnographic Commission of the Imperial Society of the Lovers of Natural History, Anthropology, and Ethnography of the Moscow University under the leadership of ethnographer and philologist Nikolai Ianchuk.
Three years before Sokal’skii finished his opus, German music writer Wilhelm Tappert (1830–1907) published the first edition of his study Wandernde Melodien (Traveling melodies). An early follower of Charles Darwin and popularizer of his theory, Tappert transferred the evolutional theory to music history:
I tried to get as much as possible of the music of all times and peoples, in order to derive through comparison the central thread of the relationship—which may often be blurred, may often seemingly be missed, but which is always present, and on which all phenomena from the first trial to today’s perfection can be lined up.
Ich suchte von der Musik aller Zeiten und Völker soviel als möglich in die Hände zu bekommen, um durch Vergleiche den rothen Faden des Zusammenhangs zu gewinnen, der oft undeutlich sein, oft scheinbar fehlen mag; aber immer vorhanden ist, und an welchen sich alle Erscheinungen, vom ersten Versuche bis zur heutigen Vollkommenheit, aufreihen lassen.
Even more decisively than Sokal’skii, Tappert formulated an evolutionary theory of music. He was convinced that “still today the man of nature makes his music in entirely the same way as our oldest ancestors of art did—and had to [weil noch heute der Naturmensch ganz in derselben Weise seine Musik macht, wie unsere ältesten Kunstvorfahren sie ausgeübt haben – müssen].”
Wilhelm Tappert (1830–1907)
Tappert was particularly fascinated by the transfer processes, both in geographical terms, as Weltverkehr (world movement) and Binnenverkehr (inner movement), and in social terms:
I don’t know any folk song, i.e., any melody, “invented” by soldiers, students, young craftsmen, hunters, reapers, etc. The people cannot compose—in the usual sense of the word—, they are only able to accommodate, at best to vary; they never create, but choose . . . .
In the case of most so-called folk melodies, the composers are either known or one can note the sources from which the individual parts arise . . . .
Ich kenne gar kein Volkslied, d.h. keine Melodie, die von Soldaten, Studenten, Handwerksburschen, Jägern, Schnittern u.s.w. „erdacht“ worden wäre. Das Volk kann gar nicht componiren – im gebräuchlichen Sinne des Wortes nämlich –, es vermag nur zu accomodieren, höchstens zu variieren; es schafft niemals, es wählt . . . .
Von den meisten sogenannten Volksweisen sind die Componisten entweder bekannt oder man vermag doch die Quellen anzugeben, aus denen die einzelnen Bestandteile herrühren . . . .
 This is not the first criticism of the Herderian concept of the Volkslied as a product of the Volksgeist. As Waltraud Linder-Beroud reminds us in an exceptionally well-informed and unbiased history of German folk song research, it was Ludwig Uhland (1787—1862) who challenged the “idea of the collective, anonymous origin of the folk song.” Radicalizing Uhland’s criticism, Tappert painstakingly developed a musical Rezeptionstheorie—nearly thirty years before John Meier first put forward similar ideas on the basis of philological comparisons of folk song texts—that led to his influential study Kunstlieder im Volksmunde.
Tappert’s essay is essentially about comparative melodic research, yet with an anthropological explanation:
Given the truly human interest in everything foreign, many a melodic Cinderella, far from her homeland, gains great honour, and maybe it will become a patriotic chant, a national anthem, the sound of which inevitably has the most rousing effect.
Bei dem echt menschlichen Interesse für alles Fremde gelangt manches melodische Aschenbrödel fern von seinem Vaterlande zu hohen Ehren, wird vielleicht zum patriotischen Gesange, zum Nationalhymnus, dessen Klänge unfehlbar die zündendste Wirkung ausüben.
Thus, Tappert can be regarded as the ancestor of the concept of Liedbiographie, elaborated 110 years later by Wilhelm Schepping. Moreover, song biographies led the sober and unromantic Tappert to rather poetic descriptions of melodies as travelers, adventurists, and other picturesque figures.
In Tappert’s theory, transfer is necessarily interlinked with reshaping as a constant process: “The reshaping has no end.” Tappert speaks with great sympathy of the freedom of exchange, beyond any ideologies of ownership: “for there is no musical police that would ask for a birth certificate and a certificate of good conduct!” It seems an irony of fate that only a few years later precisely such a musikalische Polizei appeared on the scene in the form of organized Volksmusikpflege, with all its prescriptions and restrictions in repertoire policy.
Ethnic attributions of local repertoires, particularly in exoticist travelogues, received harsh criticism from Tappert:
Even more rarely do these gentlemen . . . ask themselves, is this scale indigenous or brought from abroad? They all are working on the assumption that what the negro cries is real negro melody; what the woodcutter whistles in the woods either he himself or one of his tribe has invented; what the folk sings and the cowherd yodels is folk song, is Kuhreigen.
Noch seltener fragen sie [diese Herren] sich: ist diese Tonreihe einheimisch oder eingewandert? Sie gehen alle von dem Gedanken aus: was der Neger schreit, ist echte Negermelodie; was der Holzfäller im Walde pfeift, hat entweder er selbst oder Einer seines Stammes und Standes – erfunden; was das Volk singt und der Kuhhirt jodelt, ist – Volkslied, ist Kuhreigen.
In a most sarcastic way, Tappert demonstrates how a “dyed-in-the-wool, orthodox collector” would enthusiastically write down the song Wenn ein Schneider reiten will, when sung by a Brandenburg nursemaid, as “a pearl from the unfathomable depths of the Volksgeist”—while in fact it is the Sturm-Marsch Benjamin Bilse composed some forty years before.
Tappert’s in-depth comparative analyses of European and non-European melodies are based on the belief that corresponding melodic fragments necessarily stand for a genetic relationship. His strictly positivist, anti-romantic attitude drives him to radical conclusions:
One will fairly understand from the above how misleading it is to compile the national melodies of the peoples . . . .
Man wird aus dem bisher Gesagten wohl ersehen können, wie misslich es ist, die Nationalmelodien der Völker zusammen zu stellen . . . .
Tappert is only one, yet a most decisive exponent of the post-romantic, realistic epoch of German folk song research—alongside Uhland, August Heinrich Hoffmann von Fallersleben, and Ludwig Christian Erk. Unfortunately, in superficial representations of scholarly history this period is nearly forgotten. For instance, Michael Fischer is obviously not familiar with Linder-Beroud’s work. Otherwise he could not seriously claim that “the idea of editing German folk songs in a scholarly form is closely linked to the history of the German Folk Song Archive in Freiburg [Die Idee, deutsche Volkslieder in einer wissenschftlichen Form zu edieren, ist auf das Engste mit der Geschichte des Deutschen Volksliedarchivs in Freiburg verknüpft].” The archive was founded in 1914—exactly 70 years after Uhland issued the first volume of Alte hoch- und niederdeutsche Volkslieder. And even musicologist Matthew Gelbart, who traced many aspects of folk song discourses “from Ossian to Wagner,” deals extensively with Herder’s concepts of collectivity but does not take into account the counter-models of Uhland and his followers.
 Jaap Kunst (who has introduced the term ethno-musicology in the English-speaking world) places Tappert in a line with two most dissimilar “pioneers in this field [comparative research],” Erich Moritz von Hornbostel (1877–1935) and German musicologist Oskar Fleischer (1856–1933), the founder of the Internationale Musikgesellschaft. It seems that Fleischer offered the first programmatic concept of vergleichende Musikwissenschaft. Unlike other exponents of the discipline in Germany and Austria, Fleischer applied comparative methods less to abstract scales than to concrete melodic units. In doing so, he focused primarily on music of Indo-European, particularly Germanic, peoples:
The task of comparative musicology is similar to that of comparative linguistics, that is, to carefully examine the treasures of each folk music in order to clearly distinguish the truly and originally national from that which penetrated later from abroad or was borrowed from elsewhere.
Die Aufgabe der vergleichenden Musikwissenschaft ist ähnlich derjenigen der vergleichenden Sprachforschung. Sie muß die Schätze jeder Volksmusik sorgsam durchprüfen, um das echt und ursprünglich Nationale von dem erst später von fremdher Eingedrungenen oder anderswoher Entlehnten mit sicherem Blicke zu sondern.
Surprisingly, Fleischer does not mention either Guido Adler, who in 1885 introduced the term vergleichende Musikwissenschaft, or Richard Wallaschek and Carl Stumpf. His ideological background is closer to certain national trends of the romantic folk song discourse than to the founders of comparative musicology. Fleischer celebrates the “conservative spirit of the folk,” which in his opinion has preserved his ancient beliefs and customs “despite church and political oppression and despite all Christian and classical veneer.” Consequently, Fleischer’s comparative studies on the music of different European and non-European peoples aimed to prove the continuity of archaic elements and reduce the role of Christian religion for the folk music cultures of Europe.
It is a sad irony that Oskar Fleischer, the academic teacher of Curt Sachs, experienced a close affinity to radical völkisch ideologies. Very soon, this wayward father of German comparative musicology was nearly forgotten. However, Kunst, in his enthusiastic review of Wiora’s Europäischer Volksgesang, concedes that Fleischer’s study “at the time of its publication was a pioneer effort deserving the greatest appreciation.”
In the first decades of the 20th century, German-speaking comparative musicologists continued focusing more on non-European cultures. Nevertheless, the most influential and innovative representatives of folk music research in other European countries, such as Evgeniia Linëva, Ilmari Krohn, Kliment Kvitka (who in 1928 introduced the neologism ėtno-muzykologiia), Béla Bartók, Łucjan Kamieński, Constantin Brăiloiu, and Julian von Pulikowski, worked very close to the intellectual environment of the Viennese and Berlin school of comparative musicology—or Musikethnologie, a term used by Hornbostel as early as in 1906. In particular, these scholars showed a keen interest in cross-cultural issues. Thus, against the background of the European history of musicology it is impossible to draw a strict demarcation line between folk music research and comparative musicology/ethnomusicology.
The Folk Song as an Object of Idealization (Pre-Romantic and Romantic Period)
The term Volkslied was used by Herder in 1773—as incidentally as Volks-Musik in Stählin’s essay. Making generalizations about such an ambiguous thinker is at best a difficult task (nonwithstanding the ubiquitous ironic references to Volksgeist, Volksseele, and of course Volkslied). Herder’s thinking was far from nationalistic, not to speak of German nationalism. In a special paragraph on “Nationale und nationalistische Musik,” Walter Wiora reminds us that the concept “Stimmen der Völker in Liedern,” often attributed to Herder, was introduced only in his posthumously published collection (1807): “The general ‘voice of mankind’ once moved Herder, the humanist and theologist, more than the ‘voice of the peoples in songs’ [Die allgemeine ‘Stimme der Menschheit’ hatte einst Herder, den Humanisten und Theologen, stärker bewegt als die ‘Stimme der Völker in Liedern’].”Stimme der Menschheit in Liedern was the title Herder initially intended. With regard to Wiora’s general topic, it has to be noted that he uses the term Nationalismus in a narrow, pre-Gellnerian sense, as a synonym for chauvinism (in terms of national superiority, as it is still used in everyday discourse). However, his ardent attacks against political radicalism, including “the nationalist side of Marxist socialism,” leave a bad aftertaste, considering Wiora’s former membership in the NSDAP.
Herder put forward issues that were crucial to later romantic folk music discourse. Collecting and preserving folk music now became the main task, with a strong emphasis on cultural criticism and renewal of the arts. However, as Doris Stockmann has pointed out, Herder’s understanding of folk music was far from romantic idealization insofar as he made a case for “the social function of folklore.” Stockmann even considers Marxist folklorists such as Wolfgang Steinitz and Albert L. Lloyd as those who revived this forgotten legacy of Herder. The former, in the preface to his famous “German folk songs of a Democratic Character from Six Centuries,” explicitly calls Herder to witness. In this regard, Steinitz’s alleged “discovery of the socio-critical song” (Eckhard John) is more a rediscovery.
 It is also noteworthy that Herder, unlike most 19th century comparative musicologists, did not believe in the cultural superiority of Western culture. Moreover, in Herder’s writings we also find key concepts of later ethnomusicology, such as the comparative approach,cultural relativism, function-based genre concepts, and also the (unfulfilled) desire to do fieldwork in Scotland, including participatory observation and going native:
There I wanted to hear a living performance of a living people’s songs, see them in all their effectiveness, see the places that are so alive in all their poems, study in their customs the remains of that ancient world, become for a while an ancient Caledonian myself.
Da will ich die Gesänge eines lebenden Volks lebendig hören, sie in alle der Würkung sehen, die sie machen, die Oerter sehen, die allenthalben in den Gedichten leben, die Reste dieser alten Welt in ihren Sitten studiren! eine Zeitlang ein alter Kaledonier werden.
Nationalism (in a broad sense) is frequently considered an initial motivation for folk music research. At least for academic discourses in Austria and Germany, this has to be called into serious question. In this regard it is worth taking a look at the above-cited essay, initiated by Emil Karl Blümml (1881–1925). Alongside his friend Friedrich Salomon Krauss (1859–1938), Blümml should be considered the founder of academic folk music research in Austria. In the introduction to this nearly forgotten fundamental text, the authors delineate four periods of German (including Austrian-German) Volksliedforschung:
Die Zeit des Internationalismus (1777–1806) . . .
Die Zeit des Nationalismus (1806–1844) . . .
Die Zeit der wissenschaftlichen Sammelarbeit (1844–1898) . . .
Die Zeit der Definitionen (1898–heute)
Emil Karl Blümml (1881–1925)
When recalling 19th century realism in German and Austrian research, we should not forget that nationalism, and national romanticism, continued to shape public folk song discourses and also academic scholarship. These national discourses comprise an artistic as well as a political dimension. In many parts of Europe from the mid 19th century onwards, the collecting of folk music was increasingly used to establish “national schools” of composed art music. (However, similar efforts can be observed in Poland 200 years earlier.) By the end of the century, a folk music revival was established as a highly ideological counter model to cosmopolitan popular culture. This led to irrational discourses of anti-modernism and anti-urbanism, particularly among representatives of Volksmusikpflege in the German-speaking world, but also among leading representatives of the English folk song revival like Cecil Sharp.
 Thus, the concept of Volksmusik/Volkslied has an initially scholarly dimension, rooted in the Age of Enlightenment, while the folk music discourse of the romantic era was interlinked to a certain degree with ideological motivations and corresponding agendas of cultural politics. In other words, the “intellectual intervention” established approaches of realism as well as of idealism, to use a distinction drawn by James Porter.
Current Debates on Volksmusik and Volksmusikforschung
There has been an in-depth discussion of the problematic aspects of scholarly history in German-speaking Volksliedforschung and Musikalische Volkskunde since the 1960s. A balanced evaluation of different trends of the scholarly past is of fundamental importance for coming to terms with these conceptual discussions.
In the following, I will respond to the questions and key issues posed by the editors of this journal. In doing so I will try to outline the perspectives from which we can deal with Volksmusikforschung in contemporary Austrian and German-speaking musicology.
1. Volksmusik and Ideology: Ethnicity
The intellectual history of folk music research clearly shows that the concept of Volksmusik is not necessarily an ideological issue. It refers to the musical heritage of social formations once defined as the Volk, as opposed to the social elites. It should be noted that Stählin and Gräter spoke of the Volk in a neutral tone. It was Herder who gave the concept an emphatic sense that eventually led to its ideologization in the 19th century. Here, the social as well as the ethnic meaning of Volk became crucial in social romantic as well as nationalist discourses.
When Walter Wiora claimed that in the term Volksgesang “das Volk” is not the singular of “die Völker,” he drew upon the Volk as a social rather than an ethnic category. Wiora defines Volk in a most nebulous sense as “social and mental ground layers [soziale und seelische Grundschichten].” In a more laconic way, Gerlinde Haid characterizes the Volkslied as something “little more . . . than a historically inherited concept, maintained for practical reasons.” This reasonable definition is likewise applicable to Volksmusik. Thus, in contemporary Austrian Volksmusikforschung the problematic and somewhat outdated concept of the Volk is no longer discussed as a central issue.
Cultural and musical transfer is fundamental to folk music. It is also a key issue in European historical folk music research, largely discussed by Tappert, Wiora, and others. Naturally, processes of transformation appear to be less radical and less rapid in folk music cultures than in other musical fields. The discussion of these processes may reveal ideological attitudes to intercultural exchange in very different ways. Here, folk music research and ethnomusicology are faced with (and sometimes influenced by) persistent moral imperatives. They may appear as a “repulsive attitude of preservation [abwehrende Bewahrungshaltung]” aimed at national/ethnic “purity”—or as the postmodernist claim (“overcoming borders”) that crossover and fusion become values in themselves in eclectic genres. It seems that the first imperative has been discussed more critically than the second in the past decades.
Terminology: Folk vs. Traditional vs. Popular
The term traditional music in international ethnomusicology is a result of the growing awareness of the fact that many non-European musical practices, particularly highly elite court music, can hardly be described within the European concept of folk music. In the European context, however, the two terms can be used nearly as synonyms.
US American ethnomusicology frequently deals with modern, media-based popular genres. The definition of the discipline not by subject matters as particular musical genres and social settings but by methods is not accepted in all European countries. As for the German-speaking world, a general distinction between both Ethnomusikologie/Musikethnologie and Volksmusikforschung on the one side and Popularmusikforschung on the other is largely reflected in independent yet cooperative disciplines with their own academic institutions and publication media. Popular music studies remain a distinctive field of research in other European countries too.
Critical discussions have been raised in Austrian Volksmusikforschung and Musikethnologie on the relationship between these disciplines and Musiksoziologie. In a review of Helen Myer’s Ethnomusicology in the pages of this journal, Wolfgang Suppan accused the editor of confusing the subjects of ethnomusicology and music sociology. In a very similar way, Walter Deutsch warned German Musikalische Volkskunde in the tradition of Ernst Klusen that it is wrong “to imitate what is the privilege of another discipline.” Such objections are not surprising against the background of late-20th century German-speaking musicology, where Musiksoziologie was considered a subdiscipline of its own. In the English-speaking world, sociomusicology (or music sociology) was initially more closely interlinked with ethnomusicology as well as with popular music studies.
2. Volksmusikforschung in Austria before and after 1918
 Multiethnicity in the Habsburg monarchy led to very different consequences for folk music research. Some scholars (and many more activists) explicitly or implicitly regarded ethnic diversity and intercultural contact as a danger for the “purity” of one’s own culture. Even chauvinist sentiments cannot be overlooked. The anti-Slavic and anti-Semitic ideology of Josef Pommer (1845–1918) is common knowledge, as are the anti-German sentiments of Franjo Kuhač (Franz Xaver Koch, 1834–1911) and Leoš Janáček (1854–1928). But this is only one side of folk music discourse in Austria at that time. As Eva Maria Hois has shown in detail, the state-funded project Das Volkslied in Österreich was largely inspired by ideals of understanding between the peoples—as well as by political reasons concerning a consolidation of the Danube monarchy. However, the multiethnic documentary project suffered from chauvinist tendencies, particularly among the Austrian-German participants, and eventually came to an end with the First World War and the breakdown of the Empire.
It should be noted that the structure of the project led to critical internal discussions, particularly the organization of the Working Committees (Arbeitsausschüsse) in accordance with the political borders of the crown lands. In the polemical essay cited above, Blümml argued together with Franz Friedrich Kohl and Josef Reiter that ethnic minorities were disregarded in the German-speaking crown lands. These scholars called for a reorganization of the project according to linguistic criteria—and also for a stronger representation of Jewish folk music. This demand was not to be satisfied until 1990 with the establishment of minority studies at the Institut für Volksmusikforschung of the Universität für Musik und darstellende Kunst Wien.
Pommer (who is sometimes called the founder of Volksmusikforschung in Austria) developed a reasonable collecting method and certain standards of notation and documentation of folk music. As Julian von Pulikowski points out, Pommer is one of the few representatives of (German-speaking) folk music research “who really draws from the people, lives with the people, and really knows them [die wirklich aus dem Volke schöpfen, mit dem Volke leben und es wirklich kennen].” Without any doubt, Pommer’s fieldwork has brought about not only an enormous amount of well-documented notations but also valuable observations on functional context and traditional concepts of singing. Nevertheless, his pomposity, his absolutely monologic style, his selective approach to musical practice, and his total disinterest in anything except the folkish (in a narrow sense), the German (in a less narrow sense), and ultimately his own person clearly show that “Pommer is acceptable as a collector but should not be taken seriously as a researcher.” In the words of Wolfgang Suppan, “one would do wrong to the Viennese grammar school teacher and deputy of the Reichsrat to judge him by scholarly criteria.” In Linder-Beroud’s study on German Volksliedforschung we read that “Pommer was concerned less with scholarly matters than with the singing and collecting practice of the folk song.” Pommer’s concept of the Volkslied is highly problematic not primarily because of his emphasis on social setting, origin, and creativity. His blind spot is the criterion of “total folkishness [völlige Volksmäßigkeit],” “as it corresponds to the nature of the folk in content and form [wie es dem Wesen des Volkes gemäß ist in Inhalt und Form].” Naturally, this circular definition opens the door to all manner of ideological speculations.
Unfortunately, distinguished Austrian scholars with a much broader intellectual horizon (but less political privileges and connections) than Josef Pommer, such as Blümml and Krauss, who developed interdisciplinary approaches and used the huge ethnocultural diversity of the Empire for in-depth cross-cultural studies, are less associated with Austrian-German folk music research even today.
In a similar way to Cecil Sharp in England, Pommer was particularly hostile to the use of the phonograph in fieldwork. As a result, the Viennese Phonogram Archive possesses comparatively few early recordings of Austrian-German folk music. Gerlinde Haid argues that the reason must also be sought in the Academy members’ aversion toward the undergraduate folk music researchers. Whatever the case may be, another question remains: Why, at that time, did so few internationally reputed musicologists (for instance Robert Lach) show an interest in Austro-German folk music? This is the more surprising as it was Guido Adler himself who discussed in 1886 the significance of yodeling for the history of multi-part music. I do not think that the reason can be found in the main focus of 20th century Austro-German comparative musicologists on “exotic music” and in the fact that, for instance, a Ländler appeared less exotic to a classically trained Viennese musician than a Kolo played on a Croatian bagpipe would to a musicologist from Zagreb. Even the unequal power relations that stimulated the intellectuals’ interest in so many music cultures of underrepresented ethnic groups cannot serve as a full explanation. In the titular nations of powerful empires such as Great Britain and Russia, the study of folk music was on a high scholarly level as well. One cannot help but conclude that the attractiveness of Austrian folk music for the academy was diminished for a long time by the very habitus of Josef Pommer and his environment, his noisy activism and primitive rhetoric.
As a result of this deep conflict, folk music research and comparative musicology in Austria went separate ways for a very long time. Wolfgang Suppan was one of the first musicologists to maintain an integrative approach in a framework of Musikethnologie, Volksmusikforschung, and Anthropologie der Musik. And beginning in the 1980s, Rudolf Pietsch and Ursula Hemetek, graduates from the Institut für Musikwissenschaft of the University of Vienna working at the Institut für Volksmusikforschung (from 2002, Institut für Volksmusikforschung und Ethnomusikologie), contributed a lot to overcoming the former discrepancies between the two fields of musicology in Austria.
Pommer’s political radicalism has strongly influenced considerable parts of folk music research in Austria—and not by chance were many of his followers active in the National Socialist movement before and after Hitler’s “Anschluss.” Of course, in the post war period the previous chauvinist emotions were reduced, and down-to-earth scholars such as Leopold Schmidt gained more influence. In the following years, Austrian folk music research went on to develop traditional fields such as collecting and structural analysis, including Schenkerian methods introduced by Franz Eibner. Walter Deutsch combined extensive fieldwork in all parts of Austria and South Tyrol with a profound study of historical sources. Deutsch also has contributed a lot to international cooperation in European folk music research—as did Wolfgang Suppan in Graz. In addition, Gerlinde Haid placed particular emphasis on singing as a social process, folk terminology, traditional methods of learning and teaching, and on the whole inner and outer world of the folk musician. Rudolf Pietsch also used these scholarly approaches for his multifarious activities as a musician. It is impossible to mention all the names even of the most merited scholars from this period.
 Thus, the productive aspects of Pommer’s school, particularly the emphasis on deep personal involvement in fieldwork, were maintained and further expanded in Austrian folk music research. It took several more decades for his ideological legacy, and also the role of folk music discourse in National socialist cultural policy in Austria, to be discussed at length.
3. Volkstümliche Musik as a Popular Genre
The popular representation of rural music repertoires is a deeply rooted phenomenon in the Alpine Region. Its origins can be traced back to late 18th-century traveling Tyrolean singers and the Unspunnenfest in the Canton of Bern in 1805. The popular Tyrolean Nationalsänger of the 19th century, as a typical example of commercialized folk music, became a particularly negative model for the Austrian folk song revival or Volksliedpflege.
In the ideological environment of Josef Pommer, any economic interest in making folk music was regarded as a grave sin. In the new, tradition-oriented Austrian folk music revival from the 1970s onwards, animosity against “commercialization” is more a matter of aesthetics than of economic asceticism. Regardless of the ardent attacks against the “moikhiasfidele Mölltalerlawine,” the light or trivial style of volkstümliche Musik still shapes the image of Alpine folk music for many listeners today.
According to most of the criteria that could be used for a general distinction between Volksmusik and Popularmusik,volkstümliche Musik is more related to the latter. It is directed via media (less in face-to-face contact) to a broader audience (less to a small local environment). It is to a lesser degree functionally bounded and functionally differentiated but represents more the values of particular social groups and generations. The visibility of personal authorship and a standardization of particular versions are a result of the media-based modes of performance.
In contemporary practice the borders between Volksmusik and volkstümliche Musik are rather blurred, and many local musicians freely shift between different styles. But these processes do not take place with the same intensity in all genres. Some contexts, particularly that of religious singing, demand certain traditional modes of performance, while others can be realized in different styles acceptable for local audiences. For instance, traditional pilgrim chants are difficult to imagine with guitar strumming, while a Polka played by a small instrumental ensemble can include such an accompaniment (introduced by the popular Oberkrainer band in the 1950s), yet not everyone may like it.
4. “Ethnic Homogeneity” and the Volksmusik Concept
In contemporary European folk music research, not too many scholars would pose the dogmatic question of what folk music is and what it is not. Ethnomusicology and folkloristics (a theoretical framework for the study of oral genres, particularly developed in Russia and the USA) do not rest upon previously defined styles and repertoires but on the dynamic practices of the social groups under study. It goes without saying that the music of any ethnic group (and maybe other groups as well) can appear as the focus of folk music research.
As for the somewhat surprising question of the degree to which Austrian folk music is ethnically homogeneous, I ask myself who could ever seriously claim something like this. Everyone who has at least a slight idea of folk music as a living practice will easily learn that it can never be homogeneous (even with regard to an “ethnically homogenous” society). Concepts of homogeneity can emerge either in a rigid framework of a Volksmusikpflege that tries to establish local standards—or as the result of an “armchair” perspective and/or a superficial approach, for instance when Stafford makes generalizations about “the music of the Persians and Turks” or Klusen about “the song of the Greenlanders.”
The high diversity of folk music in terms of expressive forms (regional, local, individual styles) as well as with regard to anthropologically founded functions was recognized and largely discussed from the very beginning of academic folk music research in the times of Gräter. This diversity is one of the reasons for the lasting attractiveness of folk music for scholarship and artistic practice.
- Folk music research in Austria and Germany, as in other European countries, has a rich intellectual legacy. The expressive culture of what once was called the Volk has attracted leading thinkers since the Enlightenment.
- The history of comparative musicology does not begin with the introduction of the phonograph but with the growing scholarly interest in a systematic study of the musics of the world in the early 19th century (Stafford, Fétis).
- Key issues of the anthropology of music were raised in the late 18th century and developed into scholarly concepts in the second half of the 19th century, on the basis of observations on European folk music.
- Comparative musicology is a strongly established field of research during the 19th century. It comprises the study of Non-European and European music cultures, including those of the German-speaking countries.
- Ideological usurpation of folk music discourses (from different directions) does not make the very concept of folk music obsolete.
- In modern societies shaped by musical pluralism, folk music, both as revival or as historical continuity, is generally a niche phenomenon, but with an increasing attractiveness in different social settings. Its study seems most fruitful in a combination of historical and contemporary research.
- A closer dialogue with international ethnomusicology as well as with theoretical folkloristics and popular music studies could offer promising perspectives for the future of Volksmusikforschung in the German-speaking world.