About the project

"Cultural Sustainability as an Applied Research Strategy in Jewish Music Studies" is a research project at the European Centre for Jewish Music (EZJM), Hanover University of Music, Drama and Media.

Our goal is to provide an overview of current research activities on the subject of cultural sustainability within the humanities, cultural studies and the arts. Against the backdrop of our own research activities and institutional connections, the focus is on Jewish music studies. Within this dynamic rubric, we look forward to receiving suggestions, initiating exchanges and gaining resources related to our research agendas.

The project is funded by VW-Vorab within the framework of the “Women’s Professors Program” of Prof. Dr. Sarah M. Ross’ professorship, and based at the European Centre for Jewish Music.

The idea

The project "Cultural Sustainability as an Applied Research Strategy in Jewish Music Studies" consists of two complexes:

  • The first complex serves as a place of gathering, knowledge and exchange related to Jewish music. An interactive and multimedia database gives all interested parties the opportunity to explore the world of Jewish musical practices.
  • The second complex serves as an exchange platform and network for scholars who deal with concepts of cultural sustainability. Notwithstanding our emphasis on the transmission of Jewish music, researchers and scholars from all disciplines are invited to work, to discuss and to exchange ideas. Sustainability can only be achieved through dialogue.

Cultural Sustainability

Sustainability is a debatable topic that is perceived negatively in our society. In general discourses, sustainability is understood as a development that "satisfies the needs of the present without risking that future generations will not be able to satisfy their own needs" (Brundtland Report, p. 51, paragraph 49 and p. 54, paragraph 1).

As a result, the concept of sustainability has long been limited to ecology, economics and social issues. Thus, its application has been limited to environmental programs and technical concepts which have little to do with people’s everyday experience with the world around them. Contrastingly, the concept of cultural sustainability in our project is an alternative to the UNESCO concept of intangible cultural heritage, which includes and focuses on the discursive and dynamic processes of preserving and transmitting cultural expressions (such as orally transmitted traditions of synagogue chants). Cultural sustainability is thus a matter of cultural continuity as well as responsibility towards the coming generations.

A second essential aspect of sustainability within the context of this project is the development of new impulses for the strategies of a successful practice of exchange between academics and society, between theory and music practice. This application prompts two further readings of the concept of cultural sustainability for our project:

  • Cultural sustainability as a participatory concept: the application of this concept is particularly useful given the participation of communities and individuals in projects on cultural sustainability
  • Cultural sustainability as an emotional concept: human emotions can create the framework within which to engage permanently in abstract topics. Emotions create bonds that are necessary to participate in a social project such as sustainability.

Against the backdrop of these readings of the concept of cultural sustainability, cultural creators play a central role. These are understood to be active bearers of "threatened traditions". Through the transmission of certain types of cultural material (e.g. music, photography), they have the ability not only to arouse people's emotions, but also to create a wide range of possibilities for developing a deeper awareness of sustainability. Emotional processing creates a greater willingness to change behavior rather than mere rational comprehension of something that should be avoided. This is also why the conventional understanding of sustainability is relevant within this context:

  • How do artists convey the idea of sustainable development in their works and thus in society?
  • How are both the artists and their works received?

With regard to Jewish music, the project aims to correct the public perception of the finiteness of Jewish music, which is a non-sustainable perception. Even if some Jewish musical genres can hardly been seen as living musical traditions, the existence of a single recording – or even the retrievability of sound, image and video recordings as well as other related records in a database – offers future generations the opportunity to resume and practice these musical traditions. This possibility for revival and continuity has been shown by various projects focusing on "recording repatriation" (such as the project “Folksongs from Another America – Lomax’s Upper Midwest recordings“). With our database, as the heart of our project, we hope to actively support communities that, despite many obstacles, are trying to maintain their musical traditions. The database is an effective tool for representing the multiple dynamics of Jewish musical life, past and present.


The overall goal of the project is to contribute to the topic of culture and sustainable development, especially from the perspective of (ethno)musicology, as the concept of culture has yet to play a major role in discussions on the concept of sustainable development.

Although political and scientific interest in culture is a major aspect of sustainable development and is also seen as fundamental to the concept of sustainability, the understanding of culture in this context remains rather vague. With regard to the project at the EZJM, the combination of discourses on cultural sustainability, but also in ethnomusicology and Jewish (music) studies, is of particular importance in working to build a new field characterized by cultural heritage as well as cultural vitality and diversity.


The project at a glance

Cultural Sustainability as an Applied Research Strategy in Jewish Music Studies

Responsible organisation:
Hanover University of Music, Drama and Media
European Centre for Jewish Music

VW-Vorab | within the framework of the “Women’s Professors Program”

Prof. Dr. Sarah M. Ross

Head of Project:
Dr. Regina Randhofer
Martha Stellmacher
Dr. Susanne Borchers
Dr. Miranda L. Crowdus

Project duration:
February 2016 until September 2020

Last modified: 2017-12-14

To top