About the Project

SamulNori festival, high school group, 2014 (Photo: Keith Howard)

SamulNori festival, high school group, 2014 (Photo: Keith Howard)




[There’s] a real problem in terms of the continuity of traditions, and you could say, “Well that’s OK, it’s natural, music always changes.” The problem is it’s not really an even playing field, it’s not as though these are just disappearing, they’re being disappeared: there’s an active process in the disappearance of many traditions around the world.

Tony Seeger

This Sound Futures website is a key outcome of a project called Sustainable Futures for Music Cultures, funded by the Australian Research Council (2009-2014). Sound Futures responds to the call of UNESCO, the International Music Council, the International Council for Traditional Music and other organizations to urgently develop ways to support music cultures across the world. These ideas resonate with current views expressed by leaders in music research, at conferences and in the press. As part of the sustained commitment of the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage to cultural sustainability, this cultural institution started administering Sound Futures in 2016.

The project:

  • Looks at the dynamics of music traditions
  • Considers how they might be re-positioned in the modern world
  • Highlights some of the challenges for music cultures in the current global environment
  • Generates practical tools to assist communities in forging their own musical futures

Sound Futures presents a model of cultural sustainability developed to understand the ecology of musical practices. Based on the analysis of five domains, it provides concrete alternatives to promote the sustainability of particular music genres. Multimedia summaries of the nine case studies exemplify the use of the model in different contexts. Given the interest in promoting the sustainability of diverse music communities around the globe, the site also provides methodological tools for musicians, researchers, and community leaders to participate in the sustainability of their musical practices. Users can quickly assess the sustainability of a musical genre and receive information of cases in similar situations. The 200+ questions used to analyze the five domains is also available. Sound Futures also provides educational sample materials to teach the model and/or some of the case studies of cultural sustainability in music in undergraduate and graduate courses.

We hope these tools are user-friendly resources that individuals and communities can draw on to help keep their music strong for future generations while educating audiences who can become allies for the cultural sustainability of music traditions.

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