Music in Asia


Professor Margaret Kartomi

The participants of the research group include current staff, Adjuncts, higher-degree students and two generations of Monash Alumni.


Professor Margaret Kartomi

Research Staff

Karen Kartomi Thomas
Bronia Kornhauser

Adjunct / Affiliate Staff

Dr Gay Breyley
Dr Samuel Dunscombe
Dr John Garzoli
Dr Ahmad Sarmast
Dr Aline Scott-Maxwell
Professor John Whiteoak

The research group has a legacy of five decades of internationally recognised scholarship in Asian Music. Building on this significant foundation, the group recognises the historical and contemporary dynamism, within and across, the Asian region and its diasporas and the complex cultural fabric of music it sustains. The group approaches the investigation of this broad geographic, creative and intellectual domain from a variety of perspectives.

GeographicallyResearch encompasses the music and musical thought of West, South, Southeast, Central, East and North Asia. However, it also considers the historical and contemporary dynamism of the region from a trans-Asian perspective and significantly from the multiple vantage points emerging in Asian Diasporas around the world.

CreativelyResearch embraces all forms of traditional musics, contemporary popular musics (including local, globalised, trans-Asian and intercultural), adopted and adapted traditional and popular musics from other spheres (including western classical, jazz, heavy metal, rock, hip hop to name a few), as well as the musics of the multiple Asian diasporas.

IntellectuallyResearch applies interdisciplinary approaches from the social sciences, humanities, ethnomusicology and performance studies to investigate the region and its diasporas. This investigation includes: the cultural significance and sustainability of music in traditional and contemporary contexts, musical ontologies and performance practice; the impact of post-coloniality and cultural nationalisms on music, the consequences of modernity in all its forms on music, the cultural consequences of economic globalisation on music and the importance of cultural contact, movement and migration on understandings of music.


  • Support and encourage wide ranging multidisciplinary research
  • Formalise a large network of Monash alumni music researchers working in, and on, Asia
  • Facilitate and support grant applications
  • Establish new and strengthen existing partnerships with institutions and scholars across the region
  • Undertake traditional and practice-based research.


  • Cultural and theoretical constructions of music and creativity
  • Performance practices and aesthetic systems
  • Organology, Ergology, Archival Studies
  • Configurations of gender in cultural construction and musical expression
  • Traditional musics, Asian modernities and cultural nationalism
  • Globalisation and popular music cultures
  • Ontologies of music.
  • The impact of international intellectual ownership and industrial practices on Asian musics in all its forms


The research group has associations and affiliations with:

  • Monash Asia Institute
  • Monash Archive of Monash University
  • University of Indonesia, Gadjah Mada University
  • Syiah Kuala University (Aceh)
  • University of North Sumatra, Institute of Arts (ISI) Yogyakarta
  • Institute of Arts Padang Panjang (West Sumatra)
  • University of Lampung
  • University of Malaya
  • University of Sabah Malaysia
  • Andalas University
  • IITB-Monash Academy (Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay)
  • Indian Council for Cultural Relations, New Delhi
  • National Institute of Music, Afghanistan
  • Jadavpur University, Kolkata
  • Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Kolkata
  • Sikkim University, India
  • Universiti Sains Malaysia, Penang
  • Khon Kaen University, Thailand
  • University of Tehran
  • University of Visual and Performing Arts, Colombo

Current research projects include:

  • The role of hereditary musician communities and castes in the construction of cultural nationalist narrative in India
  • De-colonising musicological discourses of musical creativity and ownership
  • Music and migration in early South and Southeast Asia
  • Mapping music making in Lampung
  • Music and Dance in Aceh
  • Performance projects (e.g. a Film soundtrack for a Sri Lankan feature film, Popular music and gender in Iran)
  • Popular music and politics in contemporary Thailand
  • Intonational systems and aesthetics in traditional Thai Music
  • Ethnomusicology and the Digital Archive