Norges-musikkhogskole-1983 (2).jpg

The Norwegian Academy of Music History Project

Project leader:
Astrid Kvalbein

Project participants:
Gjertrud Pedersen, Alfred Fidjestøl, Anders Førisdal, Bjørnar Utne-Reitan

Project period:
2018 – 2023


History of music

In 2023, the Norwegian Academy of Music will celebrate the 50th anniversary of its founding. Its history, however, begins already in 1883 when the Lindeman family founded a school for organists, which was to become the Oslo Conservatory of Music. Leading up to the anniversary celebrations, the Academy’s History Project will revisit and research the Academy’s history, share memories and music, and examine how its education and research have evolved over the years.

Which forces were decisive in the establishment of a government funded academy of music in 1973? Which trends and concerns have been given priority in teaching, performance, music theory, and musical genres over the years? In which ways have the most prominent Norwegian musicians influenced the academy? Which guiding principles have been prominent under the Academy’s various leaderships?
The Academy’s History Project, which is supported by the Lindeman Foundation, does not aim to answer all these questions in depth. However, some of the question are central in the project work leading up to the fifty-years anniversary in 2023. The objectives are to stimulate and to support research on and documentation of the Academy’s history and how this relates to the history of music education in general.

Archives, interviews and books

Rich archival material is available for this work; from the organist school and conservatory up until today, as well as publications about the academy and related institutions. This will all be used to shed light on the history from many different angles, consulting relevant theory and literature. Special efforts will be made to preserve the knowledge embedded in the many practices of the Academy, which are more rarely written down or documented otherwise. How do the staff at the academy teach and reflect upon their disciplines, whether within music history, classical singing, folk music, jazz improvisation, music therapy, conducting, church music or music pedagogy? What are the principals and other leaders’ opinions on how to run an institution like the Academy? 

During the project period, people connected with the Academy, representing different disciplines, generations and functions in the life of the institution before and after 1973, will be interviewed. The interviews will provide input for research and analysis as well as journalistic portraits or other presentations, online or in print. 

The aim of the research is to develop and convey historical perspectives and new knowledge about music teaching in relation to the activities of, and the history of, the Norwegian Academy of Music, through academic publication journals, in books and in other media, including popular channels. Researchers from NMH's own staff and other institutions, as well as freelance writers, may get funding for part time projects, and applicants for PhD and master scholarships at NMH are encouraged to design projects linked to the history project.

Current projects

From the autumn of 2019, Anders Førisdal is employed as a post-doctor to study the establishment and activities of the Music Conservatoire of Oslo, until it became a government funded academy in 1973. Førisdal will pursue questions concerning the cultural, pedagogical and aesthetic values inherent in the institutionalization processes within higher music education in Norway, with a particular focus on the relationships between national and international ideas.

Bjørnar Utne-Reitan will study the teaching of music theory in his Ph.D.-project (2019-2022), and the significance of this discipline, in various forms, within the training of musicians from the organist school started in 1883 up until today’s NMH. Debates on the discipline’s function and value are of special interest to Utne-Reitan, who will also compare with the music theory training at institutions abroad.

Associate professor Gjertrud Pedersen, who teaches music history at NMH, will conduct research on the position of this discipline, how it has been taught and how it has been and is considered a contribution to the training of professional musicians. 

The piano holds a central position in music teaching at many levels, in public and private schooling, and is studied from different perspectives in the project. Olaf Eggestad conducts a study on the first professor in piano at NMH from 1973, Robert Riefling (1911-1988), focusing on the relations between teaching, ethics and aesthetics in the tradition Riefling came from, and the heritage he left to his students. Ingrid Loe Landmark has studied another profiled pianist and pedagogue, Mary Barratt Due (1888-1969), a prominent representative of the many well-educated women who both taught and kept up their careers as solo pianists in the early 20th century and, in some cases, composed.
Processes of change are of particular interest to the history project. What happens when new genres, disciplines, instruments and technologies are included in the higher education programmes? Hans Weisethaunet studies the actions and arguments that set the ground for jazz to become part of the curriculum in higher music education in Norway. Other researchers will look into how folk music studies were introduced and have developed over the years.
Disciplines which have been taught for a long time within higher music education in Norway will also be researched, such as the training of orchestral musicians, singers and church musicians as well as a range of pedagogical studies.

Anniversary book

Last but not least, Alfred Fidjestøl – who has written books on the Oslo Philharmonic, the Arts Council Norway and Det Norske Teatret – is engaged to write the 50 years anniversary book of the Academy, directed toward a broader public. 

Project leader


Astrid Kvalbein


Music History

Last updated: 4. September 2018