Ex Ovo (A Guide for Perplexed Composers and Improvisers), DO 534, 2006

Ex Ovo

“Your book (Ex Ovo) is very rich and it would take too long to tell you everything that has impressed and given me food for thought. I will simply say that I consider your first text to be a remarkable synthesis. In fact your approach is at the same time that of a musician, a teacher, a structuralist, a sociologist, a philosopher and… a humanist. That’s a lot of talent brought together in one man.”

Simha Arom

Counterpoint for Guitar with Improvisation in the Renaissance Style and Study in Motivic Metamorphosis, EB 3890 (Curci), 1996


for Guitar

My recommendation is that any serious guitarist/teacher/performer/composer with an academic interest in teaching counterpoint should have this book as an important reference or method. After reading and playing through this treatise one is left with the impression that Bogdanovic is an intelligent and creative musician trying to verse the guitarist in the use of learned counterpoint, but with reference to the guitarist’s literature, not that of the vocal or keyboard tradition (though these traditions are very important). The only question I am left with at the end of this tome is “why wasn’t this done before?

Classical Guitar Magazine

Renaissance Polyphony for Guitar, Lute and Vihuela, Singidunumusic. Interactive eBook, Interlude.com

Renaissance Polyphony

for Guitar, Lute and Vihuela

Renaissance Polyphony interactive eBook, created by Dusan Bogdanovic, is based on step-by-step instruction of the XVI-century polyphony comprising species counterpoint and all the fundamentals of the Renaissance musical forms including improvisation. In this new educational tool, the interactive musical scores are brought via audio and video examples featuring live, authentic performances by the excellent Bor Zuljan, Timea Nagy, and Clara Brunet. The eBook also includes biographies of the composers, scores, and the original tablatures of the music so the students can fully immerse themselves in the fascinating world of Renaissance music.

Harmony for Classical Guitar, EC 12251 (Curci), 2020


for Classical Guitar

Harmony for Classical Guitar written by Dusan Bogdanovic has been conceived as a comprehensive theoretical and practical guide for guitarists interested in deepening their knowledge of traditional harmony starting from the fundamentals up to and including the impressionist period. In addition to the general subjects, the book offers many exercises for practicing different types of chords with their inversions, modulations, progressions, ornamentation and others. While most examples come from the classical guitar literature, the book can be used by performers, composers and improvisers from a wide cross-section of contemporary styles.

Tradition and Synthesis, Edited by Dusan Bogdanovic & Xavier Bouvier, DO 1200, 2018

Tradition and Synthesis

Perhaps more than any other period, the modernist artistic profile is marked by cultural synthesis. Instead of treating the synthesis as a marginal phenomenon, we have chosen to focus here on the very act of fusing disparate elements into new coherent wholes. Why fusion? As expressed by Michael Tenzer: “The search for fusion in music composition is like the search for the universal in the particular through research. It is the healing of the rupture one needs to heal, the spark across the arc of self-integration, the experience of fealty to (at least) two beloved traditions; the fusing of sameness and difference….”

Articles by: Ellen Dissanayake, Xavier Bouvier, Dusan Bogdanovic, Golfam Khayam, Michael Tenzer, Feliu Gassul, Bruce Arnold and David Rosenboom

Introduction to Tradition and Synthesis

 We don’t understand music, it understands us.

Theodor Adorno, Beethoven

 An offshoot of the research project supported by HES-SO (University of Applied Sciences and Arts of Western Switzerland), this book is a collection of essays that explores, and hopefully to some extent elucidates, the relationship between tradition and synthesis within the framework of the multiple modernities theory. All of the contributors have been participants in the pioneering edition of the Multimod Festival hosted by Geneva Haute école de musique in 2016, an event that we hope has the potential for further reincarnation and development.

The starting point of this book is the acknowledgment of the multiple modernities concept formulated by its initiator Shmuel N. Eisenstadt as a “continual constitution and reconstitution of a multiplicity of cultural programs” – an alternative cultural paradigm which challenges the traditional Western concept of modernity (Eisenstadt, 2000). The sociologist Gerhard Preyer elaborates on this further: “We have evidence that modernization does not lead to a unification and convergence of social structures… Multiple modernities is a structural change that continuously modifies belief-systems and their implementation in a process of translation. There are many modernities, not only one single pattern of modernization” (Preyer, 2007, p.17).

The multiple modernities theory offers a highly complex and multifaceted viewpoint of the contemporary world undergoing permanent change and transformation. To quote Preyer again: “Such changes are not a unification of social intercourse and do not result in a global village, but on the contrary to hybridizations, fragmentation, and the change of collective identities by new social movements.”

While this might be true, the apparent fragmentary nature of the contemporary world culture does not, however, mean that we cannot make a conceptual effort of integrating this view into a universalist perspective. In fact, without this universalist perspective, we believe that the fragments will remain in their “unconscious state”, without the necessary further step into acknowledging the whole. Therefore, this book is not intended for narrow vision specialists, but for curious, eclectic individuals who nevertheless have a great interest in exploring the potentials of the contemporary composition-performance world in depth and detail.

Homo Musicus

In order to give a firm foundation to this heterogeneous collection of essays, we are commencing the book with an introductory text by the biobehavioral scholar of the arts Ellen Dissanayake whose work, for over forty years, has explored the fundamental elements of the arts as they arose and developed in human biology and evolution. She claims that “underlying multiple modernities, multiple musical cultures, and the individual styles of every musician, there are even more basic (“bottom up”) musical principles that are inborn in all humans, no matter what cultural musical traditions they have absorbed from childhood or learned in later life. That is, these fundamental musical capacities arose during human evolution and are present in all music in our species, providing the capacity to absorb music from one’s own culture as well as that from other cultures. »

« The multiple modernities concept,” she continues, “is a recent approach to understanding music in a culturally-decentered world—not as an abstraction or flaccid ‘anything goes’ ideology—but as a broad, universal activity that can be found in multiple forms in multiple cultures. The approach treats music globally, appreciating that from earliest times, until the invention of written scores, musicians have been composers-performers-improvisers—and that it is possible in their own music-making to become cultural pluralists, able to deeply integrate (not just ‘borrow’) the aesthetic sensibilities of other and different cultures.” »

Tradition and Synthesis

Perhaps more than any other period, the modernist artistic profile is marked by cultural synthesis. Instead of treating the synthesis as a marginal phenomenon, we have chosen to focus here on the very act of fusing disparate elements into new coherent wholes. Why fusion? As expressed by Michael Tenzer: “The search for fusion in music composition is like the search for the universal in the particular through research. It is the healing of the rupture one needs to heal, the spark across the arc of self-integration, the experience of fealty to (at least) two beloved traditions; the fusing of sameness and difference….”

While this perspective is manifest in most of the essays in this book, there is much variation and differentiation between the authors: some contributors, such as Feliu Gasull and Golfam Khayam come from strongly delineated traditions—flamenco and Persian ethnic music respectively; others, such as Michael Tenzer, create more “Frankensteinian” fusion between several traditions – in his case, Balinese, South Indian and Western music; and yet others, such as Maurice Ohana, synthesize not only diverse geo-aesthetic musical roots (Spanish cante jondo and North African) but historically removed ones as well (16th century Spanish Renaissance and plainchant).

Regarding the works that are built upon traditional ethnic sources, one detail might need a little elucidation: to an ethnomusicologist, the present book might seem somewhat abstract or diluted, although to a composer-performer, we hope, it will appear relevant and very much to the point. For a composer it is not necessary to know an ethnomusicological subject to the level of expertise of a professional ethnomusicologist: what is necessary is the extent of mastery required by the kind of structure he intends in his work.

The previous century abounds in examples that confirm this opinion: Bartok’s pioneering studies of Hungarian and Balkan folk music; Takemitsu’s work with shakuhachi and biwa; Steve Reich’s compositional application of West African drumming; Herbie Hancock’s Pygmy-influenced Jazz funk (Kofi Agawu 2003, p.219) and John MacLaughlin’s Jazz Rock-Indian fusions, as well as numerous other instances[1].

Whereas research studies of the previous generation of ethnomusicologists have been limited to specific and relatively narrow areas of interest, there is a concurrence of new, pioneering studies of comparative musicology and ethnomusicology (Savage, Brown 2013; Tenzer 2006), with growing interest of the present generation of composers and composer-performers who are attracted to the exploration and integration of larger areas of ethnically and idiomatically diversified music.

Multiverse Construction

 While most composer-performers in this book build syntheses between Western music and traditional sources, composer-author David Rosenboom emerges from what is known today as the artscience school of thought. Being “eclectic” does not even come close to how Rosenboom defines his work; for example: “Propositional music refers to a mode of musical thinking in which the act of composing embraces building proposed models of worlds, universes, evolution, brains, consciousness, or whole domains of thought and life, and then proceeding to make dynamical musical embodiments of these models, inviting us to experience them in spontaneously emerging sonic forms (Rosenboom 2000).

At first sight, David’s work seems like an example par excellence of the multiple modernities theory, although the transpersonal and decentered psychological quality of his work coupled with time-relativism and formal freedom could not have come out of any other modernist movement but that of the West. Interestingly, the fact that the idea of multiple modernities comes out of the relativistic Western modernity, does not mean that it necessarily contains all the modernities; its very relativism makes it a specific type of modernity[2].

The “Other Standards”

 If the traditionalist jazz musicians choose their thematic material from among the hits of the popular music of its day—“standards”—contemporary jazz composer-performers have many other options on the table. Bruce Arnold deconstructs and then reconstructs masterpieces from the classical music repertoire, from the early music madrigals of Monteverdi to Messiaen’s “Quatuor pour la fin du temps”.

Arnold explains: “If one wants to express one’s self within a musical language, either a total immersion within that language (for instance playing many pieces of music of similar compositional content) is required, or one needs to learn ‘improvisational techniques’ and address form issues that relate to the structure and intent of the composer’s music. Because composers don’t write hundreds of pieces with the same internal content, the ‘improvisational technique’ learning is often the most expedient way to gain control over the material at hand.”

Contrary to the scholastic view, according to which past masterpieces remain immutably entrenched in their aesthetic and historical grandeur, they appear as an endless inspiration to the creative mind.  And fortunately, instead of being forever imprisoned in their place of static perfection, they become lively midwives to new syntheses and innovation.

Cultural Negotiations

A certain fearless, pioneering spirit is what is necessary to be able to successfully approach what the academic world calls “other” or “alterity”. My colleague, Xavier Bouvier, researches the concept of cultural translation and intercultural transaction as it appears viewed from diverse aesthetic standpoints. While the bioevolutionary view holds that “cognitive evolution does not invent new categories of behaviour. It works with, rather than replaces, the ancient emotional infrastructure, transforming it by an ever-greater understanding on the part of the actors” (de Waal, 1996), the intercultural hermeneutics acknowledges relativism, non-commensurability and uniqueness of each cultural source.

Both of these views hold their own at differing levels of hierarchies. While the bioevolutionary view explains the universal aspects of cultural infrastructure, cultural relativism gives justice to every particular aesthetic and cultural milieu. Instead of focusing on these themes, Xavier Bouvier approaches the subject of intercultural understanding and action which by including the translation of musical meaning as well as the further transaction of diverse “description-valued” cultural objects. Between the extremes of “humani nihil a me alienum puto” and “suum cuique pulchrum est” there might be a whole spectrum of discrete timbral variations on these themes depending on our approach and the flexibility of our mindset.

Dusan Bogdanovic, Geneva, 29 August, 2017



De Waal, Frans (1996). Good Natured, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, p. 78

Dissanayake, Ellen (2016) Homo Musicus: Are Humans Biologically Predisposed to be Musical?

Preyer, G. « Shmuel N. Eisenstadt: Multiple Modernities — A Paradigma of Cultural and Social Evolution » ProtoSociology, An International Journal of Interdisciplinary Research, Volume 24, 2007

Eisenstadt, S.N.  Multiple Modernities, Daedalus; Winter 2000; 129, 1; Research Library Core

Savage, P. and Brown, S. “Toward a New Comparative Musicology, Analytical Approaches to World Music” 2.2 (2013) 148-197

Kofi Agawu, Representing African Music, (Postcolonial Notes, Queries, Positions), 2003 Routledge, p.219

Tenzer, Michael “Analytical Studies in World Music”. 2006, Oxford University Press, New York.

[1] To take another example, György Ligeti has done an enormous amount of synthetic work in his compositions in various areas. While his knowledge of, let’s say Central African music, was most likely superficial in comparison to that of Simha Arom (who was the main inspiration for Ligeti’s writing of his African-influenced works), for the composer it was sufficient and adequate for his purposes.

[2] Habermas, Jürgen, Religion and Rationality: Essays on Reason, God and Modernity, ed. Eduardo Mendieta (Cambridge : Polity Press, 2002), p.154 « The West, molded by the Judeo-Christian tradition, must reflect on one of its great cultural achievements : the capacity for decentering one’s own perspective, self-reflection and a self-critical distancing from one’s own traditions. »