Sunday, July 21, 2013

VocaLife is envisioned as a coordinated stream of international-comparative research projects on singing and lifelong community health in Japan and the Nordic/Baltic region of Europe.

VocaLife is collaboratively led by Professor David G. Hebert (Grieg Academy, Bergen University College, Norway), Morten Heide (Royal Academy of Music, Stockholm), and Professor Masafumi Ogawa (Yokohama National University, Japan).

Phase 1 of VocaLife is a comparison of choral singing in contemporary Japanese and Scandinavian societies. Later phases of VocaLife will expand the scope of inquiry to also consider Baltic nations, such as Latvia and Estonia.

Singing is widely recognized by psychological and medical researchers as a uniquely effective activity for stress-reduction and general mental health, and is also acknowledged by sociologists and anthropologists to be a universally meaningful practice in terms of both social integration and construction of cultural meanings. However, in contemporary industrialized consumer societies, music has increasingly become an object that is passively consumed rather than actively produced by amateurs, and in recent generations singing has gradually disappeared from the regular activities of most people. Meanwhile, social problems have proliferated, ranging from a general alienation of the aging population to even high-profile acts of mass violence among adolescents in schools.
We propose that a careful investigation of the situation in Japan and Finland will lead to important insights. Japan is highly significant in this field as home to some of the world's largest national choir competitions and festivals and popular televised singing events, as well as the origin of karaoke and related amateur vocal activities. Finland is also internationally significant as the home of many highly influential choirs and choral composers, as well as an internationally-renowned system of music education. Prominent companies such as Sony (of Japan) and Nokia (of Finland) also call for consideration, since in 2009 they became the first to offer unlimited music downloads on some mobile phones, enabling instant and free access to thousands of songs for the first time in history.

Research Contacts:
The year 2009 marked the 90th anniversary of diplomacy between Japan and Finland. According to Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, "Japan and Finland have consistently maintained a friendly relationship, since the two countries established diplomatic relations in 1919, and exchanged diplomatic missions in 1921. In recent years, the relationship between Japan and Finland has expanded steadily in not only the economic and trade areas, but also in the cultural and academic fields. Japan concluded in 1978 a cultural agreement with Finland, which was the first of this kind among the Nordic countries." Norway also has a close relationship with Japan, having formally established diplomatic relations in 1905. 
VocaLife has established contacts with the Finnish Institute in Japan via the Embassy of Finland in Tokyo. Grant applications will be proposed to obtain financial support for VocaLife research endeavors in association with the Nordic research network NNIMIPA

Principal Investigators


Prospective Advisory Board: (to be confirmed)

Related Publications:
  • Hebert, D. G., Kallio, A. A. & Odendaal, A. (2012). "Not So Silent Night: Tradition, Transformation, and Cultural Understandings of Christmas Music Events in Helsinki, Finland".  Ethnomusicology Forum, Vol. 21, No.3, pp.402-423. 
  • Hebert, D. G. & Heimonen, M. (2013). “Public Policy and Music Education in Norway and Finland,” Arts Education Policy Review, Vol. 114, No. 3, special issue on “Cosmopolitanism and Policy” (pp.135-148). 
  • Hebert, D. G. (2012, in press). “International Comparisons in the Improvement of Education,” Signum Temporis: Journal of Research in Pedagogy and Psychology, Vol. 5 [based on keynote speech for Theory for Practice in the Education of Contemporary Society, Riga, Latvia].