Michael Frishkopf

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Dr. Michael Frishkopf
Professor and Director of Graduate Studies, Department of Music

Director, Canadian Centre for Ethnomusicology (CCE) (cce.ualberta.ca)
Adjunct Professor, Department of Performing Arts, Faculty of Communication and Media Studies, University for Development Studies, Ghana

Mail: Michael Frishkopf, Department of Music, Faculty of Arts, University of Alberta, 3-10 Fine Arts Building, Edmonton, AB CANADA T6G 2C9
Office: 334D Old Arts Building
Tel: Skype: (617) 275-2589; office: (780) 492-0225. Music Dept: (780) 492-3263
Fax: Music Dept: (780) 492-9246. CCE (780) 492-0242
Web: http://frishkopf.org
ORCID: http://orcid.org/0000-0002-8630-0623
Email is preferable for all initial communications.


Michael Frishkopf, Professor of Music, and Director of the Canadian Centre for Ethnomusicology, as well as Adjunct Professor at the University for Development Studies (Ghana), is an ethnomusicologist, performer, and composer. A graduate of Yale College (BS Mathematics, 1984), Tufts University (MA Ethnomusicology, 1989), and the University of California, Los Angeles (Ph.D. Music, 1999), Dr. Frishkopf’s ethnomusicological research interests include music of the Arab world; Sufi music; sound in Islamic ritual performance; music and religion; comparative music theory; the sociology of musical taste; social network analysis; (virtual [world) music]; digital music repositories; machine learning for sound recognition, music information retrieval, and soundscape therapies; music in West Africa; participatory action research; psychoacoustics and music cognition; music and global health; indigenous medicine and music as medicine for integrative health; and music for global human development and social change.

His research and teaching combine a number of different fields, including ethnomusicology, anthropology, Middle East studies, religious/Islamic studies, psychoacoustics, computer science, media studies, literary studies, music theory. He is a lifetime member of the Society for Ethnomusicology, the International Council for Traditional Music, the Canadian Society for Traditional Music, and the Middle East Studies Association of North America. He is also a member of the International Association for Music & Medicine (IAMM), and the North American Association of Islamic and Muslim Studies (NAAIMS).

He has received numerous fellowships supporting his research, including grants from Fulbright, the American Research Center in Egypt, the Social Science Research Council, the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, the Killam Foundation (Canada), the National Endowment for the Humanities, Canada Foundation for Innovation, New Frontiers in Research Fund, and the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

In performance, Michael specializes in the nay (Middle Eastern reed flute), and also performs the song-drum-dance traditions of Ghana. He is the founder (in 2004) of the University of Alberta Middle Eastern and North African Music Ensemble, as well as the University of Alberta West African Music Ensemble (in 1999). Both ensembles perform frequently in public in the Edmonton area, especially to support progressive causes. He also performs “Third Stream” and world music inflected jazz on the piano, following studies with Ran Blake and others in the Third Stream program at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston.

Some current projects include:



Curriculum Vitae

Research Creation

For a summary of research creation projects, please see here.

Select Publications

See also ResearchGate.net and Academia.edu


Awards and Honors

Some recent talks and lectures

Music and Health

Evidence-based research in Music and Sound Therapies

Music and sound for wellness

Music and sound for mental health and wellness

HEAR Music Alberta

Giving Voice to Health: M4GHD ethnomusicology

Music, Sound, and AI

Applied Ethnomusicology

Music for Global Human Development


In recent years, I’ve moved sharply towards an engaged ethnomusicology, centered on what I call music and global human development, collaborating on production of “traditional” and “popular” musics (including media and music education) as tools for global development of communities marginalized and disempowered by colonialism and its aftermath, on either side of the North-South divide between “developed” and “developing” nations. Such work follows a participatory action research paradigm, ideally engaging local communities as equals, and subjecting all work to critical reflective scrutiny.

There are two main directions to this work:

For a recent writeup, see this story.

Songs for sustainable peace and development

A set of participatory action research projects centered on the use of popular music to disseminate development messages, especially for key development issues in public health, education, religious/ethnic tolerance, and peace. I have been working primarily in collaboration with Liberian refugee musicians in Ghana, and recent returnees to Liberia, helping them articulate and disseminate musical messages of peace and development, producing media with a triple purpose: catalyzing positive social change locally, raising awareness globally, and generating a revenue stream to support their musical communities.

Several songs and a music video have been completed or are in progress; see http://bit.ly/songsspd.

Also see:

Music for cultural continuity and civil society

Projects for cultural continuity, supporting Ewe music of Ghana, El Mastaba Centre for Egyptian Folk Music, the Egyptian Centre for Culture and Art, and AMAR (Foundation for Arab Music Archiving and Research), Beirut, including consulting as a member of the Board. Media products are designed to catalyze local social progress, raise global awareness, and generate a revenue stream for local musicians.

  • Traditional Ghanaian music culture
    • Collaboration with traditional Ghanaian musicians on Kinka: Traditional songs of Avenorpedo, to sustain and develop traditional music
    • Mobilizing scholarship for talented but underprivileged Ghanaian musicians, such as Kofi Avi, so they can complete a well-rounded education.
  • Traditional Egyptian music culture
    • Collaboration with El Mastaba Center for Egyptian Folk Music, Cairo, to preserve, archive, document and develop Egyptian music. We are developing an applied research project to support digitization and metadata tagging for El Mastaba's extensive collections, while simultaneously providing training in these procedures to enable sustainability, with in-kind support through secure offsite storage at the University of Alberta.
    • Collaboration with Egyptian Center for Culture and Art, Cairo: To encourage the diversity, specificity and vibrancy of Egypt's cultural scene. Have provided advisory support.
    • Collaboration with AMAR (Foundation for Arab Music Archiving and Research), Beirut: to preserve and disseminate archival recordings of traditional Arab music from the early 20th century. Member of the Board of Directors.
  • World music presentations to local Edmonton schools and daycares (ongoing series of presentations, at the University of Alberta, or onsite)
  • Local community outreach through performance U of A Senate to celebrate campus volunteers

Relevant publications on M4GHD

Multimedia projects

Documentary video

Documentary audio

Virtual and Augmented Reality

Digital repositories

  • Sounding Islam (in progress)
  • Wahba-Alexandru Egyptian folklore project (in progress)
  • Principal Investigator and project director, VMCTM: Virtual Museum of Canadian Traditional Music. Sponsored by Virtual Museum Canada and the Canadian Heritage Information Network. (funded by Canadian Heritage Information Network). Managed complex three year development, including over a dozen participants, a partnership with Smithsonian Folkways, and a $175,000 budget. In French and English.
  • Musical change in a West African Village. Ongoing (2007-2010) collaborative research project carried out together with students participating in the UofA Ghana summer program, led by Michael Frishkopf.
  • SonoCairo searchable web 2.0 catalog. Relational database containing metadata for several thousand cassette recordings produced by the Egyptian state recording company (SonoCairo) from 1962 to present, based on Egypt research 2003-04 (in development)


  • [virtual(worldmusic)
    • Folkways in Wonderland: An immersive collaborative virtual environment for browsing world music and doing ethnomusicology. Constructed in collaboration with colleagues in computer science at the University of Aizu, Japan, and in partnership with Smithsonian Folkways, with support from folkwaysAlive! and SSHRC (approx. $20,000 to date)
    • World Music in Wonderland (WMiW).
  • MuDoc (Music/Multimedia Documentation) peer-reviewed federated world music web digital repository. Designed digitial repository for music multimedia (text, score, audio, video), supported by funding from Sun Microsystems, Alberta Ministry of Innovation and Science, and the University of Alberta (over $300,000 total).
  • biofeedback microtonal ear training... (in progress)

Collaborative projects

Educational programs

Musical composition, improvisation, performance

Some recent work:

Berberophone album "Nay"

The Trancecultural Orchestra

work with Indian music virtuoso Deepak Paramashivan

Third Stream version of Blowin in the Wind, by Bob Dylan (1963) - featuring Jenny Boutros with traditional mawwal introduction (melody by Jenny Boutros). Performed March 14, 2017, Convocation Hall, University of Alberta. (Full event here.)

Compositions are here (ignore links below) (and notes) ...

  • Insonations at the shrine of Jamila Hanem in Cairo
  • Nyewe Blues (performed at the 2014 meeting of the Society for Ethnomusicology) Click here for scores and instructions
  • Helen's Necklace (several versions, and score), composed and performed for Carole Frechette's acclaimed play, and performed in 2005, at the Shadow Theatre
  • Spacings, for two pianos and two flutes, inspired by forms of traditional Zimbabwean mbira music (2007)
  • BaAka Soundings, a stochastic piece for variable-sized ensemble including mixed chorus, bell, and percussion sticks. Programmed in R, drawing on melodic cells and polyphonic style of the BaAka people, Central African Republic. Composed for a production of The Ik, by Colin Turnbull; directed by Heather Fitzsimmons, and performed at Edmonton’s Walterdale Playhouse, 2000.
  • e-Dhikr (finale), inspired by Sufi sounds of Cairo. Composed and performed (entirely) by M. Frishkopf, with nay, percussion, voice, and looper. (2008)
  • Kurd, neo-takht composition/improvisational frame, premiered at the Dignity of Difference conference, 2009.
  • For Marcel Khalife (rough sketch version). (2010)
  • 40,000[19], Third Stream composition/improvisation (performed at Amnesty International's Small Places concert, University of Alberta, October 2008, towards awareness of political prisoners of the Arab world,). Inspired by Ran Blake, 3rd Stream, Arabic maqam, the Muslim adhan (call to prayer), and Olivier Messiaen's birdsongs and modes of limited transposition. (Michael Frishkopf, piano)

Nay improvisations...

  • Nay 1 (Edmonton Sound Sessions) (2010)
  • Nay 2 (Edmonton Sound Sessions) (2010)

Nay for The Color of Your Voice

Concerts, workshops, and conferences

(a sample)


For broken links try https://web.archive.org/ - unfortunately most organizations (even universities!) don't consider their publications worthy of long-term preservation, and allow links to expire with every website reorganization. Luckly, the founders of http://archive.org believe otherwise!


"Listen to everything all the time and remind yourself when you are not listening." -- Pauline Oliveros

"After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music" -- Aldous Huxley

Ethnomusicology provides the broadest possible frame for studying music; as "the meaningful social-linguistic-sonic practice of studying music as a meaningful social-linguistic-sonic practice" ethnomusicology achieves recursive breadth: it becomes a legitimate object of its own study (Frishkopf 2016).

“My soul is a hidden orchestra; I know not what instruments, what fiddlestrings and harps, drums and tamboura I sound and clash inside myself. All I hear is the symphony.” -- Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet

"Music is living sound" -- Willard Rhodes

Music is more than sound, for silence is also music -- Michael Frishkopf

"I have nothing to say and I'm saying it" -- John Cage

"Music, in performance, is a type of sculpture. The air in the performance is sculpted into something.” -- Frank Zappa

"Music is among the most powerful of all social technologies" -- M. Frishkopf

"The craft of singing...is the first to disappear from a given civilization when it disintegrates and retrogresses." - Ibn Khaldun, 14th century

"The loudest noise in the world is silence." -- Thelonious Monk


My Egypt (a map)

Mohamed Fawzy Association

University of Ghana - Department of Music website (from circa 2010)