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Exploring music in context- Viennese Schrammelmusik

Updated: Jul 2, 2020

For my sister's birthday, we all gathered at a "Heurigen" in Vienna to enjoy some excellent wine, fun company and listen to really good music. A perfect moment to consider how I could use this with my IBDP students (May 2022 exams).

Let me first set the scene to give you an idea about the unique setting of this musical experience. This short video was taken with my cellphone on 28 June 2020 in Vienna.

Portfolio "exploring music in context"

(taken from IBDP music guide page 26):

Exploring is one of the processes of studying and investigating music. Exploring music involves aural, kinaesthetic and scholarly research.

By exploring music in diverse contexts, students will develop their ability to:

• analyse musical material (through critical listening and by reading scores) referring to conventions and practices

• explore unfamiliar media, stimuli and techniques

• extract musical information from the music examples studied in order to identify the purpose and use of musical structures, creating conventions, performing practices and techniques.

• investigate how music is made and performed in different contexts

• listen and respond to a wide variety of music, developing aural awareness of musical devices and musical elements, such as melody, harmony, texture, tonality, structure, articulation and dynamics.

For my students, Schrammelmusik could be be seen as "local context" as our school is located in Vienna. Most probably, many will never have heard this kind of music, so for these students, this music example could also be classified as "global context". (For an overview of the different contexts, have a look at my blog post HERE)

Exploring as a researcher

What do we want the students to do in the musical analysis?

But what is Schrammelmusik and how could students use this in the context (a section of) the portfolio "exploring music in context"?

Page 27 of the guide states the following

Musical analysis, for the purpose of this course, requires students to ask some fundamental questions about any piece of studied music.

When and where?


How and why?

Let's listen to two examples.

When and where?

Where are they playing?

It could be anywhere - in the vineyard like in the example below, or in a Heurigen (according to Wikipedia a "tavern in Eastern Austria at which local winemakers serve their new wine under a special licence in alternate months during the growing season".) Schrammelmusik is also performed in concert halls, and even at the Vienna Opera ball.

What are the origins of Schrammelmusik?

(this, of course, is only a short summary - with many omissions to suit the format of a blog)

Similiar to Tango, Fado or Rembetiko, Schrammelmusik was developed in the city. And it is both folk music and art music. (information taken from the Website of Neue Wiener Concertschrammeln).

The name originates from the two brothers, Josef and Hanns Schrammel. Together with Anton Strohmayer (contraguitar) founded in 1878 a small ensemble performing traditional music in taverns and Heurigen. With the addition of Georg Dänzer (clarinet), they soon gained popularity and were welcome guests in the palaces of the high Viennese aristocracy.

How did Schrammelmusik develop?

Initially, the first violin was often the dominant voice while the other instruments played the accompaniment or counter melodies. After WWI, especially with the virtuous brothers Mikulas, the other instruments also gained more independent parts and the melody was not limited to the first violin anymore. Here is an example:

Nowadays, Schrammelmusik is also often merged with a more modern approach to harmony or other styles are influencing the new Schrammelmusik compositions.

It is interesting to note that since the beginning, the majority of musicians playing Schrammelmusik were academically trained at the Vienna music university.


Who is playing?

Two violins, an accordion - but without keys, and an unfamiliar looking guitar with two necks.

This could lead into a short investigation of the accordion and its variants as well as the investigation of the contraguitar, a local variant of the guitar. HERE is a link in German. And HERE a Wikipedia.

What is the thumbprint of Schrammelmusik? (What)

Here students would analyse a score of a chosen Schrammelmuik piece in reference to:

  • the typical use of specific intervals

  • the use of monophonic texture

  • the use of chord sequences and modulation

  • the typical accompaniment pattern

  • the relationship between the different instruments

  • etc.

How and why?

How are they playing?

Melting timbre, intensive use of vibrato, portamento, extreme rubatos,

What is the function of the different instruments?

Students will discover that the contra guitar has a double function - providing the harmonies as well as the bass line, combined in just one instrument. Hence also the double neck. One fretted (for the chords) and one un-fretted for the bass line.

Insights and outcomes

Possible focuses

  • Discuss what is unique or unexpected about this music.

    • This is in close connection to the "what" - the musical analysis. Comparisons could happen here with the original Schrammelmusik, compared to the later developments.

  • Evaluate how effectively the piece realizes its identified intention.

    • This depends on the specifically chosen piece.

  • Propose interpretations for performed music.

    • students could compare the music performed in a concert hall vs performed in the vineyard.

Collected evidence will consist of:

  • appropriate subject-specific language, including, but not limited to, musical terminology.

  • citations and accurate location of musical information in scores and recordings using bar/measure numbers and/or timings.

Collected evidence may also consist of:

  • annotated screenshots or graphics, including, but not limited to, annotated excerpts from the score.

In my opinion, it is of utmost importance that students are taught how to formally analyse a piece of music.

  • recordings of the musical excerpts.

It would be interesting to compare recordings of the same piece by different Schrammelmusik groups.

Exploring as a creator

Exploring music as a creator means to engage with creating conventions in practical ways. For creators, musical findings can be gained through arranging, improvising, notating or creating music according to specific stylistic conventions. (page 29 of the music guide)

There are many possibilities how to tackle this:

  • Students could write their own Schrammelmusik, based on the findings of the original music

  • Students could follow the more recent trends of Schrammelmusik where elements of different styles (such as blues or Brazilian traditional music) are merged with the original music. Here is a great example as inspiration:

  • Students could arrange the music for their own instrument

  • Students could take an original Schrammelmusik melody and use music technology to give it a modern twist. This would then also cover AoI 4.

  • etc.

Exploring as a performer

Exploring music as a performer means to access and engage with music in practical ways through playing and practising music from unfamiliar contexts. In this course, students gain musical findings as performers by adapting and playing music from local and global contexts on their own instruments, voiced or chosen medium. This will help students to know and better understand conventions and practices of musical styles, and how these relate to their own practice. (page 30 of the music guide)

  • Students could perform an existing piece of Schrammelmusik and adapt it for their own instrument or voice.

  • Students could explore how they could translate the portamento and vibrato if they perform on the piano.

  • Trumpet players could explore different mutes to imitate the melting timbre of Schrammelmusik.

  • Many original pieces are based on songs - if they are not, students could write their own lyrics to perform the piece.

  • Etc.

Schrammelmusik would only be one part of the portfolio

The guide states on page 30:

Note about assessment For the assessment task in “Exploring music in context”, students select one example of a creating exercise and one example of a performed adaptation as evidence of their practical understanding. For the assessment submission, these two examples will need to be chosen from different areas of inquiry. Teachers are therefore encouraged to consider this when setting the practical exercises throughout the course. Personally, I would find it very exciting if for this portfolio, students would investigate chamber music from other cultures such as :

  • Sizhu Ensemble or

  • A piece from the Modern Jazz Quartet

Many similarities can be found in these very contrasting cultures and would provide ample .

Additional sources for in depth study:

Sources in English

Sources in German

Here is the overview of the assessment outline for this component:


This is my personal interpretation of the component "Exploring Music". While I have completed the Cat 3 training for this course, this is not endorsed or approved by the IBDP Diploma Programme.

1 Comment

Samuel Wright
Samuel Wright
Apr 11, 2021

Thank you for this incredible example and walkthrough. I will be sending my students here!

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