Ystad, Sweden: Uncover the Origin of Music with The European Music Archaeology Project

The history of music always fascinates me since I was a kid. I enjoy learning the origin of music and how different cultures influence its development throughout the centuries. So, when we unexpectedly discovered the Origin of Music exhibition in Ystad, Sweden, I got all excited! This exhibition was curated by the European Music Archaeology Project. Currently, the exhibition in Ystad is over, but the good news is they are touring in Europe until 2018! (You can find the link to their future venues at the end of this post!) What I heard was the exhibition was supposed to start in Rome, Italy, but somehow they weren’t ready for the show yet, so Ystad happily took over the honour of opening the show.

Let’s Talk A Little Bit About Ystad.

music archaeology sweden

Ystad is a small town in Skåne, the very southern tip of Sweden that used to be a part of Denmark centuries ago. It’s quite close to Copenhagen! In Ystad, you can still find many timber-framing architectures. Timber-framing is a method of building with heavy posts and beams. All the constructions you see in Ystad were built under Danish ruling.

The Tower Watchman at St. Mary’s Church

music archaeology sweden

The tower watchman at St. Mary’s Church is the symbol of Ystad and a living tradition. The position existed since the 1700s. Their responsibility is to watch over the city and assure the residents that everything is calm. They would toot the horn when there’s an emergency in town. Of course, nowadays they would call police instead. You can see the images and watch him in action on Ystad’s website.

The person who serves as the tower watchman today inherited his position from his father. Jim used to go to elementary school with him!

music archaeology sweden

The Greyfriars Abbey

music archaeology sweden

The Abbey was built in 1267, and it’s one of the most well-preserved medieval monasteries in Sweden! It used to be a monastery but no longer serves the purpose. Now it’s the Museum of the Cultural History of Ystad.

music archaeology sweden
We didn’t know the existence of this exhibition until we saw the sign outside of the Greyfriars Abbey. The entrance was like the door for the Habits! We were very sceptical and didn’t know if that was it. Haha.
music archaeology sweden

The Exhibition

The exhibition began with instruments recreated from the stone age. The instruments that were made of rocks, woods, and the bones of animals. The best part was we could play with almost all of them!

music archaeology sweden
music archaeology sweden

Watch the video for a series of short clips on demonstration of the instruments! (Thank you, Jim, for the beautiful performance! Haha.)

I also love their audio guide and video footages. Each audio excerpt came with an excellent demonstration of the playing of these ancient instruments. And their presentation of the videos was the most high-tech I’ve ever encountered! The audio guide would automatically hook itself up when it was in the video zone. Anyone could listen to what was playing on the screen through their headphones without disturbing the others!

music archaeology sweden
music archaeology sweden

Their media room was one of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve had at an exhibition. Aside from the massive, 360-degree giant screen and surround sound, there were bean bags for us to lay on!

The Abbey itself also has some history related to music. In fact, one of the display was discovered right here at the abbey! A drum from the bronze age! Dated all the way back to 1500–1100BC.

See more photos of the Abbey and the exhibition below!

music archaeology sweden
music archaeology sweden
This is recreated from the ancient Greek pluck-string instrument.

The show is perfect for classical music geeks, enthusiast, and people who are into archaeology. As a classical music major, I devoted a lot of my time into studying the past of my expertise. But, to be honest, I didn’t remember that one of the first found brass instruments was discovered in Scandinavia. It was very educational.

The project is at a museum in Valladolid, Spain now until May 21, 2017. You can check the exact location and where they will tour to in the future here.


Huge thanks to the European Music Archaeology Project! Connecting music and culture through travelling is one of my favourite things to do. I had a blast playing with those instruments while learning about the history.

One of my goals is to show my readers how deeply connected music is to our daily lives, no matter where they are in the world. This exhibition is an excellent example!


Have you ever been to an inspiring music exhibition? Share your experiences!

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Originally published at Notes of Jo.