University of Calgary

Friedemann Sallis

  • Professor Emeritus of the School of Creative and Performing Arts

Research Interests

Currently Teaching

Not currently teaching any courses.


Friedemann Sallis is Professor at the University of Calgary. Before coming to Calgary in 2006, he taught for nineteen years at the Université de Moncton. He obtained his PhD in musicology under the direction of the late Carl Dahlhaus at the Technische Universität Berlin. His writings include Music Sketches (Cambridge University Press, forthcoming), the Introduction to the early works of György Ligeti (Cologne, 1996), the co-edition of A Handbook to Twentieth-Century Musical Sketches (Cambridge University Press, 2004), and the co-edition of Centre and Periphery, Roots and Exile: Interpreting the music of István Anhalt, György Kurtág and Sándor Veress (Wilfrid Laurier Unversity Press, 2011), as well as numerous articles on twentieth-century music in Contemporary Music Review, Rivista di Analisi e Teoria Musicale, Circuit. Musiques contemporaines, Studia Musicalogica and Intersections: Canadian Journal of Music/Revue canadienne de musique, among others. He is currently preparing a collection of essays on live electronic music that will be published by Routledge. His areas of expertise include sketch studies, the interaction of historical and theoretical perspectives in twentieth-century music, the cultural study of music and the study of new music that escapes conventional notation. He has received Fellowship Grants from the Paul Sacher Foundation (Basel) and since 1997 he has been awarded five successive research grants by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.


As an undergraduate at Queen’s University in the early 1970s, I came across the following quote:

“Thank God there are no free schools or printing; … for learning has brought disobedience and heresy into the world, and printing has divulged them… God keep us from both.” Sir William Berkeley, Governor of Virginia d. 1677

The quote serves as an incipit for a book entitled Teaching as a Subversive Activity, the contents of which have nourished my career as a teacher ever since. Unlike poor old Sir Berkeley, I believe that education imbued with critical thinking that subverts conventional habits of thought can improve the human condition.

Pursuance of a university degree in music requires a good ear, talent, intelligence, motivation, perseverance and maturity. It is hard work, and as all musicians know, it may not lead to a ‘job,’ but it can set the degree holder on a path of discovery and, as Glenn Gould put it, a lifelong construction of a state of wonder and serenity.

Since I began teaching (Université Laval, Québec 1980), I have always thought that success should not be measured in the amount of data students are able to assimilate, but in what the students are able to do with this data. Knowing that Bach died in 1750 or that Beethoven wrote nine symphonies is useless. It only becomes useful once we begin to construct compelling arguments or to deconstruct erroneous conclusions. Thus rather than merely knowing facts, students need to acquire the musical and communication skills to put those facts to work to make the world around them a better place.

Finally, as a teacher, I have always felt that it is important to destabilise received wisdom and so-called common sense. One way to do this is to expose students to different accents and perspectives that they might not otherwise encounter. Since 2007, I have set up a number of video conference lecture exchanges with colleagues in Canada and elsewhere, who have enriched the experience of my students and enhanced our understanding of the world. 


  • PhD - Musicology
    Technische Universität Berlin, 1992
  • MMus - analyse et écriture
    Université Laval, Québec,, 1983
  • AA - Flute
    Royal Conservatory, Toronto, Ontario, 1979
  • BMus Honours
    Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, 1976
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