The following issues of the world of music (new series) are forthcoming. Issue #1 of a given volume is scheduled to appear in June, issue #2 is scheduled to appear in December.
.:: the world of music (new series) Volume 6, Issue 1 (2017)
Aesthetics of Interculturality in East Asian Contemporary Music
.:: the world of music (new series) Volume 6, Issue 2 (2017)
Sounding Ethnicity: New Perspectives on Music, Identity, and Place
.:: the world of music (new series) Volume 7, Issue 1 (2018)
Sharing space? Sharing culture? Applied experiments in music-making across borders
.:: Content of the Forthcoming Issues
.:: Jazz in South Africa
the world of music (new series) Volume 5, Issue 2 (2016)
Guest Editor: Nishlyn Ramanna
.:: Table of Contents
CHRISTOPHER BALLANTINE: INTERVIEW WITH WINSTON MANKUNKU
.:: Individual Paper Abstracts
On Joyce’s Death: Domestication, Romance and Gender Politics in King Kong: An African Jazz Opera
Research and critical scholarship on King Kong has tended to focus on the jazz opera’s male protagonist, King Kong: on how his position in the staged township world provides a critique of apartheid in late-1950s South Africa. Despite the challenges posed by revisionist feminist scholarship on this era, discussion of Joyce’s murder – which is based on King Kong’s considerably more brutal murder of his real-life partner, Maria Miya – has not proceeded apace. This article interrogates the position of women in King Kong’s moral and political economy. It argues that many of the questions that have continued to perplex scholars about King Kong – the lack of a political antagonist and the tension between the play’s progressive intent and liberal-conservative politics – can be partially resolved by a gendered critique of the show. The paper is influenced by the critical interventions of postcolonial feminist scholars, in particular those whose work highlights both the marginalisation and the problematic insertion of women in discourses and imaginings of the postcolonial (and, more recently, post-apartheid) nation. It explores the role of domestic space in the construction women in the play, the ambivalent role of romance in the absence of such domestication, and how these dynamics are portrayed musically. Such a critique contributes to earlier ethno/musicological writings on jazz and gender in early apartheid’s musical worlds.
A wholistic understanding of mbaqanga within the diversity of black South African popular music idioms is challenged by momentous developments in South African recording and broadcasting, as well as politically and socially disruptive events characterising black subjectivity under apartheid at the turn of the 1960s. The effective collusion between white-controlled institutions of power – the legislative, economic and radio broadcasting achieved a disarticulation of ideological (and historical) continuities between post-1960s mbaqanga idioms of mgqashiyo, sax-jive, isimanje-manje and their stylistic/ideological rootedness in the earliest domestications of the American big-band swing and jazz influence in South Africa. Using the example of mbaqanga (aka marabi-jazz, African jazz, majuba jazz, Bantu jazz, township swing, township jazz), this piece examines a disjunctive construction since the 1960s, of mbaqanga as a legacy of mediated jazz influences on black South African popular music.
CHRISTOPHER BALLANTINE: INTERVIEW WITH WINSTON MANKUNKU
This paper explores the challenges, constraints and opportunities of black independent jazz music production during the apartheid era. It focus on the experience of Rashid Vally, producer of the iconic As-Shams (the Sun) record label which produced seminal albums by Abdullah Ibrahim (aka Dollar Brand); Basil Coetzee, Pops Mohammed, Pat Matshikiza, Lionel Pillay, Sathima Bea Benjamin and Kippie Moeketsie amongst other. The paper examines the distinctiveness of Vally's approach to music production, the "underground" aesthetic of musical resistance as symbolized in album cover art, label naming and song titles and the means by which a distinctively South African "out there" jazz tradition was developed by Vally for popular consumption in township communities. The paper concludes on the legacy of the As-shams label in the context of jazz appreciation in a democratic South Africa.
This paper considers the changing aesthetics and political valences of South African jazz as viewed through the lens of South African fiction. In particular I am interested in the literary portrayal of jazz in South Africa during the latter years of the apartheid era. My paper focuses primarily on the “jazz novels” of Mandla Langa, Mongane Wally Serote, and Fred Khumalo. These literary works are all narrated through the medium of music, even when, as in the case of Serote’s To Every Birth its Blood, the subject matter is not ostensibly about music or musicians.
The events narrated in each of these three novels are all about the same time period, the epicenter of which are the political (and artistic) engagement newly intensified after the Soweto uprising in 1976 and the wild fire spread of the struggle for emancipation throughout the country. While all of these works use the same time period as their setting, each work was written in different decades. Serote’s novel was first published in 1978, Langa’s A Rainbow on the Paper Sky in 1989, and Khumalo’s Bitches’ Brew in 2006. The ways in which the music and the musicians are depicted reflect not only the differences between the authors’ perceptions of the music and its import, but also the different historical and social moments that obtained at the time of their writing.
Taken together these literary works provide a kaleidoscopic portrait of one of the most complex and most significant jazz cultures in the world. I want to explore the extent to which jazz culture in South Africa reflects, portends, and informs the social history of the nation.
Drawing on a larger ethnographic study of contemporary jazz culture in post-apartheid South Africa, this article demonstrates that the significance of jazz can productively be understood from the perspective of listeners, complementing the necessary attention that has historically been afforded to the creators and performers of the music. It describes the rich social life that has emerged around jazz among associations of listeners, across the twentieth century and into the post-apartheid era. In these social contexts, a semi-public culture of listening has been created, it is argued, that is distinct from the formal jazz recording, broadcast and festival sectors, and extends across various social, cultural, linguistic and related boundaries to constitute a vibrant dimension of vernacular musical life. South African jazz appreciation societies illustrate that collecting recordings may be a global phenomenon but that cultural commodities can take on quite particular social lives in specific times and places. The article demonstrates, moreover, that what is casually referred to as “the jazz audience” is an internally variegated and often enduringly segregated constellation of scenes, several of which remain quite intimate and, indeed, beyond the view of the “general public.” The study foregrounds how one specific dimension of jazz culture – the modes of sociability with which the music has become associated among its listening devotees – can assume decidedly local forms and resonances, becoming part of the country’s jazz heritage in its own right and throwing into relief the potential breadth, range and contrasts in the ways that jazz writ large can be figured and recontextualised as it is vernacularized around the world. The study recognizes the significant role that jazz appreciation societies continue to play in creating culturally resonant grassroots social settings for this music.
Singing Our Own Song?
How inappropriate policy models constrain the creative lives of South African jazz players
Gwen Ansell & Helena Barnard
This paper considers an aspect of the sociology of South African jazz: how performers see their careers and make and play music and how this is impacted by national policies. Effective policy models and recommendations need to be accurately reflective of context. South Africa has typically employed models derived from high-income music industries: the UK, Australia, the United States – all countries that take an individual enterprise development approach. This approach is pervasive: even a supra-national entity such as UNCTAD reflects a bias towards developed economies as paradigms for growing successful musicians. This is reflected in South Africa at all levels, from how government expresses cultural aspirations, to how support structures are constructed for individual jazz musicians.
However, at all these levels South Africa offers a strikingly different set of conditions and traditions. All musicians in developing countries emerge from a deeply rooted tradition of collective community organization and support, rather than necessarily identifying with the individualist, small-firm approach of high-income nation cultural policies. This is especially true of South African jazz because of the role the music played in struggle and resistance under apartheid. Markets here are much smaller, fragmented for cultural, economic and historical reasons into niches, where jazz has a particular place. Individual players operate in contexts that are less well resourced in physical and financial terms, but with extremely rich relational and cultural capital to draw on, and relatively well-developed digital access. One alternative developing-country model is that of Brazil, with its musicians’ collectives and off-axis circuits. In Brazil this model has seen the growth of a national performance network generating $44M+ annually for live music and healthy earning opportunities for many individual players. There are many similarities in context between the Brazilian and South African live performance scenes, including genre and regional fragmentation, digital access, and collectivist traditions.
This paper traces the influence of highly developed countries on South African policy towards live music and the reasons for it. More importantly, through in-depth interviews with South African jazz musicians and organisers, it explores how the lessons of Brazil directly challenge aspects of current South African live music policy and provision, and pose alternatives that could enrich the creative lives of players by building on already-existing collectivist traditions and relational capital. It contributes to a growing body of literature about how musicians conceptualise and conduct their working lives and the role of appropriate – or not – policy in this.
.:: Aesthetics of Interculturality in East Asian Contemporary Music
the world of music (new series) Volume 6, Issue 1 (2017)
The beginning of the 21st century marks a new era in which globalization is no longer seen as a byproduct of Westernization, but a process of intercultural exchange. More than any other time in history, composers, performers and educators from all over the world have turned to the music expressivities of East Asian countries such as Korea, China, Taiwan and Japan for creative inspiration. Artists based in these countries, as well, have tapped the breadth of musical traditions as they seek to establish a place in the realm of international composition. China, Japan, Korea and Taiwan share something in common: a general acceptance of Western music as the basis of contemporary musical development and change. Perhaps the most defining element of this affinity is the ‘interculturality’ seemingly inexorable to the very concept of contemporary composition. Despite the wholesale acceptance of European art music as ‘modern’ music in the mid-20th century, all four of these Northeast Asian countries simultaneously acknowledge the importance of traditional music to the identity of a modern nation. Acknowledged, as well, is the somewhat marginal status these music traditions held within rapidly developing 20th and 21st century society. Consequently, ‘modernization’ of musical heritage has involved mixing heterogeneous music trends and the marking of new compositions as ‘East Asian’ has implied the strategic use of ‘tradition.’ The articles in this special issue explore such developments in Northeast Asia. By examining the particularities of nation, genre, musical root and composer identity, each paper both explores and questions the validity of the interculturality construct in composition.
Guest Editors: Hee Sook Oh and Hilary Vanessa Finchum-Sung
.:: Table of Contents
.:: Individual paper abstracts
For many East Asian nations mid-20th century, the concept of national identity formed the nucleus in considerations of modernity and internationalization, with both seen as central to building a globally competitive nation after World War II. In the world of music composition, as well, a new national music encompassed harnessing heritage while refreshing it in the light of modernity. Many scholars of 20th century music-making in East Asia tend to look skeptically upon such revision of tradition using European classical music idioms and structures, dismissing it as a product of Westernization. Some contend that such new works reveal little of local cultural identities. Although admittedly many aspects of European classical performance developments from the 1950s on (such as the European traditional orchestral format) have yielded a heavy influence, examination of developments in ‘national’ musics reveal much more than a fusion and/or confusion of Eastern and Western traditions. This paper seeks to redirect common underestimations of the influence of local and social context in the process of music composition. Through a focus on the representative works of late-20th century East Asian composers Isang Yun(1917-1995)’ <Exemplum in Memoriam Gwangju>(1981), Hosokawa Toshio(1955-)’ < Voiceless Voice in Hiroshima>(2000) and Zhu Jian'er(1922-)’ <Symphony No.6>(1992-1994), the paper suggests an approach that looks beyond fusion to one that incorporates that impact of national cultural memory on the aesthetics of modernity.
Contemporary composition for Korean traditional instruments gained momentum in the late 1950s. While the earliest composition recognized as something other than traditional music of the court and folk repertoire was composed in 1939, the socio-political climate of the 1940s and 1950s did not nurture active creative endeavors. Once the new Republic of Korea began to seek a modern identity in the late 1950s, artists began to contribute to this cultural milieu. The model for composition drew on the ideals of the Western composer, identifying composition as an academic endeavor within which the composer and performer played separate roles. Because ‘composition’ was defined locally as a Western tradition, there were no standards for composing gugak (Korean traditional music). Rather, the earliest 20th century composers received training in Western compositional techniques and applied these to works designed for gugak instrumentation. The key to development, it seemed, rested in combining something Western with something Korean. Even in the popular music realm, fusion (a combination of gugak instrumentation with instruments such as keyboards, guitars and drum kits) was seen as the method for developing gugak, reinforcing the paradigm that gugak development depending on blending with Western instruments, musical structures and idioms. Nevertheless, some composers have defied this assumption by seeking development within gugak itself. This paper examines the role of key musicians and composers in seeking alternative methods for creating new music suitable for gugak instrumentation.
The discourse on the music of the first wave of post-war Japanese composers of international recognition (Takemitsu, Ishii, Mayuzumi) has more or less centered around the interculturality of “East and West,” i.e. the congruence of their sensitivity toward their own heritage with the skilled absorption of western compositional craft. What has been largely absent from this discourse is an inquiry into the “sources” of that heritage. Following the turbulent war years, composers who came of age in the wake of Japan’s defeat assumed cultural amnesia, turning their back to “Japaneseness” that to them embodied moral depravation and creative backwardness. Then the change to that mental frame was brought by non-Japanese composers, among them John Cage, whose de-politicization of “Eastern” tradition, as well as the aestheticization thereof, urged Japanese counterparts to re-contextualize a broad range of Japan-derived craft, from ma (silence) to gagaku ensemble writing. Alongside this, the “Japanese” or “Eastern” sound became a cultural commodity (in the Adornian sense), to be consumed and reproduced, which would render non-Japanese composers a sense of a privileged alternative and Japanese ones an assurance of authenticity. Should this phenomenon invite a critical inquiry into the question of domination, as Adorno would urge, or simply be interpreted as an example of cultural equilibrium? This question underscores the focus of this paper.
Tradition in its most general modern sense is a particularly difficult word. Although its Latin root tradere indicates a handing over, modern applications usually entail either a conservative value associated with responsibility and honor or opposition to everything modern and innovative. It should not be forgotten that the term tradition translated into East Asian languages was also a modern invention, first introduced by Japanese writers who used it specifically for cultural heritage in opposition to modern, scientific ways of civilization (Japanese: 伝統 Dento; Chinese: 傳統 Chuantong; Korean: 전통 Jeontong).The negotiation of tradition in modern music has been a common theme in discussions among composers and scholars in East Asia since the first half of the twentieth century. Such discussions, however, have been rarely discussed in conjunction with parallel reflections on tradition in postwar European new music, which are no less intense than those of East Asia. This paper draws on recent transnational studies of post-war avant-gardism in music and its connection with Cold War cultural politics. The paper draws on examples from post-war East Asian discussions by composers and scholars and relates these to those documented by their contemporaneous European counterparts, including eminent European figures such as Theodor W. Adorno, Carl Dahlhaus, Rodolph Stephan, and Hermann Danuser. By re-articulating these discussions within the context of Cold War cultural politics, this paper ponders the different ramifications of ‘tradition’ in postwar new music discussions. The paper aims to re-examine this trend of thought, with special caution to avoid a presumption from an East-West binary opposition, so that a more entangled web of the history, a histoire croisée can be revealed.
Interculturality is a concept crucial to contemporary music composed in Korea. Instead of a simple assumption of fusion of musical forms, interculturality represents groundedness integral and inseparable from the identity of the composer. In this case, when studying the work of contemporary Korean composers, the questions of to what extent and in what form both personal and cultural contexts emerge in musical theme and form are often relevant. This paper will examine inteculturality as evident in the compositions of Tai-Bong Chung (1952- ). Like many contemporary Korean composers, Chung’s training and experience in composing within the European art tradition underscore his approach to composition. At the same time, while not consciously writing ‘Korean’ contemporary music, his own personal history and aesthetics accord with the cultural and social history of his country. Like many Korean composers, Chung’s work seemingly oscillates between two worlds. Yet, Chung rationalizes this liminality by embracing a perspective of universalism. Chung notes the act of composition, for him, to be akin to “an astronomer looking at the world through a telescope.” In this way, Chung sidesteps the spurious path of ‘fusion’ to one of individualism. While not denying his Korean roots, Chung’s work pledges allegiance to neither Korean nor European traditions, but to the world of sound possibilities. To explore Chung’s compositional perspective, the paper analyzes his string quintet Double Variation based on Jindo- and Milyang-Arirang(2004) and symphonic poem Korea (2008).
Sounding Ethnicity: New Perspectives on Music, Identity, and Place
the world of music (new series) Volume 6, Issue 2 (2017)
.:: Table of Contents
.:: Individual paper abstracts
This essay reconsiders 'Ethnicity, Identity and Music' in the light of the now all-too obvious limitations of the then prevailing structural-functionalist anthropology, and the challenges of approaches to questions of ethnicity posed by more recenttheorizations of affect, materiality and voice.
Who are the Laz? Ethnicity and the Musical Public Sphere on the Turkish Black Sea Coast
Thomas Solomon (Grieg Academy, University of Bergen)
In his 2010 book The Republic of Love: Cultural Intimacy in Turkish Popular Music, Martin Stokes uses the metaphor of commercial recordings being “in conversation with each other” to talk about the ways that mass-mediated songs dialogically construct contrasting subject positions and competing sets of aesthetic and civic values related to Turkish national identity. Using that metaphor as a starting point, in this article I examine contrasting discursive representations and musical embodiments of identity on the eastern Black Sea coast of northern Turkey, home to
an ethnolinguistic group known as the Laz. Vastly different ways of musically performing Laz identity co-exist in the contemporary Turkish mediascape, ranging from racialized stereotypes of the Laz trickster-buffoon to guitar-wielding
cosmopolitan troubadours. These contrasting versions of “Laz-ness” are effectively in dialogue with each other, constituting a kind of musical public sphere that provides a multitude of competing subject positions that listeners may adopt and position themselves in relation to. This musical dialogue about Laz identity occurs not primarily through rational public discourse, as in the classic Habermasian model of the European bourgeois public sphere, but through a complex interaction of discursive representations and embodied multimedia performative gestures. Such
embodied gestures may be textualized in the form of commercial multimedia products (e.g. CDs and cassettes, album art, music videos), but are also experienced by viewers and listeners as performative embodiments of identity. Visual representations of the Laz body (especially the male body) also interact complexly with musical sounds to create diverse, competing Laz ethnic subjectivities.
The adoption of numerous digital recording technologies, including computer-based non-linear editing and digital signal processing, began in the late 1970s but by 2000 had revolutionized music production worldwide. Although their adoption was part of a broader paradigm shift in the domain of musical practice, to date there has been little consideration of the impact of such technologies on the social structuring of recording work, conceptualizations of musical competence, or the materiality of music itself. Furthermore, discussion of the digital has tended to universalize its ontological and aesthetic dimensions, ignoring local articulations and the continued vitality of acoustic instruments and instrumentalists within what Georgina Born termed “hybrid digital literacies” (2011). In this article I suggest an approach to thinking through musical instruments as interfaces to digital technologies, and musicians as “indirect users” (Oudshoorn and Pinch 2005) of digital audio workstations. As a case study, I will look at Istanbul’s studio musicians who specialize in folk instruments and performances of minority etnik muziği. Such musicians developed new modes of playing for/with the computer and are keenly aware of the potentials for subsequent editing and signal processing, which in tandem with the work of audio engineers resulted in new aesthetic paradigms. As recorded music has been a key space for Kurdish, Laz and Alevi identity politics (Bates 2010), I hope to open up a way of thinking through what Jane Bennett has termed “thing-power” (2010) in relation to iconic musical instruments and the politics of their recorded, digitized soundings.
In March 2013, in the midst of ongoing democratic transitions in the Republic of Guinea, an emergency meeting was called by a group of citizens alarmed at recent events. Speakers railed urgently against the current “crisis” and called on the government to work with them to find a solution. Yet it was not violence or electoral fraud that they wished to address, but rather a musical crisis – a crisis stemming from a protest song. In this article, I will examine the ways in which democratization creates new forms of creative practice, new vocabularies and new sources of public anxiety. After a half century of authoritarian rule, Guinea is now experimenting with its first moments as a democracy. In this transformation, old forms and habits are being questioned, yet new ones are met with reluctance and skepticism. For musicians, audiences and state officials alike, protest music represents one such form. Concerns are raised that it is too divisive, too inflammatory, too foreign. Instead, many musicians have turned to songs of peace and reconciliation, calling for national unity and an end to ethnocentrism. Yet, as I show, these songs often serve as implicit means to support the incumbent regime, and as a veiled critique of multiparty politics. Songs exhorting against ethnocentrism must thus be read through the current unease, as Guinea shifts from political and aesthetic knowns to an uncertain future. These tensions reveal knotty, contradictory expectations and desires of what music does in the world, evoking unity while simultaneously emphasizing difference.
Ideology in North Korea demands that artistic production should serve the state. It echoes debates in the 1930s about the future of artistic production in a colonized Korea (Poole 2014) but, as elsewhere (e.g., Perris 1983, Harris and Norton 2002, Adlington 2013), it is strongly influenced by Soviet socialist realism as channelled through Mao Zedong. By the late 1930s, the composer Kim Sunnam (1917–1983?, as discussed by No Tongŭn 1992, Kim Sewŏn 1995) had begun exploring how new music might do this. Explorations became more urgent following the division of the Korean peninsula in 1945, when songs, based on styles developed in the colonial period, quickly became the staple compositions in the North: censors overlooked legacy issues, not least because song lyrics readily projected appropriate messages. As composers (and other artists; Myers 1994) began to be labelled bourgeois, so instrumental compositions abandoned abstraction and modernity, favouring, instead, populism in arranging song melodies and depicting revolutionary stories. This paper explores the challenges composers have faced in towing what over time has been an evolving ideological line, using personal interviews conducted in Pyongyang and Berlin, scores and recordings, and archive materials collected in Pyongyang (North Korea), Seoul (South Korea), and Yanji (China). I take as my focus two key composers, the first of whom, Kim Wŏn’gyun (1917–2002), claimed to be untrained when he wrote the ‘revolutionary song’ ‘Kim Ilsŏng changgun ŭi norae/Song of General Kim Il Sung’ in 1947. This celebrated song brought rewards: a commission to write the national anthem, promotion to head of the composers’ collective at the ‘Sea of Blood’ opera company (and for the ‘Sea of Blood’ symphony, based on melodies within the opera of the same name). A state conservatoire, following the Soviet style, today bears his name. The second composer, Yun Isang (1917–1995) remains, arguably, the best-known Korean composer abroad. Honoured in North Korea after southern security forces abducted him from Germany with a feature film, ‘Yun Sangmin’ (1992), and an institute dedicated to his music, he never fully reconciled his avantgarde status— and his combination of serialism with Taoist ideas—with the populism required of him in Pyongyang.
How might we parse the relationship between a pair of hands, a set of musical practices, and a series of ever-modulating diasporic encounters? Focusing on the widely influential Rio-born, Oakland-based Afro-Brazilian musician and teacher Jorge Alabé and, more broadly, on what might be called the long pedagogical history of Brazilian rhythm in the United States, this article offers a few possible theoretical perspectives on the intersections between the pedagogies and perception of suingue brasileiro (Brazilian swing or groove) and diasporic forms of affinity and
collaboration. In particular, I examine how the language used in formalist groove studies (for example, those that consider swing as a function of metric displacement), is also used in diaspora studies (diaspora as a function of human displacement), and how the formal and the corporeal intertwine in the performance of a diasporic mode of Brazilian samba in the US.
In a speech at China’s National People’s Congress in March 2014, the deputy chair of the China Dancer’s Association, Dilnar Abdulla, complained that ‘religious extremists’ in the Muslim region of Xinjiang were ‘campaigning for the commoners not to sing and dance’. Since then, organised song and dance events have become a cornerstone of the anti-extremism campaign. Rural cultural bureaux have organised villagers to participate in mass dancing displays, weekly singing of revolutionary songs, and – notoriously – public dancing by Imams. In many ways the campaign is reminiscent of the mobilisation techniques developed during the Cultural Revolution. This article examines the tensions between recent formulations of ethnic and religious – Uyghur and Muslim – identities as they are played out in discourse surrounding ‘song and dance’ in the transnational space of online web forums and social media posts which link Uyghurs in the ‘homeland’ (weten) - the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of northwest China - with Uyghurs in the diaspora in Central Asia, Turkey, Europe and America. It considers how embodied behaviours express these shifting identities and shifting ethnical norms in contexts where their verbal expression is sanctioned by state policies concerning religious.
.:: Sharing space? Sharing culture? Applied experiments in music-making across borders
the world of music (new series) Volume 7, Issue 1 (2018)
This special issue considers the nature of the work done in ‘applied’ music workshops, projects and performances that seek to ‘create bridges’ across cultures, to bring participants from different communities into ‘shared spaces’, and to highlight shared heritage across musical and political borders. What agendas are privileged, and what forms of representation are entailed? What kinds of sharing take place within university-based ensembles, collaborative performances and workshops, and what is the impact of such initiatives beyond the obvious musical and social exchange that transpires in these spaces? A decade ago, in Performing Ethnomusicology (ed. Solis 2004), various ethnomusicologists presented the perceptions and projections surrounding university “world music” ensembles. While student practitioners and ensemble directors endeavoured to faithfully represent the traditions they were studying, few of them framed their praxis in terms of activism, collaboration, or the political de-centering inherent in embodied learning. We explore these issues via a series of diverse case studies, considering them from the perspectives of the various actors involved. We argue that within performance and teaching contexts, music-making may serve as a way of deconstructing conventional narrative and authority. Performing knowledge through non-rhetorical means produces contrasting ways of understanding political and historical experience by inviting a multiplicity of competing voices and interpretations. Embodied learning provides useful ways to explore the cognitive dissonance that is a daily experience for people living in contested zones. Careful attention to the experiences of audiences or participants can texture the understandings that either frame the arts in zones of conflict as purely resistant or purely 'harmonious'. We propose that embodied approaches have the potential to make our intellectual work more inclusive, and that musical collaborations may facilitate a kind of collaborative ethnography that transcends academic, language-based discourse, thus opening up new avenues for not just participatory research between artists and academics but also participatory critical thinking.
Guest Editors: Rachel Harris & Abigail Wood
.:: Table of Contents
.:: Individual Paper Abstracts
As a research method, the practice of music, our version of the anthropologist’s participant observation, is essential to the way we come to understand the music and the people we eventually represent through presentation and publication. More than just the key to unlock the secret doors of discourse, I have long considered the practice and performance of Arab music to be a methodology for both my fieldwork and teaching. “Performing in the field” facilitates exchange in non-linguistic fields and has provided my hosts a view into my personhood that transcends or complements my professional persona. On campus, in the classroom, and among the community, my performance constitutes activism. The Middle Eastern Music Ensemble that I founded in 1994 has been a context for exploration, exchange, and experience among students, faculty, and invited guest artists, that, when shared through public performance, evinces a kind of unapologetic advocacy that has become central to my work.
This paper describes examples of community-based collaboration and activism through music that unfolded during my ensemble’s first two international study and performances tours, both of them in 2014, one to Oman, where I have continuing research interests and the other to Morocco, the research terrain of my colleague and long time collaborator. While we were grateful for the cooperation and generosity of our hosts we were surprised at the ways in which our visit allowed our hosts to extend themselves in the production of public projects that may not have been possible without our participation. My analysis of six performances, three in Muscat, Oman, and one each in the Moroccan cities of Oujda, Rabat, and Marrakesh, Morocco resonates with the recent call by the SEM/ICTM Forum to “transform ethnomusicological praxis through activism and community engagement,” and asserts the ways in which our ethnographies are necessarily collaborative.
This paper takes as its topic a collaborative performance experiment now underway, which brings together Uyghur and Uzbek musicians in a UK university to explore musical repertoire across the borders of contemporary Uzbekistan and the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China. The focus is on repertoire that draws on the shared Central Asian ritual and literary traditions of Sufism. The project takes place in the context of wider engagement with the Aga Khan Music Initiative Central Asia projects, and current research on changing forms of Islamic belief and practice in the region. One defined aim is to provide a counter-narrative the exclusive, linear, nationalist views of culture engendered under Soviet rule and entrenched in the post-Soviet era, seeking continuities, shared repertoire, styles and techniques across borders.
In this region, national identities have long been hitched to forms of ‘song-and-dance’: musical traditions cleansed of their religious meanings and ritual contexts. As Islamists in the region proclaim their opposition to musical performance, viewing it as not only morally suspect but also as a tool of oppression. The project seeks to re-assert the value of the Sufi tradition, and to re-insert religious meaning into the music. Such a project is of course rich in potential for miscommunication, multiple interpretations and rival agendas. Where, for instance, Western music promoters delight in promoting Sufism as the acceptable, spiritual face of Islam, Central Asian nationalist views of Sufism tend to regard it as a destructive political force. The paper will attempt a multi-vocal reflection on the rehearsal process and public performance, in dialogue with fellow performers and audiences.
While topics such as music and conflict resolution, music and violence and similar have recently generated much critical discussion in ethnomusicology, we still often imagine our classrooms as “neutral”, shared cultural spaces, where we can teach, research and perform at a distance from the turmoil of the world outside. But what happens when this neutrality is compromised and the classroom brushes up against the conflict outside? How do times of stability and crisis impact the opportunities, challenges and responsibilities that we face as ethnomusicologists? How do we (intentionally or unintentionally) empower or silence our students? How might performing music from a ‘third’ culture shift the balance of power in the classroom?
In this paper, drawing upon reflections by my students, I reflect critically on five years of teaching ethnomusicology to ethnically and politically diverse classes in the Music Department at the University of Haifa. A sleepy Mediterranean port city in northern Israel, Haifa is often cited as a successful example of co-existence where Jewish-Israeli and Palestinian-Israeli neighbours live side by side. However, the political currency of ‘co-existence’ exists in fragile interplay with the individual and collective implication of students, academics and institutions in structural inequalities and ongoing national conflict. Can the ethnomusicology classroom really be a multivocal space, and if so, who is saying what, to whom?
Moving away from a university context, and within a framework of intercultural (ed. Burnard &co. 2016), performance (ed. Solis 2004) and social change (Baker 2014) studies, this article will explore the constant border negotiations of a professional international world music band, formed by thirteen musicians from seven countries: India, Senegal, Sweden, France, England and Scotland. Imagined as a utopian social experiment by two Swedish brothers in 2012, Världens Band (the World’s Band) quickly grew beyond the project phase and established itself as a group, performing self-branded ‘transglobal roots fusion’ music.
With six different nationalities and the will to create music that both reflects and transcends them, borders are a constant source of negotiation for the musicians in musical, political and touring contexts. Musically, the band chooses to represent a united ensemble featuring musicians rather than ‘countries’. Although each individual strongly represents his or her own tradition, rehearsals are a vital space where musical negotiation and collective arranging shape pieces, respecting both cultural backgrounds and the will to collaborate across borders. The inclusiveness message featured in the music becomes a strong yet consciously unvoiced political message on stage of an ideal world where multiculturalism is a strength rather than a divisive force. Politically, the band reinforced its inclusiveness message over time, namely during the 2015 refugee crisis that coincided with a 10-week tour branded ‘No Borders Tour’. Since, performing for schools and refugee audiences is fully integrated into their schedules with the ideology of counteracting the growing nationalist movements in Scandinavia and the rest of Europe. Off stage, borders continue to impact the musicians. Not only do visas have to be issued and frontiers crossed, sometimes unsuccessfully, there is also a constant cultural dialogue between the band members as they learn to understand each other. Verbal communication then becomes key and the leadership of the band manager becomes at times crucial as space is made for voicing opinions and thoughts, resulting in a better understanding of each individual. Through all these different aspects, Världens Band offers a platform for rethinking intercultural collaboration within a professional context, beyond the popular one-off projects or groups with a high turnover (see Hughes 2004).
The concept of “network” as a representation of social relationships provides a powerful paradigm for both positivist explanation and humanistic understanding, including applications to musical performances that seek to ‘create bridges’ across cultures as forging affective music networks of mutual understanding. But, following Small’s generalization of “performance” to “musicking”, such networks need not be limited to face-to-face musical interactions, but may include also the social performances implicit in musical productions of applied ethnomusicology. In this article I outline a generalization of “music network” to conceptualize an applied ethnomusicology aiming to rehumanize the broader social network, centered on a case study: a project seeking to rehumanize relationships in post-war Liberia through music media catalyzing local and global understanding designed to counter the wrenching dehumanizations of that country’s extended civil war. Beyond explanation or understanding, I emphasize networks of musical participatory action research (PAR) as both methods for, and instances of, such positive social transformation. Further, whereas the network “actor” is typically either human (in “social network analysis”) or non-human (in much “network science”), I combine the two. Building on Latour’s revolutionary position that actor networks can link human and nonhuman realms, I explore also their intersection: music media as the “human nonhuman” and dehumanization as the “nonhuman human”. The article traces the iterative formation of a transnational PAR actor-network rooted in musical performance, gathering and connecting Liberian refugee musicians, an NGO, a university community, and the media themselves, ultimately constituting method, aim, and possible model for an applied ethnomusicology building bridges across cultures. Such networks not only facilitate a better world—they also embody it.
Starting from 1998, yearly summer schools of traditional music are held in various venues in Poland. Mostly students from Polish and neighboring universities form a community engaged in everyday vocal rehearsals supervised by instructors from several East European countries. The rest of time is used for lectures on various topics of traditional musics and for dancing parties. Final concerts of the groups presenting the results of rehearsals conclude the programmes of schools.
Formally, the main purpose of these workshops is practicing certain traditional vocal techniques and styles. However, actually the individual enjoyment in widening the vocal possibilities, as well as making the international community sharing and enriching common ideas and attitudes towards cultures and national relations, are not less important.
In this process, certain questions arise. How the “patchworks of experience” (Rasmussen), initial attitudes and narratives brought by the students and instructors are deconstructed, reconstructed, or even new joint narratives are constructed? If they aren’t, what means could be helpful for the de-/re-/construction? In this question, both cultural (musical, etc.) and national aspects are meant. How the elements characteristic of the “experience ensembles” and “realization ensembles” (Slobin) intertwine in the act of de-/re-/construction? What levels of the performances’ “limited authenticity” (rephrasing Kirshenblatt-Gimblett) are relevant to become a semi-insider and thus to better understand the “alien” mode of thinking? In general, what stimulates dissolution of possible cultural and national frictions and tensions? The paper seeks answers to these questions. My individual experience (working as an instructor) and reflections of other school participants are applied.
In this article, I explore the 'Songs of the Saints: Tamil Traditions and New Creativities' collaborative music project that took place in 2016 between London-based Carnatic, or South Indian classical, musicians, a composer specialising in Indian and European music and music students at Goldsmiths, University of London. The project involved workshops and rehearsals, followed by two performances at Goldsmiths and at the London Tamil Centre.
The collaboration used Tamil devotion song repertoire as a point of musical departure. As a song tradition widely sung in worship and in classical concerts, yet little known outside the Tamil Hindu community, the project became a way to shed light on a rich cultural practice in London, to exchange musical knowledge and to create connections between the university and a local music scene. This article explores the performance that resulted from this collaboration, which consisted of the songs performed in their usual musical setting by the Carnatic musicians, followed by the collaborative pieces. I address the creative decisions that took place in choosing the songs and musical structures and the process of translation, interpretation and musical sharing that ensued through the workshops and rehearsals. In particular, a process of 'dialogical editing' (Feld 2012) of the musical content took place between the composer, Francis Silkstone, and the Carnatic vocalist, Sarangan Kanakaratnam. As a result of working across musical 'borders', musical, social and cultural knowledge came about through this participation, particularly when embodied practices came into tension with others and when traditional musical roles, authorities and conventions were challenged.
For the participating musicians, in particular, the process of creating new musical settings for the songs they have sung since their youth provided an insight into interpreting and understanding the songs themselves, and their musical treatment, in different ways. Whilst such applied projects are challenging, they create spaces for musical and cultural understandings that may not otherwise be encountered. To understand the value of collaborations and knowledge-building, this article critically analyses, and reflects on, this space of intercultural musical exchange and the dialogical collaborative project (see Tchen 2006) to understand the impact of such ventures in higher education settings.
Feld, Steven. 2012. Sound and Sentiment: birds, weeping, poetics, and song in Kaluli expression, Durham: Duke University Press.
Tchen, John Kuo Wei. 2006. 'On Forming Dialogical-Analytic Collaborations: Curating Spaces Within/Between Universities and Communities' in Linda Martín Alcoff, Michael Hames-García, Satya P. Mohanty, And Paula M. L. Moya (eds.), Identity Politics Reconsidered, New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
This article presents research findings from an ethnographic case study on a community choir entitled Lullabies of Our Lives. The amateur ensemble is an applied ethnomusicology initiative, involving a collaboration between The University of Melbourne, a not-for-profit community service agency New Futures Creative, and Victoria's peak multicultural arts organisation, Multicultural Arts Victoria. The choir is based in Coburg in Melbourne's north, a suburb which has recently seen clashes between anti-Islam and anti-racism protest groups. This heated local context, which embodies broader debates around Australia's immigration policies and the resurgence of ethno-nationalism, formed part of the impetus for the establishment of the ensemble, which aims to represent the harmony that can exist across cultural, linguistic and religious borders.
The ensemble was formed after a lullaby exchange which highlighted the genre’s emotional, nostalgic and cultural potency, and subsequent weekly rehearsals have involved individual members teaching lullabies from their homelands to their peer choristers. The teaching and learning of each other’s mother languages, singing styles and expressions of parenthood has had a marked effect on participants, and lullabies have proven an efficacious focal point for creating and sharing safe spaces. The song category draws attention to distinctive collective identities, while providing fertile ground for intercultural and interfaith exchange; across the world lullabies are used to soothe infants, and represent some of the earliest encounters with heritage music, language and culture.
However, attempts to democratise the learning space - not only through inclusive repertoire, but also through peer learning and informal pedagogical practices - have raised several questions pertinent to the project of applied ethnomusicology. This article will explore the tensions that separate the research, industry and community sectors, and how their competing agendas privilege particular forms of representation and conceptualisations of success. Issues related to the politics of participation, the decontextualisation of traditional musical practices, and cultural appropriation, authenticity and authority, will also be examined.
My article aims to describe a few-week practical – theoretical process of composing two pieces inspired by thaqīl and mukhammas, the most obsolete compositional forms in the classical repertoire in Central Asia. My assistant, Farid Kheradmand, and I composed these pieces during fieldwork carried out in 2012 in Tajikistan. The research project was concerned with the rhythmic –metric system in the modern practice of Shashmaqam, and attempted to benefit both from music analysis and ethnographic fieldwork.
In order to gain a proper understanding of the compositional style of mukhammas and thaqīl and as a participatory observation, we started composing two pieces under the supervision of our mentor, Abduvali Abdurashidov. Considering my analyses as well as our interviews with Abduvali about articulation rules of the forms, we set Iranian melodies on Central Asian metric cycles. The outcome seemed to Abduvali much more interesting than a purely research tool so that he recommended us to perform them in an upcoming event in the National Conservatory of Dushanbe, “Making Classical Music”. We finally performed the pieces in the event in front of musicians and musicologists from the culture to which these compositional forms belong. It surprisingly became an obstreperous event filled with a lot of heated debates.
This investigation attempts to show the importance of music analysis and a specific form of participatory observation in music making across borders. It demonstrates how an academic dialogue between musicians from different classical music cultures may result in broadening theoretical- practical horizons of participants. This also aims to describe the challenges we faced while adapting to the structural requirements of the forms, which sometimes contradicted our aesthetic expectations and tendencies as Iranian musicians. Additionally, the paper shows the process of reaching an agreement through a feedback loops which aesthetically satisfied both Abduvali and us.