You are on page 1of 2

SIETAREUROPA - Newsletter - 6/2010 Contents

(for quick navigation, click on the desired article)

The Devil is Editorial 1

Matthew Hill 2-4

in the difference Short portrait

Communicating between cultures with music A Look at Obama’s Mindset 5-7

An Intercultural perspective

by Michael Spencer The Devil is in the 8-9

Difference — Communicating
between cultures with music
If I were to say ‘Shave and a haircut...two bits’, doubtless At this basic level, is some credence lent to the claim that
many of you with US connections would understand its con- ‘Music is an international language’? Every society has its Phillipine-German 10-11
notations. Others in Europe might not make an immediate music, often inextricably linked with movement. But whilst Education — Bouncing back and
connection, but I am fairly certain that recognition would be fundamentals may be held in common, as we move up in
forth between two cultures
instant if you thought of its rhythmic equivalent (dum didi levels of sophistication, to what extent does music reveal
da da - dumdum!). In fact, not only in Europe and the US the differences between societies as well as the common-
do people respond to this basic rhythmical expression of alties. Do we, for example, listen to each other’s music in
Book reviews 12-13
musicality, it appears to be something of a global phenom- the same way? My work in Japan has thrown up some in-
enon. Korea, Japan, South Africa, Scandinavia, East Eu- teresting examples which suggest that perhaps we don’t. Events, workshops, 14-15
rope - no matter where I have tried it, to date, it seems to be congresses
known by everyone. Interestingly, however, no one seems A short while ago I ran a series of training projects with one
to know how they acquired this knowledge. Musicologists of the Japanese orchestras as part of their outreach pro-
suggest it has its origins in the clichéd cadences of English gramme. The core music resource was to be Stravinsky’s
music hall songs in the 19th century, but how it came to Rite of Spring; the composition which radically changed
travel, almost virally, across borders is unknown. the direction of musical development in the 20th century.
Its translation into Japanese is ‘Haru no Saiten’; literally
Moving up a level, do we witness the same universality ‘Spring Festival’. I have asked many Japanese musicians
with regards to melody? Research has shown that pros- and music lovers, all who know the piece well, what they
ody, the musical inflections of the spoken word which can consider the underlying narrative to be.
influence meaning, is common to all cultures and essen-
tial to comprehension and the gauging of emotional intent. It’s rare that they refer to the ritualistic and primitive cer- 637 bd de la Tavernière
Research with young children has shown that if words are emony intended by Stravinsky, which culminates in a virgin Residence l’Argentière - Bât E
removed from spoken sentences but the modulation of dancing herself to death to propitiate the gods of Spring. 06210 Mandelieu la Napoule FRANCE
the voice is preserved, irrespective of the language or na- They generally paint a picture of newborn creatures taking Tel.: +33 4 92 19 04 90
tional culture, the reaction of the child identical. This is their first steps and meadows full of flowers. The music tells Fax: +44 870 121 7440
well documented and know as Infant Directed Speech, or a different story and it is surprising that its mystical rites and
sometimes ‘mother-ese’. primeval passion are confused with something rather more
Page 8
SIETAREUROPA - Newsletter - 6/2010 Contents
(for quick navigation, click on the desired article)

The Devil is in Editorial 1

Matthew Hill 2-4

the difference - continued Short portrait

A Look at Obama’s Mindset 5-7

An Intercultural perspective
Music is an international language —
Mozart’s famous “Rondo alla Turca” The Devil is in the 8-9
is based on a Turkish melody. Difference — Communicating
between cultures with music
pastoral. This difference in perception is not a matter of As a violinist I have been fortunate to be given the oppor-
error of judgement, but of cultural difference. And it is a tunity to explore musical territories away from my classical Phillipine-German 10-11
graphic demonstration of what happens when Art is viewed background. Working with rock, jazz or folk musicians has Education — Bouncing back and
from a different cultural perspective. taught me the importance of listening in the ‘right way’. A forth between two cultures
way that is suited to the subtleties of the genre. But it is
For musicians and composers this disjunction is some- not solely about how one listens. Equally important is how
Book reviews 12-13
thing with which they are familiar, if not always conver- one takes the information and transforms it into appropri-
sant. Examples abound of their ability to accommodate ate action. Something crossover artists frequently attempt,
and adapt external influences, enriching their output as a but with questionable results. Events, workshops, 14-15
result. Where would Haydn and Mozart have been without congresses
the added spice of Gypsy and Turkish influences? How As musicians we share a basic lingua franca which means
would 20th century music have evolved if Ravel and De- that we can converse as artists across musical cultures,
bussy had not heard the gongs and chimes of the Balinese often up to a reasonable level of proficiency. To convey au-
gamelan ensemble at the Paris Exhibition in 1889? Where thentic understanding however, as with language, fluency
would any of the popular musical styles we hear around comes only from a deep and sustained immersion in the
us today be but for the synthesis of African music into jazz underlying traditions and values.
and blues?
Music can act as a passport between cultures, but the devil
The ability to adapt is not restricted to the theoretical amal- is in the difference.
gamation of musical styles alone. Being a musician is very
much about practical involvement and authentic collabora- 637 bd de la Tavernière
tion. This means adapting to the musical cultures within Residence l’Argentière - Bât E
which one is performing even if they are, to an onlooker, 06210 Mandelieu la Napoule FRANCE
similar. For example playing with the London Symphony Tel.: +33 4 92 19 04 90
Fax: +44 870 121 7440
Orchestra requires a completely different approach from Michael Spencer is a former member of the London Symphony
playing in the London Philharmonic. This difference is Orchestra and can be contacted at michael.spencer@sound-
even more marked when you cross genres. or via the webstie
Page 9