Archive for the ‘CMA 2012’ Tag

Post-colonial tensions in music-making and learning

A second theme that wove its way through both the Community Music Activity commission seminar and the main ISME conference in Greece this year was that of the (musical) tensions that continue to play out in post-colonial contexts between the former colonisers and the colonised, and the value of indigenous knowledge and ways of knowing alongside Western knowledge. It is a big theme and a complex one, but when I reflected on the two weeks’ presentations it was interesting to see how often it emerged, even if the post-colonial tag wasn’t part of the paper’s title or abstract. My reflections here consider specific projects in Brazil, South Africa, Timor-Leste, indigenous Australia, and Aotearoa/New Zealand.

On the first day at the CMA seminar, we heard about a project in Bahia, Brazil, to give wind players of the many community bands throughout the region some expert tuition in playing their instruments. Presenters Joel Luis Barbosa and Jacob Furtado Cantao explained that these ‘band courses’ are provided by the Brazilian government and involve teachers from the city conservatories and schools of music. However, the experts tend to come from a more formal, ‘concert music’ playing tradition – a legacy of the era of Portuguese colonialism, connected in style and approach to European/Western art music.

In contrast, the community band players are self-taught, or have learned the rudiments of their instrument from other players in the group. They haven’t studied music formally. (We watched some video footage of the bands playing and of individuals playing. The clarinet sound had a wonderful freedom to it – big, solid, bold colours with which they ripped up and down arpeggios, or crooned insouciant melodies). Continue reading

ISME Community Music Activity commission, Corfu Town

The location for the Community Music Activity [CMA] commission seminar was well-chosen, to say the least! Could we ask for a more beautiful backdrop to our week of inspiring, stimulating and provocative conversations than this?

This little cove was just around the corner from our conference venue, the Ionian University’s Reading Society building, a small museum with a meeting room at the top that we reached via a winding staircase (having already climbed one set of stairs to get to the front door).

We had nearly forty different presentations throughout the week, as well as a poster session and a Cafe Discussion in which new ideas for research and partnerships were explored. More on that later.

Looking back, there were a number of themes or strands that evolved through the presentations and subsequent discussions. I’ll offer very brief summaries here, taken from the notes I made in the sessions at the time. One emerging theme was about school-based music educators learning from community music practice, and vice versa. We were strongly urged towards greater awareness and commitment to ‘artistic citizenship’ within music education practice, with ‘citizenship’ referring to meaningful action for the betterment of society. While some community music models adopt this ethic (such as many of the ‘intervention’ models), perhaps others, working within pre-existing structures such as community orchestras, brass bands, perhaps choirs (though less so, as community choirs often have a social change or social response agenda and have less hierarchical structures) could consider their work through this artistic citizenship lens. Music education in schools and other formal settings could also reflect on the influence of (or lack thereof) such an ethic or commitment to social good and the betterment of society in their work. Indeed, what are the values that drive your work?

Also within this strand came the call for greater entrepreneurship, as a process of value-creation within music-learning settings in schools and communities. When teachers and community music leaders approach a new environment the way an entrepreneur might, with questions such as, “What are my values? Who or what is the market? What are the opportunities here?”,  rather than with a specific outcome in mind (such as the formation of an orchestra, or an instrumental-teaching program along familiar lines), new program models can emerge. The presenter Michelle Snow gave the example of the Sistema Fellows program running out of the New England Conservatoire that trains a small group of musicians each year to go into under-served communities and engage people in ensemble experiences. Exactly what those experiences will be evolves over time, as the Fellows approach their designated communities with this entrepreneurial spirit and develop their work in response to what they find.

Things took an interesting turn when it was proposed that, given the importance of participatory music-making to the Community Music field, and that this lies in uncomfortable contrast to the emphasis on presentational music-making that music and/or music education faculties have within higher education settings, a music faculty might not be the right place to site Community Music. Many people see participatory music-making as presentational music-making done badly – the core values of two are often at odds with each other, but it is the presentational model that occupies prestige and recognition in the professional field, with Music Education working as its wing man, often focused on preparing students for presentational outcomes (think school band curriculum) and on delivering music appreciation outcomes to ensure students become good audience members for professional musicians.

So where else could the Community Music discipline be sited? The suggestion was to look at the growing field of Leisure and Recreation (it took me a while to digest this – I struggled to think of any faculties of ‘leisure and recreation’ in Australia – but apparently it is an area of considerable growth). If education is a pursuit of the development of self, and leisure is about undertaking activities that also develop the self and bring happiness and satisfaction in life, then we can start to see where Community Music could fit. Community Music could theorise on what ought to be – a model of values of inclusion, enjoyment and self-growth, a model of “how life can and should be lived”.

That’s some thoughts from the first part of my notebook. More from the Moleskin soon.