Intercultural Music: Creation and Interpretation.
This volume brings together a number of refereed papers that were presented in the conference component of the Aurora New Music Festival held in various locations throughout Sydney in 2006. The festival's theme was 'Living Music', and its aim was to showcase contemporary chamber music written by living composers. An academic conference, organised by Sally Macarthur and focusing around the theme of intercultural music, was placed amongst the diverse programme of performances including most of the works discussed in these papers. The presenters included an impressive line-up of Australia-based music practitioners--composers, performers and theorists. The term 'intercultural' was deliberately interpreted as broadly as possible for the purpose of this conference to cover multiplicities of culture, place, structure and discipline. The variety and occasional heterogeneity produced in these proceedings is therefore intended--in the introduction the editors argue for a need to bring multiple views and voices into music scholarship in Australia.
The proceedings are divided into four broad sections: 'Intercultural and Spiritual Issues', 'Western Traditions', 'South East Asian and Pacific Influences' and 'Australia: Landscape and Memory'. These labels provide some structure to such diverse papers, although the first group of papers appears to deal more obviously with identity and the act of composition than with spiritual issues.
The first section 'Intercultural and Spiritual Issues' is mostly concerned with the composer and the act of composition. In fact the issues discussed in this set of papers relate less to intercultural and spiritual affairs and more with identity and the individual expressive act of composition within cultural and musicological contexts. Anne Boyd reflects on the generation of work within personal, musical and cultural contexts. In discussing polymodality and the creation of the work As I crossed a bridge of dreams (1975), she draws out elements from her own experiences as a female composer in a time and place when these contexts were being challenged and reshaped. She describes the inner journey of the artist as an expression of cultural identity. Sally Macarthur's paper echoes Boyd's themes, exploring how music operates as a cultural mode of discourse and how subjectivity is constructed in and through music. She discusses two works which each have as a key motivator the composer's reaction to a violent event--the Second World War in the case of Georgian composer Giya Kancheli's piece Light Sorrow (1985), and the Tienanmen Square massacre for Anne Boyd's work Black Sun (1989). Macarthur draws in Michael Steinberg's arguments on subjectivity and music, where music is both object, outside human experience, and subject, embodied within human experience. Macarthur proposes that the works discussed illustrate well this notion of music as an active and subjective experience. Kancheli's response is based on personal experience, whereas Boyd's is based on an historical event within global culture, but in both cases the composers engage their subjective responses to deliver their own expressive messages, employing musical referencing to ancient modes and considered orchestration.
The next two papers in this section continue this reflection on the historical dimension of music creation. Clare Maclean's paper considers the issues generated when composers deliberately feed their work with inspiration from past sources, focusing on her work Kyrie. Kyrie is influenced by plainsong, Jewish liturgical melodies and other musical traditions such as Romantic devices and Renaissance polypony. Maclean proposes that music is a continual evolution (creation / death) of sounds and styles, acquiring discontinuity at the same time that continuity is generated. Ligeti's compositional style is discussed as a complementary example of the conscious use of this dichotomy in composition. Maclean argues persuasively that contemporary music can reinvent the past while still creating something new. Kim Cunio's paper moves more into musicological space, discussing the Temple Project, a combination of musicology, new composition and artistic collaboration between Cunio and Moshe Frumin, an instrument maker based in Israel. The project itself is a fascinating exploration of music and instruments of the ancient Jewish tradition before 70 CE. One of the difficulties of this is the archaeological nature of it--the gap of years and understanding between this ancient music and today. The pathways used by the project to overcome this are twofold. Firstly it draws on the oral traditions of Baghdad/ Babylon which are still (precariously) alive through Iraqi emigre communities. Secondly it draws into research done by Suzanne Haik-Ventoura into decoding the Tiberian (Masoretic) school of notation. Cunio outlines Ventoura's theories while maintaining some reserve about Ventoura's methods. The paper ends with a discussion on the work being done by Moshe Frumin in reconstructing ancient instruments using speculative research into primary Hebraic sources.
The final pair of papers under his heading go deeper into the notion of self, identity and the act of creation. Ji-Yun Lee's composition Jo-Wha (2006), or Oneness, is a synthesis of her experiences as a Korean-Australian and as a Catholic. In her paper Lee argues that 'oneness' is created by the bringing together and building from different contexts in her writing. Korean musical and cultural tradition imbues her musical vocabulary, as does a strong sense of spirituality and more specifically, spirituality of place, from her Catholic faith. It is the sounds and spaces of church and church services that Lee works to evoke in her writing rather than Catholic music. On a more direct level, she discusses her use of Korean traditional rhythm, tuning and structure in the work. Bruce Crossman then discusses the multidimensional approach of sonic, visual and emotional/ spiritual energies in the context of some of his compositions. The visual inspiration that informs Crossman's work comes from the composer's childhood as the son of an abstract visual artist, and also from his investigations into the connections between visual and musical worlds within Chinese culture. He discusses how calligraphy can bring together and demonstrate gesture, graphic mark and artist's purpose or motivation, leading him to draw from this the essence of art as being the visual engendering the kinetic to express the heart of the artist. He also draws on the East Asian concept of art as an emotional and spiritual connection between heaven and earth. In the case of his work Daragang Magayon Cantata (2001), Crossman discusses how he employs western chromaticism and sonic references to the Filipino Kulintang percussion ensemble to reflect European and Pacific cultures within the work, arguing that art can facilitate the unification of the visual, the kinetic, the cultural, the personal and the spiritual. His perspective is complemented later in the collection by Merlinda Bobis' paper on the piece's earlier development stages.
The 'Western Traditions' discussed in the second section are minimalism, jazz and pop, and microtonality. With the exception of Greenbaum's paper, these traditions are considered though within Eastern contexts. Cecilia Sun offers a fascinating analysis of the performance history of Terry Riley's 1964 work In C, examining the 'Easternisation' of the work since its inception. When first created and performed, this openly constructed Minimalist work--a one page score of notated music with fifty-three melodic fragments and written instructions--was performed, recorded and generally received as operating within the tradition of Western experimental avant-garde. However this was at a time of growing interest amongst Western musicians for Eastern sounds and approaches. Riley himself travelled to China in the late 1980s and In C was recorded by the Shanghai Film Orchestra, whose interpretation of the work disappointed Riley by its overly Western approach. The last recording discussed is the most intriguing--a Japanese self-styled 'soul collective' called The Acid Mothers Temple and the Melting Paraiso UFO who recorded the work because of its iconic origins within countercultural San Franscisco--an expression of classic Western culture as viewed through Eastern perspective. Sun aligns this crosscultural translation less to real Asian performance practices and more to the continuing invigoration and development of Riley's composition. Stuart Greenbaum discusses the influences of jazz and pop in the development of two of his works, First Light (1997) for solo piano and The Last Signal (2005) for piano and large ensemble. The structure of each work is analysed in detail, the composer explaining how jazz and pop elements are used in the sense of musical language and gesture rather than instrumentation or sonic environment. The paper aims to demonstrate the creative context of the contemporary composer as being an expansive 'crossover' environment of diverse musical and cultural influences. Greg Schiemer's contribution then focuses on microtonality--its pioneering within Western music by Harry Partsch and application in contemporary classical music. Schiemer explains the tuning systems of just intonation (JI) and Equal-Division-of-the-Octave (EDO) or 'xenharmonic' tuning, including the Moment of Symmetry (MOS) scales as an example of a non-12 EDO system. The paper reflects on the associated development of instruments capable of performing microtonal music, citing examples from artists such as Jacques Dudon, Stuart Favilla, Ellen Fullman and Warren Burt. The second half of the paper focuses on works developed by Schiemer that employ microtonal structures and mobile phone technology. The Pocket Gamelan project is a prototype network of mobile instruments that aims to explore emerging tuning theory using new performance paradigms. Schiemer outlines two of his works--Mandala 3 and Mandala 4--where performers swing mobile phones that interact using Bluetooth to alter audio algorithms for the different handsets. Schiemer proposes that the musical and creative community can drive the development of mobile phone and communications technology to further explore the microtonal space.
The third group of papers turns the focus to 'South East Asian and Pacific Influences' and more specifically to elements of multiple modes of performance. Merlinda Bobis is a Philippines-born artist who expresses her creativity through writing and dance. Bobis writes of the tension between artforms, between cultures and between languages using the metaphor of the wishbone or breastbone to encapsulate a sense of resilience or a desire to not break from such tension. Her fluid writing offers an insight into her experience as a Filipino emigre working to define her artistic identity in Australia. Bobis' paper revolves around a discussion of her work Cantata of the Warrior Woman Daragang Magayon (Kantada ng Babaing Mandirigma Daragang Magayon), which began as an epic poem in 1987 and which had its final incarnation as an opera by Bruce Crossman in 2001. Bobis reflects on her reinterpretation of a traditional heroic Filipino epic with multicultural and feminist contexts, and expresses her growing joy for the 'collision-collaboration' that the multiple forms of this work have fostered.
'Comprovisation' is a term coined to reflect a unity of music and performance, where the two cannot be separated. Michael Atherton reflects on the nature of improvisation and creation within the performance, illustrated through analysis of his work Jiriyai (2006), a collaboratively devised intercultural work of music and dance created for the Aurora Festival. Atherton describes the work as 'extreme crossover', where the artist draws from all available influences to create a personal music, a theme which is explored in the first group of papers in this collection. The work's instrumentation includes contrasting colours of tuned and non-tuned metal instruments, bongos and floor toms, and a set of kulintang (Filipino bossed gongs). Atherton reviews the creative process for developing the work, where the two collaborating artists had to develop modes of communication to connect their divergent performance practices, for example in the different ways in which musicians and dancers count time. The collaborative research process undertaken by the artists helped to create a textural design for the performance, including some predetermined elements. Atherton argues that comprovisation encourages discourse around notions of composition and performance, and particularly how these can be defined as potentials rather than fixed entities.
Ronaldo Morelos takes a more theoretical approach to performance in his investigation of the tradition of Sanghyang Dedari trance performance in Balinese culture. Sanghyang Dedari is a ceremony involving dance, chanting and the evocation of a trance state in selected pre-pubescent or pre-adolescent girls. In this type of event, 'self' becomes a central element in the processes of enactment and embodiment of the divine. The paper outlines the Balinese traditions of personhood and self, where cultural patterning shapes the multiple identity structures. Morelos likens the trance subjects to actors, where the performer submits to the divine force and assumes the cultural identity of the 'other, and the audience willingly accepts this identity. Morelos also discusses the parellel processes found in hypnotism and trance performance. The language employed for this paper is dense but it presents an illuminating insight into a specific cultural process.
The final section 'Australia: Landscape and Memory' is again labelled a little misleadingly. Three of the four papers included here orient around Ross Edwards' work Kumari, taking in turn the perspectives of creator, analysor and performer, while the final paper by Hart Cohen examines the development of the cantata Journey to Horseshoe Bend. These papers are perhaps more about the life of a work and the different personal responses that are generated from it.
In reflecting upon the creation of Kumari, Ross Edwards recalls a time in his career when he was feeling isolated from contemporary Western art music, and when he rediscovered inspiration in the aural landscapes of the Pearl Bay region. Edwards outlines the compositional process and the free thoughts that engendered it, where daily walks fuelled his composition. Edwards describes the process of jettisoning formal compositional approaches and adopting a free and accretive method to build the work. Paul Stanhope builds on Edwards' paper by providing a comprehensive analysis of Kumari. The work, for solo piano, is identified as one of Edwards' 'sacred' series of works which are characterised as austere, quiet, reflective, and sparing in the use of a refined series of musical gestures. In examining Edwards' work, Stanhope discusses the notion of ritual in music, which can be an expression of artistic intention, a mode of composition or more generally, a means for transformation. The analysis brings insights into the motific technique that Edwards employed for this work, where eight cell-like motifs shape the first tableau of Kumari, and also the intuitive approach and 'planned randomness' that Edwards adopted in creating the work. Stanhope argues that Edwards is actively engaging to achieve the transformative experience of ritual in this work. Diana Blum brings the final perspective on this work, that of a musician preparing the piece for performance. Blum convincingly describes the challenge faced by a performer when a work is outside his/her frames of reference. Blum describes the uncertainty she felt in approaching the work and the research she did to understand it more completely before her first public performance of it. She supplemented a conversation with the composer and an eventual listening to a recording of the work with a broader investigation into the relationship between composer, work and performer.
The final paper from Hart Cohen revisits the theme of place touched on by Edwards in its examination of the story Journey to Horseshoe Bend's development into a cantata by librettist Gordon Williams and composer Andrew Schultz. The analysis considers theories of landscape and memory as developed by Simon Schama and also includes a musicological investigation of adapting text and also the dynamics of temporality. Cohen developed a documentary film Cantata Journey. Cohen argues that the work and its development bring to focus the blurred boundaries between past and present, culture and country, indigenous and introduced. The inclusion of the Ntaria Ladies Choir in the work's performance is argued as bringing a living connection between cultural traditions and the work as a piece of composition/ adaptation. Edwards' work is revisited again as Cohen considers the notion of 'repertoire' to include broader resources of culture, history and the musicological events they inspired.
As a collection of papers, this volume does appear at first view to be a little disjointed. The small number of papers included indeed emphasises this, with the papers showing a striking diversity in subject matter, voice and intent. However the effect of the whole is to offer the reader a multiform view of music that broadens the boundaries of musicology to incorporate these diverse perspectives. The generous use of examples and diagrams helps to illustrate the arguments and ideas being discussed throughout the volume. Intercultural Music: Creation and Interpretation can be recommended as a resource on the art of creation and the processes of reflection and intercultural influences that sustain it.
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|Publication:||Fontes Artis Musicae|
|Article Type:||Book review|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2008|
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