IALIC Conference in November in Beijing
I am a long-standing member of IALIC and contributor at its conferences but this time, for the Beijing conference, I decided to go for something a bit different:
Ethnomusicological bridges and social engagement through klezmer: interdisciplinary dialogues and intercultural performances
Richard Fay, Ros Hawley and Elinor Sherwood (Music Department, The University of Manchester)
Whilst the concept of ‘culture’ has been and remains under critical scrutiny within the field of intercultural communication, the concept features prominently, and often uncritically, used in many popular and academic discourses including Ethnomusicology and heritage processes such as folk museums. The focus of this paper is on the musical worlds of klezmer, a genre of music which was originally the wedding music of the eastern European, often Yiddish-speaking, Ashkenazi Jewish communities, a musical ‘culture’ which survived the traumas of the c20th in large part through its diasporic existence in the USA, and which, not without controversy, has become transglobal world music genre since its revival began in the 1980s. In particular, we reflect on our five-year experience of teaching klezmer within a Music Department oriented mostly towards western classical music. Each year, a group of students learn to perform klezmer, a musical ‘Other’ for them, often for audiences significantly Jewish in make-up (another cultural ‘Other’ for our students). This music education process generates not only a dialogue between differing musical cultures (and their associated forms, and learning and performance styles, of which we will say more in the paper), but also a dialogue between the disciplines of Ethnomusicology and Intercultural Communication (especially concerning the criticality with which ‘culture’ is used). Further, most of those teaching and learning klezmer in this context are not from a Jewish background and, whilst for some this might be seen as a form of ‘cultural necrophilia’, we believe that it has enabled purposeful intercultural dialogue through music. It also represents a process of social engagement which, we believe, is playing an important role in the developing cultural weave of our city, as well as helping to shape our students’ musically-framed understandings of the cultural and intercultural.