MMaP Lecture Series 2012-2013

BENJAMIN BRINNER Perspectives on the SHERRY JOHNSON MEGHAN FORSYTH Creative Currents: Innovation and Tradition in Island Acadian MusicSEAN WILLIAMS Crossing the Divide: Hinduism and Islam in Sundanese MusicClick here for the 2012-2013 Music, Media and Culture Lecture Series brochure


Dr. Benjamin Brinner, University of California - Berkeley

Monday, September 24

Perspectives on the “Inter” in Intercultural: Israeli/Arab/Palestinian/Jewish Musical Collaborations

Drawing on and extending the analyses in his recent book Playing Across a Divide: Israeli-Palestinian Musical Encounters, Ben Brinner will speak about the understandings that musicians create in joint musical explorations that venture into terrain that has no clear cultural underpinning, yet is enmeshed in several socio-cultural worlds. These worlds differ in their assumptions about music, aesthetics, professionalism, and the political uses of art. How then do musicians working together on intercultural projects navigate these differences? Where are their obstacles and points of friction? What are the synergies that emerge from their collaborations? Focusing on the Bustan Quartet and its precursor, Bustan Abraham, this lecture follows a twenty-year arc in the lives of some of Israel’s leading creators and performers of “world music.”


Dr. Sherry Johnson, York University

Thursday, November 8

“Dancing from the Heart”: Interpreting Music in Ottawa Valley Step Dancing

Donnie Gilchrist (1925-1984), known as the father of Ottawa Valley step dancing, was renowned for his ability to interpret music. When dancing solo, he never performed formalized “steps,” but improvised movements in relation to the music; one of his former students calls it “dancing from the heart.” By contrast, many of today’s young Ottawa Valley step dancers are criticized for not dancing to their fiddlers’ music. While blatant timing errors are seldom a problem, even some dancers who compete at the highest levels are admonished for a lack of internal feel for musical rhythm. At one level, this has to do with how steps are structured in relation to the structure of fiddle tunes. More recently, however, there has been renewed interest in matching the rhythm of particular fiddle tunes kinaesthetically. In this presentation Sherry Johnson examines how two renowned Ottawa Valley step dancers – Donnie Gilchrist and Nathan Pilatzke (b. 1970) – use structural and rhythmic elements to interpret fiddle tunes. She contextualizes this analysis with an overview of the changing relationship between step dancing and fiddle music in central Canada’s Ottawa Valley tradition.


Dr. Meghan Forsyth, Memorial University

Tuesday, February 12

Creative Currents: Innovation and Tradition in Island Acadian Music

From new compositions to stylistic flexibility, innovation has emerged as a defining element of contemporary Island Acadian musical traditions on and off the public stage. But old and new forms of musical expression hang in a delicate balance, at one and the same time lauded and contested. Drawing on examples from Prince Edward Island and les Îles-de-la-Madeleine, Meghan Forsyth considers the social and artistic value placed on innovation in contemporary fiddling and francophone song traditions. She posits that global influences and local discourses about tradition and creativity inform how Acadian music is presented locally and to cultural outsiders, such as tourists and festival organizers, and how it reflects musicians’ connections to and expressions of historical memory.


Dr. Sean Williams, Evergreen State College

Tuesday, March 19

Crossing the Divide: Hinduism and Islam in Sundanese Music

The Sundanese people of West Java, Indonesia are known in that nation as conservative Muslims. Yet their musical forms (over two hundred genres) defy that label; many of the main genres lean heavily on Hindu and animist stories, traditions, and musical materials. In the genre of tembang Sunda – the most aristocratic of any genre in the region – a combination of influences from different eras in Sundanese history connect contemporary Muslim musicians and audience members with their Hindu and animist past. Comprising a large zither, small zither, bamboo flute, and singer, the tembang Sunda ensemble is intended for an intimate audience of insiders. They know the words, they understand the context, and most of them are singers or musicians themselves. Because tembang Sunda is considered a powerful link to the rural past, the urban Islamic conservatism of its audience is suspended during an evening’s performance. This sense of simultaneous suspension and engagement creates a type of sacred space that lasts for most of the night. This talk will feature two songs; one explicitly Hindu in content, and another specifically Muslim. By examining the two songs in context, Sean Williams will explore the ways in which the music can transcend boundaries of space, time, and religion.


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