Music & Culture Lecture Series: Upcoming Lectures

Begun in 2002, MMaP’s Music & Culture Lecture Series presents cutting-edge research by leading scholars in ethnomusicology and allied disciplines. The talks, which are free and open to the public, take place in the MMaP Gallery on the second floor of the St. John’s Arts and Culture Centre. Since February 2017, all of the talks in the series have been livestreamed on the MMaP YouTube channel, and videos of past lectures from the series can be viewed there as well.

2022–2023 Music and Culture Lecture Series

“Aging and Music”

Benjamin Zendel (Memorial University)

Tuesday, September 13, 2022, 7:30PM

Age-related decline in hearing abilities is one of the most common health issues reported by older adults. Such hearing decline often leads to a difficulty understanding speech when there is background noise.  Interestingly, lifelong musicians exhibit slower rates of age-related decline on auditory processing tasks that rely on the brain, such as understanding speech when there is background noise. Longitudinal work, where music lessons were provided to older non-musicians, has shown that music training can be used to improve the ability to understand speech when there is background noise. Together, this suggests that music training improves central auditory processing abilities that tend to decline in older adults. Other lines of research have shown that the ability to perform music perception tasks, such as identifying an out-of-tune note, synchronizing with a rhythm, or perceptually segregating two simultaneous melodies are relatively preserved in older adults, despite the fact that these tasks rely on both hearing and cognitive abilities that are known to decline with age.  This line of work suggests that music perception is a “cognitive strength” in older adults and suggests that music could be used as a “cognitive scaffold” to help rehabilitate other aspects of hearing or cognition that decline with age. Overall, these two lines of research highlight that central aspects of hearing are malleable and suggest that music or music training may be useful to improve hearing for older adults.

“By Musical Means:
Cultural Techniques of Disentangling in Littoral Myanmar”

Friedlind Riedel (Bauhaus-University Weimar)

This event, which had originally been schedule for November 15, 2022, has been postponed due to illness. When a new date has been set, an announcement will be posted on the MMaP website.

La batalla de Angostura, 1847: Ensounding Trauma and National Destinies

David F. Garcia (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)

 Tuesday, March 14, 2023, 7:30PM

Compared to the US Civil War, the United States’ invasion of Mexico from 1846 to 1848 occupies a marginal space in the collective historical memory of the United States’ long 19th century. Music of that war is shrouded even more in a collective forgetting.

This lecture will explore music’s functions in narrating the war’s battles and in ensounding the national destinies of the United States and Mexico. I focus on one battle, the crucial Battle of Buena Vista, known in Mexico as La Batalla de Angostura, of February 22 and 23, 1847. US composers wrote and published piano pieces that narrated in music and text the events of this battle for domestic musicians and their listeners, while the apparent absence of published music by Mexican composers suggests a forgetting of the battle’s disastrous and traumatic results. This, in spite of the prominence of the playing of music by Mexican military bands throughout the war and particularly at this battle, which Mexican poet Guillermo Prieto nevertheless wrote about.

I draw from archival sources of the war and focus my analysis on piano music and poetry to argue that destinies and traumas, Mexican and the United States included, were and still are audible and legible in the sounds rendered in US battle music and Mexican poetry. Following historian Marisa Fuentes, I listen and read against and along the bias grain of the archive to recover forgotten destinies and traumas, which still haunt the US-Mexican borderlands to this day.

Come back to this page soon for announcements about more lectures in this year's series.