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Title:Brazilian percussion in the music conservatory
Author(s):Cree, Christopher
Director of Research:Turino, Thomas R.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Moersch, William
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Turino, Thomas R.; Flores, Ricado; Taube, Heinrich K.
Department / Program:Music
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
escola de samba
General Telles
cultural studies
World Music Ensemble
Abstract:The scope of this research project is to understand the benefits of studying a foreign musical tradition. This project aims to develop a methodology to allow student musicians to explore a music tradition by way of observing, discussing, and playing music. These type of courses have various derivatives throughout higher-educational institutions and are often identified by the generic title, “World Music Ensemble.” While this project is not a critical review of these types of courses, it does aim to develop strategies for creating an appropriate curriculum for such a course. The paper discusses the purpose of performance-based world music courses at the university level and develops an implementation method for studying the traditions of the Escola de Samba General Telles. Given the parameters of the project, a carefully planned curriculum should provide a forum for the discussion of foreign music traditions while also giving students an opportunity to explore the music by learning instrument techniques and participating in a study-group performance. The insights provided by this research could be used to develop programs at other types of educational institutions and for cultural awareness or cultural diversity programs. The premise of the research project is based on the idea that it is best to gain a first-hand account of a foreign music tradition prior to teaching and playing music of the culture of study. An understanding of the social and musical environment is essential before one can become an effective cultural transmitter. This method advocates that societal background information, cultural context, be presented alongside musical techniques, cultural competency. The primary purpose of this research is to determine whether it is possible to create a performance-based music course on the subject of an escola de samba, what type of curriculum is best suited for the project, and what outcomes can be expected given the limitations of the university environment. Other research projects could use the results of this study as an example of how to create similar types of courses based on the music of other cultures. It is known that through the study of the music of a foreign society one can gain both a deeper understanding of music and culture in general and that this intellectual process stimulates discussion and raises awareness of self and other. However, foreign music traditions are easily misrepresented by teachers and/or misinterpreted by students. Since music is an art, misrepresentation, while unjust to the tradition, is not necessarily detrimental to the creative music process. Any type of exchange, representative or misrepresentative, can result in new creativity, but the cost of misrepresentation can be detrimental to both the music tradition and the student’s learning. One must be especially dutiful in a university setting when creating music in the style of foreign tradition. As a precondition to studying a foreign tradition, students and teachers must put aside their own perceptions of musical style and musical interpretations, in an effort to understand the intricacies of the tradition. Comparisons and reflections between the students’ own tradition and the foreign tradition will occur and should be encouraged, but the respect of all musical traditions shall be paramount. The teacher is responsible for ensuring proper context for the topic of discussion and shaping the learning processes to meet these ends. Ideas of music have been passed from culture to culture for generations with varying degrees of concern for “authenticity.” Few exchanges have resulted in a complete transfer of aesthetics or cultural practices. One who attempts to transfer all aspects would be foolish, as the possibilities of circumstances are infinite. Further, this person may be missing the point of these types of exchanges entirely. Music is dynamic. It is constantly changing. The purpose of this type of exchange is to gain a wider view of music, through the appreciation of the music of another society. This allows one to then reflect on his or her understanding of music with a new perspective and further allows the student to understand cultural fluidity (the process of cultural flow) in the modern world. This project is unique in that it investigates how best to formulate a curriculum to avoid the issues of misrepresentation or misinterpretation in a university setting. While it is true that one can only begin to understand the complex dynamics of a foreign society through first-hand experiences, this type of experience is rarely possible in a classroom. Secondhand accounts are usually the only practical method. However the quality of the second hand accounts and the way they are presented in the classroom is critical to the student’s understanding of the material. This project is based on the music traditions studied and observed in Pelotas, Brazil during the field research period, from December 28, 2007 to February 20, 2008. The research focuses largely on the music making activities within the Escola de Samba General Telles but also includes other types of music and cultural events within the study zone and timeframe of the field research. The choice of this particular region and type of music was largely influenced by an invitation from a colleague. Also influential were the particular aspects of the music environment and social dynamics of an escola de samba. The following paper is divided into three parts. The first part is designed as a stand-alone ethnography of Pelotas, Brazil during the time period studied. This section will serve as background information for study-group members who participate in a performance-based project. These materials will form the basis of lectures and classroom discussions. The second part will discuss the purpose, benefits, and challenges of studying a foreign culture and performing this particular style of music in a university setting. The third section will introduce a model curriculum for a study-group performance and draw conclusions about the project.
Issue Date:2014-05-30
Rights Information:Copyright 2014 Christopher Cree
Date Available in IDEALS:2014-05-30
Date Deposited:2014-05

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