Musical Heritage: Movement and Contacts | International Conference
October 29th to November 1st 2009
Faculté de musique, Université de Montréal

International Conference - October 29th to November 1st 2009
Faculté de musique, Université de Montréal


Program Schedule

Here is the final version of the program [PDF].


The organising committee invites you to discuss the following themes:

1. Staging musical culture: tourism as an identity issue

An increasingly important space for the staging of traditions, tourism tends to privilege living heritage such as music and folk tales. This scenario is likely to play a key role in the definition of cultural and social identities. Indeed, the diversity of means of communication, easier access to the Other’s culture via technologies such as discs, broadcast media or the Internet, and an increase of personal mobility are all elements that have contributed to a desire to meet this Other. Moreover, some developing countries consider that tourism constitutes a financial manna not to be disdained and that therefore it is in their best interest to value and promote their cultural heritage. Musical heritage is of particular interest since it often accompanies dances, mask ceremonies or other visual presentations which appeal to the public, especially in touristic areas. The choice of what will appear and how it will be presented or listened to is not neutral. Who decides what will be seen by the tourists? The UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) programme, with its "Urgent Safeguarding Lists" and "Proclamation of Masterpieces", now plays a major role in determining which aspects of many countries performing arts receive priority financing. Why are these choices made? Besides the spectacular effect that their value creates, their emblematic nature and the issues of identity that they convey will necessarily result in multiple consequences. We can then wonder if staging music in a touristic context contributes to cultural erosion of traditional societies already weakened by numerous globalizing economical and political factors or if, on the other hand, it constitutes a culturally satisfying solution for resistance.

2. Territoriality and nomadism

The process of cultural identification is inseparable from the relationship that the keepers of a tradition maintain with their territory. In our discipline, this relationship is called musical territoriality. However, many traditions are not enclosed within a specific territory. It is the case with jazz or creole musics where the territory is fragmented, and also with tango (Pelinski 2005) among others. This theme is also related to the issue of diasporic musics and their dynamism. How should one approach the sphere of influence of musical practices in the mechanics of the construction of identity?

Another factor that favours movement and contact among different musical heritages is related to the acceleration and the increase of their movement. In light of this, it is important to reflect on the impact, at several levels, of the globalization phenomenon; more precisely, the possible standardization of cultural reference canons and, consequently, the weakening of the diversity of cultures.

3. Forms, performances, construction of identity

All the above-mentioned issues necessarily imply the question of identity and its manifestation through musical expressions, its forms and its performances. Here, the term "performance" takes on an ontological scope that refers primarily to a precise level of experience, that of the musical practice (Lacasse 2006. It may be a matter of staged performance (concert, show), questionning the part of "representation" in the musics performed. The term sometimes refers to a "practice" observed and recorded live and which comprises performance-specific processes such as interaction with the public. In this perspective, it questions elements of observation and analysis. By taking into account the performance as a whole, how does it challenge the analysis? Are the usual parameters of the score (rhythm, melody, dynamics, scales, etc.) enough to show the stylistic and esthetic signature of a musical practice? We need to ask not only how musicians treat music as an object that represents them and allows to identify or situate them culturally, but also how listeners, by the way they listen, influence the construction of performances. In this way, many formal parameters may or may not be relevant.

4. Musical heritage: cultural and social issues

This theme refers to the "folk revival" process. It notes and examines the continuity and the transformations of musical expression (form, instrumentation, methods of expression, etc.) in various areas of musical interpretation, and examines the type of musical heritage put forward by revivalists. Are we witnessing the crystallization of music or, on the other hand, its revitalization? How does the musical heritage phenomenon contribute to the construction of cultural identity?

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