Music Cultures: Breaking Sound Barriers

Discipline: Music
Instructor: Byerly
Credits: 3
Day: A
Start: 1550
End: 1710
Field Work: Day 2 - Ho Chi Minh City - 15 February | Vietnam
Prerequisites: None Download Syllabus

This course explores how musical protest influences revolutions through complex and confrontational times. Discord creates both physical and metaphorical walls between societies, and music serves to effectively ‘break sound barriers’ between people. Using global case studies of musical initiatives in troubled times, we investigate how music mobilizes change, as both mirror and mediator, in political turmoils and revolutionary transitions.

The condition of the world around us perplexes us. And so it should. It is complex and confrontational, filled with debate and discord. This course will explore how the ‘musical markers‘ of groups reveal both trends and ideologies in societies, and especially how they are capable of instigating powerful change in times of dynamic social and political crisis.

We can all attest to how our lives contain soundtracks of influential music pieces, marking the unforgettable events of our unique experiences. So, too, societies have collective soundtracks that form and reflect their combined experiences, defining their unique histories. Music, then, serves as both voice and memory for individuals and societies, and it offers a soundscape through which to listen to and understand people, groups and their history. People have disagreed about both the causes of and solutions to social conflicts and calamities across time. How did feuding groups arrive at catastrophic conflicts, and how do they resolve them? How can humans change political chaos to social order, and replace conflict with peace? Our central model – or anatomy – of a successful music revolution will be the South African transition from Apartheid to Democracy. From there, we will investigate the variations of that theme in other protest initiatives in the geographical spaces we encounter on our voyage. We will discover, through ethnomusicological analysis and models of conflict revolution, how music “sounds society,” and how, in turn, societies can be examined through music. Music will be revealed as an expression of both identity and ideology, and as a weapon of war and peace. The sheer volume and variability of composers and compositions make music a timeless and unparalleled site for creative individuals to explore visions of peace and democracy, and express outrage at violence and suppression. We will analyze how individual motives create public performances that serve social interests and mobilize change in societies undergoing political crises or social revolutions.

Field Work

Country: Vietnam
Day: 2 - Ho Chi Minh City - 15 February

Students will have the privilege of experiencing Vietnamese musical culture in a unique and transformational way. First, they will visit the renowned SOUL music academy: the heart of youth music education in Ho Chi Minh City. Following a tour of the campus and some introductions and lectures by staff, including the potential observation of music classes in session, students may also have the unique experience  of viewing the Voice Kids of Vietnam – the famed chorus of which Mr. Thank Bui of the SOUL Academy has been affiliated as a coach. Following that, students will travel by bus to enjoy the Water Puppet Show at the Lang Viet Xua restaurant  - a favorite cultural experience  of visitors to Vietnam in general, and Ho Chi Minh City in particular. Academic Objectives: 1.      Students will learn about Vietnamese music education and culture within an academic environment 2.      Students will experience traditional theatre, dance and music of the Vietnamese

3.      Students will receive a firsthand understanding of the symbolic storytellings , acrobatics and essential ‘fusions’ within the cultural context of Vietnamese art and dance