Tag Archives: conflict

Awakening Potentials: Where Narrative and Music Meet

Stalemate. Deadlock. Impasse. A never ending or changing reality. Hopelessness.

Upon facing insurmountable challenges run into the ground ten times over by proposed solution after proposed solution to no avail, then what? Game over? Or seek awakening potentials?

Music as a creative process is an ever expanding and evolving medium. It preserves the past by conjuring it in the present, while steadfastly proposing new boundaries to cross and explore.  Unprecedented musical ideas seen as nouveau eventually become standardized into the global repertoire perpetuated by YouTube and SoundCloud to name a few. The facilitation of music to engender premises which did not exist before awakens potentials that become possible for the first time. Awakening potentials substantiate the promise of new creations, relationships, beginnings, and imaginations.

Join me in moving from theory to practice by examining awakening potentials existent in the sharing and exploration of childhood sing-a-longs.

During childhood, we are taught short sing-a-longs connected to our identity, whether rooted in our culture, religion, or nationality, that support the story we come to know as our personal narrative. Though I could pick several childhood sing-a-longs as example, I will choose a personal childhood sing-a-long, the Hebrew song Yesh Li Pajamas, in English “I Have Pajamas.” The song goes like this:

Yesh li, yesh li pajamas.    
I have, I have pajamas.
Yesh li, yesh li pajamas.
I have, I have pajamas.
Yesh li pajamas be’cachol, lavan, cachol, lavan, cachol, lavan.
I have pajamas that are blue, white, blue, white, blue, white.
Cmo’ degel Israel. 
Like the flag of Israel.
 

Though simply written, the purpose of this childhood song is to create a sense of personal attachment and belonging to the State of Israel. The song is not expressly political in that there is no mention of borders or history, yet unquestioningly there is an underlying directive of nationality enshrouded in the colors blue and white.

Let’s examine another childhood song of a differing narrative.

I like the colors. I’m an artist child.
Painting with white, black, red. I like the colors.
Painting with blue, yellow, green. I’m an artist child.
What does “red” refer to? To the flowers. What does “green” refer to? To the trees. What does “white” refer to? To the snow.
I like, I like, I like… I like the colors. I’m an artist child.
Painting with white, black, red. I like the colors.
Painting with blue, yellow, green. I’m an artist child.
What does “blue” refer to? To the sky.
What does “black” refer to? To the goats.
What does “yellow” refer to? To the bananas.
Pink for flowers and silver for moons. Gold for sand and brown for mountains.
I’m painting the most beautiful painting with colors. It makes me feel happy. 
 

This childhood sing-a-long is a composition of the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music headquartered in Ramallah. As I am not Palestinian, I cannot interpret the Palestinian narrative with the same exactness and truth as a Palestinian. If I may though, I would point out the many nature and agricultural references describing a landscape, a place, or a land. There is a recognition and connection to what could only be described as items present in a local scenery. From the flowers and the snow to the goats and mountains, the colors are what one would use to describe these items from their window, field, or garden.

We feel pride in our allegiances, which support our personal narrative and complete our desire for community. Deciding whether or not we share our allegiances or possessions with others outside our community is where conflict can arise. Is it a question of tolerance or compassion? Do we feel our survival or traditions are threatened by sharing that allegiance or possession?  It may be hard to even begin that discussion without the actualization of a platform, which did not exist before, where awakening potentials stir.

In the case of these two childhood songs each based in a differing narrative, where can awakening potentials stir? After introducing each song by singing or playing the melody on an instrument and then explaining  its lyrics and references, see what new songs can be created using elements originating from both sing-a-longs. What is similar? Both songs focus on using colors to identify or characterize symbols of nationality from flag to the description of land. What is different? The actual melodies of the songs are different, yet there still are musical elements in both that are similar. What would happen if you and your partner decided to change the rhythm, add a B section, use the traditional instruments of both cultures in its instrumentation, modulate, add another verse, etc. The possibilities are endless, and yet it is still possible to preserve original elements of both sing-a-longs.

After experimenting with all of the various ways both songs can coexist, separately yet together, modified yet the same, a platform which did not exist before can now support an even deeper discussion of why these childhood sing-a-longs are so important to each individual.  What do they signify of the past and what can they elude to in the future?

Decide for yourself and see what awakening potentials you can find that facilitate in actualizing what did not exist before, such as a new song, a greater understanding and trust, and even the beginning of a new friendship.

I attempt to cite all of the sources used in my writings and research as correctly as possible, so please adopt the same policy toward the works presented here and as well my own writings by citing this blog’s findings correctly. This blog is meant for sharing, not plagiarism. Thank you for your respect.

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1. Edward Said National Music Conservatory. Palestinian Children’s Songs. Edward Said National Music Conservatory, 2010. YouTube. 30 May 2010. Web. 31 May 2012. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vCtvoVsxteE&gt;.

2. Lederach, John Paul. The Moral Imagination: The Art and Soul of Building Peace. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2005. Print.

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MusicIntervention Blog: An Adventure of Its Own

MusicIntervention blog is an educational, you-can-change-the-world, musical adventure for curious minds, grassroots practitioners, wacky theoreticians, and of course, music lovers of all kinds. As much as MusicIntervention serves these target publics, it is also an adventure for its writer: me! Without a doubt, I am more knowledgeable about the topic of music intervention than just a mere three months ago. Whether reading a phenomenal article about the power of music to strengthen a community or writing about music’s healing effects on peacebuilders and those traumatized by war, the words and phrases on the page become the building blocks of this new study.

Reaching a decision on what to discuss in these posts is not always straightforward. There are times that I stumble upon a perfect topic for exploration either by word-of-mouth, social media, or reading my daily collection of online newspapers. Other times, I begin to wonder if writing about a nightmarish masterclass experience from my past might be more informing than anything else appearing on my radar (yes, all musicians have sustained traumatic masterclass experiences and I’m not afraid to admit it anymore!). One of the nifty techniques that I use to avoid utilizing embarrassing experiences of mine as “educational material” is to send out Google Alerts every day for the following five search inquires: music and peace, youth empowerment, conflict transformation, music education, and music intervention. The results vary day to day, week to week, month to month. There are days where the level of good content is slim and other days where I cannot find the time to read all of the new articles and resources between my full-time job, practicing, spending time with my family, and having a bit of a life! Notice, I didn’t mention sleep.

Last Tuesday was one of those “slim pickin’s” days. None of the search engine articles were intriguing. Sighing to myself I wondered if I had hit the bottom of the Internet. What if there were no more music intervention youth empowerment and conflict transformation organizations out there that I hadn’t already found? As my bleary eyes skimmed Ha’aretz.com, an article sparked my attention. This article reported on an apparent youth empowerment music intervention school called the Silwan Ta’azef Music School. Ta’azef Music School, housed in the Madaa Creative Center (Madaa in Arabic translates to horizon in English), resides in Silwan, a controversial neighborhood right outside of Jerusalem’s Old City’s walls. What shocked me the most was never having heard of such a school after recently living over a half a year in Jerusalem. If I had known, there is no question that my viola and I would have visited!

The majority of Silwan’s population is Palestinian, with several pocket-fulls of Israeli settlers that live in highly fortified, secured compounds that were until recently Palestinian homes. These homes were either confiscated based upon the Absentee Property Law or sold to the Israeli settlers by Palestinian owners. All of the buildings are basically built on top of each other on the hilly, over-populated land. According to archeologists, it is believed that Silwan is also the location of the ancient city of King David. This is one of the reasons why Jewish settlement in the area is of high priority. To add to the mess, this land is technically a part of East Jerusalem annexed by Israel during the 1967 War. The annexation is deemed illegal by international law and the majority of the international community.

If you speak with government officials in the Jerusalem Municipality responsible for East Jerusalem Affairs, they will tell you that Palestinians (whom they call Arabs most of the time) predominately build without permits because they rather avoid paying taxes. If you speak with members of the Silwan neighborhood, they will tell you that they have tried to apply for permits to build houses and are always denied, hence they build without permits. As the adults bicker about these issues, the children of Silwan grow up in a very hostile place without children-friendly facilities, such as playgrounds, colorful murals, and even at the bare minimum, sidewalks. What a relief to know that at least Madaa is there!

After cutting and pasting in a quick Google Search, Madaa’s website popped up. Unbelievable! As I hurriedly passed through all of its pages and links, I was soon led to other music intervention organizations and then other music intervention organizations and then others. Let’s just say I hit the jackpot for a “slim-picken’s” Tuesday. If only every day could be that productive and full of good news.

And now I would like to introduce the six new music intervention organizations that have been added to the MusicIntervention Blog under Youth Empowerment or Conflict Transformation and two new blogs that can be found on the BlogRoll. Enjoy your perusing!

BlogRoll

Music Bus Goes Africa

Music Bus Goes Palestine (now called Music Bus Goes Middle East)

Youth Empowerment

Empty Vessel Music: Education, Appreciation, Intervention

Manhattan New Music Project

Manhattan New Music Project(MNMP) empowers youth in underserved communities, using the performing arts to develop essential life skills and achieve academic success. We build partnerships among artists, students, teachers and parents that focus on the creation and performance of new works.

Silwan Ta’azef Music School

Since October 2007, weekly music lessons are given by professional musicians to the children of Silwan. The music school offers an introductory course to music for children ages 4-12, and group instrumental lessons to children and teenagers.

The main concept behind the music school is to offer an outlet for creativity and emotions through the playing of music, and to support the personal and musical development of every child. All classes in the music school are held in groups, and much emphasis is given to social interaction and personal social development.

VH1 Save the Music

The VH1 Save The Music Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to restoring instrumental music education in America’s public schools, and raising awareness about the importance of music as part of each child’s complete education. Since its inception in 1997, the VH1 Save The Music Foundation has provided $48 million in new musical instruments to 1,800 public schools in more than 100 cities around the country, impacting the lives of over 1.8 million children.

Conflict Transformation

Face to Face Interreligious Service-Pontanima Choir

Established in 1996, Pontanima is an interreligious choir based in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is widely acclaimed as an innovative peacemaking project, a shining ambassador of Bosnia-Herzegovina, and a major contributor to the cultural life of Bosnia-Herzegovina. The choir celebrates its tenth anniversary in 2006 in affirmation of the vision shared by the founding group of singers, who allowed themselves to hope in the future and dreamed that spiritual music could heal and reconcile the people of Sarajevo and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Musicians Without Borders

Musicians without Borders is an international network organization that uses the power of music to connect communities, bridge divides and heal the wounds of war and conflict.

Musicians without Borders initiates projects, develops methodologies and organizes concerts and international conferences on healing and reconciliation through music. Since its founding in 1999, Musicians without Borders has organized successful projects in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Kosovo and the Middle East.

Musicians Without Borders UK (affiliate organization of Musicians Without Borders)

Musicians without Borders UK use music to reduce the stressful effects of war and to connect people across cultural, political and religious borders for peace and positive change. MwB UK is affiliated to the MwB International organisation founded in 1999 by Laura Hassler and a group of musicians in the Netherlands in response to the Kosovan war. Since then the network has grown with projects in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Uganda, Rwanda, the Middle East, the Netherlands, the USA and the UK.

Mitrovica Rock School (a project of Musicians Without Borders)

The Mitrovica Rock School restores rock music culture to the ethnically divided city of Mitrovica, Kosovo. Local musicians teach the city’s future rock stars. Throughout the region, the Mitrovica Rock School is known as an example of a new way to bridge cultural differences.

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I attempt to cite all of the sources used in my writings and research as correctly as possible, so please adopt the same policy toward the works presented here and as well my own writings by citing this blog’s findings correctly. This blog is meant for sharing, not plagiarism. Thank you for your respect.

Ignite the Light: The Jam Session

Imagine, it’s your first day meeting them. You remember the stories told in your childhood that taught you to never trust them. When passing in the street, you were strangers. While buying from the same grocery store, you were still strangers. From your birth in the same hospitals until this very moment, you were still strangers.

But here as youth, you both are finally in the same room face to face with only instruments and voices of all kinds in hand to distinguish one band member from another. No script is available. A count down of, “a one, a two; a one, two, three” signals it’s time to jump in. Sounds melt and mold together, soon to create a semblance of unified ideas. You improvise a line of music in the jam, and to your surprise, so can they, in fact, quite well. A smile appears on your face as you think to yourself, “Let’s see what else they can do. Let’s see what else we can do.”

Welcome back from the daydream! Though you were about to have the time of your life, alas I bring you back to reality to discuss further the power of: The Jam Session.

There is much significance in utilizing jam sessions as an exercise in music intervention programs. In my opinion, a “jam session” cannot be defined in one way, since every jam session holds its own purpose. A jam session could:

  • explore a certain sound, timbre, or feeling
  • search for the next section of a song
  • test the limits of an already established song
  • practice the technique of improvisation
  • challenge musicians by putting them “on edge” to produce new musical ideas on the spot
  • create a bonding experience to connect individuals

One could say that jamming has a place in the creation of most genres of music at least at some point. One genre in particular that places much importance in jam sessions is none other than jazz.

In late January, the importance of jam sessions was brought to light by the current “The Rhythm Road: American Music Abroad” program’s resident musical group while on tour in Zimbabwe. Stated by drummer and band leader, Michael Raynor, of The Dennis Luxion + Michael Raynor Quartet,

“To a large extent, the greatest musicians in this music [jazz] learned how to play simply by playing with other great musicians, getting on the band stage and learning right on the spot, and being in there, the atmosphere, hearing players that maybe already know how to play and then stepping up and trying to play what you have learned so far, right in that setting.” (The Zimbabwean)

The Rhythm Road: American Music Abroad program is co-organized by the U.S. Department of State and Jazz at Lincoln Center “to share America’s unique contribution to the world of music and to promote cross-cultural understanding and exchange among nations worldwide.” (The Rhythm Road) Essentially, the U.S. State Department is employing music intervention techniques that empower youth and transform conflict as a diplomatic track.

Interestingly enough, this format of outreach combines several tracks of diplomacy. At the top level, there is Track I Diplomacy: government-to-government interaction. At the grassroots level, there is Track II diplomacy: informal interactions by unofficial actors of civil society. In this case, the U.S. State Department and Zimbabwean government of Track I diplomacy are supporting citizen diplomacy  by using The Dennis Luxion + Michael Raynor Quartet as “cultural ambassadors” of Track II diplomacy.

Why did The Dennis Luxion + Michael Raynor Quartet choose jam sessions, besides the inherent importance of jam sessions in jazz, for their workshops with Zimbabwean youth? What are the benefits of using jam sessions in a music intervention setting?

For a music intervention program to succeed, the youth participants must be “put on edge” to deliver an accountable product in front of their peers and family. This is why much emphasis is placed on the importance of providing frequent performance opportunities, besides the essential purpose of performance in music. Not only must youth participants feel challenged by the responsibility of producing an exhilarating outcome when placed in front of peers and family, but as well consider what is required to plan that success. Am I improving in my daily practicing? How can I implement the instruction from my teachers? Do I feel good about the sound I’m producing? What can I do to improve my ensemble while playing/singing/rapping? How do I feel about my fellow musicians? These questions must be identified and asked. Sometimes the answers are not fully discovered until the performance.

This is where jam sessions can serve the benefits of in-the-moment, interactive music making. In the same fashion as a performance, jam sessions will put youth participants “on edge” to produce an accountable product on the spot, while flexing their creativity.When applied in a setting of conflict transformation, the results are of high-potential  with the ability to ignite further engagement and reconciliation. Many youth involved in peace education who have participated in a jam session identify the experience as memorable, enlivening, meaningful, and of course, a whole lot of fun! They speak of an energy created immediately upon playing music together, and the surprise of how easy it is to musically interact with the “other”. By the end of the jam session, the conflict’s uneven plain dividing society is muted in comparison to an established space of equality. Subsequently, an individual is not initially recognized with the prescribed title of ‘Type A’ or ‘Type B’, but rather entrusted with the same inalienable humanistic needs for security and prosperity.

Want to know more about the Dennis Luxion + Michael Raynor Quartet and their travels? Check out their blog: http://michaelraynor.net/dlmr4/
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1. “Commonly Used Terms.” Search for Common Ground. Search for Common Ground. Web. 06 Feb. 2012. <http://www.sfcg.org/resources/resources_terms.html&gt;.

2. “Letter from Jazz at Lincoln Center.” The Rhythm Road: American Music Abroad. Jazz at Lincoln Center. Web. 02 Feb. 2012. <http://jalc.org/theroad/about_letterfromjalc.asp&gt;.

3. Staff Reporter. “Jam Sessions a Big Part of Jazz Education: U.S. Jazz Quartet.” The Zimbabwean. Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwea, 30 Jan. 2012. Web. 31 Jan. 2012. <http://www.thezimbabwean.co.uk/entertainment/music-and-dance/55912/jam-sessions-a-big-part.html?utm_source=thezim&utm_medium=homepage&utm_campaign=latestarticles&gt;.