Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Universal Language of Music

I just got back to Rochester after a month in Third-World Africa teaching young tribespeople how to listen to complicated musical compositions. The trip of African outreach and education was made possible by an Upstate Genius Grant that was awarded to me this year.

Needless to say, Africans don't use the internet, so I was unable to post to my blog while away. I returned to the U.S.A. last week, but I was ill from some foreign-born pathogens that doctors here could not identify. Serves me right for taking off my face mask when trying to communicate with the tribespeople and get them to understand English.

The difficulty of communication, especially in Third-World Africa, has led me to the conclusion that the only universal language is the language of music. For example, every tribesperson in Africa understood the basic tone of the tune, "There's a hole in my bucket, Dear Liza." They knew from the musical inflections and melodic contradictions that it was a song about conflict and disease. Even when the tune makes an appearance in my Concerto for Folk Song and Computer, with all its complexities and inaccessibilities, the tribespeople still recognize the danger. They become cautious and suspicious, just as you would be if you were scared of catching a incurable pathogen.

I plan to address these issues further in a course I'll be teaching in the fall named "The Universal Language of Music." If I play my chords right, I just might live up to the nickname my students have for me, "the Ayn Rand of electronic music."


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Welcome back, Professor. Or should we say Hakuna Matata?

2:45 AM  

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