Indian music in intercultural education – ISME Glasgow 2016

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Whatever we understand and enjoy in human products instantly becomes ours, wherever they might have their origin – Rabindranath Tagore*

During this presentation, musical figures from several distinct traditions were explored in a practice-oriented manner. The figures selected are appealing beyond South Asia where they originated many centuries ago and continue to play a key role in classical and applied music.

Our shared goal was to enable young and old to collaborate in a memorable learning process that blends seemlessly into any chosen subject, academic and otherwise.

The criteria for selecting a particular figure were (1) its flexibility as for combining it with another subject, for instance mathematics, geography or history; (2) its appeal going by prior experience with learners from different age groups; and (3) its scope for variation, movement, visualisation and analysis in accordance with learners’ specific needs and abilities.

Click on the above image to view or download and print a sample lesson for free (PDF with mp3 audio and other links)
Click here to view or download and print a sample lesson for free (PDF with mp3 audio and other links)

Scope

As part of integrated music education, Indian music enables even complete strangers to share a useful learning process. This calls for a natural and playful approach to melody, rhythm, hand signs and body movement. In this manner we are prepared to include newcomers – children and adults lacking a common language – to instantly participate in music.

Indian music is valued for fostering memory, analytical thinking, concentration, and cooperation among peers. Its basic concepts are exhilarating and liberating whether or not there is scope for studying Indian culture in its own right. This is a boon in circumstances where verbal or written instructions fail to engage learners. Rather than resigning in the face of such formidable challenges, educators are free to experiment and spread solidarity through instant inclusion – the essential joy of “creating” music oneself. This aspect addresses a common fear among learners, namely to be left behind (again!), be it in music or other subjects – a fear that is all too often justified in competitive modern society.

To help educators to overcome such fears, we build lessons around simple figures that bind tunes, rhythms and movements together into a rounded whole. Some of these may appear familiar enough to “break the ice” if needed; and others are so fresh and mind-boggling as to trigger further experimentation among peers in informal settings – anywhere and anytime. For this to happen, we dispense with technical resources of any kind.

Adaptation is the key to rapidly changing learning scenarios wherein cultural stereotyping, a known stumbling block for educators all over the world, must be overcome. This is easily achieved by integrating Indian music into discussions of academic concepts, or by letting its rhythms enrich social and outdoor activities. Such activities are by definition location specific and all-inclusive.

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Educators from Canada, Finland, Germany, Hungary, India, Singapore and Switzerland were among the eleven participants in this one-hour session. They explored a time proven method suited to the needs of a wide range of abilities and learning goals; and this irrespective of participants’ cultural roots.

Date: 28 July 2016 | photos by courtesy of Dr. Tony Makarome, Yong Siew Toh Conservatory Singapore

More information

*Rabindranath Tagore in a letter to C.F. Andrews; quoted by Amartya Sen in The Argumentative Indian: Writings on Indian History, Culture and Identity. London: Penguin, 2005, p. 86.

More on and by Rabindranath Tagore >>

Contribution to the world conference of the International Society for Music Education in Glasgow – ISME 2016

“Yours figuratively: Indian music in intercultural education”

  • Date: Thursday 28th July 2016 (17:15 – 18:15)
  • Venue: AGOS Studio
  • Paper Number: 704.00 | Submission Category: Demonstration/Workshop
  • Special Interest Group (SIG): Practice & Research in Integrated Music Education
  • For more details, kindly check the  isme2016glasgow.org website during the conference  (24-29 July 2016)

Abstract

Music counts among the proverbial “64 arts and skills” of ancient India where it became synonymous with “leading a fulfilled life”. Thus, having evolved along with other pursuits, Indian music is an interdisciplinary concept that connects people irrespective of age and cultural background. It is in this context that we explore the world of musical figures: figures that convey subtle meaning while symbolizing the very joy of participating in music making of a high order.  Rather than borrowing sounds from a supposedly exotic culture, we apply the building blocks of Indian music for several good reasons: for their accessibility in the context of intercultural education and, of course, for their intrinsic value and beauty.

Learners tap into the mind-boggling world of India’s musical ideas. Tiny musical figures are adapted in a manner that has stood the test of time. While being fun on first hearing they also lend themselves to being visualized and analyzed for non-musical purposes.

This teaching method lends itself to classroom and lifelong learning across the entire social spectrum: it adds colour to other school subjects like maths, languages, geography or physical fitness; and requiring no more than voices, hands and open-mindedness, it kindles communication where there is a lack of time and resources, or even a common language. Figuratively yours, ours truly!

Ludwig Pesch studied at Freiburg University from where he went to India in order to be trained and perform as bamboo flautist. Since then he develops intercultural activities that suit the needs of children, music students and teachers; and also for museum education (e.g. family programmes for Museum Rietberg Zurich in conjunction with Indian art exhibitions).

He authored The Oxford Illustrated Companion to South Indian Classical Music and among other writings, contributed to the journal of the Gesellschaft für Musikforschung (Goettingen University “Music | Musics. Structures and Processes“) and to Integrated Music Education. Challenges for Teaching and Teacher Training by M. Cslovjecsek and M. Zulauf, forthcoming). Among his research projects are “Sam, Reflection, Gathering Together!” (Bern University of the Arts in collaboration with Natanakairali, Research and Performing Center for Traditional Arts in Kerala). His ideas on collaborative work are summarized by the acronym AIUME for “Adapting Indian Universals in Music Education”. (www.aiume.org)


Find publications by Ludwig Pesch on worldcat.org >> >>

A Musical Lotuspond ISME 2012 – impressions of a successful world conference for music education

Our ISME 2012 workshop titled A Musical Lotuspond was greeted with great interest by a full house of music educators from all over the world. The atmosphere of the entire world conference was inspiring and thought provoking. We also sensed a sense of urgency motivating all participants to learn from one another and share their experiences. In this manner we all seek to reach out to young and adult learners, including those for who making music has so far remained a distant dream – the very motivation for designing this new type of workshop: expanding the range of intercultural expression within the context of integrated learning; and this even with a minimum of resources.

Two special instruments – one known as yal in ancient Tamil literature, and a newly developed bamboo tambura – met with  special interest among fellow presenters and young participants alike.