“Musical Diversity – A Necessity In The World – An Enrichment To Society” by Mr. Einar Solbu

Tons of books and articles have been published in the course of the last decade on the effects of globalization. Some consider globalization the new opportunity for the world. Others deem globalization the end of it. In my view, globalization in itself – whatever it may be! – is neither good nor bad. Globalization is a fairly inaccurate and unspecified term that we cling to when wanting to express information or opinions on one or several aspects of a world, in which new communication technology and new systems of economy in the course of a very short time have changed the way in which people and peoples coexist. The new situation – the globalized world – is, as I said, as such neither positive nor negative, but it puts new and for most of us – people as well as societies – quite dramatic challenges on our value systems, and on our cultural and social behaviour. We need to, today and tomorrow, in a much more direct and immediate way than yesterday, relate and respond not only to our nearest neighbours, but to all other societies and cultures on the globe. When saying ‘relate and respond to’, 1 have in mind both quantitative and qualitative considerations, including ethical.

For all of us working in the artistic and cultural field, the globalized world represents a number of quite specific challenges, many of which have been – and will be – discussed at this seminar. For my part, I will focus on one such challenge, a challenge that was put at the top of the agenda of the International Music Council only a few months ago as a result of the studies and deliberations undertaken by the IMC in the previous biennium. In the minutes from the IMC General Assembly in Tokyo in October last year, this challenge is named ‘Sustaining and Enhancing Musical Diversity’. The IMC Executive Committee has appointed me the chair of the steering group for the programme set up to deal with a number of issues under this umbrella. Consequently, this seminar is an excellent opportunity for me not only to speak about some of these issues, but indeed to obtain useful and relevant knowledge and insight in such issues from a most qualified forum.

Allow me first to discuss the term ‘cultural diversity’ for a moment. What is cultural diversity and – consequently – musical diversity? To start in the easy end, ‘cultural diversity’ describes the fact that the human race has grouped itself in numerous cultural units or communities, according to language, religion, musical forms, educational models, etc., etc. Each of us, consequently, belongs to a number of such cultural communities.

The term implies more than a description of a fact, however, and is therefore much more importunate than a merely descriptive term is. The term ‘cultural diversity’, as it is used in a variety of agendas and programmes these days, implies an ‘ethical imperative’ regarding the basic right for every human being, and, consequently for every self defined community of humans, to express themselves the way they like, to practice their creativity in ways which are natural for them, to protect those parts of their cultural heritage which seem important to them to protect, and to transfer their culture related behavioural patterns and value systems to the next generation in their own ways.

Most people will nod their heads and say, yes, of course, nobody today should deny anyone the right to maintain and practice their own culture. What is the fuss about?

Yes, what is the fuss about? Why has the IMC put musical diversity on its agenda in a time when we know more about musics from other cultures than our own than ever before? And why has the UNESCO General Conference just recently adopted a universal declaration on Cultural Diversity? Fifty years after the time when the Western world stopped its colonisation of major parts of the so-called southern world?

Why has cultural diversity become such an important issue now?

I believe there are several reasons, several lines of development that in fact run together. Let me briefly mention two such lines of development that in my view are of basic importance, in addition to the rapid development of digital technology.

Firstly, more and more societies in the world have become multi-cultural in the sense that people belonging to different cultural communities live closely together within geographical and political borders that used also to represent cultural borders. Multi-cultural societies have – as you indeed know – existed for a long time. But in the course of the last fifty years or so, two things have happened: 1) many more societies have become multi-cultural, and 2) the awareness of equality between cultures has grown in most societies. In other words, in the course of the last few decades, a great many societies have faced – some in an offensive, others in a more defensive manner – a number of new challenges with regard to their cultural and educational policies, including the relationship between politics, education and religion.

Secondly, the combination of the following two facts represents a threat to the smaller or weaker cultural communities: 1} that cultural expressions and artefacts have become commodities; that there is big money in cultural (artistic) expressions (music, dance, visual arts, etc), and 2) that the economical power more and more lies in the hands of a very limited number of multi-national companies, which gives these companies muscles which a number of cultures are unable to match. The industrialised world, in which we have lived for “quite some time now, have, through their misuse of nature, made us aware of endangered species among plants and animals. In our time, the global market forces which seem to have instant profit as its ultimate goal, have opened our eyes for the fact that if these forces be allowed to rule the ground alone for some time, a number of “cultural species” will not only end up as endangered cultures, but will, no doubt, disappear very soon.

The fact that cultural diversity is placed on a number of agendas these days, reflects a global concern and global awareness in the wake of globalization. The international community has slowly and gradually realised that cultural diversity is dependent on political action on all levels – international, national and local – based on thorough understanding of the complexity of culture and of the conditions under which cultures are being sustained and enhanced.

As a footnote: It is interesting to register, that in many of the active responses to aspects of globalization that may seem threatening to large groups of people, political and professional groups seem to join forces in setting new agendas and implementing action. This may signal that the future will see new structures in the governing of our societies!

Let me, however, once again ask: Isn’t ‘musical diversity’ the most natural thing for most of us? There is jazz and there is Indian classical music, and there is Korean Court music and there is Western classical music. What is the real issue here?

What is musical diversity in practical terms?

Allow me briefly to mention a few examples of what musical diversity will imply for a society – a local society, a nation or the global society for that matter.

Musical diversity implies, for instance, that all local musical cultures be given condition under which they can evolve. Not only those musical cultures that are far away from us, but also those musical cultures that exist next door, those that are owned by minority communities – locally or world wide, and those that may seem to compete with (our) major musical cultures for resources, media coverage and political awareness.

Musical diversity implies that special means be taken to empower artists in local musical cultures to improve their art within their community, and engage in international exchange through performance and other people-to-people and artist-to-artist encounters. Visibility is basic for being considered important, and presence in various fora for being part of the processes that influence development in the world.

Musical diversity implies that access is given to all types of musical expression in all societies. Try to imagine the wider consequences of such a simple statement: access – free and uncomplicated access – to all types of musical expression for all, not only within its own territory, but all over the world!

Musical diversity implies that every person can choose which musical community/communities he or she wants to identify with. In other words, a freedom to choose. What are the consequences for music education of such an implication? I don’t have all the answers to such a profound question, but will offer a few suggestions:

Each person must have the right to become well acquainted with at least one musical culture and obtain security in using that as a means of expression and communication.

Each person must have the right to acquaint him/herself with a number of other musical cultures.

There must be opportunities for all people – as a lifelong process – to interact with other people through musical expressions of a large variety.

Try to imagine the political and educational challenges embedded in this!

As a bottom line to the question of what musical diversity implies in practical terms for society, I would offer the following: Musical diversity cannot be sustained, nor enhanced – internationally, nationally or locally – unless society – also internationally, nationally and locally – undertakes the responsibility for it. What is needed may have different names in different societies. In my country, we would call if the need for a proactive musical and musical-educational policy. But regardless of name and design, the ultimate consequence of globalization for musical diversity, is the need for society -on all levels – to be proactive in supplying the conditions on which musical diversity is dependent.

What is a proactive musical policy?

A proactive musical policy consists of several components, which need to go together in a consistent way:

There must be an ideological basis, which clarifies the values and goals at stake. This must be formulated in a way with which those influenced by the policy can identify.

There must be a long term strategy which needs to be credible to those involved and influenced.

There must be a set of actions aimed at ensuring the basic conditions for music production, education/transmission, dissemination/marketing, preservation, creativity, participation, remuneration for artistic production etc.

There must be funding to support the various actions.

There must be an infrastructure to ensure effective administration and critical assessment of the various actions.

There must be structures that ensure dialogue and interaction between the various cultural communities, policy makers, professional groups/institutions and interest groups/organisations.

All these components can and should be tailored to be consistent with local society, culture and traditions. But I believe strongly that all of them need to be present in order 1) to obtain a clear directions for what we want to obtain, and 2) to make things happen.

1 said earlier that musical diversity is an enrichment to any society – global, national or international.

What is the enrichment from musical diversity?

At the end of the day, what are we working toward? Those of us who strive for a society in which all musical cultures – all cultural expressions for that matter – are considered equal in value, and are given the same opportunity to exist and be practised, is a world where democracy means not only being able to cast our vote at every parliament election, or not being censured when we speak and write. We want – and work towards – a society in which one cultural expression does not control another cultural expression. A society in which the cultural forces are given the strength they need not to be overrun by profit making interests. A society in which every person has a wide variety of options to choose from with regard to cultural environment. A society where the cultural walls – important as they may be in many instances – have a number of doors and windows through which cultural communities can visit each other, profit from each other, learn from each other, and enrich one another.

In order to achieve this, those of us, belonging to strong cultural communities today, may have to give up some of our positions. Some of our resources and privileges. I believe strongly that giving up positions and privileges in music in order to give room for musical diversity, does not represent a loss. On the contrary. There is so much to gain – for each of us as musicians, for our societies, and for the globalized world; for which we all are responsible – and in which it is wonderful to live!

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NAD-SADHNA INSTITUTE FOR INDIAN MUSIC AND RESEARCH CENTRE is a place where researchers in music education, professionals in related fields, as well as undergraduate, post graduate and PhD scholars, students and enthusiasts, can get together in a virtual exchange of information and knowledge in the field of Music Education and Musical Performance. Besides, our purpose is to work in areas as diverse as academic research, music and sound production, exhibition services, and the delivery of cinematic, music, and arts events. Nad Sadhna was founded in 2010 and is based in Jaipur, the city better described as the cultural capital of the Country. Having dedicated study facilities, extensive holdings of published and unpublished materials (books, journal and newspaper articles, scores and recordings), collections of recorded music and an audio visual laboratory.


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