International Roundtable to focus on music's role in global arena

By Hattie Stahl

Yesterday marked the beginning of Macalester’s 2007 International Roundtable, an annual series of lectures and discussions on an issue of global significance. Titled “The Musical Imagination in the Epoch of Globalization,” this weekend’s participants include three distinguished guest speakers as well as a concert tonight.Music has the ability to speak not only to individuals, but also to travel across communities throughout the world, according to the 2007 Roundtable Program. In an age of globalization, culturally specific forms of music can be discovered and widely distributed, leading to an increasing presence of hybrids along with “instant commodification and the danger of homogenization.”

The Roundtable seeks to offer definitions of the term “musical imagination,” address relationships between music and cultural diversity, and question whether there is a world music emerging.

Events began yesterday evening in the Janet Wallace Fine Arts Center Concert Hall, with opening statements by Dean of the Institute for Global Citizenship Ahmed Samatar and President Brian Rosenberg. Martin Stokes, Fellow of St. John’s College, Oxford, delivered the Keynote Address, “On Musical Cosmopolitanism.”

Stokes was invited to participate in the Roundtable by Samatar early in 2006.
“I agreed [to come speak] because these are prominent events that stimulate important discussions about the global arena,” Stokes wrote in an email to The Mac Weekly. “Music is an important way in which we shape global selves and global identities. I was just delighted this topic had been chosen.”

There are three sessions to the Roundtable today. Joseph Lam, professor of music at the University of Michigan, will deliver a lecture titled “Chinese Music and its Globalized Past and Present,” in the morning.

Hector Pascual Alvarez ’08, a respondent to Lam’s lecture, received Lam’s paper in mid-August. He has read it several times since then, preparing his own response.

“In my response, I’ll apply his main ideas to the national identity in Galicia [a province in northwestern Spain], an area where there is a strong separatist, nationalist movement,” Alvarez said.

Alvarez was invited to participate in the Roundtable by Dean Samatar last spring.

“I’ve always loved music, and always listened to a lot of different types,” he said. “From classical to Greek Indie Rock, to North African New Age. But ultimately the Roundtable is not as much about music as about the world and how it is changing. Music is the window I think we’re using this year to look at the world.”

Assistant Professor of Music Cheun-Fung Wong is the second respondent to Lam. He is trained in ethnomusicology and world music.

“Music has a very particular role in globalization because it is a symbol and you can ascribe meaning to it, and it can also lose its meaning very quickly when a particular musical piece or composition is being transported or exported to other places,” Wong said.

Ingrid Monson, professor of African American Music at Harvard University, will deliver the lecture in the afternoon session. Professor Jane Rhodes and Miriam Larson ’08 are respondents to Monson’s paper.

“Monson’s specialty is in jazz and social movements,” Larson said. “She’s a really well-written, conscientious scholar, and I think my role is to say that.”

“Jazz is black people’s music, so we talk about race when we talk about jazz,” Larson added.

Larson herself doesn’t have much of a background playing jazz music, but instead has focused on classical.

“I’ll be bringing that critique to what I have a background in – classical music and my race,” she said. “White privilege, as well as western privilege and class
privilege.”

Tonight’s concert, featuring eighth blackbird, is a new addition to the Roundtable this year. The Roundtable moved from Weyerhaeuser Memorial Chapel to the concert hall due to the Roundtable’s focus on musical performance as a means of traveling across communities.

A final session Saturday morning will conclude the Roundtable. The session will feature a discussion between the three guest participants, Lam, Monson and Stokes.
The Roundtable is financed by the Dewitt Wallace Distinguished Visitors Fund.

Click here for a detailed program of events.