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The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

Macalester's 14th International Roundtable considers globalization and music

By Peter Truax

Last Saturday marked the conclusion of the 14th annual Macalester International Roundtable, a three day-long series of scholarly lectures and discussions focusing on a topic of global relevance. This year, the topic was “The Musical Imagination in the Epoch of Globalization.” The college invited three professors to write papers specifically addressing this topic and then come to the college to lecture on, discuss and defend their works.The three professors invited to speak this year were Drs. Martin Stokes from Oxford University, Joseph Lam from the University of Michigan, and Ingrid Monson from Harvard University.

President Brian Rosenberg and Dean Ahmed Samatar of the Institute for Global Citizenship opened the event, introducing Professor Stokes, the keynote speaker, whose address outlined some of the themes to be considered throughout the weekend.
Stokes spoke on the subject of musical cosmopolitanism, asking the audience to consider music both as a localized, cultural artifact as well as an internationally transmitted commodity, circulating the world through multimedia, including porn, film and opera.

Stokes expanded on these ideas using examples of Middle Eastern music both from the 1930’s, and from more contemporary selections, to illustrate how musical cosmopolitanism had been used both to merge cultural ideas and impose one culture on another.

On Friday morning, Lam delivered his address on Chinese music and its relation to globalization. He stressed the importance of understanding China’s past as well as its present in the context of globalization, and how China uses music, regardless of cultural origin, to shape and define its sense of self.

Hector Pascual Alvarez ’08 gave the first response, criticizing Lam for failing to address the political meanings of Chinese music. Professor Chuen-Fung Wong of the Music Department responded second. He echoed Professor Lam’s speech, illustrating the need to look at potential musical ideas that could be globalized, rather than ideas common in globalized music.

The final lecture, Friday afternoon, was by Monson on musical imagination in African America. She began by illustrating African American music in the time of slavery as an expression of freedom and spirituality, and then examined 20th century jazz and its coincidence with the Civil Rights movement.

In her consideration of globalization, Monson spoke on Neba Solo, a Malian artist.

In response, Miriam Larson ’08 spoke on musical transformation as a way to bridge cultural divides. Next, Jane Rhodes, Dean for the Study of Race and Ethnicity, spoke on the struggle of African Americans and their use of music as a form of empowerment.

“Though shrouded in ambiguity and supported by social constructs, this year’s musically focused international roundtable was very enlightening and informative,” Sarah Van Etten ’10 said of the weekend’s events.

On Saturday morning, the three panelists met together in the concert hall to address each other’s lectures and answer audience questions. Among the items discussed was the role of minorities in music, and how to reconcile the work of the three professors with others in their field. The panel concluded with audience questions about “world music” and the nature of musical authenticity.

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