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Unification of Europe-Africa through jazz music

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There are many in our small island who are passionate about music. But only a handful make a living out of it. It is sad that most passionate and very talented young individuals end up in vocations that are completely inconsistent with their identity. These melophiles have so much to offer in the realm of music, but are wasted away in desk jobs that drain any musical colour within themselves. In Sri Lanka, there is hardly any scope for such bright sparks to utilise and grow their talent. But a route has been created by the University  of Adelaide, where talents of such persons can be explored while they concurrently follow a business degree. Professor Mark Carroll, Associate Dean, International and Engagement Elder Conservatorium of Music, Faculty of Arts, University of Adelaide, explored this topic further and gave peek into the type of lectures that would be delivered during the course of the degree. 


REALITY OF STUDYING MUSIC 


“Music is a complex and interconnected medium. For instance Western pop music has its roots from Africa rather than from the US. I was always interested in music. When I left school, I joined a rock and roll ensemble. My parents were quite flexible; they told me to do what made me happy. However, the idea of studying music does not normally sit well with parents,” said Professor Mark Carroll with a sigh. “Their main focus is for their children to get a job post pursuing studies. Hence, now art subjects have become more flexible and innovative in order to complement our job-oriented world. We no longer focus on medieval studies where subjects are simply theoretical, but we provide well-rounded subjects that will train students to be global citizens. We also focus on global music thereby producing holistic musicians with a diverse range of capabilities. 


One of the greatest challenges faced by modern musicians is that their creations are freely available to be consumed via the internet. This issue is another reason why many consider studying music to be more of a pastime rather than a job. 


WHAT DO EMPLOYERS WANT TODAY? 


“They want employees to have the ability to think critically and analytically, but they also expect vocational skills. They expect you to be a good global citizen who can think on your feet and respond positively to any situation,” he said.  


He elaborated on the mismatch between knowledge and understanding. “There is a tension in study between knowledge and understanding. In our technology-driven world, information is at our fingertips. When I was a student, I had to go to the library or refer a book to gain knowledge. We are looking at a society that is saturated with knowledge. There is a dynamic, however, between knowing and understanding. They are not mutually-exclusive. We can know all the facts of a subject, but how to apply the subject is another skill altogether.” 


However, liberal arts equip students with transferable skills of such knowledge. For instance, when a music student puts music on a stand to play, he applies his knowledge, uses interpersonal skills to engage with fellow musicians and often exhibits leadership in order to coordinate with his or her counterparts. 
“When studying music with business, you’re learning technical skills while being creative. This will make you unique in the workplace. The sciences and related disciplines explain how things work, while the arts explain why they work. It’s about striking a balance between both skills while focusing on humanity in the workplace too,” he said 


ELDER CONSERVATORIUM OF MUSIC, UNIVERSITY  OF ADELAIDE


The Elder Conservatorium is the oldest tertiary music school in Australia and widely respected as one of the country’s leading music institutions. It was established in 1883 and initially taught European classical music. However, post 1960s, the newer worldwide music trends found its way to the Elder Conservatorium. In 1970s, jazz music was included into the syllabus, in the 1990s, sonic arts and electronica were introduced and in 2012, pop music was incorporated. The university constantly updates its degrees therefore the qualification is cutting-edge rather than frozen in time. 

 

Music exists on two levels, as sound and as a form of communication. It is a medium that touches all five senses


A few of the new music programmes that were introduced by University  of Adelaide are as follows: 


BM (Bachelor of Music) - Sonic Arts 
 BM - Popular Music and Creative Music Technologies 
 BM - Composition 


WHAT IS MUSIC?


Music exists on two levels, as sound and as a form of communication. It is a medium that touches all five senses. 


Professor Carroll made us listen to Pierre Boulez structures. It was a rather obscure piece of music, where one could even say was not music at all. The professor gave us the context behind the piece and said Pierre, at the time, was a very angry young man who had lived through WWII. He tried to show, through his piece, that there was no beauty left in this world. He stomped on the notion of beauty and exhibited incoherent dullness in his piece. Hence, through music we could also understand the emotions of a composer. 


BEGINNINGS OF JAZZ 


He gave an introduction to the beginning of jazz, he said, “1941 was a happy year for America when the first unhappy slave landed on their shores. The two musical cultures collided. European music at that time was structured and organised. Much like European society at the time. But at the same time, African tribal music was unpredictable and exciting and there was the use of call and response. African tribal horns became the brass we use in jazz today. The emphasis is on the sound; just as the note. This is because if we change the pitch we change the meaning. This is portrayed through the sounds that are produced. Jazz is a mix of Europeanized-African music and Africanized-European music. There was the coming together of two racial groups through music with the institution of slavery. Creoles and African-American music created a blend of styles. Creoles could read music and favoured European dance forms, while African-Americans began to play their previously vocally-infected music on European instruments, and used the same timbral devices as their African forebears, throat tones, vibrato, bending to obtain blue notes (a minor interval where a major would be expected, used especially in jazz.) Black music, as it did in Africa, used strong rhythmic pulses -- ‘ground’ beats, i.e. recurring rhythmic figures. Creole European rhythmic sensibility on the other hand tended to use melody in order to emphasise the metrical pulse of the music. 


So when black musicians tried to emulate the marches and other dances they heard played by their Creole cousins tended to ‘rag’ (elaborately syncopated rhythm in the melody and a steadily accented accompaniment, the melodies across the steady rhythmic pulse.) By far, the most famous of the rag-timers was Scott Joplin, who was born in Texasin 1868. In 1899, Joplin composed his ‘original Rags’ which were published and his famous ‘Maple leaf Rag’ which was turned down initially. Joplin was caught up in what was a worldwide ragtime boom, which lasted some twenty years and attracted the interest of composers such as Stravinsky and Debussy in “Golliwog’s Cakewalk” (the cakewalk being the dance danced to ragtime music.)  

 

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