Music 194r: Performing Musical Difference: Case Studies from the Silk Road Project

Semester: 

Spring

Offered: 

2017

Undergraduate/graduate seminar. This course, a collaborative venture in the classroom with musicians of the Harvard-affiliated Silk Road Ensemble, explored the social processes and ethical challenges of intercultural musical exchange, composition, and performance. For fifteen years, the Silk Road Project and its signature ensemble have sought to enhance intercultural communication through their music making, bringing together performers and composers from across the world to perform together. With an articulated humanistic goal of creating "unexpected connections, collaborations, and communities in pursuit of meaningful change," the Silk Road Project provides a rich laboratory for appraising how dimensions of difference have been conveyed through artistic performance as well as the many issues that such initiatives raise. Critical and reflexive theoretical approaches from ethnomusicology, anthropology, and performance studies, among other disciplines, were used to frame selected case studies from the Silk Road Ensemble experience. Class sessions included dialogue with musicians from the Silk Road Ensemble who served as interlocutors and provided insider perspectives of the ensemble's work in various domains. Each student pursued a term project (with the possibility of collaboration with classmates) and presented a discussion of it in class, focusing on ethnographic and /or archival materials that shed light on musical difference as daily practice; undertook a focused project in an aspect of social engagement and/or community service; or collaborated with an intercultural group of colleagues in a performance.