“Artistic activities vibrate between nationalism and internationalism. The one is as necessary as the other is indispensable.” Internationalism in Music, The Musical Quarterly (1925), Guido Adler and Theodore Baker
As the nights draw in and belts are tightened a temptation is to batten down the hatches and posit a false dichotomy between celebrating the local or embracing the exotic. I know what I like and like what I know.
Fully opened ears though are capable of an appreciation of new harmony and counterpoint that it would be a shame to miss out on. The potential for music to transcend borders of space and time is our Access All Areas Backstage Pass. Add in our digital connectivity and powerful learning environments and global citizenship can feel close enough to touch.
The Scottish writer Kenneth White, who passed away in August 2023, founded the International Institute of Geopoetics in 1989 which called for transnational and transdisciplinary creative practice. When asked Where do you see yourself going now? in Conversations with Scottish Poets (Marco Fazzini, 2015) he replied, “In towards greater and greater concentration, out in ever widening circles.”
Kenneth Clarke in his seminal Civilisation book and TV series (1969) suggested that “nearly all the steps upwards in civilisation have been made in periods of internationalism”.
Creative Scotland state in their international funding criteria that “Working internationally increases diversity, encourages creative experimentation and excellence, strengthens communities, boosts tourism, and connects Scotland to the world.”
The Blog title came to me scheduling classes in my role as Programme Leader for MA Music and the Environment which draws on Geopoetics and Ecomusicology. We are blessed with students spread across multiple time zones spanning California to New South Wales via Zululand. Rather than the domination and exploitation often associated with the empire building alluded to in the title we seek collaboration and mutual learning opportunities.
In conversation I discover linguistic and cultural insights comparing notes as musicians working in diverse environments. Busking as ‘pasar la gorra’ or ‘Straßenmusik machen’ and the sharing of creative alternative business models for touring. We get a close-up sense of how green the grass is on the other side and find solace and inspiration from the solutions found.
Image: Ellen Grieve
MA student Ellen Grieve in Orkney captures our ethos with her working on a modern-day musical revisiting of the St. Kilda mail boats which reached out to as yet unknown friends and kindred spirits.
The following short quotes from current MA students convey this sense of cultural exchange and international connectivity.
“For me the fact that the digital space became an effective creative environment – which was something I didn’t really expect – was a really positive outcome of the course and something I’ll carry with me.” Adam Cameron Taylor, New South Wales
“It gave me more vibrant, ‘actual’ tastes of the culture and lands from which they came.” Lisa Lulis, Chicago
“The more I learn about how music is being created around the world the more I’m drawn to experience it in person.” John MacLean Allen, California
“In spite of the virtual nature of our interaction, I now consider them to be people that I know very well.” David Starke, South Africa
Image: Simon Bradley & Peter Noble
We will be showcasing these students’ work at a free event on 17th January in The Bungalow in Paisley which will also be live streamed on the venues Facebook. There will be live music, students presenting their creative outputs and a guest talk from TRACS Director Steve Byrne on Intangible Cultural Heritage. It will also be a celebration of internationalism in music and an example of the leading role Scotland can surely play to this end.
“Let us raise ourselves from the narrow perspective of being a citizen of a particular country to global citizenship that is the greatest demand of modern world.”
― Preeth Nambiar, The Voyage to Eternity