Shaking Up My World by Going Around The World (or at least halfway)

I have long nurtured my interest of incorporating outside-my-canon musics into my pedagogies. In four short days, I’ll be headed to the other side of the world to participate first-hand in a lot of different musical practices from Indonesia. I have some experience with gamelan, but the rest of these art forms will be new to me. While the musical aspect is only one of three foci for the trip, I am totally stoked to experience new musics because it always gives a boost to my creativity in teaching and love of music.

The trip is a Winter Term trip (2 professors, 10 students) called “Music, Islam, and Disasters in Indonesia.” We will travel via Dubai and Jakarta to Banda Aceh to start our 21-day adventure. While I know that every aspect of this trip will impact my life and the way I view the world, I am particularly excited about the musical aspects and their potential impact on my teaching.

During our trip, here are some of the musical practices we will engage with:

  • Seudati (dance genre): attend a performance and participate in a workshop
  • Saman (seated dance, body percussion and vocal genre–pictured at the top of this post): participate workshop with a campus group at Syiah Kuala Campus
  • Randai (martial arts/ pant slapping): attend a performance and participate in a workshop
  • Talempong Kreasi (diatonic gong ensemble): participate in a workshop
  • Talempong (gong ensemble): participate in a workshop with women in a village with a tradition of women performers
  • Ballet: attend a performance
  • Wayang (shadow puppet theater): view a demonstration
  • Gamelan (gong ensemble): attend a performance and participate in a workshop

Also, in the middle of the trip, we will attend a performing arts extravaganza where we will see and hear–all in one night–the following art forms: Silek galombang (martial arts) Gandang tambua & pupuik (a drumming style), Tari piring (plate dance), Talempong uwaik-uwaik (an indigenous style talempong group), Randai (pant slapping theater), and Dabuih (mystical “Islamic” practice).

In terms of my teaching, I have no idea how this is going to impact things. I’m hoping that this perspective will shine new light on ways to teach the standard fare of sightsinging, dictation, and partwriting, all of which are heavily based on notation of pitch and–to a surprisingly lesser extent–rhythm. Since I found using gamelan excerpts to teach pitch concepts not so effective, I approach this trip with significant hopes that the mostly unnotated musics we will experience will help me refocus some of my teaching on non-pitch based areas (rhythm, register, timbre, texture, etc.). One thing I’m already thinking about is how many of these art forms are differently kinesthetic than the musical practices I am accustomed to. My gut feeling is that this trip will result in growth of ideas for teaching rhythm. That would be wonderful, since rhythm is difficult to teach well!

I would like to thank my institution for supporting my attendance on this trip with a Powers Travel grant. The group has also received significant funding from Oberlin Shansi, the Julie Taymor Fund, Oberlin Conservatory, and the Winter Term Office.

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