Theme 4

Theme 4. Promotion of inter-cultural understanding through singing. AIRS for peace.  There are two components to this theme. The one is the collection of and representation of songs of various cultures performed in their authentic style. The second is the determination of the ability to transmit cultural understanding through the teaching of these songs. 

With high mobility of people around the world and the culturally diversified population in many countries, cross-cultural interactions are increasingly evident. Moreover, now, when our lives are constantly disturbed by wars and terrorism, it is crucial for educators around the world to promote among our children intercultural understanding. To live together in peace, requires understanding and appreciating each others’ cultural background. In many cultures, traditional folk songs and children songs transmit cultural knowledge and values to the new generation. Through singing these songs with an understanding of their cultural context, children may experience an unfamiliar culture, and thus, can possibly increase their understanding and respect for that culture. Two AIRS researchers (Félix Neto and Lily Chen-Hafteck) have independently shown that children who learn songs of a minority culture improve attitudes toward that foreign culture as compared to children who did not learn the songs. Specifically, Sousa, et al., (2005) studied the Cape Verde black culture in Portugal, and Chen-Hafteck (2007) studied students in New York exposed to Chinese music. In the Portuguese study, the singing intervention influenced only older children. In the US study, students who shared a class with members of the minority culture improved their attitude more than did those who had less contact with the minority culture. These complex findings raise questions to be addressed regarding sensitive periods and environment for the effectiveness of singing interventions in the development of cultural understanding.

This theme also directs attention to music from island societies, repositories of much of the world's minority languages and (by extension) much of the world's minority song styles. It will do so with the support of the unique Canada Research Chair in Island Studies, Theme 4 Team Leader, Godfrey Baldacchino at UPEI and his extensive international networks including ethnomusicologists. A special focus on the Islands of Oceania arises through sociologist Jean Mitchell (Vanuatu Islands where singing is central to everyday life), music educator Joan Russell (Fijian Islands), music scholar David Huron (Micronesia), ethnomusicologist Kati Sezgo (Hawaii) and cognitive music psychologist Kate Stevens (Australian Aboriginal). Neto and Chen-Hafteck will develop and test guidelines for effectively teaching cultural understanding through music. They will be joined by Patricia Shehan Campbell (1998, 2004) (University of Washington, a vocalist, ethnomusicologist and renowned music-educator), Larry O’Farrell (UNESCO Chair of Culture and the Arts in Education at Queen’s University), Udo Krautwurst (UPEI anthropologist with expertise from research in Namibia and studies of technology/ culture interactions), John Tivendell (social psychologist, U. de Moncton) and Theresa Doyle,  a nationally awarded recording artist who has taught cultural songs around the world.

Digital Archive. Ethnomusicologists will develop a database of songs (sung by native adults and children) that can transmit cultural knowledge and values and demonstrate the life style of the people from those cultures. Researchers will then use the AIRS database to select songs and videos of cultural contexts. Educators will teach children about unfamiliar cultures through these songs. Social psychologists will test whether teaching these songs changes children’s attitude towards people from those cultures. An associated benefit is preserving the cultural heritage represented by these songs. Examples in the AIRS digital library of singing performed in its own cultural environment, by its respective cultural bearers, eliminates the dilemma of educators having to teach, or anyone having to listen to, songs from different cultures sung by non-natives (O’Flynn, 2005). The digital archive will also facilitate comparison of song styles across cultures to identify universals in song and music.

Training. Students in social psychology, sociology of music, ethnomusicology and Island Studies will apply pedagogical tools (developed through Theme 3) in experiments in which children of majority cultures learn songs of a minority culture (using methodologies of Neto and Chen-Hafteck).They will consider and evaluate the applications of this teaching to development of inter-cultural understanding.  They will also gain cultural experience by working in foreign sites hosted at the universities of AIRS’ collaborators, where they may engage in song collection and studies of attitude change. 


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