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Conference Morsel: Selecting High Quality World Music

(An excerpt from the interest session “Music Beyond Borders: World Music for Intermediate Treble Choirs,” presented by Brian C. Murray during the 2014 ACDA Southwestern Division Conference)
       As gatekeepers and translators of culture (Abril, 2006; Anderson, 1993), it is the responsibility of choral conductors to broaden our students’ musical experience beyond what is familiar (Fung, 1995), and to instill in them an appreciation and awareness of multiculturalism through world choral music (Abril, 2006). Furthermore, the repertoire choral conductors choose for their ensembles directly guides the way their students view the world (Abril, 2006). Understanding this responsibility, it is advantageous to seek out high quality world music literature for our choirs.
       In her 1992 article entitled “Circling the Globe: Multicultural Resources”, Judith Cook Tucker provides a taxonomy of various topics for conductors to consider when searching for high quality world choral music:
  1. Arranger – Is the arranger / composer a native to or scholar of the culture of the piece?
  2. Cultural Context – Does the music provide any framework in regard to purpose for this music?
  3. Authentic Arrangement – Is the arrangement for a mixed choir when the piece would have traditionally been performed by men only? Also, is the instrumentation or accompaniment in the style of the culture?
  4. Historical Background – What historical context is given regarding the music? “Tshotsholoza”, for example, is a South African folk song that became an anthem of freedom for black Africans during apartheid.
  5. Lyrics – Are the lyrics in the original language of the piece? Ideally, "...traditional music should be sung in the original language...[which] will result in a more authentic performance..." (Parr, 2006).
  6. Translation – Is a translation given for the text? Is it word-for-word or general? Word-for-word translations provide singers and conductors adequate knowledge to better shape and articulate each word of the text.
Works Cited:
Abril, C. R. (2006). Music that represents culture: selecting music with integrity. Music Educators Journal, 93, 38-45.
Anderson, W. M. (1993). Rethinking teacher education: The multicultural imperative. Music Educators Journal, 78, 9, 52-55.
Fung, V. C. (1995). Rationales for teaching world musics. Music Educators Journal, 82, 36-40.
Parr, C. (2006). Eight simple rules for singing multicultural music. Music Educators Journal, 93, 34-37.
Tucker, J.C. (1992). Circling the globe: multicultural resources. Music Educators Journal, 78, 37-40.