Southern Roots of World Music

A common observation made by travelers to various parts of the world is that American music seems to be encountered virtually everywhere – not just the most recent popular songs, but classic recordings of early blues, jazz, and rock and roll, as well as the vast array of newer genres with roots that are traceable to these original traditions.

It is striking how much of the music enjoyed in so many parts of the world today has been influenced by sounds that may be traced to the southern Mississippi region, the original birthplace of blues and jazz.

Music may be rightfully regarded as the most significant American cultural export, since even Hollywood movie production is increasingly rivaled by regional industries, such as India’s Bollywood genre and Hong Kong’s action/martial arts films, as well as enormous multi-national productions (like Avatar and Lord of the Rings, which were partly made in New Zealand), and we must not forget that many Hollywood movies also feature American roots music as well as themes derived from American music.

Blues, jazz, and early rock and roll pioneered the use of highly danceable, groove-based song forms structured with chordal harmony as a backdrop for sophisticated improvisation by both vocalists and virtuoso instrumentalists. While some would still insist that aspects of European art music are more highly developed, it cannot be denied that each of these American genres - particularly jazz - clearly served as some inspiration to the majority of major European art music composers (as well as popular music performers in much of the world) during the twentieth century, and the value of this music is increasingly recognized worldwide by musicologists in the twenty-first century. Further research is needed on how the richness of this unique musical legacy – and its global impact – is effectively taught at all levels of formal and informal education.

Below are links to some of my writings and projects that address related topics:

· Hebert, D. G. (2010). Jazz and Rock Music. In W. M. Anderson & P. S. Campbell (Eds.), Multicultural Perspectives in Music Education, Vol. 1 (third edition). Lanham, MD: Rowman-Littlefield Publishers.

· Campbell, P. S. & Hebert, D. G. (2010). World Beat. In W. M. Anderson & P. S. Campbell (Eds.), Multicultural Perspectives in Music Education, Vol. 2 (third edition). Lanham, MD: Rowman-Littlefield Publishers.

· Hebert, D. G. (2009). Musicianship, Musical Identity and Meaning as Embodied Practice. In T. Regelski & J. T. Gates (Eds.), Music Education for a Changing Society: Guiding Visions for Practice (pp. 39-55). Dordrecht and New York: Springer Press.

· Campbell, P. S., Hebert, D. G. & Will, R. J. (Eds.) (2001). Around the Sound: Popular Music in Performance, Education, and Scholarship - symposium proceedings. Seattle: University of Washington & Experience Music Project.

· Hebert, D. G. & Campbell, P. S., (2000). "Rock Music in American Schools: Positions and Practices Since the 1960s," International Journal of Music Education , Vol. 36, No. 1 (pp. 14-22).


20th Anniversary Choir Concert

Helsinki chamber choir Kampin Laulu, which specializes in music by contemporary composers, will be offering its 20th anniversary concert tomorrow evening.

Terve Maria is the title of the concert, at the Vanha Kirkko (Old Church, central Helsinki), 24 April, 2010, starting at 7pm. Tickets are 20 euros. The program features major choral works such as Einojuhani Rautavaraa’s Magnificat and Benjamin Britten’s Hymn to Saint Cecilia, as well as the premiere of a new composition by Kampin Laulu’s conductor Eric-Olof Söderström. There will also be some shorter pieces by Part and Brahms.

I am singing the lowest bass parts with this choir, which has released numerous CDs in recent years. Here is a link for further information about Kampin Laulu:



International Society for Philosophy of Music Education

An interesting music symposium is coming soon to Helsinki, and its program has now been publicly announced. The International Society for Philosophy of Music Education will hold its 8th symposium at Sibelius Academy on June 9 to 13. Here is a link for further information: ISPME.

The International Society for Philosophy of Music Education is a professional scholarly organization that is "devoted to the specific interests of philosophy of music education in elementary through secondary schools, colleges and universities, in private studios, places of worship, and all the other places and ways in which music is taught and learned."

I reviewed paper submissions for this symposium, served as ISPME's webmaster, and will be a Respondent for one of the paper presentations at this event in June.


De-Musicalization of Society

The late Dom Hélder Pessoa Câmara (1909-1999), Archbishop of Recife, Brazil, once famously remarked that “When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist.”

The urgency and irony of this situation in the case of hunger is striking, yet school music teachers also frequently find themselves in a similar situation with regard to music, which they freely share with students who are musically deprived, often lacking even the most basic knowledge of songs and rudimentary techniques for creating meaningful sounds. Such teachers politely avoid any explicit acknowledgment that these kinds of problems are mostly due to insufficient parental involvement - spanning generations - that gradually leads to the extinction of amateur music making as a socially integral practice.

Contemporary music teachers earnestly struggle to overcome the de-musicalization of a society that rewards commercialization and the gratification of individual greed (a value usually passed on from busy parents to children reared on television ads), and promotes an increasingly efficient miseducation guided by standardized test scores and the kind of trivia that enable people like Glenn Beck and Paris Hilton to become identified as important voices of their generation. Music naturally seems out of place within any education that offers so little room for promotion of altruism, critical thinking or creative achievement, and is therefore targeted by school systems as an unnecessary expenditure in a thoroughly commercialized society.

What can be done?

Fortunately, this phenomenon of de-musicalization is not an incurable global pandemic, although it may sometimes appear to be so. In fact, it is preventable, but requires systemic intervention at all levels of formal and informal education, from prenatal and early childhood programs through even activities offered at retirement facilities. It requires that the field of music education, and its ultimate mission, be viewed more broadly: lifelong, lifewide, inclusive of an array of genres, practices and locations that extend far beyond the strictures of traditional schools.

Still, those who participate in such educationally deviant activities may find themselves labeled “musical” and viewed with suspicion as an “eccentric artist”, perhaps even listed as a “person of interest” for inciting the public production of communal sounds. Indeed, we must recognize that such communal musicalizers are already among us, lurking beside park benches, in community centers, playgrounds, summer camps, in churches and synagogues, maybe even directly teaching young children and their mothers, thereby resisting the spread of de-musicalization. Perhaps, in time, even a priest or poet may be inspired to write “A spectre is haunting Europe - the spectre of de-musicalization.” But also in time, the youth may again find their voice and know the power of songs that transcend generations.