AROUND THE WORLD WITH MUSIQA
An Educational Program
Presented in collaboration with the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts
Karim Al-Zand and Anthony Brandt
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Researchers have established that there have been cultures without written language, without religion or without science. But there has never been a culture without music. Music thus plays a central, universal role in human experience.
No better proof of this exists than the rich heritage of folk songs that is part of every culture in the world. Folk songs are the shared songs of a people, a touchstone of their identity and an expression of their passions and views of life. Throughout history, composers from around the world have created arrangements of folk songs. These settings are as varied as they are numerous. Some remain very close to their source; others are more adventurous. Performing these arrangements alongside the original folk songs is a way of dramatizing how something shared by a community can be transformed into something unique —an art work that is rooted in tradition yet also vividly personal. The program for Around the World with Musiqa is divided into four sections:
In Part I, we discuss how folk songs are collected, recorded and transcribed. In Part II, we explore how various composers have created highly imaginative arrangements of folk songs. In Part III, we celebrate the birth of new folk songs: songs created by modern composers in a folk style and using popular texts. In Part IV, we explore how folk songs are often the basis for more abstract instrumental works.
What is a folk song? Louis Armstrong once said: “All music is folk music. I ain’t never heard a horse sing.” This is certainly true. All music is created, performed and enjoyed by human beings. The term ‘folk music’ however, usually implies music with a certain communality of origin, purpose and performance. We often don’t know who exactly composed a particular folk song, for example, or even when exactly it came into being. Folk songs aren’t meant to be performed exclusively by practiced professionals or in specially designated places. And, above all, folk songs are participatory. Some folk tunes are ancient, passed down from generation to generation; others are newly created. Some exist with fixed words and melodies; others occur in a variety of versions. But folk songs can be sung by anyone, anywhere and at any time. It is a music that is truly by and of the people.
Almost every activity, interest and emotion has found its way into folk song. Around the World with Musiqa offers a representative sampling: There are songs of love, such as Black is the color of my true love’s hair and songs of longing, such as Ballo. There are spiritual songs, such as Down by the Riverside. There are lullabies, songs for festive occasions, songs of work and songs of play. The folk song repertoire can be seen as an enormous catalogue of our collective feelings, hopes and experiences as human beings.
Although many of the melodies are old, all of the arrangements and compositions performed on the program were created by modern composers. Many distinguished and important composers from all parts of the world are represented, such as the Americans George Crumb, Roy Harris, Charles Ives and Frederic Rzewski, the Brazilian Heitor Villa-Lobos, the Hungarian Bela Bartok and the Italian Lucian Berio. Several of the works presented were created by Musiqa composers especially for this program. Anthony Brandt has created an arrangement of Mbube, the Zulu melody made famous by Pete Seeger and later used in the animated film The Lion King (with the title The Lion Sleeps Tonight). Pierre Jalbert has created an arrangement of the beautiful and familiar French melody Clair de Lune. Shih-Hui Chen will show us how a lullaby is created from a traditional Taiwenese text. Karim Al-Zand has written a series of instrumental variations on the popular tune She’ll Be Coming ‘Round the Mountain.
Host Susan Koozin will narrate the program, guiding the students through each topic and discussing what to listen for in each musical selection. Surtitles will enable the children to read and sing along with the musicians. The musical performances will be supplemented by lighting and props to help create a truly theatrical experience.
We hope that the students will leave the program with a stronger understanding of music and its role in all of our lives. In addition, we hope to dramatize how a modern composer’s imagination can add yet another dimension to the rich folk tradition. For audiences, folk songs are a bridge that can connect the musical past to the musical future, the familiar to the unfamiliar. For composers, the folk song repertoire is a deep well that can replenish inspiration and sustain the joy of creation. It is our goal that the students experience a unique and exciting musical event and, more importantly, that they leave with a new sense of a curiosity about the cultural opportunities that surround them.
This study guide is designed to help teachers prepare their students for the Musiqa program and to discuss it with them afterwards. Included are the texts and descriptions of all the works on the program, the composers’ biographies, a glossary of important musical terms, suggestions for further study, and ideas for bringing more music into the classroom. The “one-sheets” on pp. 24-27 offer brief and handy suggestions for how to incorporate songs from the program into classroom lesson plans.
Musiqa wishes to express its gratitude to its corporate and foundation sponsors, including the Aaron Copland Fund for Music, the Cullen Trust for the Performing Arts, Dynegy, the Houston Arts Alliance, Houston Endowment Inc., the Simmons Foundation and the Wolff Foundation.
Musiqa also wishes to extend its great thanks to Fran MacFerran and Mark Powell of the Hobby Center, Lucy Bremond and R. Neal Wiley of the Houston Independent School District, Todd Frazier and the staff of Young Audiences of Houston, and Rob Cahill, Dean Dalton, Elaine Kennedy, Bob Stevenson, Brad Sayles and the staff of KUHF radio.