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News & Topics
August 1, 2016

MOMRI Presents a Panel Discussion on Musicking and Identities: Models for Peacebuilding

June 3, 2016 at TKP Conference Center in Shinjuku, Tokyo



Dr. Michael Golden, Research Fellow; Professor of Music Composition and Theory, and Director of the Creative Arts Program at Soka University of America, Aliso Viejo, USA.
Focus: Musicking and Ecology.

Dr. Norihiko Kuwayama, medical doctor specializing in psychosomatic medicine, representative of the NPO FRONTLINE, volunteer and performer around the globe.
Focus: Music Therapy and Psychological Care Program.

Dr. Mia Nakamura, Associate Professor, Faculty of Design, Kyushu University. Author of Ongaku wo Hiraku (Possibility of Music: Art, Care, and Culture) (2013).
Focus: Sociology of Music and the Arts

Dr. Craig Robertson, Research Fellow; School of Media and Communications, University of Leeds, UK. Co-editor of Music, Power and Liberty (2016).
Focus: Music Sociology.

Ms. Elaine Chang Sandoval, Associate Research Fellow; PhD Student in Ethnomusicology, The Graduate Center, City University of New York.
Focus: Cosmopolitan Music Education.



Dr. Olivier Urbain, Senior Research Fellow; director of the Toda Institute for Global Peace
and Policy Research, author of Music and Conflict Transformation (2008, 2015).
Focus: Music in Peacebuilding.


Presentation of the Theme

It is often our sense of identity, as individuals and as social units of all kinds, that drives both constructive and destructive behaviors; yet we also recognize that culture, society and world events exert a powerful influence in the construction of identities. This panel discussion brings together five speakers from three continents in order to explore links between musicking and the ways in which our identities shape our relations with each other and with the world. We want to find out how musicking helps us to both maintain and develop our collective identities, in a time when we are faced with increasingly complex global issues such as climate change, refugee crises, migration, globalization and localization, terrorism and cybersecurity.
The term “musicking” coined by Christopher Small implies that any action related to a musical event is important, not only performing and listening, but also hand clapping, foot stomping, or enjoying music at home on a portable device.
The word “identities” is in the plural since there are so many different types of identities; also, we each construct various identities through the intersections of ways of engaging with society. “Peacebuilding” covers a large range of activities, from developing warm relationships with neighbors to helping victims of disasters recover faster and rebuilding their communities. Finally, “models” is used to recognize that there are many different philosophies of peace and methods to promote peacebuilding.
Music and musicking remain our guides in navigating these complex issues that affect all of us today.


Content of the Presentations

First Dr. Urbain introduced the theme and participants, then each of the five panelists gave a short opening statement.


Ms. Sandoval presented on “Musicking and Contradictory Identities,” highlighting several music ensembles around the world that are used to promote certain forms of identity for its participants through various music practices. For example, she discussed how symphony orchestra participation is seen as a way of performing certain forms of discipline and civility, and how the famous West Eastern Divan Orchestra is seen as an ensemble that helps its participants move beyond their political identities. Sandoval argued that these examples are significant to developing music curricula based on ensemble pedagogies, and opened up questions about how such music education might specifically cultivate a cosmopolitan identity.


Dr. Nakamura’s presentation was titled “Musical Editing for Empowerment and Social Transformation.” She discussed musical creativity in terms of “editing,” and demonstrated that if the process is creative enough — in other words, when different world views are reconciled, or cultural conflicts are negotiated — throughout the musical activity of social interaction, musical creativity can be useful for peacebuilding. However if musical creativity remains within the existing paradigm, not destabilizing one’s ordinary perception of the world, it might not contribute to any peacebuilding effort. She emphasized that for her peacebuilding depends on reframing and perceptual change.


In his presentation “Ecological Perspectives on Identity,” Dr. Golden highlighted that from the perspective of biology and ecology, two aspects of identity — stability and distinction — are essential to life.  One is found in the processes of “self-making” called autopoiesis, the other in the fact that no organism can live without a membrane that, to some extent, separates it from its environment.  In the field of cultural studies, rigid adherence to the “essential or permanent” self of the Enlightenment view (Stuart Hall), can cause destructive behavior, but on the other hand, so can the complete absence of consistent identity (Oliver Sachs). Based on the above, Dr. Golden asked how musicking might facilitate a balanced and flexible sense of identity, as a crucial step in peacebuilding.


Dr. Robertson’s presentation titled “Musicking, Peacebuilding and Critical Public Relations” discussed ways in which music enhances how social groups share communication about relationships, ideologies and social integration, which is vital for peacebuilding initiatives to succeed. Conversely, public relations (PR) is a field that specializes in strategic organizational communication and relationship and reputation management. PR is considered to be a form of communication and its practitioners, cultural intermediaries, since they mediate social relationships and create symbolic meaning. Dr. Robertson drew some ideological and practical connections between these three fields.


Dr. Kuwayama, based on his vast experience caring for trauma victims, drew compelling parallels between the flow and continuity at the core of many musical works and performances, and the flow and continuity that are sought in trauma narratives when helping patients recover a sense of coherence and integrity after their lives were interrupted by traumatic events.


Questions & Answers Session and Further Research

The panelists received very interesting questions from the audience, and the informal exchanges that followed, with everyone mingling and sharing insights, indicated that this type of research has a bright future.

MOMRI certainly wishes to play its part in order to contribute more effectively to this ongoing “multidisciplinary investigation of the potential application of music in peacebuilding activities.”

With our heartfelt gratitude to all those who have contributed to the success of this event.