When I was taking German in College my professor loved music of all kinds, particularly German. He told how he and his wife had purposely listened to a wide variety of German composers when pregnant with their daughter. He said, “whether you believe it works or not she is now the conductor of an orchestra in New York.” One class was entitled “The Most German Art” and referred to music.
During World War II music fell prey to politics. Adolf Hitler announced that Richard Wagner was the national composer of Nazi Germany (even though he had been dead many years) and composers of Jewish or “questionable” background were banned.
Music, as with any art, touches our soul and makes us highly emotional, perhaps irrational, and provides a sense of identity. Throughout the US today there is a growing push to reclaim heritage and culture and music is a big question, what is traditional, what is acceptable and what really defines us? In the Asian community as new immigrants continue to arrive there is the added blessing of fresh influences from home countries.
But there are also many well-known and established organizations in this country dedicated to preserving traditional music. This Saturday the Indian Music Society of Minnesota kicks off it’s spring concert series with a violin concert of traditional Carnatic Music (traditional music of Southern India). While the music is traditional, the instrument is not.
Art is able to provide us with a common identity but we can also mold it to our needs at the time. Violins were introduced to India and adapted to meet the needs of Indian music. Nirmala Rajasekar is a Carnatic Music Artist who loves playing the traditional music but also loves working with other music traditions. I often see what I can incorporate into my music.
In the realm of music it defines us, we are constantly defining it and it provides a necessary soundtrack for all we do. If you are not familiar with your culture’s traditional music, it might be a good starting point in learning more about your culture and start you on the road to a more complete soundtrack.