Invited scholar: Prof. Ted Solís
Time: Wednesday 10th 13:15 – 14:15
Title: Why Improvisation? Do we seek “tradition” or competency?
Where do our allegiances lie, in teaching, e.g., Javanese gamelan—a venerable tradition fraught with ritual, iconic, and performance conventions; or Mexican marimba music, which in its more traditional contexts is largely reproductive rather than improvisational? Should our allegiance be to the tradition, and does that tradition delineate our pedagogical goals? Many ethnomusicologists try to compensate for the perceived artificiality of the university environment by “faithfully” reproducing traditions. More recently some of us have found our pedagogic demands and personal predilections trumping reproductive “authenticity” for two reasons: First: we represent these traditions to our students, obliterating the performance and teaching hierarchies inherent in traditional learning.
Since we must thus do it all (create the context, teach all the instruments, singing, dancing) we of necessity make compromises. Secondly: we feel that these compromises lead to fruitful creativity and insights. My own goals are now more oriented toward skill sets and my students’ personal growth (notably including their perceived freedom to improvise) than, necessarily, a soi-disant reproductive “correctness”; thus, I often “mix and match” pedagogies and skill competencies. In seeking improvisational freedom, and to suit my reflexive pedagogical goals, I have created somewhat non-traditional but vibrant Pan-Indonesianisms and Pan-Latinisms in my ensembles.
Ethnomusicologist Ted Solís is Professor of Music in the School of Music, Arizona State University, USA. He holds an MA in Ethnomusicology from the University of Hawaii- Manoa, and the PhD in Music from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. His field research has included Northern India, Mexico, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico. He directs the School of Music’s Latin Marimba band “Marimba Maderas de Comitán” and the Javanese gamelan “Children of the Mud Volcano.” He is the editor of Performing Ethnomusicology: Teaching and Representation in World Musics (University of California Press, 2004); is co-author, with Gerhard Kubik, of “Marimba” in the Grove’s Dictionary of Musical Instruments, 2014; authored the article (by invitation) “’The Song is You’: From External to Internal in Ethnomusicological Performance” (in College Music Symposium Special Issue on “Ethnomusicology Scholarship and Teaching: Then, Now, and Into the Future,” 2014); and is co-editing the book in progress Ethnomusicological Lives, the first major “ethnomusicology of ethnomusicologists”(University of Illinois Press).