At the U of A there are three fantastic international music ensembles; the Indian Music Ensemble, the West African Music Ensemble and the Middle East and North African Music Ensemble. These musical groups contribute to the U of A’s diverse community by sharing fantastic cultural music and attracting students from different faculties. Dr. Michael Frishkopf, a professor of ethnomusicology at the U of A, loves how the University highlights music genres outside the realm of Western culture. However, recently these cultural ensembles have encouraged him to question “what is culture” and “how can we better represent multiple cultures through music?”
What is Culture?
Dr. Frishkopf considers culture to be an artificial construct, often falsely defined and separated by location and other special interests.
Transculturalism, an idea Dr. Frishkopf wishes to explore through music, denies this existence of cultural boundaries. With transculturalism, cultures are joined by transitioning spaces where information is constantly shared and exchanged, instead of separated by differences.
How Can We Combine Transculturalism and Music?
Using the idea of transculturalism, Dr. Frishkopf has created the Edmonton Transcultural Orchestra. Through this novel ensemble, Dr. Frishkopf hopes to use music as a way of communicating the unique and un-defined ways individuals identify with culture.
One way the Edmonton Transcultural Orchestra intends to demonstrate the fluid nature of culture is by performing the song “Ya Banat Iskandaria.” Because this song exists in a multitude of different languages and is claimed by several cultures, there’s been significant debate around which culture it originates from. Therefore, because so many groups identify with this song, it becomes an excellent symbol for the passage of music between cultures.
This new orchestra currently consists of U of A graduate students, faculty members and participants from the community. They plan to meet once a month at City Hall to share their music with the public and are always welcoming new members! Their next performance will be on January 31st, 2018 at 7 PM in Convocation Hall as part of the University’s International Week.
For more information please visit their website!