We live in a world of cacophony. We equate loudness with power, we employ noise to disguise our ignorance, and we shout to mask our incompetence. We reject the unfamiliar and refuse to overcome our biases because open engagement is too demanding and consuming. There are entire ecologies of sound that remain endangered, neglected, marginalized because we have constructed boundaries of exclusion in our minds. Over the years, we have fortified this border walls through education, policy and complacency. We find solace in the comfort of the familiar din.
Nothing gives us more discomfort than silence.
As music educators, I see our greatest task is to listen (Notice that you cannot listen and talk at the same time). We need to tone things down, train our ears to focus on the quiet voices that are drowned out by our indifference and arrogance. We need to be willing and adept to enter the sonic worlds beyond the boundaries we have set.
I borrow these thoughts from Kit Young, an American musician who immersed herself in the music cultures of Cambodia and Thailand. She says in Latin, the word “tradition” is a combination of trad
(to cross) and dare
(to give). Tradition crosses generations, crosses cultures, crosses prejudices, and crosses neglect. Musical traditions are gifts.
She continues – all too frequently, those who have the deepest gifts – the quiet voices of tradition – lack power and access to the noisy buzz.
She ends with some suggestions on how we can dissolve the inner borders of our musical mind. Let me share with you three of them:
- Enter music the way children do – without preconceptions
- Absorb sacred totalities of musical expressions, avoid extraction and re-fitting into western frameworks when learning or presenting them
- Seek out the unfamiliar. Think long-term residence in music – not excursion. Learn details. De-generalize.
This is the challenge that we, music educators face: to teach less, to listen more.
LaVerne David C. de la Peña, PhD
College of Music
University of the Philippines