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Decolonizing Classical Musics?

Musicologist Kofi Agawu
Musicologist Kofi Agawu / Photo: © Andrew Wilkinson

What could decolonization in music – especially in the fields of classical music – look like? These and other questions will be discussed at the symposium "Decolonizing Classical Musics?" by music experts.

The symposium was developed within the framework of "The other Beethoven(s)". Based on the reflection of musical acculturation phenomena since Beethoven, the aim is to discuss the challenges and possibilities of today's transtraditional and -cultural music creation, especially in the so-called art music.

The symposium will be opened by a video keynote by the musicologist Kofi Agawu, in which he reflects on the origins of art music in Sub-Sahara and the practice of post-colonial composition. This initial impulse will be taken up by Patrick Hahn and Sandeep Bhagwati ("Stand back, please!"), who will discuss historical misunderstandings regarding "oriental" topoi in Western classical music and possibilities of establishing a more just world music ecosystem in the course of a listening session, before the composers Brigitta Muntendorf, Cathy Milliken, Amen Feizabadi and the singer Svetlana Spajić will address the question of transtraditional composition and interpretation today, together with Philipp Rhensius. The symposium will conclude with an "Outernational Listening Session" with the philosopher Timothy Morton and the postcolonial thinker Wendy M. K. Shaw, framed by two concerts of the Trickster Orchestra, which will address questions of postcolonial change musically and in cooperation with guest artists from Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Bangalore.

"Decolonizing Classical Musics?" took place on October 25, 2020 from 1:00 to 8:00 p.m. at Radialsystem in Berlin. The symposium was presented in English and live for the audience in radialsystem as well as streamed and broadcasted on this website.

The edited symposium is now available on demand and can be found on the Goethe YouTube channel as a playlist with thematic video sequences. Part 1 of the symposium, the greeting by the Secretary General of the Goethe-Institut Johannes Ebert and the opening video keynote by Kofi Agawu, is embedded below.

In addition, three of the projects that were developed in the context of "The other Beethoven(s)" – Ode for All, Covered Culture (on the evening of October 24) and Disturbing the Universal / DIY (on the evening of October 25) – were performed. Further information can be found on the project pages.

If you would like to see the complete playlist Decolonizing Classical Musics? - A symposium within the framework of "The other Beethoven(s)", please click on the small menu icon at the top right of the video.

Symposium program overview:
01   Welcome by the Secretary General of the Goethe-Institut Johannes Ebert and Opening Video-Keynote by Kofi Agawu
02   Stand back, please! Listening Session & Discourse with Sandeep Bhagwati and Patrick Hahn
03   Transtraditional Composition Today. Panel Discussion with Brigitta Muntendorf, Cathy Milliken, Amen Feizabadi, Sventlana Spajić and Philipp Rhensius (Moderation)
04   Outernational Listening Session with Timothy Morton and Wendy M.K. Shaw

Further Event notes

CONTRAPUNKT - Dialogue of Cultures: Africa's Pop Music of the 70s
10 December 2020
8:05 PM-10:00 PM
Music and discussion on BR Klassik

Rediscovered: Africa's Pop Music of the 1970s - Postcolonial Appropriation or Late Rescue of Traditions?

Jay Rutledge in conversation with artists from Mali, Nigeria and Sudan and, starting at 9:00 PM, an exclusive live recording of the Omniversal Earkestras concert on 18 February 2019 in Berlin, recorded (and rehearsed) in Bamako with some of the pioneers of Mali's early pop music such as Cheikh Tidiane Seck, Salif Keita or Abdoulaye Diabate.

The program will be available for listening in the "Contrapunkt" Audio Archive. "Contrapunkt" focuses on musical traditions and current events in various countries. In cooperation with the Goethe-Institut, the series of broadcasts and events presents theme evenings with live music and discussion.
Afro-Modernism in Contemporary Music:
Live stream of concert and symposium

7 November 2020
8:00 PM
Philharmonie Essen (without audience, exclusively via Live-Stream)
The video recording will also be available for viewing on Friday, November 13, 2020 from 6:00 PM-12:00 AM.
The concert will also be recorded by Deutschlandfunk. The broadcast date will be announced later.

12 November 2020
12:00 PM-8:30 PM
Frankfurt (Live-Stream and on Demand)
In English only

Aware of the current absence of Composers of Color on European concert schedules, Ensemble Modern is working on "Afro-Modernism in Contemporary Music" and has invited - among other selected composers from Cuba, South Africa, UK, USA and Switzerland - the composer and trombonist George E. Lewis, who teaches at New York's Columbia University, as curator.
The Ensemble Modern will perform six world and German premieres by the composers under the conduction of Vimbayi Kaziboni on Saturday, November 7, 2020 at 8:00 PM in the Philharmonie Essen at the "Festival NOW!".
An accompanying symposium with the participation of the composers, the curator George E. Lewis, other experts and members of the Ensemble Modern will take place in Frankfurt on November 12, 2020 from 12:00 to 20:30 PM.
Curating Diversity in Europe – Decolonizing Contemporary Music
25 September 2020
10:30 AM - 8:00 PM
Akademie der Künste, Berlin

The symposium “Curating Diversity in Europe”, taking place on- and offline, offered a platform for keeping the discourse on diversity in contemporary music in Europe alive, developing potentials for transformation during a time of limited international encounters and swelling nationalistic currents. It is a project of "Sounds Now", a European network dedicated to promoting more diversity and inclusion in contemporary music and sound art, in cooperation with the Akademie der Künste Berlin, inm / field notes and Ultima festival in Oslo.