14 September 2007

Teaching 'world music'

I have been foraging for academic employment since I passed the doctoral viva, but unfortunately it seems to be a rather unpropitious time for job hunting in higher education institutions. While the recruiting procedure for full-time academic staff at Taiwanese universities won't commence until early spring, I won't be shortlisted for an interview at any British university if i keep dawdling in Taiwan.

At one point, I thought I would end up wandering aimlessly between Albion and Formosa, just like a migrant roaming in unseasonable weather. However, much to my surprise, a short notice arrived at my email box last Sunday from a retired professor, Ricardo Canzio, whom I used to work with at National Taiwan University. I am now asked to cover his study leave and teach world music in the Department of Music, National Taiwan University of Education, 2 hours a week for 18 weeks, from next Wednesday onwards.

There is no point turning down this offer and therefore I have to prepare a course package within a week.

I would say delivering ideas of world music to those 4th-year students from a department of music (more appropriately, of 'Western classical music') is actually about unfettering them from the shackles of theories of Western classical music, which they have allowed to be arrayed upon them since their admission to the department.

So, what's so world about world music?

The term world music was originally coined in a meeting on 29th June 1987 by some independent record labels to name the many various forms of music unclassifiable in terms of Western genre labels with a view to improving the music’s sales situation.

Now world music covers a wide range of recordings of traditional indigenous music and song from around the world and may include
  • Non-European classical music
  • Folk, tribal or ethnic music from diverse geographical regions
  • Popular music from non-Western urban communities
  • Non-European musical forms influenced by other 'third world' musics
but definitely does not include
  • Western popular music
  • European classical music
Whatever forms of music the term world music could embrace, a succinct definition given by Richard O. Nidel in his World Music: The Basics is
many forms of music of various cultures that remain closely informed or guided by indigenous music of the regions of their origin.
I wonder how I will entice those students in our first meeting by recounting the history about the creation of the term and asking them to rid themselves of European classical music. Nevertheless, I believe it'll surely be full of challenge and fun for me, and hopefully for them as well.


Unknown said...

Congratulations! Does that mean we have to start calling you "Professor Chen"? :)

Wei said...

Well, I hope so. Actually, I'm just a substitute lecturer; nevertheless, I suppose it's a good start.

Nunes said...

This sounds good. Congratulations, although you are teaching them something that does not exist. Still, it should be fun to stray their attention from the classical stuff.
And let me know if you want some "world music" from Portugal.