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Community Music and Cultural Democracy

Higgins, Lee (2015) Community Music and Cultural Democracy. In: Guest Lecture Series, Sept 2015, Research in Music, Norwegian Academy of Music, Oslo, Norway. (Unpublished)

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Community musicians move in and between many diverse settings. They can be found facilitating local music activities in a wide range of community contexts. As skilled facilitators, there is an emphasis on active participation, sensitivity to context, equality of opportunity, and a commitment to diversity. From a historical heritage that includes community arts and cultural community development, the concept of cultural democracy, a sharing of values among cultural groups, rather than the democratization of culture, that attempts to establish cultural equality while preserving domination, has been a political touchstone for community musicians. As a call for both action and appropriate intervention, cultural democracy promotes a system of support and respect for the many cultures and communities across the world whilst attempting to give “voice” to those that have been historically excluded from the public domain. With no claim of superiority or special status, cultural democracy advocates that people need to create culture rather than having culture made for them.
The aim of this paper is to assess the importance of cultural democracy in community music today and to re-situate its political imperative as a contemporary expression relevant to international practice. Working across three research strategies, historical, case study, and philosophical, the place of the political in community music emerges twofold: (1) through the negotiation between those that take part in community musicking and those who just might, and (2) a challenge to individuals, organizations, and institutions that have a hand in arbitrating funding for music, music teaching, and musical resources. Folding back through the historical traces of community music practice, I suggest that the notion of cultural democracy remains its most pressing political attribute. Driven by a response to situate injustices and wrongs, community music as a political force comes by way of an unexpected event that shatters our horizon of expectations. Those that work in community music do not profess that it is perfect or a solution to all things problematic to participatory music making. Why? Because their actions are not in the name of horizons of perfectibility and foreseeable ideals, but rather, they are in response to the urgency of friendship and hospitality. The implications of this research is to remind those working in community music of their inheritances and to open music educators to the question of responsibility before themselves and towards the others with whom they share musical discourse.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Keynote)
Status: Unpublished
Subjects: L Education > L Education (General)
M Music and Books on Music > M Music
School/Department: School of the Arts
URI: https://ray.yorksj.ac.uk/id/eprint/1391

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