When Dan Kruse returns to the Arizona Senior Academy on Wednesday (Sept. 26) for the final program in his ethnomusicology series, he will dive into one of the enduring questions of any study of music. What is its real meaning in our own experiences and those we share? How is it manifested and sustained?
In “Music and Meaning,” he will examine ritual, political expression, and shared identities in such musical genres as chants, national anthems, and Zydeco music. Reflections and insights from the audience will conclude the 90-minute program, which begins at 3:00 p.m.
Common to many cultures, a musical chant may signify a bountiful harvest, a wedding, or a religious rite that brings people together in a shared celebration. In the 1960s, many non-Asian peoples discovered the beauty and spiritually healing powers of Buddhist meditative chants.
The patriotic lyrics and martial music of national anthems also unite people in a common cause except when they don’t, as we presently see at sports events here and abroad. Our own anthem celebrating a victorious battle in “the land of the free and the home of the brave” borrowed the melody of a drinking song from an exclusive English gentleman’s club. Some protesters construe the lyrics in the third stanza as a celebration of slavery.
The music of “La Marseillaise,” commemorating the 1792 declaration of war between France and Austria, was so stirring that Napoleon banned it during the Revolution and Tchaikovsky borrowed it for the opening of his “1812 Overture.”
Zydeco, a genre of rhythm and blues expressive of the rural, insular lifestyle of southwest Louisiana, sprang from the music of French Creoles and native peoples. So did its traditional instruments of washboards and button or piano accordions.
Written by Caroline Bates, Academy Village Volunteer