Tomsk State University
Department of History

634051 Russia, Tomsk, 34, Lenin Ave., room 30

Tel.: 007 3822 529 796

Music knows no borders

How musical is man, what is it that makes people musical, what is music and musicality, who creates, performs and listens to music, how music relates to culture and society, and how all this can be studied – these are the questions raised and explored by ethnomusicology – an area of anthropological knowledge which everyone interested had a chance to get to know better during the open seminar ‘Introduction to the anthropology of music’ held at Tomsk State University from 16 to 21 September.

Organized jointly by the TSU Laboratory for Social and Anthropological Research (LSAR) and TSU Museum of Archaeology and Ethnography of Siberia (MAES), the seminar was taught by the guest lecturer and professional musician-pianist – Dr. Ioannis Tsioulakis who is a researcher and lecturer at the School of History and Anthropology, Queen’s University Belfast (Northern Ireland). Ioannis is also a founding member of the Greek band ‘Checkmate in Two Flats’ .

The classes held in the renovated TSU Museum, among the exhibits including traditional musical instruments of Siberia and Central Asia, were attended not only by anthropologists, but also by students from other fields of study, as well as by teaching and research staff members of Tomsk State University and Tomsk Polytechnic University, and musicians. Here, the participants learnt about some theoretical approaches to thinking about and understanding music and various music phenomena in anthropological perspective. Through the example of some music samples played during the seminar, local music practices of aboriginal Australia, Brazil, Iran, South Africa, Greece, and Turkey were analyzed along with the phenomenon of the so-called ‘world music’ – a category treated critically by the ethnomusicology which considers each and every music in the world to be authentic and unique and thus does not see music as a universal language.

Dr. Ioannis Tsioulakis:  “With this seminar series I tried to convey a more complete idea of what music means and why musical participation is enjoyable for all humans. The basic premise of ethnomusicology is that music is inseparable from its social and cultural context and that its meaning can never be completely understood without taking into account elements of history, society, individual and collective identity. In the seminars we examined examples from different places of the world to show how politics, spirituality, aesthetics, and bodily performance shape that complex whole that we call music”.

In the framework of the seminar, all interested could also get acquainted with the exhibition ‘Musical Instruments of the Peoples of Siberia and Central Asia’, organized by the TSU MAES staff members, which is currently comprised of three sections: ‘Folk Instruments of the Peoples of Siberia’, ‘Buddhist Ritual Musical Instruments’, and ‘The Sound in Shamanism’.  The live performance by the special guests of the seminar also greatly added to the musical atmosphere of the whole event ¬–  the art-project ‘Vasilyev vecher’ (‘Vasiliy’s evening’) performed some traditional dances (khorovody), sang songs once sung by the earlier Russian population of Siberia, and told a lot about the local Russian musical tradition. The ‘Salmon the Wise’ band, in turn, ignited the audience with some foot-tapping Irish folk music, accompanied by Irish dancing and songs, whose meaning and content the band members vividly explained.

Anna Chaghina, musician, member of the ‘Salmon the Wise’ band: “Cosmopolitanism that Ioannis spoke about many times got embodied in the most direct way in this seminar: when the young Greek researcher comes from the Green Island to Siberia and uncovers various musical traditions – from traditional music of Crete to contemporary Iranian opposition rap – it is then that you come to realize anew how, indeed, people are close to each other, and that there is this human core in what we do”.

Elena Karageorgii, LSAR research fellow: “The seminar has been a success and it is great that it’s attracted participants from different backgrounds, both musicians and not. Those who for some reason could not attend can get a set of materials prepared for the seminar by Dr. Tsioulakis for self-study. They should just email a request to us on the laboratory’s website”.

Watch the video clip on the seminar here

The project "Man in a Changing World. Identity and Social Adaptation: Past and Present" is funded by the Russian Government
(grant #14.В25.31.0009)
© Laboratory for Social and Anthropoligical Research, 2013

The website is translated into English by LSAR Fellow Elena M. Karageorgii, e-mail: karageorgiy-elena@ya.ru visits: 77109

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