Evaluation – Worldwide Relations, Music and Diplomacy


International Relations, Music and Diplomacy: Sounds and Voices on the International Stage
Edited by C. Prévost-Thomas and F. Ramel
Palgrave Macmillan/Springer Nature, 2018

Scholarship on audible-world themes in IR is at all times a deal with. On this edited quantity Western classical artwork music traditions are the first focus and nation-state representatives the dominant gamers. Regardless of the restricted scope in time, place, and music making coated, 10 case research provide fascinating insights into how diplomatic corps, within the olden days and these days, press sure musics into service. This quantity contributes to explorations of the scholarly intertwining of inquiries into the performing arts, (well-liked) tradition, and IR as conjoined fields of examine (Rai, Jestrovic, Gluhovic, and Saward, 2021).


Of their introduction, the editors current the acoustic, cultural, and aesthetic turns on the intersection of literatures enabling IR students to make the epistemological leap into socio-musicological therapies of politics (pp.2-4). Two core phrases – music and politics – are tightly bounded, nevertheless, by their respective classical traditions on this would-be “new” subject demarcated by a slender assortment of (self-referential) sources. A lot much less consideration is paid to developments rising from debates between competing faculties of IR and music idea. Maybe that is asking an excessive amount of given the main target is on how “sounds and voices aren’t restricted to music per se” (p.7) by positing scenes as a conceptual continuity machine. The editors then gingerly step over probably the most slippery of those phrases, music (pp.4-5), as they echo – quite than interact with – strikes away from the sonic reductionism of mainstream musicology (Barrett 2016). On this rendition music as a scene is tantamount to motion and, ipso facto, music turns into synonymous with “actions in worldwide relations outlined as scenes” (p.5). This tautology foregoes the necessity for contributors to articulate their very own core ideas not to mention extrapolate on empirical particulars for probably heterophonic discussions (Mentioned 1992).

Concepts about scenes as subcultures with their respective id politics and repertoires of style and elegance (a significant theme in cultural research and well-liked music analysis) don’t make this introduction or the classicist playlist of most chapters. There are two exceptions: The shenanigans across the EU’s annual celebration of ‘Euro-Pop’, the Eurovision Tune Contest from Vuletic (Chapter 10) and Chapter 6 from Mahiet the place jazz repertoires make a visitor look. Mahiet evokes one other conceptual transfer that the introduction overlooks: musicking, a radical and influential reconceptualization of music-in-the-making (Small 1998). These two chapters underscore a fourth theoretical shortcut: the shortage of engagement with work from the opposite aspect of “the wall” (Griffiths 2010: 166) from well-liked/world music research and “Submit-Third Debate” scholarship on the music-politics nexus.

These absences have analytical implications given a timeframe that traces the shift away from Anglo-European musico-cultural hegemony to that of the US by means of American company management of the worldwide “Tradition Trade” (Horkheimer and Adorno 1972). This shift is obvious in Chapter 8 the place Gribenski reconstructs profitable American lobbying throughout worldwide negotiations to have the frequency of A-440Hz adopted because the common commonplace for instrumental tuning: “Live performance Pitch”. How ‘true’ pitch turns into a instrument of techno-economic energy underscores the historic situated-ness of modernist quests for standardization across cultural time and space. Many musical cultures, western additionally, know that taking part in ‘in tune’ is relative in follow (Brownstein 2015: 87-88). Farraj and Shumays (2019) of their examine of maqamat musicalities within the Arabic world – comprising deeply influential, border defying and culturally numerous “sounds and voices” (p.7) – have a lot to supply a few of the archive-based chapters. But these prescient cultural interconnections must be learn between the strains; e.g. in Chapter 5 the place Ahrendt cites pundits from two centuries in the past waxing lyrically on how the sound of the viola da gamba epitomizes an aesthetically pleasing diplomacy. That the origins of this instrument straddle European and Arab/North African musical cultures is missed on this literary reconstruction of ethnocentric, solipsistic correspondence.  

Limits and Potential

Such reservations apart, these research do present how sure kinds of musicianship, efficiency cultures, and kinds have turn into grist to the Western diplomat’s mill throughout, and for the reason that heyday of the Westphalian State System.

Nearer to residing reminiscence of main shifts within the geocultural politics of “world order” Pundziūtė-Gallois (Chapter 11) seems to be at what Russian compositions got here to symbolize in newly impartial Baltic states after 1989. Essential musico-historical nuance is lacking right here too: e.g., when evoking Dmitry Shostakovich (1906-1975) because the exemplification of those tensions given the precariousness of Shostakovich’s situation working under Stalin. The tendency to breed clichés can be current in references to Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827), who options in almost half the chapters. These two musicians’ complicated musico-political legacy is refracted by means of populist and realized (mis-) appreciation of their work as powerbrokers proceed to instrumentalize their artwork for any variety of agendas.

Two contributions do depart this Anglo-Euro-American orbit. Buch and Fléchet (Chapter 9) cowl worldwide mobilization across the Argentinian navy authorities’s persecution of live performance pianist and communist activist, Miguel Ángel Estrella within the 1970’s. Chapter 7, from Cornago, is an account of the “put up” colonial actions, in sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America, of two outstanding figures within the French avant-garde, Pierre Boulez and Pierre Schaeffer. The emphasis is on Schaeffer, a pioneer of Western European digital music applied sciences. Cornago reconstructs Schaeffer’s engagement – as engineer quite than composer – in Senegal throughout decolonization. The post-colonial stakes in these outre-mer initiatives might have been extra productively elucidated on the subject of these – thinkers, political leaders, and artists – who sought to hyperlink decolonialization to anti-racism actions on the intersection of nation-building and social justice/civil rights initiatives after empire: e.g., Aimé Césaire, Miriam Makeba, Gwendolyn Brooks, Nina Simone, and Lorraine Hansberry.            

Thoughts The Gaps

There may be extra to say about what this quantity overlooks and provides: First, it’s based mostly in non-English language scholarship, a welcome transfer away from Anglo-American androcentrism. Second, it takes severely an understanding of diplomacy as a career and neighborhood of follow constituted by intersubjective dynamics, skilled networks, and private passions. These chapters reveal how a lot work goes into shaping the humanities within the picture of any political venture.  

Within the conclusion, Gienow-Hecht does acknowledge a few of the above lacunae. Her goal, nevertheless, is to argue that the notion of nation branding greatest resolves a “profound messiness of the sector” (p.262). Certainly these absented historic-cultural parallels have a bearing on a quantity staking the cornerstone claims it does for its personal, self-defined subject. Passing references to the function that different musico-cultural modalities have for any notion of “musical diplomacy” are inadequate, even when any edited quantity is, by definition, a curatorial enterprise. This one presumes the universalism of its delimited repertoire, a conceptual insouciance that doesn’t do justice to the burden of empirical scholarship evident within the chapters.

Some examples, barely talked about when not muted, ought to suffice to underscore the urgent want to contemplate the geocultural complexity of such investigations. First, artists from the Brazilian Tropicalismo musico-artistic motion like Gilberto Gil, Minister of Tradition underneath former President Lula da Silva (2003-2008), epitomize how musico-diplomacies represent the multivalent, certainly contested sonics, performativities, and ensembles accessible to state representatives at residence, and overseas. Second, archival reconstructions want to keep in mind how tastes – in diplomatic and musical phrases – can change, even for self-appointed powerbrokers: e.g., evident in a short point out of the most recent in US-government funded initiatives to advertise American “cultural freedom” overseas, by means of what Mark Katz calls “Hip-Hop Diplomacy”.

Third, whereas the classical music world raged at Estrella’s imprisonment in Argentina, Fela Kuti and his countercultural community – the Kalakuta Republic – had been being brutally suppressed by the Nigerian navy. Kuti’s defiant artwork, immortalized by the monitor “Zombie” (1977), has come to epitomize de-colonial imaginaries. Furthermore, Kuti’s merging of “previous” African and “new” African American musicalities alongside his fame as a political dissident underscores the forging of transnational networks of musico-cultural responses to post-colonial and (post-) Chilly Battle authoritarianisms. Kuti’s cultural diplomacy lies on the intersection of African/Afro-Caribbean/African American experiences, earlier than and since empire and slavery, audible and tangible in successive “actions” of Afrobeat.

Fourth, within the 1960’s, Léopold Sédar Senghor, poet and the primary president of impartial Senegal was bringing main African American musicians (e.g. Duke Ellington), and US Heads of State, to Dakar, main as much as the First World Festival of Negro Arts in 1966 (Ripert 2021). Regardless of the cultural inclusiveness of multilateral establishments such because the UNESCO, the place the shifting geopolitics of (Anglo-American) funding influence on these organizations’ international standing, the sounds and voices of those Others are rendered mute on this assemblage because it disingenuously reaffirms diplomacy ‘Western-Style’.

Different Musics, Diplomacies, Phases that Matter

Given the timeline undergirding this quantity, the above counter-examples spotlight how remiss it’s to maintain ignoring the integral contribution that Black/Arab /Asian musical cultures play in worldwide affairs as musico-cultural undertakings (Gilroy 1993, Mentioned 1994). As Aniruddha Das argues these political frequencies, as ripostes to overt and covert types of race/class/gender, and non secular oppression, resonate by means of any music making “scene”.

Maybe this may very well be the following venture; becoming a member of others engaged in addressing politics and/as music as essentially “messy” domains: e.g. there are ambassadors who play a imply electrical guitar, not all worldwide occasions have string quartets or jazz soundtracks as background music. Some dance to ABBA (1974 Eurovision winners) tribute bands. We might then want to interact absolutely with musico-political encounters throughout the geocultural spectrum of the non-Western world: e.g., centuries of cultural ‘reimportations’ between “West” and “East” (Frankopan 2015) that artists like Sheena Ringo make their very own. This up to date repertoire would additionally embrace the formidable sensibilities that musico-diplomatic representatives from South Asia, the Center East and North Africa, and the Asia-Pacific area have introduced to those many, different “sounds and voices on the worldwide stage”.


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Farraj, Johnny and Shumays, Sami Abu. 2019. Inside Arabic Music: Arabic Maqam Efficiency and Idea within the twentieth Century. New York: Oxford College Press.

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