Music Department Colloquium: Michael Frishkopf—“Music for Global Human Development Promoting Health and Wellbeing in Liberia, Ghana, and Ethiopia: Theory, Method, and Impact”

Wednesday, February 15, 2023 at 4:30pm

FREE! Reservation required.

I outline Music for Global Human Development, a theoretical, activist ethnomusicology fostering human development through sustainable, music-centric, collaborative projects. Human development, a human process upholding human values in the world by reinforcing the I-thou essence of human connection, is impeded by dehumanization resulting from mediation of personal relationships through an impersonal world system (and ironically characteristic of far too much “development” work today). My model is systems theory, including a modified Habermasian duality of system and lifeworld. But maintenance of the lifeworld—locus of human value—depends not only on rational “communicative action” (as per Habermas), but equally on affective social connectivity, constructed through a profoundly social “soundworld”, where feedback loops of sounded thought-feeling produce what I term “resonance”. Within that soundworld, music provides a crucial technology for rehumanizing social relations damaged by system mediation, inoculating the lifeworld against system depredations. My method is participatory action research, forging collaborative, extensible, community-engaged networks, blurring differences between “researcher” and “researched”, “outsider” and “insider”, drawing participants themselves into a shared, resonant soundworld, across boundaries of ethnicity, religion, nation, and class, transforming their own awareness and practices, as well as those of the societies in which they live. After outlining the general problem, theory, and method, I present three case studies, examples of resonant participatory action research networks, deploying music to address acute public health crises: poor sanitation in Liberia; rampant malaria in northern Ghana; and high maternal mortality in rural Ethiopia. In each case I outline the problem, the methods, and the impact. In conclusion, I suggest that resonant networks of participatory action research in ethnomusicology have the potential not only to transform local communities, but also the network itself, towards global human development, and the development of the global human, who thinks and acts globally.

Michael Frishkopf is Professor of Music, Director of the Canadian Centre for Ethnomusicology, Adjunct Professor of Medicine, and Adjunct Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Alberta, as well as Adjunct Professor, Faculty of Communication and Cultural Studies, at the University for Development Studies (Ghana). His research focuses on sounds of Islam, the Arab world, and West Africa, as well as Social Network Analysis, Music and Wellness, and Music for Global Human Development.

The colloquium is organized by Assistant Professor of Music John Dankwa and Assistant Professor of Music and Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies Saida Daukeyeva as part of the Music Department Colloquium Series.