Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Music Education and Musical Diversity in Mainland China(By Linn Pauli and Martin Mason)

Jiaxing Xie was the keynote speaker on the second day of the BIMUC conference.
He started by giving us an introduction to the enormity of the Chinese school system by giving us numbers such as 200 000 music teachers. He also gave us an impression of the richness of Chinese traditional music consisting of 56 ethnic groups , 600 traditional instruments and of course, 8000 years of history.

He then moves on to tell us about problems that we can very much relate to in Norway, that is the problem of globalization and the threat it poses to the traditional music. The numbers he presents are dramatic. A study done amongst academics in Bejiing show that 96% like pop, 53 % like Western music and 26 % like traditional music. The most dramatic number is probably that only 2 % of the students in school listen to traditional music.

After this he clarifies the differences between the ways of learning this tradition the "traditional" way and the more formal way of learning in the school system. And points out the need to integrate the traditional into the school system. Seeing as the way to "save" this music is not to document it in the form of recordings, but rather teach it to the children in the schools. With a focus on the local tradition of the area.

This could be done specifically by changing the curriculum, training the teachers and utilizing new technology and techniques. There have already been positive developments such as a requirement that the pupils learn a certain amount of traditional music. Other examples could be that the music teachers are required to learn a traditional instrument and song before they can move on to other styles of music.

He concludes that the approach to music should be like learning language, first you learn your own dialect, then you move on to the "official" language and finally you learn foreign languages.
This means getting to know the songs from your hometown firstly, then move on to for example the Han music, and eventually foreign music.

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