Tag Archives: Music and Art


  • HOME
  • タグ : Music and Art

Music and Social Edification in Peru

August 6, 2014
By 19673

Having gained a “keen appreciation for the uplifting power of music” through his participation in the charity workshops and concerts for areas affected by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, Paris Conservatoire Sylff fellow Carl-Emmanuel Fisbach launched a Sylff Leadership Initiatives project to utilize music as a potent tool for social cohesion in disadvantaged districts of Peru. Below, the saxophonist details the discoveries made during the initial seminar—held in collaboration with both Europe-based and local musicians—of a five-part SLI project.

* * *

My involvement with the “Together in Tohoku” Sylff project in August 2012 marked a turning point in my conception of the musician’s role in society.

Through that experience, when I was among a group of Sylff musicians who participated in charity workshops and concert in support of areas affected by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, I gained a keen appreciation for the uplifting power of music and decided to apply that inspiration to other parts of the world. Little did I know that my path from Japan would eventually lead me to Peru.

A Socio-Musical Intercultural Project

After a string of concerts in Latin Amerca in 2012 and 2013 with the Lima Conservatory and the nongovernmental organization ErArt, which promotes cultural events in less developed areas of Peru, I helped formulate a socio-musical intercultural project titled “Participative Music-Making in Disadvantaged Areas and Pedagogical Training for Saxophonists” that took place in February 2014 with generous assistance from Sylff Leadership Initiatives, ErArt, and the National Conservatory of Music in Lima. The project team included the musicians who accompanied me in Lima during my first tour of the region.

With a poverty rate of 30%; Peru seemed perfectly suited for our planned project of social uplift and edification. From the start of the program, we sought to artistically engage with the local population through concerts and hands-on teaching sessions. Music is a potent tool for social cohesion—one that can transcend social, cultural and linguistic differences while promoting intellectual and spiritual development. Studies demonstrate that participation in cultural events enhances citizens’ sense of belonging within a community. Peruvian saxophonists were instrumental in imaging the project.

The initial 10-day SLI seminar held in Peru in February 2014 was the result of extensive deliberations and was the first in a series of five that will be held every six months through February 2016.

Each seminar has two components: (1) musical workshops in disadvantaged neighborhoods of Lima and its environs to help audiences discover various instruments and contemporary music in partnership with ErArt and (2) professional-level training of saxophone teachers from the principal Peruvian conservatories in partnership with the National Conservatory of Music in Lima.

The long-term objective is for the two Peruvian institutions—ErArt and the Conservatory—to organize more joint activities to sustain the energy generated by the seminars. In many respects, the project was similar to the 2012 Sylff-organized trip to Japan, featuring workshops in Sendai and a concert with middle- and high-school wind musicians at Suntory Hall in Tokyo.

Confronting Reality

The purpose of the Peru project was clear, but preparations were arduous. I had never coordinated such an ambitious project involving partners in such far flung countries as Japan, Spain, France, Peru, and the United States. In February 2014, I travelled to Lima with the cellist Marie Ythier, with whom I perform in the cello-saxophone Denisov Duo. After a taxing flight filled with delays and missed connections, Marie and I arrived in Lima, where everything all at once became real.

On our first day, we traveled to a municipal school to work with local residents of all ages. It was a joy to share our passion for music with such a receptive, open-minded, and motivated group. Everyone was curious, from small children who imitated the cellist’s use of the bow to the institutional directors who would spontaneously come to the microphone to sing a traditional melody while we improvised an accompaniment.

There were some, though, who questioned our motives for coming to their country to perform as professional musicians—a clear indication that our work would not be easy.

Our program included visits to two schools: the Republica de Brasil not far from the center of town and the Fe y Alegría 33 in the suburbs of Ventanilla to the north of Lima. The bus rides, made with our Peruvian counterparts, were profoundly disturbing. Entire neighborhoods consisted of half-built houses with bare earth as sidewalks. Though we had prepared ourselves for such scenes, the poverty was unrelenting and deeply affecting.

Nevertheless, we came to realize that the schools were protected and much cared for—not only physically but also by the respect they evoked from the local people. It was not rare to see advertising campaigns for these schools or to hear slogans on the radio, such as “Our Education Is Our Future,” including mention of specific schools like Fe y Alegría.

According to the music and other teachers we met, Peru lacks teacher training for music instructors, especially in the public schools. This was the main reason we were invited by ErArt to share our European approaches with members of the Education Faculty at the PUCP (Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú)—encounters which proved to be highly successful. The same enthusiasm marked our sessions with the saxophonists at the Conservatory and led to our endlessly pleasurable exchanging of musical knowledge.

Our various concerts were well received, even when they focused on so-called “serious” classical music. It appears that this genre is in fact much sought after in South America. A workshop-concert organized by ErArt gave us a chance to provide the audience with key insights into each work, thus creating an intimate, convivial relationship with listeners.

ErArt wishes to strengthen its links with music education institutions in Peru. The initial workshops and concerts I helped develop in disadvantaged areas will be subsequently enlarged by ErArt through joint projects led by the saxophone professors who participated in the project.

Pursuing this work in the months and years ahead constitutes a wonderful opportunity, one that may be particularly useful for Peruvian saxophone players, as courses via the Internet are put in place.

I would once again like to thank the generosity of the Tokyo Foundation, the Paris Conservatoire, and the Juilliard School for their support and assistance in structuring the project so as to strengthen the links between music and society. Without them, this project would not have been possible. I am already eager to begin the second seminar in October!

Schedule of Upcoming Seminars:
—October 2014, with pianist Wenjiao Wang
—February 2015, with Wenjiao Wang and saxophonist Rodrigo Vila
—October 2015, with Marie Ythier
—February 2016 (last session), with saxophonist Claude Delangle and Rodrigo Vila

  • HOME
  • タグ : Music and Art

Jimmy Chiang Tours Japan as Resident Conductor of Vienna Boys’ Choir

June 9, 2014

Jimmy Chiang with Mari Suzuki, Director of the Tokyo Foundation

Jimmy Chiang with Mari Suzuki, Director of the Tokyo Foundation

Sylff fellow (2005, University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna) and conductor/pianist Jimmy Chiang has performed in venues around Japan as the resident conductor of the Vienna Boys’ Choir.

He and the choir’s “Haydn Team” went on an extensive tour of Japan from late April to mid-June. As in many countries, the Vienna Boys’ Choir is extremely popular in Japan and Jimmy’s Choir performed at many of the most prestigious concert halls in the country, including Suntory Hall and Tokyo Opera City.

“I have been conducting mainly operas and symphonies, so I was surprised when I was approached to conduct the Vienna Boys’ Choir last year. I think I made a positive impact in the short time I ‘ve been with the choir, and I have enjoyed the experience enormously.”

Jimmy has endeavored to make performances more entertaining and engaging. Under Jimmy’s guidance, the boys not only sing but also perform musical instruments, including piano and percussion, and sometimes surprise the audience by appearing on the balcony, giving the impression of yodeling from mountain to mountain. Audiences in Japan have been thrilled. Jimmy’s experience in opera has enabled such dramatic and creative forms of expression, which represent a break from traditional, orthodox choir singing.

Jimmy’s extensive experience and skills have been effective in leading the choir from day one. “I have been pushing the boys to be more professional by showing them my own professionalism as a musician.” Jimmy is a father of two boys and says that being a father has helped him to be strict and loving at the same time.

As a message to young Sylff musicians, he had this advice: “Be honest. Be honest with your music. Be honest with your audience. It’s a challenge building a musical career, but don’t compromise. Try not to lose your originality, and always keep in mind what you set out to do in the beginning.”

Jimmy Chiang
After receiving a Sylff fellowship in 2005 at the University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna, where he studied orchestral conducting, chorus conducting, and piano, he was awarded the First Prize in the renowned Lovro von Matacic International Competition for Young Conductors in 2007. His career since has taken him to the most distinguished stages around the world. As a Sylff fellow, he has also participated in charity concerts with other fellows at the University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna. Besides his active performing schedule, Jimmy also devotes himself to music education, serving as artistic adviser to the Hong Kong Children’s Symphony and as tour leader and performer since 2011 of children’s opera productions of Kinderoper Papageno, seen by over 15,000 children in the German speaking world.
Jimmy's official website: www.jimmychiang.com   

  • HOME
  • タグ : Music and Art

Music Connects Us All

May 12, 2014
By null

The seventh Sylff chamber music program, “New York-Paris-Vienna,” was held recently in Paris with a grant from the Tokyo Foundation. Here, Paris steering committee member Gretchen Amussen introduces some of the enthusiastic comments by the participating fellows and professors.

* * *

From January 16 to 24, 2014, the Paris Conservatoire hosted eight Sylff musicians from Vienna’s University of Music and Performing Arts and New York’s Juilliard School, who joined forces with four professors and six Paris Sylff fellows for a week of chamber music, culminating in a magnificent concert in the Invalides Army Museum’s historic seventeenth-century Grand Salon. The musicians, representing eight nationalities, performed works by Tomasi, Ravel, Jolivet, De Falla, Villa-Lobos, and Mozart.

“Playing music with new people is always a challenge,” said French fellow and flutist Mathilde Calderini of the experience, “because first you have to ‘find’ each other. But in the end it’s worth it!”

For French fellows Lomic Lamouroux and Carl-Emmanuel Fisbach, who participated in last year’s Viennese encounter, as well as pianist Antoine Alerini, who had gone to New York several years ago, being the hosts meant taking responsibility for sharing French culture. For Lomic, “The human aspect is essential, which is why I wanted to spend time with other fellows so they could better understand our country, our art, and who we are, much as had been the case for me when I went to Vienna.” In fact, for all involved, the cultural dimension proved as important as the music making.

For Juilliard’s Francesca dePasquale, “It’s one thing to speak about the French sound for French composers and completely another to be in France, see the incredible architecture, art, museums, and learn about the kind of sound here. For me, this was very valuable as an artist.” Vienna’s Georgina Oakes agreed, saying “I can’t get over the beauty of the city, which I’m sure will continue to inspire my artistry.”

The cultural aspect of the week got off to a vibrant start with an afternoon tour of the city, followed by dinner at the Auberge des Pyrénées-Cévennes. Traditional French cooking from the Southwest and from Lyon was featured, allowing for new culinary discoveries. Georgina Oakes, doubtless the most adventurous, chose a dish featuring pig’s feet, which she joyfully shared with those sitting close to her. For Georgina, “tasting” a culture seemed as important as hearing a new language and visiting historic monuments.

The project began weeks earlier with the sending of hard-to-find scores and parts to the visiting fellows. Upon their arrival, complex rehearsal schedules were distributed, and students were taken on a tour of the Invalides Army Museum. Of particular interest to the visitors was Paris’s system of reserving time and space for personal practice at the Conservatoire: something that the French students take for granted but that others felt could be incorporated in their home schools. Rehearsals began shortly thereafter, with the sounds of music, animated discussion in multiple languages, laughter, and music-making reverberating late into the night.

One feature of the Paris Sylff project is that students and teachers perform together. For oboist and chamber music professor David Walter, when you “play a program with students, their minds are fresh and full of hope regarding the music. They are ready to jump in if you invite them to do so. You must participate in much the same way they do, and expect from yourself what you expect from them—which is quite demanding and not always comfortable.”

Guitar professor Jean-Marc Zwellenreuther mused that the Brazilian composer Hector Villa-Lobos, “himself a great traveller and lover of Paris, would have been happy to see and hear these young musicians who were so enthusiastic, generous, and kind.” Cellist and professor Diana Ligeti commented, “Speaking and understanding the differences in musical pedagogy in our respective countries made us stronger and more able to give a personal, authentic interpretation.” Flute professor Vincent Lucas noted there were “many exchanges in which each musician listened to one another and engaged with real complicity and intelligence—just as one does with professional musicians.” And French harpist and fellow Maureen Thiébaut said, “For several days, we worked, played, discussed, and almost lived together—doubtless the best way to build both the human and musical cohesion of the ensemble.”

What did the different styles and cultures bring to the music? For Lomic, “The difference in styles was not a break in creativity but just the opposite: What can be better than trying to find a common way of playing, thinking, and sounding, despite individual, cultural, or stylistic differences? The concert was a perfect illustration of these riches: Many different sounds, styles, and nationalities . . . and in the end, a united sound and performance.” Juilliard’s oboist Max Blair found the experience a more interactive one in terms of teaching and rehearsing. “It made me think about the process of collaboration in a new way: striving to find a cohesive interpretation of a piece in which each one knows when to lead and when to follow.”

The presence of unusual instruments—especially the Viennese oboe and French bassoon—was treasured by Juilliard’s Anton Rist: “I have learned about different playing and detaching styles as well as different instruments, and these have helped me to develop my ear for timbre and blend.” Above and beyond this, as Carl-Emmanuel suggested, coming together constituted an opportunity to develop a “healthy distance from one’s own culture, to listen, communicate, and interact fully.”

What did each learn from the other? For Juilliard’s Trevor Nuckols, “from my colleagues in Paris and Vienna, an incredible regard for exchanging ideas both musically and nonmusically, gaining thus a much more open-minded and wordly perspective.” For Lithuanian musicians Gleb Pysniak and Dalia Dedinskaite studying in Vienna, “from the Americans, friendship, care, precision in music; from the French: freedom, optimism, inspiration in music.” Or as French violist Marina Capstick put it, “the language of music is universal, and I could see this clearly during the seminar.” Anton Rist felt he developed his skills as a chamber musician, whereas Mathilde Calderini felt the experience provided an excellent opportunity to build her international professional network. As Georgina Oakes noted, “Music connects us all!”

The seminar experience led to enthusiastic suggestions for the future, such as adding a second concert or even a mini-tour. Vienna’s Julia Zulus suggested finding a work that would allow all members of the group to perform together. . . . All thoughts to take into consideration for future sessions!

As Vincent Lucas said, the “souvenir of this music-making is a lovely one,” and speaking for all the fellows, American Trevor Nuckols waxed eloquent: “Thank you for everything! I’d love to participate in another such international exchange opportunity. It has been a magical and life-changing experience!”

Gretchen Amussen
Born and raised in New York City, the Franco-American Gretchen Amussen studied music and French at university and then organ with Xavier Darasse at the Toulouse Conservatoire. Since 1992 she has worked at the Paris Conservatoire, where as Director for External Affairs and International Relations she has helped promote the Conservatoire, its students and teachers through an extensive worldwide network of educational and cultural organizations.

  • HOME
  • タグ : Music and Art

The Arts in Crisis and their Survival in the Twenty First Century:
A View from Sociolinguistics

March 27, 2014
By 19604

Can the liberal arts maintain its value in society despite losing both popularity and funding to such practical disciplines as the sciences, engineering, and business administration? Christopher Lees, a Sylff fellow while at National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, offers steps that can be taken by arts scholars to maintain the relevance of their discipline in society, using examples from Greece and sociolinguistics.

* * *


The author deilvering a speech at Sylff ceremony at the University of Athens

The author deilvering a speech at Sylff ceremony at the University of Athens

At last year’s anniversary marking Sylff’s 20-year presence at the University of Athens in Greece, I was given the opportunity to speak about the crisis the liberal arts face today in the context of the economic crisis. Ever increasingly, the arts are brushed to the sidelines, considered of secondary importance compared to the sciences, technology, and business studies. This is apparent the world over with numerous departments being merged, reduced, or even threatened with closure. In Greece too, the infamous and narrowly averted Athina Plan proposed by the Ministry of Education saw it fit to heap foreign language departments together so as to create one giant “Department of Foreign Languages,” apparently with no regard for the academic integrity and significance of each department’s work and research as a separate entity.

In part, this stance towards the arts and their subjects is borne out of today’s predominant philosophy that only visibly practical things are worth people’s time, money and investment. As far as degree courses are concerned, this is often translated to mean that students tend to select a course that they see to be directly linked to the job market. This perhaps explains the popularity of business management and finance-related courses, which, according to David Williams (n.d.), are the most popular among Greek students (but not only Greek students) pursuing postgraduate education.

While students themselves cannot be blamed for choosing a degree course that they envisage will provide them with good employment prospects, this devaluation of arts subjects runs the risk of creating a sense that they are simply not worth studying. I myself, as a former undergraduate student in the UK, was frequently met with bewildered expressions on the faces of those who learned of my intention to study foreign languages at university.

Furthermore, this ever increasing lack of appreciation for the arts also poses the threat of subjects not being given the funding they deserve to carry out important research projects, and this is something which is being increasingly felt on an international level, where students find it difficult to get scholarships, and academic staff face increasing hurdles in publishing their work.

Arts subjects cannot, however, be entirely absolved from blame in relation to the regard in which they are held in society. While a doctor may not need to convince society about the importance of medicine and medical research, and an economist may not need to validate his work by highlighting the significance of sound finance, the arts scholar needs to and should take it upon him- or herself to inform society of the relevance of his/her subject. Quite often, knowledge generated by the arts subjects is confined and recycled within the academic circles of universities, which in turn are often treated as monasteries of knowledge and, indeed, even referred to as not being “the real world.”

Arts subjects and their scholars should, therefore, make the extra effort to share the knowledge they generate with the wider circles of society so that they too may benefit from what these subjects have to teach and offer us. This, I believe, is a general principle by which universities should operate: not to exclude nonmembers of what sometimes resembles the academic elite but to involve them in the work being carried out and to show them how this work is relevant to our lives. In this article, I intend to show how the arts are relevant to society and how scholars may make their work more accessible. I shall do this from the perspective of my own field, sociolinguistics, and then show how the arts can be made more accessible to ordinary members of society.

Sociolinguistics and Society

The relationship between language and society is well documented in linguistics. Just as language reflects social structures, ideologies, and stances, so too does language have the ability to influence and shape society, its structures, and its perceptions (Dittmar 1976, Lucy 1992, Wardhaugh 1992). That is to say that, while the speakers of a language coin or adopt phrases to express themselves linguistically, these same linguistic expressions, through repeated contextualized instances of usage, subsequently contribute to the way speakers think and view the world around them, evidenced by the fact that many linguistic expressions, proverbs, and idioms are unique to specific languages and reflect and form the mentalities of their speakers. Consequently, it is possible for us to refer to the relationship between language and society as being a two-way one: society depends on language to express itself, and language depends on society in order to develop and lexically reflect social structures and values.

According to Kakridi-Ferrari (2005: 53), many sociolinguists feel the need to use their specialized knowledge in order to offer something of practical use to society. As such, one of the main aims of sociolinguistic scholarship is to highlight what language can show us about society, its issues and problems, and how this can then be applied for practical purposes in various areas, from solving issues of inequality and prejudice to better understanding social norms and improving education.

Linguistic sexism, for instance, is an example of how social inequality is mirrored and redistributed linguistically. Sociolinguistic researchers, especially during the US feminist movement of the 1970s, have attempted to highlight some of the features of language that undermine or even exclude the role of women in society. In inflected languages such as Greek, where gender is morphologically marked, this is a particularly problematic issue, especially apparent in nouns denoting professions, for which many still only use a masculine noun ending.

In addition to this, generic references to groups comprising more than one person also, by and large, use exclusively masculine noun endings, thus linguistically excluding women from many sectors of society and creating a sense of a need to adopt male values and practices imposed on them by society and reflected and redistributed linguistically (see Pavlidou 2002). Sociolinguistics is therefore in a position to use its findings to highlight aspects of how language demonstrates sexism in society and to attempt to suggest, at least from a linguistic point of view, how this may be resolved. Once this has been done, both findings and suggestions can be forwarded to the relevant government departments, who may in turn make changes to the existing legislation.

Another area of social inequality visible through language is that of racism. Van Dijk’s (1993) seminal study of how elite discourse, notably that of the press, constructs and disseminates racial prejudice, shows us both how language mirrors a society’s mindset and also how this is then negotiated and propagated though a process of social cognition, that is to say, repeated exposure to expressions of racial sentiment, which then becomes etched in the minds of speakers.

I myself have researched the ways in which Greek newspapers make use of intricate linguistic strategies so as, on the one hand, to represent what they view as mainstream Greek public opinion and, on the other, to fuel feelings of racial tension (Lees 2012). This latter instance serves as a very good example of how the two-way relationship between language and society can be viewed in action against the background of political change in Greece, where older perceptions are being constantly challenged, thus creating a dynamic mix of opinion represented in the language of the press.

As was the case for linguistic sexism, sociolinguistics can again here uncover the linguistic practices of journalists and raise awareness of how these may not always be as objective as one might be inclined to think but are directly related to political and social ideology. Again, by highlighting this, pressure can be brought to bear on the government of the day to make changes to policies concerning racism.

Another important area to which sociolinguistics can contribute is that of education. The foundations of how the social aspects of language interact with education were laid by Basil Bernstein (1971) and his theory of restricted and elaborated codes. Despite the criticism he received, Bernstein was the first to draw attention to the fact that a child’s success at school is directly linked to the linguistic interaction he or she engages in at home. The logical consequence of this is that those children who engage in linguistic interaction at home that closely resembles that of the language taught in schools will be in a better position to do well in education.

It is worth noting that there is often a marked difference between the language taught in schools and the varieties spoken in even a small local community. The emphasis in education should, therefore, be placed on assisting speakers of regional and social varieties to adapt to the standardized language used in schools for the purpose of education, while acknowledging and respecting language rights. This was clearly shown by Labov (1972) in his influential work on the language of the African American community, known then as BEV (Black English Vernacular) and now called African American Vernacular English (AAVE). He concluded that schools should not treat AAVE as substandard, as was often the case, thus placing its speakers at a distinct disadvantage in comparison to those who at home speak the standard form of English taught in schools, but as a distinct social variety of English with its own grammatical rules.

Due to the fact that sociolinguistics, by nature of its subject, is in a position to research and highlight social aspects of language and because language is a social phenomenon, its role in education is particularly crucial. Just as is the case with social prejudice reflected and propagated through language, so is there linguistic prejudice against language varieties. Sociolinguists can work with education policymakers to assure that—while a standard language form is necessary for education and indeed for communication purposes—regional and social varieties of a language are respected and even taught, especially when used by pupils.

A case in point is the research I am currently involved in regarding the language used by Greek teenagers on Facebook (Lees et al. 2014). Since computer mediated language practices have become an inseparable part of teenagers’ lives, and since these computer mediated language practices have their own unique features, we feel that they needed to be treated as a variety of Greek and incorporated into the school curriculum. This is not to say that computer mediated language practices should be taught as standard, merely that it can be used to increase pupils’ critical awareness of the social aspects of language and how, why, and in which contexts these differ from the language taught as standard in schools.

A group of Greek teenagers the author works with.

A group of Greek teenagers the author works with.

In sum, the role that sociolinguistics does and can play in society is apparent and the benefits clear. As previously noted, these benefits need not (and should not) be confined to within the walls of universities and research centers but practically applied to all areas of society where language has an impact. This will ensure that the values and significance of sociolinguistics are known on a much wider scale. The same logic can and, in my opinion, must be applied to all arts subjects so that they may regain some of the prestige and deference lost in the wake of the economic crisis and so that the notion that the arts are not practical subjects and, therefore, not worth investing in can be dismissed. In the next section, some ways in which this can be done are briefly outlined and discussed.

Bringing the Arts Home

There are several ways in which the significance of the arts can be shared with the wider community. For example, scholars may choose to write their research findings in popular newspapers and magazines. Quite different from an academic journal, such mediums allow the scholar to target a much wider audience with various interests. Of course, the style of writing and content must be simplified and even, perhaps, popularized. However, publishing through the popular media allows the scholar to present, discuss, and share their research with a variety of people, many of whom may not even know that fields like sociolinguistics exist, let alone what they do.

Aside from showcasing research, the arts scholar may also use the media of newspapers and magazines to highlight, even on a regular basis by means of a column, the relevance of their topic. For the sociolinguist, this could involve the social aspects of language, including anything from language minority issues to language policy and even street art and graffiti, much of which, especially in Greece, is of a highly political nature. Writing in newspapers and magazines also serves the purpose of dispelling many of the myths concerning language that are often written by nonlinguists who lack the appropriate background to offer academically informed opinions.

Another area in which the arts can be promoted is through the organization of talks in local communities. This can be done either through local community centers or local education authorities. Informal in nature, such talks provide a good opportunity for local community members to come together and learn of the work and research being carried out in any given field. As with the use of the media, talks also allow disadvantaged members of the community to participate in learning in ways that may have previously been inaccessible to them.

Depending on the research interests of the scholar, it may even be possible for local members of the community to actively participate in a research project. In terms of sociolinguistics, a valuable aspect of having community members participate in such projects is that it will enable them to better understand the value of their cultural and linguistic attributes, which in many cases are highly stigmatized.

Finally, another way in which the arts and their subjects can be shared with the local community is through reading groups and free seminars. More formal in nature compared with local talks, such groups generally target people with an academic interest in the field. They may be offered on a volunteer basis and could be integrated into a wider context of volunteer work to provide free education for disadvantaged members of the public or anyone with an interest in the areas discussed. Such groups have been recently introduced in Greece and have so far proved to be a great success.

In conclusion, the fate of the arts and the prestige and respect they deserve largely depends on what we, as scholars, make of them ourselves. It would seem apparent that knowledge and research carried out at universities around the world should be made more transparent and accessible to all members of society, rather than belonging to a select few, especially since such members are the ones who, more often than not, fund such research.

In this article, I have outlined several ways in which this can happen. As opposed to merely complaining about the diminishing regard for arts subjects, those of us in these disciplines should first ask ourselves why this is the case and what we can do both individually and collectively to reverse this trend.


Bernstein, Βasil. 1971. Class, Codes and Control (Vol. 1). London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

Dittmar, Norbert. 1976. Sociolinguistics. A Critical Survey of Theory and Application. London: E. Arnold.

Kakridi-Ferrari, Maria. 2005. Glossa kai koinoniko perivallon: Zitimata koinonioglossologias (A Meros) [Language and Social Environment: Issues in Sociolinguistics: Part 1]. Contribution 64: Parousia Journal. Athens.

Labov, William. 1972. Language in the Inner City. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Lees, Christopher. 2012. Glossikos ratsismos: mia kritiki analisi arthron apo ellinikes efimerides. [Linguistic Racism: A Critical Analysis of Articles in Greek Newspapers]. Master’s thesis. University of Athens.

Lees, Christopher (In press: 2014) “Psifiakes glossikes praktikes kai topoi koinonikis diktiosis: mia proti parousiasi” [Digital Language Practices and Social Networking Sites: An Initial Presentation] Proceedings of the 11th International Conference on Greek Linguistics. Rhodes: University of the Aegean.

Lucy, John. 1992. Language Diversity and Thought: A Reformation of the Linguistic Relativity Hypothesis. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Pavlidou, Theodossia-Soula. 2002. “Glossa-Genos-Fylo: Provlimata, Anazitiseis kai Elliniki Glossa” [Language-Gender-Sex: Problems, Questions and Greek Language] in Pavlidou, T.S. (2002) (ed.) Glossa-Genos-Fylo [Language-Gender-Sex].15–64. Thessaloniki: Institute of Modern Greek Studies: Manolis Triantafillidis.

Van Dijk, Teun. 1993. Elite Discourse and Racism. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

Wardhaugh, Ronald. 1992. An Introduction to Sociolinguistics. Oxford: Blackwell.

Williams, David. n.d. “Study Choice: A Look at the Most Popular Subjects for Greek Graduate Students.” Web article available at: http://www.look4studies.com/default.asp?pid=19&langID=1&nwid=249 (accessed on February 20, 2014).

  • HOME
  • タグ : Music and Art

Fellow Appointed Resident Conductor of Vienna Boys’ Choir

February 3, 2014

Jimmy Chiang with the Vienna Boys' Choir

Jimmy Chiang with the Vienna Boys' Choir

Conductor/pianist Jimmy Chiang has been appointed resident conductor of the famed Vienna Boys’ Choir. Chiang received a Sylff fellowship in 2005 while attending the University for Music and Performing Arts Vienna, where he studied orchestral conducting, chorus conducting, and piano.

His conducting breakthrough came with his winning the first prize at the renowned Lovro von Matacic International Competition for Young Conductors in 2007. He has since performed on the most distinguished stages all over the world. Chiang has also participated in charity concerts involving Sylff fellows at the University for Music and Performing Arts Vienna.

Our sincerest congratulations to Jimmy Chiang on his new appointment!

To learn more, see: www.jimmychiang.com

  • HOME
  • タグ : Music and Art

Is There a Link between Music and Language? How Loss of Language Affected the Compositions of Vissarion Shebalin

December 31, 2013
By 19641

How does stroke affect the activities of a musician? Meta Weiss, a cellist and Sylff fellow at The Juilliard School, used an SRA award to conduct research in Moscow about the life and music of Soviet composer Vissarion Shebalin, who lost his linguistic abilities after the second of two severe strokes. By studying Shebalin’s journals and sketchbooks, Weiss gained new insights into the changes in Shebalin’s compositional style after each stroke, which could have broad implications for our understanding of the functioning of the human brain.

* * *

The author performing at the Shebalin Music School

The author performing at the Shebalin Music School

Vissarion Yakevlevich Shebalin was born in 1904 in Omsk, Siberia. He lived in the Soviet Union until his death in 1963 and spent his entire professional life in Moscow. He began his musical studies in Omsk with Mikhail I. Nevitov before transferring to the Peter I. Tchaikovsky Conservatory in Moscow under the tutelage of Nikolai Myaskovsky. Those who knew him always admired his work ethic, modesty, organization, and innate ability as a composer. After completing his studies at the Tchaikovsky Conservatory, he taught there as a professor and eventually became its director, a position which he held from 1942 to 1948.

The year 1948 was a stressful time for all Soviet composers, and Shebalin was no exception. He was accused of formalism and stripped of his position in the Composer’s Union as well as at the Conservatory. Many of his family members believe that the first stroke that he suffered in 1953 was as a result of the many political stresses of the time. He was able to make an almost complete recovery following the stroke in 1953, with the exception of the lingering paralysis of his right arm and leg. He relearned how to write with his left hand, and continued to compose as well as teach. As a teacher, he remained extremely devoted to his students, even during his prolonged illness.

With a former student of Shebalin, Mr. Roman Ledenov

With a former student of Shebalin, Mr. Roman Ledenov

In 1959, he suffered a second stroke that resulted in aphasia. This was especially tragic because of his strong literary background and upbringing; before the strokes he was fluent not only in Russian, but also German, French, Latin and a bit of English. He worked with a team of linguists, neuropsychologists, and doctors to regain the Russian language, and although he was limited in his physical activities by his doctors, he set aside time every day to compose and keep a journal of his activities (with the help of his devoted wife, Alisa Maximovna Shebalina).

By virtue of the fact that Shebalin was a Soviet composer—and he deliberately did not do any self-promotion despite his reputation within the Soviet Union as a leading composer and composition teacher—his music and name essentially died with him in 1963. There is almost no literature on him that is published in English, and when his name does come up in music history articles, it is only in conjunction with the political events of 1948. Shebalin, however, has intrigued the neuroscience community for many years since his case was reported by Drs. Luria, Futer, and Svetkova in the 1960s.

My dissertation will be the first paper in any language to discuss Shebalin’s music through the lens of his medical condition. My aim is to analyze Shebalin’s music, focusing on his string quartets, both pre- and post-aphasia, in order to discover a link, if any, between Shebalin’s loss of verbal language and a change in compositional language. I am collaborating with Dr. Aniruddh Patel at Tufts University, a neuroscientist whose research focuses on music and language. While there have been other (better known) composers who suffered brain injuries, Shebalin is unique in that his condition was characterized by an almost complete loss of verbal language, and we can, based on his sketchbooks, create a fairly accurate timeline of his compositions as well as view the changes in his compositional process. This is inferred by studying the different motivic units Shebalin was constantly writing in his sketchbooks, as well as the more obvious indicators, such as handwriting (left vs. right) and pen color. The string quartets were chosen because they span the creative output of the composer from all periods of his life, and Shebalin himself said that they were the compositions he was most proud of and represented him the best.

After receiving my SRA grant, I traveled to Moscow for the month of October on a student visa and enrolled in the post-graduate program of the Tchaikovsky Conservatory. After exhaustive research working with a Russian-English translator, I was able to track down the location of all of the archival materials on Shebalin, and I was fortunate enough to obtain access to everything that was relevant to my research. This included the RGALI State Archive, the Glinka Museum Archive, and the Tchaikovsky Conservatory Archive and Reading Room.

With Shebalin's family members and directors of the Shebalin Music School

With Shebalin's family members and directors of the Shebalin Music School

Additionally, I was also able, using the Russian “vKontakte” social networking site, to locate the Shebalin family. They granted me permission to visit Shebalin’s summer estate, interview his surviving family members, family friends, former students, and doctors. Two of the three therapists/neuropsychologists who helped Shebalin with his linguistic rehabilitation following his second stroke had already passed away. Again using vKontakte, I reached out to Dr. L.S. Svetkova, the only living team member who treated Shebalin during his rehabilitation, and she agreed to send me her detailed notes and records that she kept while he was her patient.

The highlight of my research was the sketchbooks that are housed in the RGALI State Archive. Shebalin worked quickly and methodically, and was constantly scrutinizing his work. His sketchbooks proved to be much more revealing than any of the manuscripts or other scores. Unlike the detailed journals kept by both Shebalin and his wife, the sketchbooks are unbiased. They show his compositional process neatly and efficiently. Also, because his right side was paralyzed following the first stroke, one can clearly see the change from writing with his right hand to writing with his left hand. They also reveal that after both strokes, he did not simply go back to older works and revise them but he also created completely new and different works.

Shebalin’s music changed in several ways post-stroke. There are distinct differences in the structure of the themes, the imagery of the music, and the scale of his compositions. After his second stroke, he also experimented with a pseudo-twelve-tone style, though still within the tonal idiom, writing themes that featured all twelve tones melodically but relied on the functional harmony of tonality. Perhaps counterintuitively, his music was full of optimism following the onset of his aphasia, and, like his music before the strokes, the music was very clean and straightforward, but with new richness and depth despite the economy of means.

With Shebalin's great-granddaughter and great-great-granddaughter, outside the Shebalin Music School in Moscow

With Shebalin's great-granddaughter and great-great-granddaughter, outside the Shebalin Music School in Moscow

Upon further analysis, it is anticipated that although it will be relatively easy to differentiate the pre- and post-aphasia musical traits, it will be difficult to attribute an exact cause-effect relationship between the change in compositional language and loss of verbal language for two reasons.

First, despite the fact that both Shebalin and his close family and friends—many of whom were interviewed in the course of this research—deny that he ever buckled to political pressure, it will be difficult to definitively separate changes in his music due to political pressure and those due to his medical condition or changing musical taste. The second reason is that because of Shebalin’s fragile physical state following the strokes, he was easily fatigued and thus limited to composing only a few hours a day by his medical doctors. Preliminary analysis reveals that his musical style is markedly more succinct following the strokes, though this may be a result of the doctor’s restrictions.

Through the research conducted with the SRA grant, I was able to construct a complete picture of Shebalin and his compositional output. The future implications of this research are twofold. First, and perhaps most importantly, it would provide hope for stroke victims that in spite of the odds, Shebalin was able to continue to create music and express himself through his most beloved medium—composition. Second, by analyzing his music both pre- and post-aphasia, it may reveal certain processes or elements that are shared by both music and language that remain intact despite the loss of language (such as syntax and grammar).

In this way, my research may help future stroke victims to recover certain aspects of language and aid in our understanding of the brain and mind, a subject with implications far beyond just music or Shebalin.

  • HOME
  • タグ : Music and Art

Juilliard Fellow Itamar Zorman Headlines Recital in Tokyo

November 7, 2013

Virtuoso violinist Itamar Zorman, a Sylff fellowship recipient in 2011–12 while attending the Juilliard School in New York, made his recital debut in Tokyo at Suntory Hall in Tokyo on October 28, 2013. He was accompanied by pianist Kwan Yi.

Zorman, third from left, and the Tokyo Foundation staffs

Zorman, third from left, with members of the Tokyo Foundation.

The concert ranged from electrifying performances of sonatas by Prokofiev and Hindesmith to lyrical renditions of short Tchaikovsky pieces and Brahms’s Sonata for Violin and Piano No. 3. The award-winning violinist enchanted the audience with his rich and masterful singing sound, performing in perfect harmony with pianist Kwan Yi.

Toward the end of the concert, Itamar greeted the audience in Japanese and also conveyed his gratitude to the Tokyo Foundation for the fellowship.

Itamar Zorman, who has earned lavish praise from internationally renowned pianist Mitsuko Uchida, won the world-famous International Tchaikovsky Competition in Russia in 2011 and was recently awarded the 2013 Avery Fisher Career Grant.

  • HOME
  • タグ : Music and Art

Sylff@Tokyo: A Surprise Visitor from Vienna!
Conductor Yuki Kakiuchi, Sylff Fellow and Besançon Competition Winner

November 1, 2013


Yuki Kakiuchi, who received a Sylff fellowship while attending the University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna (MDW) in 2005, visited the Tokyo Foundation on October 10. Having won the first prize at the 52nd International Besançon Competition for Young Conductors in 2011, Kakiuchi is one of the most highly acclaimed young conductors today. Besançon has produced such renowned figures as Seiji Ozawa, Sylvain Cambreling, and Yutaka Sado and is one of the foremost conducting contests in the world.

After graduating from the Tokyo University of the Arts, Kakiuchi moved to Vienna to study orchestral conducting at the University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna. He graduated from the university at the top of his class and completed his studies at the graduate school.

He has led many orchestras in Europe since his debut with the Brasov Philharmonic Orchestra in Romania. Currently, his musical activities are based mainly in Vienna and Japan.

“I’m truly grateful for the Sylff fellowship, which enabled me to concentrate on studying conducting in Vienna,” Kakiuchi said. “What I learned then continues to support my activities.”

Kakiuchi, right, and Panzl, left, with members of the Tokyo Foundation

Kakiuchi, right, and Panzl, left, with members of the Tokyo Foundation

His visit was a surprise “gift” from David Panzl, who performed as part of the Michinoku Wind Orchestra at Suntory Hall in August 2012. Panzl, percussionist and assistant professor at MDW, was visiting Japan to lead lessons in Tokyo and brought his friend Kakiuchi to the Tokyo Foundation. Kakiuchi says he was happy to have a chance to visit the Foundation and to describe his activities in person for the first time.

Kakiuchi has upcoming concerts in Tokyo and Yokohama:

The 6th Yomikyo College (Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra) - Friday, November 15, 2013

The 294th Kanagawa Philharmonic Orchestra Regular Concert – Friday, November 22, 2013

The Tokyo Foundation is proud of his outstanding achievements and will continue to follow his illustrious international career.

Sylff fellows and steering committee members are always welcome to stop by the Foundation’s office while visiting Tokyo.

  • HOME
  • タグ : Music and Art

Young Musicians from Vienna Visit Japan

July 22, 2013

Zulus (right), Sylff fellow and Yamada, program officer of the Tokyo Foundation

Zulus (right) standing with Tokyo Foundation program officer Tomoko Yamada

Sylff fellow Julia Zulus of the University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna made her first visit to Japan as a participant in the June 11, 2013, Rainbow 21 International Suntory Hall Debut Concert featuring outstanding junior musicians. The Rainbow 21 series of concerts is an annual event organized by Suntory Hall for students attending Japan’s top music schools.

With a view to promoting cultural exchange, a leading overseas conservatory is also invited each year. Participating this year was the University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna—a member of the global Sylff community; Zulus, an oboist, performed Beethoven’s “Quintet in E-flat major” (arranged by Mordechai Rechtman for a wind quintet) and contemporary composer Gyorgy Ligeti’s “Six Bagatelles for Wind Quintet” with fellow students in the Webern Wind Quintet.

Leading the group of students from Vienna was Professor Johannes Meissl, a member of the university’s Sylff steering committee. He also served as a mentor for and as a violinist in the Sylff Chamber Music Seminar, sponsored by the Tokyo Foundation in Vienna in April 2013.

“The performance caliber of the students from Vienna was extremely high,” noted one of the organizers at Suntory Hall. “Some already perform with the Vienna Philharmonic and other world-leading orchestras, and I think many of their Japanese counterparts were highly impressed.”

Following the Suntory Hall concert, musicians from Vienna also held a joint concert with students at the Kunitachi College of Music—another Rainbow 21 concert participant—to deepen their exchange.

Support for Tsunami-Affected Musicians

Panzl, assistant professor at the University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna

Panzl is now assistant professor at the University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna

In another Vienna-related news, percussionist and assistant professor David Panzl, who performed as part of the Michinoku Wind Orchestra at Suntory Hall in August 2012, returned to Japan in March 2013 and revisited Tohoku High School to lead a workshop for student musicians. The Michinoku project was a week of workshops and concerts aimed at bringing hope and courage to areas devastated by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

His offer to lead a workshop in Tohoku during a trip to Japan this year was conveyed to Noboru Endo, vice-president of the Miyagi Association of Wind Ensembles, who proposed holding a “reconstruction assistance project” under the auspices of the Miyagi Prefecture Instrument Bank. The project attracted 20 percussion students from Tohoku High School and four other nearby secondary schools. An additional 30 observers attended the workshop, including nonpercussion members of the Tohoku High School wind orchestra and officials of the high school and the wind ensemble association.

“I think it’s important to provide support to tsunami-affected areas on an ongoing basis,” Panzl said, “rather than just making a one-time donation. I may not be able to offer much, but I hope to keep doing what I can to be of assistance to the people of the area.”

Participants of the music seminar at Tohoku High School

Participants of the music seminar at Tohoku High School

He also asked after Michinoku Wind Orchestra members who were unable to participate in this year’s workshop, saying “I hope to visit the area again, and I look forward to seeing how everyone’s playing has improved by then!”

Panzl was a graduate student and a part-time lecturer at the University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna during the Michinoku project, but he has since become an assistant professor in recognition of his outstanding teaching record.

  • HOME
  • タグ : Music and Art

Sylff Chamber Music Seminar Concert in Vienna

April 23, 2013

Sylff Chamber Music Seminar Concert in Vienna (April 17, 2013)

Sylff Chamber Music Seminar Concert in Vienna (April 17, 2013)

The Tokyo Foundation has supported three Sylff musical institutions—the Paris Conservatoire, the Juilliard School and the University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna—in their collaborative organization of a Sylff Chamber Music Seminar and Concert since 2006.

Carefully selected Sylff fellow musicians from the respective institutions meet at a host institution, and after intensive practice with coaches for a week, they perform at a finale concert. This April, the event was hosted by the University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna.

The following link takes you to the final concert that took place on April 17, 2013, at the Joseph Haydn Hall in the University of Music and Performing Arts. http://www.mdw.ac.at/mdwMediathek/thesylfffellows2013/