Yearly Review

Year by Year Reviews: 2006-2007 |2005-2006 | 2004-2005 | 2003-2004

2006 - 2007

MUUS Director, Judith Eissenberg

I had specific objectives for each of the programs this year, related to what was going on in the world (tensions in the Middle East, immigration policy, the rights of women). For the Persian/Turkish program I wanted to bring something beautiful from the Middle East - in particular from Iran - so that students could have a positive perspective from that part of the world. For the immigration program, I wished to present the diverse cultures within our own country, highlighting the strengths and uniqueness of the many traditions, making the point that we are all stronger for each other, and that difference is desirable. This was also an opportunity to exemplify the musical banquet we enjoy as a result of immigration in this country. The African program spoke to women’s issues, to courage, to challenge, to empowerment, and to the heart of the ancient musical and social tradition of drumming.

Each program was linked with a MUUS lesson plan written specifically to link to the Waltham curriculum. Well over 1,000 students and their teachers (Waltham schools, and a pilot school from Brookline) came to Brandeis University to hear the programs. Below are some of the written comments the students made for these performances in response to simple questions I asked them.

Persian & Turkish Improvisations: Kayhan Kalhor (Iran) & Erdal Erzincan (Turkey)
October, 06 for the 7th grades of Waltham
This duo brings together the music of two cultures that have much in common -- the Persian classical tradition and the Turkish Sufi (Alevi) tradition. The duets, which meld seamlessly, are performed on Persian kamancheh (spike fiddle) and on the Turkish baglama, (a lute sometimes known as the saz) to astonishing effect. Students learn about ancient musical traditions, and the art of improvisation.

What was your favorite part of the program?
The music.
When the players spoke about themselves.
My favorite part was when they played the Turkish and Iranian songs together because it sounded so cool.
When we got to ask questions.
When we saw the lute and when the dude talked Turkish.
When they told us how they met.
I liked seeing people from different countries.

What did you learn?
Music is everywhere.
That there are a lot more instruments than I thought.
How they work together when making music.
That their music is different than ours.
The instruments they use are similar to ours and like the grandfathers of the instruments we use.
How they mix up music with different countries’ (music).
That the music they play is really old.
That they improvise most of their songs.
That Iranian kids learn music orally.
How different countries are even though they are close to each other…how completely different the music is.
I learned more of their style of music.

What would you like to know more about?
Their family lifestyles.
How to play their instruments.
I’d like to know more about the culture and more about the instruments.
All of the world’s different musics.
I would like to know more things about their country.
I would like to know more about the musician from Iran.
The people.
Their home country.
Their life.
More about the way they play music and how it makes them feel.
Do they have American instruments in the Middle East?
I would want to hear both of them speak their own language.
How long they practice.
How they started to play.

Immigration in the United States: Lydian String Quartet
February, 07 for the 4th grades of Waltham
The Lydian String Quartet is Brandeis University's internationally acclaimed quartet-in-residence since 1980. The program included music from a variety of traditions that immigrated to the United States. What songs did they bring? What values and world views are represented through the music? What did these new immigrants leave behind? In this unique presentation of music through the lens of the string quartet (with its own Eurocentric tradition), students will hear many of the voices that make up this country's soundscape of multiculturalism.

What was your favorite part of the program?
Listening to the music.
Watching them play the instruments.
The instruments.
The song Duke (Ellington) made.
The German song.
The Jewish song.
The Irish music.
When they were playing music from all different countries.
I liked how the music relaxes you.
The encore when you stomped your feet.

What did you learn?
That people brought music as well as tradition to other countries.
There’s many different songs from so many cultures!
What different cultures’ music sounds like.
That all of us are immigrants if we go way back in time.
That the native Americans walked across the ice to get here.
That the person who made jazz is a black American.
That music can make you feel different.
Different countries can have totally different types of music.
Music is influenced by every country.
Different kinds of beats.
I learned that Mozart was a person. I thought it was a song. I would like to know more about Mozart’s songs.
How music unites us.
How many kinds of music there are.

What would you like to know more about?
Where the music comes from.
More about the culture.
More about the feelings behind the songs.
Why they wrote the songs.
The artist.
Music of other places.
Songs from Italy and Ireland.
An Indian song.
More about slavery.
More about immigration songs.
What I want to learn more about is different music, because I want to know how to play different music like them!
More about this because I want to learn to play all of those instruments.
More about the geography of music.
Are there more songs from these countries?

Amazones: Women Master Drummers of Guinea
March, 07 for the 8th grades of Waltham, 6th grades of pilot Brookline School

The celebrated artists from Guinea have reclaimed their own musical heritage by mastering the djembe – the traditional drum historically forbidden to women – and also work to achieve economic self-sufficiency in a developing nation. This program, designed for 8th grade level, introduces students to West African traditions of drumming, dance, and story-telling. Participating schools are provided with a MusicUnitesUS lesson plan that teaches about history and culture and invites students to employ critical thinking skills as they explore issues of social justice.

(from the 6th grades in Brookline):
What was your favorite part of the program?
I liked the fact that we got to see music that we haven’t seen before.
Personally, I liked the story-telling along with the music best. Although I didn’t understand anything, it was very interesting to listen to. The fact that the stories were told in the native language was a good idea. Stories told in translation don’t carry as much meaning, even if you don’t understand them.
When the Guinean dances came very close to the audience and started dancing. It sent a jolt through my body and I was so energetic I felt I could do the same thing.
How the women danced and interacted with their instruments made the show very unique. Their music created a world that I didn’t want to leave.
When we got to go on stage and dance with the women.
How fierce the drummers and dancers were and how they interacted with the audience.
The best part of the concert was that there were women drumming. It is good to see the forbidden minority doing something they are very good at.
The balafone: I liked the sound because it sounded less like percussion and more like a melody. I also liked getting to see how the balafone worked because it worked nothing like any instrument that I’ve seen before.
I haven’t seen any African music before so it was a lot of fun to me.

What did you learn?
That you don’t just talk through words. You can speak through instruments and dance.
That the singing is louder, and resembles dialogue. Although I couldn’t understand the language, I almost knew what they were saying.
How many different kinds of instruments there were in Guinea. Also how intricate the language is.
I learned about the griots. It was fascinating to know that a village gives one person the responsibility to record the history of their families.
I learned a lot about the culture. I didn’t know about the tunes they played or the unfairness to women until I went to the concert.
I learned how the Guineans passed down their stories. I also learned how they danced and what kind of music they play. I also learned what their language sounded like.
I learned that the Amazones women struggled just to perform all over the world. I found it very surprising that some even left their families just to perform.
I learned that the women in the concert were thrown out of their houses because they wanted to play the drums. I never knew that women were treated so unfairly in other countries.
I learned that Guinea was under martial law for a very long time. I was surprised I didn’t see it in the news because it was very important.
I learned during the concert a beautiful style of music that I didn’t know. I also learned that if you are very persistent then you can achieve great things. The Amazone women were very persistent with drumming and look where they are now.
That there are many different drums that the Amazones played. Before we went, I thought that they were only going to play one kind, but it turned out that there were many different varieties.
Their music, how they dress, how they dance, different instruments like the balafone, women’s independence, Guinea culture.
How they would improvise as they went on.
I learned a little about the background of the drummers. Such as what they had to go through just to be able to perform for us. I also got to see a little of Brandeis, a college that I had never been to before.

Year by Year Reviews: 2006-2007 |2005-2006 | 2004-2005 | 2003-2004