Music, the Universal Language of Peace and Unification

HON 398 – Dr. Kerry Walker

Modes of Inquiry: Textual Analysis, Artistic Creation and Analysis, Historical, Social and Cultural Analysis

Course Description:

Music is a universally expressive mode of communication that has the transcending power to be empathetic and healing during and after times of crisis. In this contemporary time of social conflicts and violence, music can rehabilitate and restore. It motivates reflection in more aspects than worship, and it encourages a peace culture of solidarity in more times than that of war.

This 3 credit course (with no prerequisites) will encourage an appreciation of music as a peace promoter, and because of its ability to create powerful feelings of solidarity and nationalism, will also develop an understanding of how it can be a powerful propaganda tool for political means for those in power. Solidarity pieces also have the power to work against peace during revolutionary times. The class will compare unification pieces with those that “call to arms.”

Musical works are often created or commissioned in reaction to an historical event. Select works will be analyzed by: the text, the social setting for which it was written, the form, the medium, the genre, the historical or cultural event coincidental to its creation, the composer’s life relationship to the composition, and special effects that the composer used to create the expressive impact. Possible guest speakers may include contemporary composers, conductors, and performers. A field trip to a professional concert related to musical literature studied in class may also be possible.

The class will learn about traditional forms such as the mass, the symphony, the symphonic poem, the cantata, and the song. Through honing listening skills, students will observe how the composer creatively transforms the musical work for its expressive purpose. The work may reflect a specific event or situation such as “A Survivor from Warsaw” by Schoenberg, an expressionistic cantata that narrates a single episode in the murder of over 6 million Jews. The work may be timeless: used repeatedly for multiple performances for the sole purpose of creating universality and brotherhood such as “Symphony No. 9” by Beethoven. This United Nations’ Memory of the World Programwork was used numerous times as an anthem, but is more noted as being played at the Brandenburg gate after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Through research presentations students will apply analytical and comparative approaches to writing and concert topics such as Tolstoy, Wagner, Martin Luther King, Woodstock, Pete Seeger, and Bob Marley.