Cultural integration through music? Musical Practice of Immigrant Musicians in Germany

//Cultural integration through music? Musical Practice of Immigrant Musicians in Germany

Louisa Hutzler | PhD Candidate, University of Salzburg

The starting point of my research has been my impression of how the German society dealt with the number of migrating refugees that came to the country since 2015 – both politically and culturally. Simultaneously, current interaction processes between the immigrants and members of the host society are an important research area, based on the socio-political and cultural challenges that migration implies. Such challenges have been at the center of scientific discourses for some time.

When I started organising musical workshops and developed educational concerts for refugee children, I experienced that music and musical practice can nurture communication between people from different cultural backgrounds in a unique way.

Therefore, my study investigates the ensemble dynamic of immigrant musicians and musicians from the host society. To this end, two central subject areas will be addressed: On the one hand, the study observes the music – and non music related communication between the musicians. On the other hand, it focuses on analyzing and presenting communication and translation strategies between different musical systems. In this context I am interested in the extent to which language, musical education, various concepts of professionalism and different music theoretical knowledge influence a musical ensemble’s rehearsal process. It seems important to recognize how these cultural differences and peculiarities are constructed in processes of cultural interaction and what meaning they take on to determine their importance in this context.

At the center of my research are organizations and networks that perceive themselves as helpers for professional integration of immigrant musicians, such as “Klänge der Hoffnung“ (Leipzig) and “Bridges“ (Frankfurt). Both organizations invite musicians to take part in ensemble projects dedicated to foster dialogue between musicians with and without migratory background who practice diverse musical styles and genres. As well as organizing those projects, they provide a network of musicians and organizers who support immigrant musicians in continuing their professional careers. The contexts in which those organizations operate open up fields of social interaction. My study is based on the assumption that those “social spaces of music making“ (cf. M. Hara: Sustaining the assemblage (2007)) are critical to the self-perception and external image of musicians with a migration background. A basic understanding of these spaces and how the musicians and organizers interact in them will be essential to comprehend their strategies of communication and therefore integration. The examination of the discursive embedding and justification of these initiatives in the public sphere and the generation of cultural capital will be of great interest to the study. Questions concerning the distribution of agency and participation on the part of migrants as well as the actors in the host society are issues the projects raise pertain to: Who determines the concepts, who distributes the roles, who has the ‘sovereignty of interpretation‘?

The methodological approaches of this study evolve around ethnomusicology and musicology as I examine the rehearsals and concerts as a participatory observer and the musical translation strategies e.g. in notation or arrangement. In addition, interviews with the actors will form an important part of the methodological tools to gain additional information on the situations of musical practice within the ensembles. Since the interviews are intended to provide specific information, such as on communication within the ensemble, cultural identity and the self-image as a professional musician, they are based on a guideline. When conducting those interviews, I often explore the various roles and responsibilities I have as a researcher. Social, moral and ethical dimensions that can shape musical action beyond an artistic aesthetic are fascinating in developing an understanding of (musical) communication and strongly influencing the observing perspective (cf. Dwight Conquerwood: Performing as a Moral Act (2003)). The same applies to the clarification and delimitation of different terminologies that are established in the field of migration research especially in terms of post-colonialism. The term ‘migrant‘ already shapes the self- and external perception of the immigrant musicians (cf. M. Parzer: Double Burden of representation (2020)). Realizing to what extent such terminologies are influenced by historical perspectives on migration and the significance of constant self – reflection towards „wellconceived cultural advocacy“ (cf. T. Cooley & G. Barz: Casting Shadows (2008) seems to be a big part of  the process and of great importance – especially in light of the prevalent populism in politics and the media in discussing the social and cultural meanings of immigration.

By |2021-10-12T17:23:50+02:00December 9th, 2020|PhD Conference|