Qinhan (Cate) Chen is an Interculturalist and PhD researcher at the University of Edinburgh. She studied Intercultural Communication (MSc) at the University of Warwick with her final project on intercultural communication in student world music groups. The paper was published in Intercultural Communication Studies XXVI: 1 (2017). She then moved on to study professional musicians’ intercultural projects and experiences from the intercultural communication perspective for her PhD. During her time in Edinburgh, she has been organizing music and cultural events (Music across Borders Project, Bilingual Ceilidh, etc.), facilitating interactions between diverse cultural communities in Scotland.
Intercultural Music Collaboration:
How intercultural understanding can be developed in music collaborations from an intercultural communication perspective
Social fragmentation is taking its toll on the societies around the world. It is a myth that one particular policy may solve the problem, as the solution, namely integration, is rooted within and between societies through the interaction, bonding, and learning between individuals bottom-up based on shared interests (Malik, 2015). Common interests provide an impetus for people to work together towards common goals. In addition, intercultural researchers observed that successful intercultural collaboration are often marked by one’s learning of context-specific engagement skills (Arasaratnam, 2015), their cognitive empathy with others (Shaules, 2007), and a shared social history (Ward, 2001). Wenger (1998) proposes in his social learning theory that people acquire most competencies (including engagement skills and perspectives) outside classroom. Vice-versa, to shape positive cultural understanding, a social practice should be more effective when designed for individuals to learn know-hows and views central in effective intercultural communication.
Based on intercultural and social learning theories, the researcher argues that an interactive, communicative, and creative practice is more effective in shaping intercultural understanding bottom-up. In terms of music practice, it suggests that we should support intercultural collaboration that values equal interaction, affective communication, and creative integration, so that traditional musicians around the world can come together to create music piece, which requires them to learn how to engage with culturally different peers, reflecting on musical and cultural perspectives. Music’s social function has been long observed (Hargreaves, Miell, & MacDonald, 2002); Music events can be better designed for intercultural learning nowadays informed by the recent development in intercultural research (Cortes, 2004; Gilboa, 2016).
International collaborations can benefit musicians and the wider society greatly (Duffy, 2005), because it is viewed as a meaningful expression by a fast-growing number of people who feel a need of reconciliation between their multiple cultural identities, and/or their incongruent musical and cultural identities. In practice, there are various challenges encountered by individual musicians in organising such event and in their artistic creation. This highlights arts and cultural managers’ crucial role as event organisers. Systematic supports can also help with music creation, when challenges are identified and taken into consideration by organisers,
In order to investigate intercultural challenges encountered by musicians, semi-structured interviews was conducted with 17 professionals of various musical and cultural backgrounds (including Argentinian, Brazilian, Chinese British, English, Indian American, Iranian, Iraqi, Japanese American, Lisu Chinese, Scottish, South Korean, etc.). Transcripts are subjected to a theory-led thematic analysis based on a wide literature review on intercultural and music studies. Hope findings in this study can make practical suggestions from these musicians’ perspectives on how intercultural understanding can be better shaped in arts and cultural events.