Using Music for Other-than-musical Purposes

Published: 12 April 2023

The transformative role that music can play in social inclusion and conflict resolution was discussed at a University of Glasgow event on 23 March.

The transformative role that music can play in social inclusion and conflict resolution was discussed at a University of Glasgow event on 23 March.

‘Music for Other-than-musical Purposes’ brought together academics, practitioners and students to the University of Glasgow’s Advanced Research Centre (ARC) to hear more about the work of The Arts of Inclusion (TAI) network, based at the UofG’s School of Education.

TAI is a network of academics and practitioners aimed at building expertise to critically assess the role of performing arts practices for social inclusion and conflict transformation. It is supported by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the Royal Society of Edinburgh, and involves a collaborative partnership between members with interdisciplinary expertise, based in Australia, Poland, Colombia, Mexico, Brazil, Spain, Canada, Belgium, and the UK.

Project investigator Professor Oscar Odena said: “Music has vast potential to be used in complex and sensitive settings, involving learners of all ages and backgrounds. By bringing together an international team of experts from the fields of music education, music psychology, ethnomusicology and community music, we’ve been able to explore what these options are, and how they might work. This event was a fantastic opportunity to hear from collaborators on subjects as diverse as Covid playlists, non-violent hip-hop and cross-community music projects. We hope everyone who attended found it inspiring and useful for their work and study.”  

Keynote speaker Dr Gillian Howell, who is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Melbourne, shared her experiences of developing musical projects in conflict zones, including Bosnia-Herzegovina and Afghanistan. During her time in the latter, she worked with music students in schools prior to the Taliban resurgence. Although pupils were initially optimistic about their musical prospects, they soon became disheartened on leaving school and realising that the prevailing view of music was still one of immorality and social danger. As one pupil put it, with a chilling presentiment of the future: “'I think music has no future here...if Taliban comes to our country again, musicians will be killed.”

Gillian stressed the role of disjuncture in understanding the disparity between how performers may hope for their musical education to be perceived, and the reality of how it is actually experienced by those participating. “You have to remember if you made it for them, then it's theirs, not yours,” she concluded. 

Dr Andrew Green, an Associate Professor with the University of Warsaw’s Faculty of Artes Liberales, discussed his time researching an NGO (non-governmental organisation) in Iztapalala, a borough of Mexico City that is dominated by violent crime with a predominately young male population. Working with the local community and Mexican rappers, Andrew studied Hip-Hop Transformacion, featuring a competition, live performance, workshops and recording. The young people were supported and encouraged to produce albums of ‘positive rap, focusing on family and romantic relationships’, with a focus on motivating others to improve their quality of life.

Although data was inconclusive, early signs showed that the rap produced was having a positive impact on household attitudes towards violence.

A roundtable featured inputs from PhD student Valeria Gascon, who adapted her research into the role of music in everyday situations when Covid hit, with experiences shared of lockdown in Mexico City and Glasgow. As one participant described it: “Making lockdown playlists allowed me to reflect on the critical moments and how they shaped the person I became.” Valeria was joined by Valeria Salinas-Maceda, on music for social cohesion in Bolivia, and Professor Lukas Pairon on his fieldwork in Democratic Republic of Congo and the Social Impact of Making Music research platform.

A book sharing the work of The Arts of Inclusion on Music and Social Inclusion is now available to order. This features chapters by Oscar Odena, Gillian Howell, Andrew Green, Valeria Gascon and Lukas Pairon.

Watch Using Music for Other-than-musical Purposes


First published: 12 April 2023

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