Music education due to all children in the Middle East

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Music education due to all children in the Middle East

Syrian refugee children rehearse before their graduation concert in Beirut, Lebanon, September 22, 2017. photo. (AP archive photo)

For many readers of these lines, playing a musical instrument may be obvious, something they grew up with and perhaps were forced to learn for a year or two as a child. But for many children in the Middle East, learning to play a musical instrument is a dream. This should not be the case anywhere in the world, but especially not for the children of this region.
Most people can remember at least one time when they heard a song, recitation, piece of music, or simple melody that resonated with them in a deep emotional experience. A flood of feelings can be brought about by a lullaby from a distant childhood, a song from a significant stage in life, or a song from a particularly important religious ceremony. Some may be good and welcome, others may not be. But the experience is there. Even hearing-impaired people talk about such experiences and memories. Common events like these have made the power of music difficult to challenge.
Acknowledging the power of music is certainly the case with people who accept music as a positive addition to human life. This is even more true for people who think quite suspiciously about music and its influence on the human psyche. The affective power of music not only has an emotional impact on us, it can also be effective as music can influence thought and behavior patterns, so much so that it has long been used as a mobilization tool. massive.
Thanks to its power, music has been part of education for a very long time. In ancient Greece, music was one of the four pillars of the scientific educational program known as the “quadrivium” (along with astronomy, geometry, and arithmetic). It was also seen as a building block for the moral character of students. But it took several hundred years before the scientific understanding of music in Europe began to realize its emotional value.
In the Middle East, however, the inner workings of music have always been part of the picture. In the spiritual sense, music is known to have been seen as an improvement factor, especially in helping devotees memorize sacred texts. Examples abound in the texts and practices of the three great religions of the region. Accepting and enjoying the emotional power of music is an integral part of the history of the region and its cultures.
The word “music” here has a figurative meaning: an all-encompassing meaning that no word could satisfy. The different ways people experience, understand, and make this thing we often call music require an all-encompassing meaning beyond the ready-made terms and the different values ​​they evoke. Music in the figurative sense is a concept rather than a thing. Plus, it’s a ubiquitous concept, even though it’s controversial. It is in this sense that I hope that we can move beyond a view of music as an inherently negative thing, which has prevented its teaching in many parts of the Middle East.

Accepting and enjoying the emotional power of music is an integral part of the history of the region and its cultures.

Tala Jarjour

People often draw the line between the admissibility of music and the use of instruments, thus distinguishing between vocal recitation and instrumental music. Others may draw the line along certain rules of the organization of the terrain. But no matter where such a line is drawn, it remains artificial. This is particularly the case in the Middle East, where the line between various forms of vocal performance and instrumentalized singing is barely perceptible. Think of ancient poetry or various forms of long sung poems, most of the genres of which were said to have been improvised and were present in many languages ​​of the region.
A good example that remains in living practice today is Bedouin poetry. During the performance, the reciter (usually a male, when in public) accompanies his voice along with that of the rababa, a unique bowed string instrument known in various forms throughout the Middle East and the Muslim world. It would be difficult to separate the two voices in this case. It would also be difficult to try to draw a line between what is and what is not music, in order to reject one and accept the other.
The point I’m trying to make is this: the urge to sing the human voice, the curiosity for sounds made by humans by mechanical means, and the impulse to try them out together are known human activities to accompany our lives and interactions for a very long time. Just think of the most instinctive and basic form of human communication, that between a mother and her newborn baby. With or without language, the human voice (of the mother) and its inflections are present, and are never without intonation or differences in tone and volume. It’s not just mothers who have this instinctive form of expression; Most people (except those who are afraid of appearing silly), when talking to babies, communicate through emotional sounds, which are also very effective in this case.
Whether we call it music or not, ultimately we humans are musical creatures and that’s just how our brains are wired. Making pleasant sounds and using them to communicate with each other, with what we believe to be beyond us and with our inner selves is an activity that comes naturally to us. Learning to practice it in a way that is compatible with our sophisticated brain and our amazing ability to master fine motor skills is a great way to live a fuller life.
Investing in a more diverse and constantly evolving music education in the region, especially for children, is a very good strategy to improve the quality of life in countries of the Middle East, especially if those in charge uphold the cultural heritage of their musical ancestors. .

• Tala Jarjour is the author of “Sense and sadness: Syriac song in Aleppo”. She is a visiting scholar at King’s College London and an associate at Yale College.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed by the authors of this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Arab News


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