The Sound of Reconciliation
Dr Solveig Korum, University of Agder, Norway
The Sound of Reconciliation: Musical and Sociocultural Harmony in the Sri Lanka Norway Music Cooperation (2009-2018)
This presentation* shares Dr Korum's findings from the Sri Lanka Norway Music Cooperation (SLNMC, 2009-2018) launched immediately after a twenty-four year long civil war in Sri Lanka. The project responded to a stated need of rebuilding a fractured society and re-establishing relations between Sinhala and Tamil populations of the island. The SLNMC comprised school concerts and public concerts, music education, heritage documentation and digitalization, in addition to skill training for musicians and technicians, festival organisers and other actors in cultural life.
The presentation offers a critical phenomenological approach to the concept of harmony, where both phenomena of musical and socio-cultural harmony are displayed and discussed in relation to each other. I set out to investigate whether harmony in the SLNMC was a taken for granted, “dead” metaphor or an actual creative and impactful tool for implementing musical activities to support reconciliation in a post-war context.
Dr Korum's methodological toolkit hails from discourse-analysis and ethnography; she spent a total of five months in Sri Lanka between 2017 and 2019. Her data collection consists of qualitative data in the form of interviews, participatory field observations, in- house documentation of the SLNMC as well as media reports about the project. Additionally, she has used auto-ethnographic methods rooted in her own experience as a project manager of the SLNMC between 2009 and 2018.
Theoretically, her point of departure is Howell ́s conceptual investigation of harmony in multicultural musical projects (Howell, 2018) and specifically in the South-Asia context (Howell, 2019). She has combined elements from her framework with Sykes (2018) as well as insights from her research data to present a schema of three musical and three socio-cultural definitions of harmony paired and discussed in relation to each other. Dr Korum shares sound-examples from all categories. In conclusion, she argues that attention to various types of musical and socio-cultural harmony can cast new light on existing art for reconciliation-practices as well as generate fresh and fertile views on how to conceive, implement and assess such initiatives in the future.
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The Conference was organised as part of the AHRC/ESRC funded Partnership for Conflict, Crime and Security Research project Sounding Conflict: From Resistance to Reconciliation 2017-2021.