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I began studying Swahili, as well as two of the traditional instruments from the Wagogo tribe, and ate the food the Zawose family kindly offered me each day. These things allowed me to get closer to my teacher and his traditions, and indeed built trust and friendship. I felt like I was accepted and had access to a tradition in the purest form. After some time, however, I realized that unless I dedicated the rest of my life to this path, I would never really be able to play the music fully or to live like the Wagogo people.

I also came to understand that although I had built trust and respect, Zawose was really only giving me a glimpse of his musical culture. In fact, perhaps the only way to achieve full integration into the culture was to be born into it. Is it possible to learn another musical tradition outside of your own and assimilate it as if you were born into that musical culture? If so, what is the purpose? Over time, I realised that, in this particular situation, it was unrealistic to aspire to become fully integrated into the musical culture. That in itself was a dead end, an unreachable goal.

The important thing for me was to allow myself to be an outsider and experience things from my own perspective, with respect and genuine interest in the music and the people. When I engaged with the experiences in this way, I found I had gained new knowledge and musical inspiration, which I could carry with me and make sense of in my own musical contexts, and ultimately as part of my own musical identity.

When I play the traditional Wagogo instruments today I rarely play traditional music, but rather make new music for the instruments and integrate musical techniques and processes from the tradition into my own artistic practice in various tangible, intangible and tacit ways. My personal experience is that opportunities like this period spent in Tanzania have inspired new ideas and musical processes, which have continued to unfold well after the experience. The Ilimba is a traditional instrument of the Wagogo people of Tanzania, which is a variety of lamellaphone with metal keys that are plucked by the thumbs see Figure 2.

The resulting sound is a constant, distorted growl rich in natural overtones. Drawing on inspiration from the Wagogo ilimba, I began to develop methods for recreating the idea of acoustic distortion on the double bass. This process began during my time in Tanzania and has continued to develop long after my return.

Bodies of Sound : Sherril Dodds, Susan C. Cook - Book2look

In collaboration with instrument maker Juhana Nyrhinen, attachments were made for the bridge of the bass using metal, brass and seed rattles, as well as metal and wooden keys that are inserted into the bridge and plucked. These attachments transform the sound of the double bass and contribute to the formation of a new sonic identity for the instrument.

As a result, my previously formed technique and connection to the instrument began to take on new forms. Surprising new sounds and techniques emerged naturally through exploring the transformed instrument, which is simultaneously both familiar and unfamiliar. In the study Transcultural Arts Practice , Hendrickse examines work in the field of transcultural collaboration and describes it in the context of national and international debates about cultural diversity in music education, discovering how contemporary practice can be informed by a wide variety of influences without compromising the integrity of that practice.

Furthermore, the encounters that led to new personal discoveries were characterised by engaging with various forms of musical exchange and experimentation, uncovering new personal ideas and perspectives through bouncing off another. Chernoff makes reference to social and musical interactions in his book African rhythm and African sensibility reflecting on the concept of individuality, which is mediated through interaction with a community. In this context, the individual voice gives way to the collective and is only of value if it contributes to the whole.

But it is perhaps through the act of engaging with a community that the individual voice becomes stronger and begins to form its own unique identity. An important aspect of transculturality is the unspoken knowledge and influences that are passed from one person to another, sometimes without even realising that this process is taking place. I witnessed a clear example of this during a visit to Gambia in It was my first encounter with the Wolof drumming tradition, which I found to be incredibly rhythmically complex. As a musician I was trying to analyse the way the rhythmic patterns were structured and how they locked together.

I was attempting to break them down into manageable parts in order to understand them.

I then noticed the smallest children sitting alongside the drummers with plastic buckets, tin cans, whatever they could find. They were simply copying the drummers and trying to play along. An example like this is perhaps the purest form of apprenticeship, and the transfer of tacit knowledge.

This model is of course well established in many musical cultures and traditions worldwide. The concept of tacit knowledge has been an important part of absorbing musical processes into my own artistic practice and identity. Renshaw argues that tacit knowledge lies at the heart of human relationships and experiential learning, pointing to a key ingredient in intercultural and transcultural arts practices.

Popular Music Bibliography

The subtle art of discovering and coming to know something through interaction with another is key. If the environment is right, this may take place without much analysis or verbalization of how to work together; it is caught rather than taught.

Since leaving Australia, and having had the opportunity of experiencing different parts of the world, I realise I have gone through four phases musically:. Phase Two: trying to learn as much as I could about these cultures and somehow get close to playing their music. Phase Three: accepting that I may be inspired by these different cultures, but I will never be able to fully integrate into the culture or play the music in the same way as someone who had been born into that culture.

Phase Four: The formation of an emerging artistic identity informed by my experiences, through intercultural dialogue and transculturality. I have realised that my cultural heritage is made up of many diverse elements, and the environment I grew up in, including the ocean, birdsong, trees, smell of the land, the sonic landscape and turn of linguistic phrases all contribute to my musical identity. I have also come to realise that an important part of my cultural heritage lies in the fact that I was born in a land inhabited by First Nation Peoples and by the inherent influence of indigenous Australians on the formation of the Australian character and way of life Greer In Finland, the folk music traditions can be traced as an amalgamation of a variety of cross-cultural influences Hill This is a natural part of being an inquisitive musician and composer.

In the end, even though I may not be able to identify my own cultural heritage in the traditional sense of the term, perhaps my music has in some form been inherited from some combination of my ancestry, intertwined with my upbringing, homeland and subsequent travels.

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When I look back at the musical material I learnt during my time in Africa, for example, the tangible musical elements such as melody and rhythm are of secondary importance when examining the experience through a wide angle lense. However, the experience of working with musicians from a different background to my own, playing with them, listening to them, experiencing their culture and approaches to music, these experiences are the ones that continue to inspire me in my musical life.


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I am convinced that the way I play my own instruments, the way I compose, teach and think about music has been directly affected by my time in Africa, but not always in the ways I expected this to unfold at the time. This experience has become inextricably intertwined into my musical identity through a complex web of both practical and subtle, indefinable ways. In its essence, instrument augmentation is motivated by the ideal of bringing together the vast, rich and embodied instrumental tradition with the nearly endless sonic plasticity enabled by digital and analog audio technologies.

In musical terms, the augmentation process is about the sound of an instrument, in exact concordance with the theme of sonic identity discussed within this article. The instrument augmentation practice can be seen as a direct continuation of extended techniques and preparations which have been increasingly popular since their adoption by composers and instrumentalists of the post-war avant-garde. The exploratory technological work enables new musical ideas to take shape. In this view, instrument augmentation research equals to crafting new and personified sonic characters on traditional instruments, and thus going beyond the established timbral palettes.

The resulting sonic possibilities offer fertile terrain for a musician seeking to establish a distinct sonic identity. In electronic music culture s , sound is an absolute key element, both in the praxis of creation and in the enveloping verbal discourse. These musicological and discursive aspects point to the importance accorded to sonic identity in electronic music genres, which is in turn reflected in the field of instrument augmentation.

An attack transient-based trigger for software synthesizer is also used, in order to launch pad-like sounds directly from a certain type of bass plucking technique. All photographs by Kalle Kallio. Thumb piano and a brass cow bell with added thumb piano keys and a spring designed by Juhana Nyrhinen.

The electronic processing can be considered as a continuation of a timbre-warping process starting in the mechanical and acoustic domains, and following on into digital technology. The summed possibilities of sonic output offer a large palette of sound coloration around the acoustic sound of the double bass. The major drawbacks and limitations of the active acoustic technique employed in this case are the computational latency delaying the sound output, producing a non-synchronous output between the acoustic and electronic sounds, as well as a bias towards feedback due to the closed loop between pick-up and audio actuator both attached to the body of the double bass.

The interplay between technology and tradition creates fertile ground for the transformation of instrumental practice, allowing the player to explore the double bass in new ways, which in turn becomes a vehicle for the gradual formation of a new artistic identity.

Inherent within this process is new music that emerges through improvisatory exploration of newly discovered sounds. This framework naturally breeds creativity and the development of compositional processes, leading to the creation of new works for the instrument. In the following examples, we would like to highlight the interplay of transcultural and technological elements through three musical excerpts.

Excerpt 1 Cycles is a composition for solo double bass and attachments. The piece utilises a bridge mounted buzzer and a custom made ilimba thumb piano inserted into the centre of the bridge see figure 3 and 5 photos. A specially developed technique is employed, which involves inverting the hands right above the left and uses the thumb of the right hand to pluck the strings, as well as a circular arm motion in order to create percussive sounds on the body of the bass.

An ankle shaker is worn around the right leg, and the players voice is used percussively. These attachments and techniques were developed to emulate and re-imagine the sonic aesthetics of the Wagogo ilimba thumb piano and Kurya Litungu plucked lyre from Tanzania on the double bass. This process gives rise to new music and an expanded view of the role and sonic possibilities of the double bass, which in turn become integrated into the players personal sonic identity.

This studio piece was recorded in order to illustrate the different sonic possibilities of our current augmented bass version. Another strategy used in the piece is synthesizer triggering using the attack transients of the bass as triggers. A custom-made buzzer and ilimba thumb piano are mounted on the bridge of the double bass.

A small seed shaker is worn on the index finger of the left hand and an ankle shaker is attached to the right foot of the player. A dialogue is created as the double bass player responds in real time to the unpredictable responses of the electronics and the electronic musician in turn reacts to the impulses and responses of the double bass player. The music is composed in real time as a result of this dialogue.

Identity Through the Eyes of Music

Excerpt 3 is a piece for augmented double bass, voice and guzheng. Based on a textural atmosphere created by a limited number of pitches and freedom to choose the order of pitches, the players respond in real time to shifting, high pitched feedback loops created by filtering the bass sound, and driven back into the body of the double bass. Each performance becomes new as the electronic manipulations constantly change and morph according to the real time musical choices of the players.

The electronically induced feedback forms a drone-like connecting element between the bass, voice and guzheng. Through a case study in two parts, combining transcultural immersion and technological development, this article has outlined the process of musical identity formation of a double bass player. In the case analysed here, new sonic timbres and music are created through the process of transforming the traditional sound of the double bass both acoustically and electronically.