In order for communication to take place in intercultural dialogues, the musicians must search for points of connection, which may not be immediately obvious. As with any new musical encounter, the musicians may be required to re-assess previously formed norms, where approaches to musical elements such as rhythm, harmony, melodic sensibility or texture may not apply, or need to be adapted and negotiated in various ways. Bhabha refers to this notation when he describes hybridity as being ‘precisely about the fact that when a new situation, a new alliance formulates itself, it may demand that you should translate your principles, rethink them, extend them’ (1990, p. 216). This process is distilled in the musical duo format, which allows for clear examination of the effects of bringing two distinctively different elements together.
This phenomenon is discussed in various societal and educational contexts, including, as mentioned earlier, third space theory (Bhabha, 1996) and hybridity (Bhabha 1996, Whitchurch 2012, Wren 2015). Whitchurch (2012, p. 22) cited McAlpine and Hopwood, (2009) stating that third spaces ‘involve interactions between people who would not normally have worked together, where those interactions are focused on a shared (often novel) object (concept, problem, idea)…These new constellations of people, and the common motive they share, offer degrees of freedom to explore new possibilities outside the constrains of established modes of working which shape interactions in the various contexts from which people come’ (McAlpine and Hopwood, 2009, p.159).
These statements ring true for me within the context of providing opportunities for musicians from diverse backgrounds to interact, enabling a shared space in which to explore and expand practices that are not confined to one given way of approaching music making alone. Opportunities of this kind have been crucial for me personally in terms of embarking on the process of forming my own musical identity. As a double bass player, I can trace the formation of key aspects of my playing back to seminal moments that arose through playing with musicians from diverse backgrounds. The 5-year period I spent living in Tanzania and Zambia mentioned earlier was filled with such moments, some of which are alluded to in my previous article, which discusses the formation of a sonic identity (Thomson, Lähdeoja 2019). The musical examples in this exposition resulted in further expanding my approaches to double bass playing, as well as newly developed compositional and improvisational ideas. Both of these aspects will be unpacked in the case study pages.
A key factor to point out here is that opportunities like this are not necessarily readily available in the daily life of a musician and must therefore be initiated and carefully nurtured. In doing so, we provide possibilities to expand practices, increase intercultural understanding and discover new musical ideas and modes of expression. As musician Toby Wren points out in his discussions on intercultural music projects and hybridity, 'the hybrids that most interest me as an artist and critic...are...music’s in which fundamental theoretical constructs are blended, aesthetics are juxtaposed, and musicians from different cultures are heard to interact and extend their cultural practices' (Wren 2015, p48).
In the musical dialogues presented in the following pages, I am interested in the collaborative process itself and the factors that lead to creating a space where musicians are able to truly interact and explore ground that potentially extends approaches and practices. It seems to me that this doesn't necessarily happen by chance, but is rather the result of considered ways of working together and a willingness to explore new territories and points of view. Examples of these working methods will be uncovered in the musical case studies.
Educationalist Peter Renshaw highlights the importance of interpersonal skills and the ability to relate to other people in collaborative processes, including ‘trust; openness; responsiveness; listening to and acting on other points of view; ability to work collaboratively in a team with interchangeable roles; having the confidence to share ones’ vulnerability’ (Renshaw, 2010, pp. 68-9). I view such core interpersonal skills as being essential for the foundation of collaborative musical processes. Other skills and qualities also arose during the musical case studies presented in this exposition, including respect, patience, compassion, honesty, willingness to take risks, integrity, and developing the ability to listen fully to one another.
Taking these core skills and qualities as a given for the basis of fruitful collaboration, I would like to highlight two other areas that emerge in the following case study examples, namely facilitation and the creation of shared meaning. The musical case studies both required a creative process to be guided, with the aim of creating work that had active engagement and shared meaning for each person.
The concept of resonance is important once again here. As Rosa states, ‘There can be no doubt that the concept of resonance is a highly suitable metaphor for describing the qualities of relationships, and that it moreover offers enormous potential for analysing how human beings relate to the world in nearly every area of life’ (Rosa, 2019, p.164). In transcultural, or indeed musical dialogues of any kind, resonance can be seen as a crucial aspect in creating the environment conducive to meaningful musical interaction.
Rosa also makes numerous points of reference to music and sound as a form as resonance. Using the analogy of a tuning fork, he observes that if two tuning forks are in close proximity and one is struck, the other will sound as a kind of resonant effect. Furthermore, as his book claims, ‘subjects are geared toward resonant experiences, they can either seek out encounters that resonate with them (first tuning fork) or hope to encounter things that cause them to resonate (second tuning fork)’ (Rosa, 2019, p. 124).
Rosa goes on to observe the experience of resonance becoming more dynamic or ‘charged’ in such moments as witnessing a sunset or listening to live music due to the fleeting nature of their existence. ‘Witnessing a sunset can be such a strong, sometimes (in the case of Bede Griffith) even metaphysically or cosmologically ´charged’ experience not least because the person touched by it is fully aware of its essential transience. Musical experiences of resonance are temporalized and made dynamic in a similar way: the apotheosis of a symphony, an aria, a song, or even a dance is experienced – like an organism – as a radically and always already passing moment’ (Rosa, 2019, p.120).