Music, Emotion and Conciliation

This project examines the ways in which music and the arts are used to foster empathy in interfaith and intercultural contexts, enacting conciliation through the construction, popularisation and expression of emotions.

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Image: Cumbia Cosmonauts ft. Somali Peace Band, Amadou Kallisa and Lamine Sonko, ReMastered Myths at St Kilda Festival 2014. Photo by DWV Photography

The project 'Music, Emotion and Conciliation' is an investigation of musical engagement as a pertinent context in which the construction, popularisation and expression of emotions in people’s personal everyday lives, as well as their ceremonial lives, takes place. In researching interfaith and intercultural music exchanges, and music used to represent religious feelings, nationalistic feelings and the feelings surrounding migration, seeking refuge and resettlement, Chief Investigator Professor Jane Davidson and postdoctoral researcher Samantha Dieckmann examine key sites which highlight the role of emotions in effecting political change and conciliation. Through observing and interviewing facilitators and participants in interfaith and intercultural community music programs, as well as songwriters and performers who work to promote peace and conciliation, their project also considers the interplay between the performativity of emotions and how music can be used to 'try out' and at times create affective states. The intercultural music spaces which form the fieldsites for this project highlight the cultural continuities and discontinuities the underlie Australia’s contemporary national identity, addressing key concerns within CHE's Performance and Shaping the Modern programs.

Community and industry engagement is central to the Music, Emotion and Conciliation research project, which enjoys partnerships with Multicultural Arts Victoria, the Australian Multicultural Foundation, VICSEG New Futures and Cultural Arts Collective. In addition to investigating several performing arts-based initiatives run through these organisations, this research project involves collaboratively designing and implementing interfaith and intercultural community music programs that foster emotional empathy.

The Lullaby Choir

Image credit: Urmila Ravikumar, VICSEG New Futures

The Lullaby Choir is an amateur ensemble that emerged from an applied ethnomusicology initiative, involving a collaboration between Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions researchers Samantha Dieckmann and Jane Davidson, and a not-for-profit community service agency VICSEG New Futures. The ensemble was formed after a lullaby exchange which highlighted the genre’s emotional, nostalgic and cultural potency, and subsequent weekly rehearsals have involved individual members teaching lullabies from their homelands to their peer choristers. The teaching and learning of each other’s mother languages, singing styles and expressions of parenthood has had a marked effect on participants, and lullabies have proven an efficacious focal point for creating and sharing safe spaces. The song category draws attention to distinctive collective identities, while providing fertile ground for intercultural and interfaith exchange; across the world lullabies are used to soothe infants, and represent some of the earliest encounters with heritage music, language and culture.

Selected Publications

Dieckmann, S. and J. W. Davidson, eds. ‘Peace, Empathy and Conciliation through Music’, special issue, International Journal of Community Music 12.2 (June/July 2019). Forthcoming.

Dieckmann, S. and J. W. Davidson. ‘Peace Education and Pluriversal Cosmopolitanism: Community Music Case Studies from Sydney and Melbourne’. International Journal of Community Music 12.2 (June/July 2019). Forthcoming.

Dieckmann, S. and J. W. Davidson. ‘Public Pedagogy and Its Hidden Curriculum in an Intercultural Community Choir’. In The Politics of Diversity in Music Education, edited by A. Kallio, S. Karlsen, K. Marsh, E. Saether and H. Westerlund. London: Routledge, 2019. Forthcoming.

Dieckmann, S. and J. W. Davidson. ‘Intercultural Relations Through Music’. In The Science and Psychology of Music: From Mozart at the Office to Metallica at the Gym, edited by W. F. Thompson and K. N. Olsen.  Santa Barbara: ABC-Clio, 2019.  Forthcoming.

Dieckmann, S. and J. W. Davidson. ‘Emotions’. 'Keywords for Music in Peacebuilding', special issue, Music and Arts in Action (2018): Forthoming.

Dieckmann, S. and J. W. Davidson. ‘Organised Cultural Encounters: Collaboration and Intercultural Contact in a Lullaby Choir’. The World of Music (new series) 7.1&2 (2018): 155–78.

Selected Presentations

Panel Presentation: ‘Restaging Fear: Affective Translation and Empathetic Engagement Through Intercommunity Performing Arts Practices’, Association of Social Anthropologists Conference, University of Oxford, UK, 21 September 2018.

Public Lecture: ‘Lullabies of Our Lives: Singing Multicultural Harmony’, public lecture series ‘Music on the Mind’, Melbourne Recital Centre, 25 June 2018.

Conference Paper (with Jane W. Davidson): ‘Lullabies, Trains and Platforms: Staging Public Ethnomusicology after the Coburg Rallies’, British Forum for Ethnomusicology Conference, Newcastle University, UK, 12 April 2018.