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The 'Singaporean' Composition
Music and Cultural Politics : Ideology and Resistance in Singapore - Lily Kong
The evolution of music and identity in Singapore: The link between music and Singaporean identity in compositions of Singapore today and the direction in which contemporary music is heading to encapsulate Singaporean identity.
Thursday, November 6, 2014
Vol XCIII, No. 311
Music, Cultural & National Identity in Singapore
Singapore's Musical Identity - AN OVERVIEW
Review of Background Study
The Chinese, Malay, Indian and Others (CMIO) construct has had a substantial influence on the musical direction of compositions intended to portray Singapore and its people's cultural heritage (e.g. Sing Singapore campaign songs, GMP syllabus songs, classical compositions).
MUSIC & IDENTITY
Question & Answer Session
Primary Research - Interviews with composers
Secondary Research - Academic writings from various sources e.g. journals, articles, dissertations
Dayung Sampan - Uniquely Singapore?
2006 2013 1980
The musical culture of a country is often a reflection of the identity of its people as shaped throughout the course of history being generally a product of the amalgamation of inter alia politics, economics, culture and racial heritage.
National Identity from a Geopolitical Perspective:
1. The population's composition & characteristics
2. State provision and policies
3. The power struggle between the population and state.
How will my research add value?
The advent of globalisation, modernisation, Singapore being a first world nation and the expanding cosmopolitan society have reduced the state's role in influencing the direction of musical culture and identity today.
The day to day lives and views of Singapore's residents are playing an increasingly important role in Singapore's evolving musical identity (e.g. through social commentary).
Nation building governmental policies and commissions greatly influenced nationalistic music in Singapore, especially during the country's formative years.
My personal view: Compositions or musical content associated with Singaporean identity should move away from nation building or social engineering purposes and instead focus on providing an accurate portrayal of the existing values and dynamics of its society.
Through understanding and sharing the concepts, ideas and techniques behind the works of local contemporary composers, this will help spur the evolution of a Singaporen musical identity which is concurrent with the times.
To obtain a better understanding of the evolution of Singapore's musical culture and how a composer's personal identity and beliefs (which may be partially influenced by local ideologies) inspires his works.
Through interviews and gaining insight on the motivations, influences and choice of musical elements of compositions intended to reflect Singaporean identity today, I intend to collate possible directions and considerations which composers of any genre of music may adopt in their compositions.
To provide further perspectives to the ongoing debate of approaches to composition which reflects Singaporean identity.
- How music can best reflect Singaporean identity?
- What musical elements or concepts can composers use in this regard?
- What are the key elements of a composition which portrays such identity?
- What motivated writing the compositions?
So what is Singaporean music?
Music has been used as a form of social engineering by the government to build national identity of its citizens through the Sing Singapore campaign songs.
Other political objectives include supporting the Total Defence campaign to bolster internal national identity to increase external security.
Sing Singapore was also an attempt at promoting governmental hegemony.
The genre of popular music was utilised towards these ends.
National songs from the Sing Singapore campaign were able to convey several layers of meanings to the listeners to inculcate acceptance of governmental ideologies given the overall package received by the intended audience.
Lyrics play an important role in encouraging nationalism.
Scions of the Musical West: Chapter 2. Sociocultural Context - Gavin Lee
Focuses on and provides analysis on Western classical contemporary music by prominent local composers in Singapore such as Leong Yoon Pin, Eric Watson, Kelly Tang, Zechariah Goh, John Sharpley, Joyce Bee-Tuan Koh etc.
The state can directly influence artistic activity via commisions for:
1. National Day Parade (NDP)
2. NTUC's patronage of the arts
3. Government linked commissions (e.g. for Singapore Arts Festival)
Compositions by classical contemporary composers often adopt melodies from popular songs or music, e.g. Kelly Tang
Government linked commissions generally indicate a preference for music related to the nation, e.g. Leong's Temasekian (1990).
Composers have engaged with the prevailing ideology in various ways:
1. commissioned pieces shape or dictate the ideological orientation of the music
2. the composer knowingly or unknowingly subscribes to the ideology
3.through the process of negotiating personal belief and knowledge of constructed truths, the same composer can at different times affirm or repudiate ideology.
There appears to be a trend of quoting from or reusing memorable themes in popular songs of Singapore within and across genres such as in Dayung Sampan (folk to classical and pop) and Home (pop nationalist to classical).
Sivaji Footbal Song - Ethnic rhythms, local slang and subject
I Wanna Si - Local slang and context juxtaposed against Disney tune
Presented by : Karen Denise de Silva ID No. 15978
Scope & Limitations:
Selection of local composers based on residency in Singapore.
Focus on classical contemporary compositions, albeit a wider scope which covers fusion with other genres.
There are many potential directions in which Singaporean compositions can take in its evolution.