Business and Music in Peacebuilding Activities: Parallels and Paradoxes
Published online: 30 November 2018
The goal of this article is to share five crucial ways of thinking about the most effective ways to apply music in peacebuilding activities. It is based on the presentation I gave for the online summit on Music, Business and Peace on May 12, 2017, on work done since then, and on elements of an exhibition on Music and Human Rights held by our institute (MOMRI) in Tokyo during the first half of 2018.
I present five basic ideas for exploring music in peacebuilding: 1. Ambivalence: music can be used for destructive purposes such as killing and torturing, as well as for constructive aims such as healing and reconciliation. 2. Musicking: music can be considered as action, what we do to ourselves and each other through musical activities. 3. Booster: it may be safer to consider that music can act as a booster to a range of activities, rather than believing that music has some intrinsic power by itself. 4. Non-Universality: people’s concrete experience of musicking practices can be very different from each other, and even totally incompatible. 5. Repetition: it is only by repeating positive musicking experiences that participants will be able to change their behavior, for instance a shift towards a more collaborative mindset. The complex issues emerging when trying to link music and peace can also affect research and activities linking business and peace. Keeping this in mind throughout the article, I present a series of questions for my colleagues in the business and peace field, in the concluding section.
The online summit on Music, Business and Peace organized jointly by Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business and Jacobs School of Music on May 12, 2017 was meaningful and thought provoking. It had a more profound influence on my thinking than I realized, as I discovered recently while revisiting the transcript of the presentation I gave on that day. This article is based on three sources: the 2017 transcript; an exhibition on Music and Human Rights that was held in Tokyo; and insights gained on this topic since the 2017 summit.
The exhibition on Music and Human Rights (February 17 to July 8, 2018) was organized by the Min-On Music Research Institute (MOMRI) and the Min-On Museum. It was the first time that the Min-On Concert Association highlighted peacebuilding issues in an exhibition, and it may well be the first one of its kind in Japan. I have realized now, as I start writing this article, that some important ideas I introduced in this exhibition emerged in response to the discussions and questions from the May 2017 summit. I hereby express my profound gratitude to all involved.
The goal of this article is to share what I think are crucial ways of thinking about the most effective ways to apply music in peacebuilding activities, based on my May 2017 presentation, on work done since then, and on some elements of our current exhibition. The Music and Human Rights exhibition itself consists of concrete examples of musicians who have contributed to human rights on all continents, with three central panels devoted to ways in which we can start thinking more deeply about peacebuilding issues, including human rights. The exhibition concludes with an introduction of the research fellows of MOMRI and their activities.
My background is in peace studies, to which I have added findings based on a fascination for the potential of musicking in peacebuilding activities; I have no training or experience in business whatsoever. However, it seems obvious to me that the complex issues emerging when trying to link music and peace can also affect research and activities linking business and peace. Keeping this in mind throughout the article, I present a series of questions for my colleagues in the business and peace field, in the concluding section.
Five Basic Ideas for Exploring Music in Peacebuilding
Here I will share some ideas that challenge mainstream assumptions regarding “the power of music for peace.” The same five conceptual challenges apply to business and peace, too.
In his chapter entitled “Unpeaceful Music,” (2008) George Kent makes the ambivalence of music very clear:
Some music may help to make some kinds of peace some of the time, but, like many other good things, music has a dark side as well. There is music that celebrates war, viciousness, hate, and humiliation. Music does have the power to heal, but we need to see that it also has the power to hurt. Music can bring us together, and it also can divide us.1Kent, 104.
It took me several years to fully embrace this reality, but I am now convinced that this is an essential conceptual pillar for all those who want to make inroads in the field. Music can be used for destructive purposes such as killing and torturing, as well as for constructive aims such as healing and reconciliation. My position is that music is completely ambivalent, and I like to repeat this mantra whenever useful, that “it all depends on how we treat ourselves and others through musical activities.” In the exhibition, we take two examples from Rwanda to illustrate this point.
A front panel introduces a women’s drumming group:
Ingoma Nshya is a Rwandan women’s drumming group. It was established in 2004 by Odile Gakire Katese (Kiki) with widows and survivors from both sides of the 1994 Rwandan Genocide, and it is now open to other women. Their name means “new drums and new reign.” They offer healing and reconciliation through cultural development and promote the empowerment of women everywhere.2Ingoma Nshya
The text ends with a warning, and an invitation to view the back panel as the –literally—other side of the story (underlining for emphasis):
Ingoma Nshya offers a vibrant example of the ways musicking can enable people to rebuild their lives after tragedy and destruction. However, musicking can also be used for destructive purposes. This is called the ambivalence of musicking. See other side of this panel for an example of musicking used for destructive purposes.
The back panel then describes how musicking was used to spur violence in the same country3McCoy. with a similar type of musical medium:
Musicking was used to promote violence during the 1994 Rwandan genocide that lasted from April 7 to July 14. Around 800,000 people died, the majority of the victims were Tutsi, and most of the killings were perpetrated by Hutu militias and ordinary citizens.
Simon Bikindi was the most popular Rwandan musician in the years before the genocide. He composed three political songs that were aired several times a day on a radio station promoting discrimination, called Radio-Television Libre des Milles Collines (RTML). The song “Nanga abahutu” (“I Hate These Hutu”) was composed in the summer of 1993 to promote Hutu extremism by criticizing moderate Hutu.
The text of the back panel ends with a similar invitation, to stress the meaning of ambivalence (underlining for emphasis):
The power of culture is such that we can create false identities, and spur people to kill each other based on these constructions. Musicking has tremendous power for both constructive and destructive purposes. This is called the ambivalence of musicking. See other side of this panel for an example of musicking used for constructive purposes
The shortest explanation of this concept is “music as action,” but it is much more than this. Here I present well-known quotes from Christopher Small’s book Musicking (1998) in which he revived the term. This is one of the major concepts at the center of our exhibition.
To music is to take part, in any capacity, in a musical performance, whether by performing, by listening, by rehearsing or practicing, by providing material for performance (what is called composing), or by dancing.4Small, 9.
According to Small, all actions that contribute to a musicking event are to be included:
We might at times even extend its meaning to what the person is doing who takes the tickets at the door or the hefty men who shift the piano and the drums or the roadies who set up the instruments and carry out the sound checks or the cleaners who clean up after everyone else has gone. They, too, are all contributing to the nature of the event that is a musical performance.5Ibid.
Also, by emphasizing relationships, Small has made it easier to find connections between music and peacebuilding:
[T]he act of musicking establishes in the place where it is happening a set of relationships (…) [The meaning of musicking is found in these] relationships between person and person, between individual and society, between humanity and the natural world and even perhaps the supernatural world.6Ibid., 13.
One example is provided by drums played in Northern Ireland. The bodhran is a typical drum of Irish traditional music, and the lambeg is a large drum used by Protestant marching bands. During the Troubles, musicking with the bodhran, or with the lambeg, was often used by groups on opposite sides of the conflict to mark their territories, intimidate members of the other community, and boost the fighting spirit within one’s group. A band called Different Drums of Ireland was established in Northern Ireland in 1991 by Roy Arbuckle to challenge these divisions. By mixing the bodhran, the lambeg, African djembe and other types of drums, they wanted to show Protestant Unionists and Catholic Nationalists that it is possible to find common ground (Different Drums of Ireland 2018).
The different functions and roles fulfilled when musicking with these drums are not intrinsic to the instruments, and not even to the type of music played or the culture they express. It all depends on how people use these musical symbols and expressions, to unite, to intimidate, to threaten or to reconcile. To mention the mantra one more time, I call this an emphasis on “how we treat ourselves and others through musical activities.”
In a pioneering article entitled “The Neurochemistry of Music” (2013), Mona Lisa Chanda and David J. Levitin make the following point in their conclusion:
If the notion of music as medicine is to be taken literally, it is crucial to employ as rigorous designs for its investigation as for testing traditional forms of medication. It may turn out that the mechanism of action for music is not due to the music itself, but to embedded or ancillary factors, such as distraction, mood induction, locus of control, and perceptual-cognitive stimulation. If this is the case, music may be effective, but not uniquely so – other interventions (crossword puzzles, films, plays) may show equivalent effects if matched for embedded factors.7Chanda and Levitin, 189.
I believe that the awareness that it may be possible that “the mechanism of action for music is not due to the music itself” is worth expanding upon. To take a simple example that I often use in my lectures, let us consider the case of a patient who shows measurable signs of recovery after a music therapy session conducted by a licensed music therapist. Let us say that the therapist is particularly kind, talented, caring and cheerful. Can we say that the patient recovered thanks to the music only? Or is it due to the care received from the therapist? Would the same therapist have the same effect without the music, simply because of his/her healing skills and cheerful mood? It is difficult to isolate music from caring and other factors in this case.
A radical position, which I sometimes use, is that music has “no effect at all by itself.” However, in the case of the music therapy session, when music is expertly added to the therapeutic process, the healing effects can be stronger. By the same token, in the case of torture, adding music to it can also produce more pain and horror. For better or for worse, it may be safer to consider that music can act as a booster to a range of activities, rather than believing that music has some intrinsic power by itself. I call this the “booster” effect of music.
In her chapter titled “Music: A Universal Language?” (2008), Cynthia Cohen states that
[F]or several different reasons, we as musician-peacebuilders should use caution when asserting that music is a universal language. Although there are some aspects of musicality that are human universals, (…) different musical traditions are actually more dissimilar than similar (…) it is not music’s universal appeal that gives it much of its power as a peacebuilding resource, but rather recognition of the distinctive meanings that emerge from its place in historical events and cultural traditions.8Cohen, 27.
Both music and business are universal in the sense that if we go anywhere on the planet or travel back in time, we will find some form of music played by human beings, and some form of exchange of goods and services being part of daily life. However, the music and the concrete business practices can be very different from each other, and even totally incompatible. For instance, if you go and visit your neighbor now and insist on playing a song that had a profoundly positive impact on you one hour ago, it might backfire. It might be the wrong time for your neighbor, and s/he might dislike that particular type of music. Another example was mentioned earlier, regarding the fact that playing and hearing the bodhran or the lambeg in Northern Ireland had very different, often opposite effects on the listeners depending on their background and experiences.
As Cohen warns us, even though some aspects of musicality can be considered as universal, concrete musical practices at a particular time and place cannot be taken out of context without risks. I assume that the same holds true regarding business practices.
Musical events can move us deeply and establish solidarity between people on opposite sides of violent conflicts—for the duration of the event. The main problem is that the effects of these peak experiences disappear very quickly once the participants go back to their usual environment. At a MOMRI conference in 2015, Craig Robertson stated:
I would like to emphasize that “repetition is the key to success.” Extraordinary musical experiences can provide turning points, but repeated musical contacts would need to be engaged with in order to promote tangible change. In other words, for real change to occur, people need to experience an extraordinary experience, and the experience needs to be repeated many times until it becomes ordinary. Due to a lack of understanding and planning with this in mind, all known current music and conflict transformation projects have not been wholly successful in effecting lasting social change.9Robertson.
One well-known example illustrating this point is the West–Eastern Divan Orchestra, a youth orchestra based in Seville, Spain. It was established in 1999 by the Argentine-Israeli conductor Daniel Barenboim and Palestinian-American academic Edward Said. The two friends have written a book together, entitled Parallels and Paradoxes: Explorations in Music and Society (2002), which has provided the inspiration for the title of this article. The founders have often declared that peace in the Middle-East is so elusive that it is not even their goal. All they want to do is to show that it is possible to disagree without resorting to violence.10Vulliamy.
They confirm what we already know, that even though many of the musicians do experience moments of openness, of bonding, and of feeling some common ground as human beings, they quickly forget this understanding once they go back to their respective environments. Plunged back in the realities of daily life, the constant influence of their families, the media and their social networks ensure that they soon remember that the other is the enemy.
The lesson to be learned here, is that “repetition is key to success” as Robertson stated. It is only by repeating the type of bonding experiences provided by musicking with the orchestra that the participants would be able to shift towards a more collaborative mindset. They would have to get together for instance, once a month, for years, decades, even over generations. Just one wonderful experience of commonality will not be able to make a change in entrenched societal structures.
Additional Insights from Major Thinkers
While doing background research for the exhibition on Music and Human Rights, quotes from seven thinkers clearly emerged, in my opinion, as being essential for our field. A double panel in the exhibit containing most of these quotes is titled: “Some Major Thinkers Who Provided Links between Musicking and Peacebuilding” and introduces a short bio of each researcher, and some important insights. I reproduce these quotes here, with a different narrative and in a different order more appropriate for this article. I also add an insight by John Paul Lederach regarding music as vibration and its fundamental role in conflict transformation and peacebuilding.
Ambivalence, power relations and constructive potential
Inspired by his compatriot, Brazilian educator Paulo Freire, ethnomusicologist Samuel Araujo emphasizes the importance of power relations in musicking. In his chapter titled “Sound Praxis: Music, Politics, and Violence in Brazil” (2010) he states:
Invoking Paulo Freire once again, researchers keep themselves aware that musical processes and musical products are permanently mediated by power relations that demand constant action/reflection.11Araujo, 230.
The ubiquitous potential for power struggles is one of the reasons why music is ambivalent, but this also means that if we choose to, it can be used for constructive purposes. In the epilogue to the book Music and Conflict (2010), Egyptian ethnomusicologist Salwa El-Shawan Castelo-Branco emphasizes the ambivalence of musicking, giving examples of its potential for both construction and destruction:
[M]usic is central in many conflicts, inciting war and violence (…) Music can be used as much for the cohesion as for the destruction of individuals and societies (…) [B]y stimulating children’s creativity and involving them in music making (…) we can contribute to fighting against negative stereotypes, racism, violence and social exclusion.12Castelo-Branco, 245-50.
Musicking as a metaphor for good governance and social change
The three quotes by New-Zealand born musicologist Christopher Small regarding “music as action” mentioned above are also included in these panels, and serve as the basis for this section. With a deep understanding of musicking, the insights of British ethnomusicologist John Blacking make more sense, even though his work precedes that of Small by more than two decades.
In How Musical Is Man? (1973), Blacking offered his well-known definition of music as “humanly organized sound.”13Blacking, 10. Even more importantly for our research, he emphasized that an understanding of human musicality is vital to improve society, proposing the idea of a “soundly organized humanity.”14Blacking, 101. This double entendre opens up various possibilities, inviting us to find out if organizing humanity based on sound and music (soundly) would result in a more effective and harmoniously organized (soundly) humanity.
US peace studies and conflict transformation expert John Paul Lederach gives us a hint regarding how an understanding of music as vibration can help us make progress towards Blacking’s ideal of a soundly organized humanity:
Based essentially on vibration, music provides a very different kind of medium by which to explore any of the deep human experiences mobilized around conflict and peace. We are in a very real sense made for and from sound. Our earliest experience of life takes place within a womb where we are surrounded by a steady rhythm and sound. Understanding conflict and peace must find ways to account for the elements that go below and beyond the linear modalities of making sense of things as if rational thought can disembody itself from who we are as beings made of sound and vibration.
Without rejecting linearity completely, sound and music provide a metaphoric shift needed to take into account repetition and circularity, allowing us to understand that healing often takes place by a deepening of our connection with the experience of living in the moment, what Morrison calls the “eternal now.” (…) We need metaphors based on vibration, sound, and music in order to understand the essence of peacebuilding.15 Lederach.
Music is not a universal language, but it can still foster common ground
As editor of Politics and War: Views from Croatia (1998) Croatia-born applied ethnomusicologist Svanibor Pettan highlights that a productive understanding of musicking and peacebuilding requires an ability to fully embrace complexity and plurality:
The plurality in the musical domain can and should serve as a reminder of the ethnic, regional, religious, and any other plurality characteristic of modern civil societies, and also of the plurality within each individual.16Pettan, 26.
In her foreword to Music, Power and Liberty (2016), US-born music sociologist Tia DeNora, author of Music in Every Day Life (2000), writes that even though the music used in an activity may not be understood in the same way (see the non-universality of music above), musicking may allow people to communicate beyond words and feel united for a while:
And so, music “makes nothing happen” but nonetheless making music together, musicking, coming together around music, even just talking about music, can establish common ground and a basis for future experience.17DeNora, (xii).
My personal summary of these six quotes is that even though a simple-minded and too naïve enthusiasm for the “potential of musicking for peacebuilding” could backfire, a complete rejection of the possibilities of musicking for the betterment of our lives and societies would be a terrible waste too. A hopeful yet well-informed program of research, education, activism and application seems to be the best way forward in an imperfect world.
Reflexive moments: four publications, several dialogues and numerous lessons
Over the years, I have received a range of responses to my four major publications on musicking in peacebuilding, and it is often the sharpest criticism that allows for the greatest insights. Here I will mention how positions in each of the four works have elicited responses that have spurred me to a deeper understanding.
In the introduction to Music and Conflict Transformation, (2008, 2015) I teased out the concept of “social music therapy,” expressing the hope that since music therapy is recognized as being effective to cure a range of illnesses, we could expand the potential of music to produce positive effects on human behavior, relationships and on society. Today we have tens of thousands of records in hospitals that show without a doubt that music therapy works well when used professionally.18 Bunt, 1994. We also know that it works for small groups, like family music therapy, or small communities.19Pavlicevic and Ansdell. (However, at some point in this expansion, the beneficial effects seem to come to a stop. We have not seen any convincing influence of musicking in global governance, nor in national policy-making. An important question at the center of our research is why this is so.)
A first reflexive moment, which became productive and beneficial, came with the publication of “Music and Art in Conflict Transformation: A Review” (2010) by Arild Bergh and John Sloboda. After mentioning several works including Music and Conflict Transformation, the article warns against unwarranted optimism:
Two recent books have put music and art more firmly on the agenda for conflict transformation. The first is (…) The Moral Imagination: The Art and Soul of Building Peace (2005) [by John Paul Lederach]. (…) The second book is the edited volume Music and Conflict Transformation (…). (I)t became clear that in general there exists an overly optimistic view of what music and art can achieve in conflict transformation situations which has a negative effect on the outcomes.20Bergh and Sloboda, 7-8.
With some concern that an “overly optimistic view” might apply to my own research, I read with great attention the list of issues mentioned further, such as “the participants’ views are rarely heard,” “Music’s role is exaggerated or taken out of context,” “Evaluations are geared towards claiming success, not exploring what took place and how music may work” and other valid and meaningful red flags. It is thanks to the warnings found in Bergh and Sloboda’s review and several others that I started developing the arsenal of insights listed throughout this article, the first one being the ambivalence of music. A fuller response to an overall concern regarding power relations and violence through musicking can be found in Elaine Sandoval’s article entitled “Music in Peacebuilding: a critical literature review,” (2016) in a special issue of the Journal of Peace Education edited by the MOMRI team. In this review, she juxtaposes two bodies of literature rarely brought into dialogue, one emphasizing the contributions of music to peacebuilding and the other the roles of music in violence.
A second reflexive moment came when I read the following comment in the introduction to Music and Conflict (2010) edited by John O’Connell and Salwa El-Shawan Castelo-Branco:
While Music and Conflict Transformation is the first major publication of its kind, it betrays a Eurocentric bias that fits uncomfortably with the pluralist aspirations of an ethnomusicological tradition. It is significant that no ethnomusicologist is featured in the collection.21O’Connell and Castelo-Branco, 9.
I am not sure about a completely Eurocentric bias, since besides Europeans, we had contributing authors from South Africa, Lebanon, the US and New Zealand, but there is no doubt that there was not a single ethnomusicologist among us. Coming from the peace studies field, this work was the first collective academic foray into the potential of musicking in peacebuilding activities. Since then, after meeting and working with numerous ethnomusicologists, partly as a result of the comments quoted above, it became clear to me that thousands of people working in the field of ethnomusicology have already been doing research on musicking in peacebuilding for decades, without anybody in the peace studies field being aware of this. This division of labor, which reflects a compartmentalization of research, with experts trapped in their silos, is detrimental to human knowledge in general, and one of the goals of our research is to connect the dots as effectively as possible. MOMRI is now preparing a special issue of the journal Music in Arts and Action (MAiA) with several prominent ethnomusicologists.
In Music and Solidarity (2011), with Felicity Laurence as the main editor, I praise the Venezuelan organization El Sistema, based on the information available in English at the time. A response came in the book of Geoffrey Baker, El Sistema: Orchestrating Venezuela’s Youth (2014) where he wrote:
Rose-tinted representations of El Sistema are commonly found in the academic as well as journalistic field. Olivier Urbain provided a particularly illuminating example in a volume entitled Music and Solidarity (Laurence and Urbain 2011), to which the well-known musicologist Christopher Small contributed the prologue. The case of Urbain and Small demonstrates the ease with which understandings of El Sistema can become skewed and obvious contradictions overlooked, even in the hands of experienced scholars. (…) It would be wrong to mark down Urbain’s study as particularly at fault; its idealization is typical of academic interventions on El Sistema, and it has particular value in uncovering the process by which most people outside Venezuela grasp the program.22Baker, 259-261.
Baker’s years of fieldwork in Venezuela revealed severe structural problems with the way El Sistema functioned at the time, as well as with their ill-inspired imposition of Western classical music, propped up in neocolonialist fashion as being artistically superior and more effective for social change in Caracas and other places. I learned to be careful from that time when evaluating seemingly effective programs, but much more importantly, the entire operations of El Sistema worldwide went through profound reflexive moments and changes, and have shown serious improvement in some of the issues highlighted by Baker.
During the planning meeting for Music, Power and Liberty in Paris in 2012, the reflexive moment came even before the title was agreed upon. Thanks to my Tunisian colleagues whose chapters are in that volume (Bouzouita; Feki; Hakima 2016), I was easily convinced that the title I had in mind, Music and Freedom, was occluding half of the reality. There is no doubt that musicking played a major role in the protests and demonstrations of the Arab Spring (which turned into an Arab Hell in most cases). At the same time, governments and dictators had been using musicking, and used it during the revolutions, to reinforce the status quo and try to keep people under control. Hence the more realistic and balanced title of Music, Power and Liberty.
The fourth work is a special volume of the Journal of Peace Education (2016), in which I wrote “A statement of values for our research on music in peacebuilding.” In it, I propose a synthesis and merging of some Western European and Japanese ethical systems that result in four ethical statements as follows: Inner Peacebuilding, Communicative Creativity, Planetary Awareness, and Preventive Peacebuilding. I had a chance to organize a workshop for the 62nd annual meeting of the Society for Ethnomusicology held in October 2017 in Denver, Colorado, USA. In the abstract for the conference, I placed the statement of values in the context of applied ethnomusicological research:
In order to evaluate the effectiveness of musicking events in the context of peacebuilding activities, what are the ethical values and principles supporting our evaluations? Based on a social constructionist approach, and taking on board Christopher Small's concept of "musicking" as action, this workshop will explore the boundaries of ethical considerations in order to facilitate the emergence of new critical approaches in the field of applied ethnomusicology, in particular in the subfield of "music in peacebuilding." A four-part statement of values based on a synthesis of the peace theories of Johan Galtung (the Transcend Method) and Daisaku Ikeda (Buddhist-inspired theories and practices of peacebuilding) will serve as a model.
To what extent does a musicking event promote the four values of this statement, namely Inner Peacebuilding, Communicative Creativity, Planetary Awareness and Preventive Peacebuilding? Several case studies will be analyzed collectively, allowing the participants to explore their ethical assumptions in depth, and to share and challenge different ways of evaluating the effectiveness of musicking events.
Since musicking is ambivalent anyway, one could do away with ethical considerations altogether. However, if one is interested in musicking in peacebuilding, obviously we cannot avoid conversations on the nature of peacebuilding, what is conducive to a more humane, harmonious and fair world, and myriad other questions related to the improvement of life and society. The reflexive moment regarding the role of ethics is actually not a moment at all, but a constant search, more like a drone or a bass line in the background. Here is one paradox I feel we need to discuss if we are to make any progress. On the one hand, nobody likes to be told what to do, so it is not desirable to have a set of ethical guidelines that we wish everyone would follow. On the other hand, trying to promote peacebuilding without any guidelines engenders chaos, confusion, contradictions, and endless bickering regarding what one is trying to achieve. So, the question is open for debate, do we need guidelines or not? If yes, which ones? Who is to decide? Where would or should they come from?
In business and in musical activities, how do we define the ethical principles that ensure our actions will have the desired positive and constructive effects? This is a question that could keep us busy for a long time. A bottom-up approach to the question of ethics was articulated by Tim Fort during the 2017 conference on Music, Business and Peace as follows:
Just to follow up on that, I wonder if any work has been done in this area – this is something that Kathleen may be talking about later for all I know, but when Cindy and I were doing work on business and peace, the whole ambivalence of business is something that came up immediately. It can be a force for all kinds of nefarious, gross things, and it can also be a force for peace as well. One of the strategies that we took is that we looked at studies from anthropology and political economy, that tried to establish that these seem to be the attributes of peaceful societies: where there was face-to-face interaction, there was a fair amount of egalitarianism, there was gender equity, there was voice for people. And those weren’t ethical conclusions, those just seemed to be empirical attributes of those societies who were less likely to use violence. And so, of course those fit pretty nicely with a set of ethics. And so, it’s kind of a bootstrapping argument of “well, what ethics should we adopt about the ethics that seem to be correlated with peace?”
What is the place of ethics, and in what form, in our work on music, business, and peace?
Concluding Comments and Questions Regarding Business and Peace
Already in 1729, in the legal code of Buthan, we can find the seeds of their famous “Gross National Happiness” (GNH) concept.23Givel, 2015. The notion that GNH (which I translate as health, relationships, community, sustainability, living well together as members of the biosphere) is more important than Gross National Product (GNP, extraction, production, transportation, sales, consumption of goods, cash flow, accumulation of capital) is the kind of shift we need imperatively, and urgently, today. To conclude this article, I would like to rephrase most of the points made above in the form of questions to our business colleagues. I welcome all comments and questions, and I look forward to the emergence of new reflexive moments.
Ambivalence. How does one deal with the ambivalence of business? What are some of the challenges, besides power relations? What are some examples of the destructive/constructive potential of business?
Business as action. Would you agree that what really matters in the field of business and peace, is what we do to ourselves and to each other through business deals? Can “good business” be a model for good governance and social change? If so, can you give examples?
Booster. Would you agree that business is something added to essential activities that bring us food, accommodation, work, meaning, life in society, or is business an essential activity itself, and not only a booster?
Non-universality. One can find people exchanging goods all over the world, but is business universal?
Repetition. Are there any examples of business activities that produced constructive short-term benefits for peacebuilding, but of which the effects have disappeared quickly? Would these activities benefit from systematic and organized repetition?
Excessive optimism. Would you agree with the following statement: “there exists an overly optimistic view of what business can achieve for peacebuilding which has a negative effect on the outcomes.” Can you give some examples? What issues would you be cautious about, what should one pay attention to?
The business and peace field. In the field of peace studies, there have been some attempts to design models for “peace business.” Are these known in the business field? It was a major revelation to me to discover that ethnomusicologists, and in particular applied ethnomusicologists, have been contributing fully to “music in peacebuilding” for decades without using the term. Can a parallel be drawn regarding some fields related to business? Are you aware of business-related research and practices that are firmly productive for peacebuilding?
Critical evaluation of businesses. Can you give examples of businesses that were advertised as contributing to one or several aspects of peacebuilding, but that were exposed as being destructive and detrimental upon closer examination?
Are ethical guidelines necessary? Is agreement possible? In the business world, how do we define the ethical principles that ensure our actions will have the desired positive and constructive effect? Who defines these principles? Are there universally applicable ethical principles? What previous work has been accomplished regarding business ethics?
I very much look forward to reading and hearing comments and responses to these questions as we move forward exploring the field of music, business, and peace.
1 Kent, 104.
2 Ingoma Nshya.
4 Small, 9.
6 Ibid., 13.
7 Chanda and Levitin, 189.
8 Cohen, 27.
11 Araujo, 230.
12 Castelo-Branco, 245-50.
13 Blacking, 10.
14 Blacking, 101.
16 Pettan, 26.
17 DeNora, (xii).
18 Bunt, 1994.
19 Pavlicevic and Ansdell.
20 Bergh and Sloboda, 7-8.
21 O’Connell and Castelo-Branco, 9.
22 Baker, 259-261.
23 Givel, 2015.
Araujo, Samuel (with Grupo Musicultura). “Sound Praxis: Music, Politics, and Violence in Brazil,” Music and Conflict, edited by John Morgan O'Connell and Salwa El-Shawan Castelo-Branco, 2010.
Baker, Geoffrey. El Sistema: Orchestrating Venezuela's Youth. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014.
Barenboim, Daniel and Edward W. Said. Parallels and Paradoxes: Explorations in Music and Society. London: Bloomsbury, , 2003.
Bergh, Arild, and John Sloboda. “Music and Art in Conflict Transformation: A Review,” Music and Arts in Action 2 (2)2010: 2–18.
Blacking, John. How Musical is Man? Seattle and London: University of Washington Press, 1973.
Bouzouita, Kerim. “The Power of Music and the Identities of Dissent in Tunisia” in Music, Power and Liberty, edited by Olivier Urbain and Craig Robertson, 2016.
Bunt, Leslie. Music Therapy: An Art Beyond Words. East Sussex and New York: Brunner-Routledge, 1994.
Castelo-Branco, Salwa El-Shawan. “Epilogue: Ethnomusicologists as Advocates” in Music and Conflict, edited by John Morgan O'Connell and Salwa El-Shawan Castelo-Branco, 2010.
Chanda, Mona Lisa and Daniel J. Levitin. 2013. “The Neurochemistry of Music” in Trends in Cognitive Science, 17(2013) (4):179-193. doi:10.1016/j.tics.2013.02.007.
Cohen, Cynthia “Music: A Universal Language?” in Music and Conflict Transformation, edited by Olivier Urbain, 2008.
DeNora, Tia. Music in Everyday Life. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000.
__________. “Foreword” in Music, Power and Liberty, edited by Olivier Urbain and Craig Robertson, 2016.
Different Drums of Ireland. “Ethos.” Accessed on April 5, 2018 from http://www.differentdrums.net/ethos/ , 2018.
Feki, Soufiane. “Music with Extra-Musical Purposes” in Music, Power and Liberty,edited by Olivier Urbain and Craig Robertson, 2016.
Givel, Michael S. “Gross National Happiness in Bhutan: Political Institutions and Implementation” in Asian Affairs, 46:1(2015): 102-117. doi:10.1080/03068374.2014.993179.
Hakima, Fakher. “Musical Expression, Power and Democracy” in Music, Power and Liberty, edited by Olivier Urbain and Craig Robertson, 2016.
Ingoma Nshya. “Our History.” Accessed on April 5, 2018 from https://www.ingomanshya.org/our-history.html, 2018.
Kent, George. “Unpeaceful Music” in Music and Conflict Transformation, edited by Olivier Urbain, 2008.
Laurence, Felicity and Olivier Urbain, editors. Music and Solidarity: Questions of Universality, Consciousness, and Connection. New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers, 2011.
Lederach, John Paul. “Foreword,” in Journal of Peace Education, 13(2016) (3):197-199. doi:10.1080/17400201.2016.1268343.
McCoy, Jason. “Making Violence Ordinary: Radio, Music and the Rwandan Genocide.” African Music Journal 8 (2009) (3): 85–96. doi:10.21504/amj.v8i3.1829.
O'Connell, John Morgan and Salwa El-Shawan Castelo-Branco. Music and Conflict. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2010.
Pavlicevic, Mercedes and Gary Ansdell, editors, Community Music Therapy. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2004.
Pettan, Svanibor, editor. “Music, Politics, and War in Croatia in the 1990s: An Introduction,” in Music, Politics, and War: Views from Croatia. Zagreb: Institute of Ethnology and Folklore Research, 1998.
Robertson, Craig. “Music Sociology: A Focus on Conflict Transformation.” Accessed on April 5, 2018 from http://institute.min-on.org/newsandtopics/item/a-conference-celebrating-the-official-launch-of-the-min-on-music-research-institute-4/, 2015.
Sandoval, Elaine. “Music in Peacebuilding: a critical literature review,” in Journal of Peace Education, (2016) (13, 3: 200-217. doi:10.1080/17400201.2016.1234634.
Small, Christopher. Musicking: The Meanings of Performing and Listening. Hanover: University Press of New England, 1998.
Urbain, Olivier, editor. Music and Conflict Transformation: Harmonies and Dissonances in Geopolitics. London: I.B. Tauris,  2015.
__________. “A statement of values for our research on music in peacebuilding: a synthesis of Galtung and Ikeda’s peace theories,” Journal of Peace Education (2016) 13(3): 218-237. doi:10.1080/17400201.2016.1256942.
Urbain, Olivier and Craig Robertson. Music, Power and Liberty: Sound, Song and Melody as Instruments of Change. London: I.B. Tauris, 2016.
Vulliamy, Ed. 2008. “Bridging the Gap: Part Two.” Retrieved on April 5, 2018 from https://www.theguardian.com/music/2008/jul/13/classicalmusicandopera.culture
Last modified on Tuesday, 07/04/2020
Olivier Urbain, Ph.D: director of the Min-On Music Research Institute (MOMRI), investigating the application of music in peacebuilding activities. Publications: Music and Conflict Transformation (2008/2015); “A statement of values for our research on music in peacebuilding” (2016). Member of the board of the International Peace Research Association Foundation (IPRAF); Visiting Research Professor at Queen’s University Belfast (QUB).