This singing: the Norwegian Singers through a Gramscian lens
Svenningsen, Russell Paul
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The Singers is a term used to refer to a volunteer chorus association in existence for nearly one hundred and fifty years in the U.S.A. The official names of the two organizations to which the term refers are the Norwegian Singers Association of America and the Pacific Coast Norwegian Singers Association of America. This thesis presents the results of ethnographic case study research completed on the Singers via a conceptual framework, grounded in the ideas of Italian philosopher Antonio Gramsci, of and about cultural hegemony. The purpose of this study was to encounter the Singers through a Gramscian framework and in so doing, discern ways in which the practices and functioning ofthe Singers might suggest alternatives (philosophical and practical) to those extant in music education where issues of cultural diversity are concerned. The questions that guided the study were: 1. In what ways can the organization and practices of the Singers be disentangled and understood through the concepts and ideas of cultural hegemony, folklore and common sense as developed and articulated by Italian philosopher Antonio Gramsci? 2. By undertaking a study of the Singers from a Gramscian perspective what suggestions can be discerned for contemporary music education in the U.S.A. insofar as it seeks to address issues of difference in a culturally-diverse environment? This analysis of the Singers endeavored to discover ways in which the organization embodied Gramsci's ideas about organic intellectuals, for example, the Singers' usage of terminology; generally, those in charge ofthe musical development of an ensemble are referred to as the "conductor" but in the case of this organization are spoken about as the "leader." Gramsci's concepts offer a perspective from which these related but separate ideas can be contextualized and the significance of their distinction understood. The Singers exhibit much greater ethnic and cultural diversity now than when the choruses first appeared in the U.S.A.; that is, they are far less explicitly Norwegian. Therefore, the overall organic functioning of the Singers was analyzed via a Gramscian framework in order to uncover the ways in which Norwegian-ness is interpreted and understood by the group in the present, how it has changed and reasons as to why this may have occurred. Gramsci's ideas about the intersections of political and civil life address the ways in which hegemony is expressed and experienced by the non-dominant through the institutions of society. The implications of this study for music education can be located in what it suggests for advancing a philosophical perspective from which issues of cultural diversity are considered, spoken about, and eventually incorporated in the education of students. This is to suggest that Gramsci' s ideas, manifested in this case as a study of the Singers, offer for music education ways in which to broaden understandings of the subtle ways hegemony operates in everyday life and thus, for countering and mitigating its effects in the musical education of students.
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