.
I

n the 1930s, the Von Trapp family toured Europe performing and introducing baroque, renaissance, and Austrian folk music to a broader audience until they fled occupied Austria following the Nazi invasion of the country. In 1965, the dramatized version of their story was made into the Academy Award winning film, The Sound of Music—which not only introduced Salzburg to new audiences, but focused on the powerful role that music plays in national identity. Today, one of the buildings used as the Von Trapp family home in the film houses Salzburg Global Seminar—an apt organization and location to host a conference on cultural diplomacy. Just as the Von Trapp family and their film counterparts used music and Austrian culture as a tool for good, cultural diplomacy, properly used, can bring people together and embrace the diversity of the world. 

Whether one looks at U.S. Jazz diplomacy or the portrayal of Bossa Nova as representative of Brazilian culture and modernity, music has often been a central tool used in cultural diplomatic efforts. One U.S. ambassador to Ecuador even made news for his regular Blues performances in Quito. Artists also engage in cultural exchanges that are not led by the state that see them engage and collaborate with artists abroad. Even when directed by governments or artists that are actively reaching out to others, music crosses borders and bring people together—whether in the form of “Bieber Fever” or “Beatlemania.”

It is often said that music is a universal language—and one that can bring people of all backgrounds together in song and dance. Listening and dancing to music allows us to communicate in ways that go beyond words. As we listen to music from other places it has the ability to transport us and create an understanding of the cultures of other parts of the world. It can even create a desire to learn more about the culture of other countries and impact how we see others from across the globe. These can create opportunities to create spaces where individuals “speak” to one another through song and dance. 

“There is something so visceral about the human voice…. We each have our own voice, and we all know what it is like to speak or sing… It can be cathartic, it can be angry, it can be joyful. So, when you hear it connects directly to you as a listener. I’m always trying to communicate the feeling. That’s what drew me in, the feeling, that’s what allows people to engage with a culture that is not their own. It can light up your senses and can transport you anywhere.”-Erin Snell, Visual Storyteller and Opera Singer

Music has the power to cross borders and create shared communities that take from and create new musical forms. By crossing borders, music can also create collaborative spaces in which it influences the music of other societies and creates something new and beautiful. Even Jelly Roll Morton, a founding father of New Orleans jazz music, acknowledged the “Spanish Tinge” in his own music that was incorporated from Cuban musical traditions. This fusion of different cultural elements from across the globe highlights the ability of music to shared experiences and to integrate one’s own culture into the global fabric of shared experience. This process of musical fusion and transformation can serve to highlight the beauty of cultural diversity while also showing their appreciation for the culture of others.

Given the power that music has to bring people together and engage global audiences, musical expression can be an important tool in the diplomatic playbook. Because music can speak to audiences of any language and the collective ability to create and dance regardless of linguistic barriers, states have often used musicians. While the U.S. Jazz ambassadors are a frequently cited example of this, countries from across the globe invite musicians to play traditional and modern music representing their country at both embassies and to popular audiences.

“I think Hip Hop diplomacy works for many reasons… when you look at Hip Hop as a culture you know it’s not just music. It’s music, but there are important other elements to it—the DJ, or the beat maker, the MC, the dancer, the beat boxer and also the aerosol artist. When you put all of these elements together… you have this orchestra of goodness… It’s not about one person. It’s about the family… about every single individual that makes care and progress in their community work. I think that that model of community is what Hip Hop culture was built on. - Junious Brickhouse, Director of Next Level.

While many musical programs continue, today, Hip Hop has become one of these universal languages—influencing and being influenced by musicians and musical traditions from across the globe in both dance and song. To reinforce these connections, the U.S. State Department, in addition to other cultural diplomacy programs, supports efforts to connect Hip Hop cultures from across the globe. Encouraging individuals from different background to engage through these types of cultural exchanges can break down barriers and emphasize the shared experiences of individuals across countries—this builds communities of practice that bring people together despite their differences.

“Hip Hop is evolving as the world is changing…. Hip Hop culture is wired to let that happen. If we all have access to a thing, we are going to say something different with it. As we all have different experiences, we are going to say different things…. We are all working towards the promise of Hip Hop.”- Junious Brickhouse, Director of Next Level.

While at the Salzburg Global Seminar, one need not look far to see the power of music to connect people of different backgrounds. After engaging conversations and workshops, Salzburg fellows of an array of different backgrounds could be found most evenings either dancing to music from around the world or joining together to play songs that have crossed boarders and engaged artists and listeners across the globe.

About
Adam Ratzlaff
:
Adam Ratzlaff is special series editor and a specialist in Latin American foreign and public affairs.
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.

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www.diplomaticourier.com

The Halls are Alive with the Sound of Music

Panorama View at Hohensalzburg castle in Salzburg, Austria. Photo by Qamar Mahmood via Unsplash.

July 8, 2022

Music is often called a universal language and can create a collaborative space that goes beyond linguistic divisions. Given this role, it has played an important part in the cultural diplomacy of countries across the globe writes DC’s Adam Ratzlaff from Salzburg, Austria.

I

n the 1930s, the Von Trapp family toured Europe performing and introducing baroque, renaissance, and Austrian folk music to a broader audience until they fled occupied Austria following the Nazi invasion of the country. In 1965, the dramatized version of their story was made into the Academy Award winning film, The Sound of Music—which not only introduced Salzburg to new audiences, but focused on the powerful role that music plays in national identity. Today, one of the buildings used as the Von Trapp family home in the film houses Salzburg Global Seminar—an apt organization and location to host a conference on cultural diplomacy. Just as the Von Trapp family and their film counterparts used music and Austrian culture as a tool for good, cultural diplomacy, properly used, can bring people together and embrace the diversity of the world. 

Whether one looks at U.S. Jazz diplomacy or the portrayal of Bossa Nova as representative of Brazilian culture and modernity, music has often been a central tool used in cultural diplomatic efforts. One U.S. ambassador to Ecuador even made news for his regular Blues performances in Quito. Artists also engage in cultural exchanges that are not led by the state that see them engage and collaborate with artists abroad. Even when directed by governments or artists that are actively reaching out to others, music crosses borders and bring people together—whether in the form of “Bieber Fever” or “Beatlemania.”

It is often said that music is a universal language—and one that can bring people of all backgrounds together in song and dance. Listening and dancing to music allows us to communicate in ways that go beyond words. As we listen to music from other places it has the ability to transport us and create an understanding of the cultures of other parts of the world. It can even create a desire to learn more about the culture of other countries and impact how we see others from across the globe. These can create opportunities to create spaces where individuals “speak” to one another through song and dance. 

“There is something so visceral about the human voice…. We each have our own voice, and we all know what it is like to speak or sing… It can be cathartic, it can be angry, it can be joyful. So, when you hear it connects directly to you as a listener. I’m always trying to communicate the feeling. That’s what drew me in, the feeling, that’s what allows people to engage with a culture that is not their own. It can light up your senses and can transport you anywhere.”-Erin Snell, Visual Storyteller and Opera Singer

Music has the power to cross borders and create shared communities that take from and create new musical forms. By crossing borders, music can also create collaborative spaces in which it influences the music of other societies and creates something new and beautiful. Even Jelly Roll Morton, a founding father of New Orleans jazz music, acknowledged the “Spanish Tinge” in his own music that was incorporated from Cuban musical traditions. This fusion of different cultural elements from across the globe highlights the ability of music to shared experiences and to integrate one’s own culture into the global fabric of shared experience. This process of musical fusion and transformation can serve to highlight the beauty of cultural diversity while also showing their appreciation for the culture of others.

Given the power that music has to bring people together and engage global audiences, musical expression can be an important tool in the diplomatic playbook. Because music can speak to audiences of any language and the collective ability to create and dance regardless of linguistic barriers, states have often used musicians. While the U.S. Jazz ambassadors are a frequently cited example of this, countries from across the globe invite musicians to play traditional and modern music representing their country at both embassies and to popular audiences.

“I think Hip Hop diplomacy works for many reasons… when you look at Hip Hop as a culture you know it’s not just music. It’s music, but there are important other elements to it—the DJ, or the beat maker, the MC, the dancer, the beat boxer and also the aerosol artist. When you put all of these elements together… you have this orchestra of goodness… It’s not about one person. It’s about the family… about every single individual that makes care and progress in their community work. I think that that model of community is what Hip Hop culture was built on. - Junious Brickhouse, Director of Next Level.

While many musical programs continue, today, Hip Hop has become one of these universal languages—influencing and being influenced by musicians and musical traditions from across the globe in both dance and song. To reinforce these connections, the U.S. State Department, in addition to other cultural diplomacy programs, supports efforts to connect Hip Hop cultures from across the globe. Encouraging individuals from different background to engage through these types of cultural exchanges can break down barriers and emphasize the shared experiences of individuals across countries—this builds communities of practice that bring people together despite their differences.

“Hip Hop is evolving as the world is changing…. Hip Hop culture is wired to let that happen. If we all have access to a thing, we are going to say something different with it. As we all have different experiences, we are going to say different things…. We are all working towards the promise of Hip Hop.”- Junious Brickhouse, Director of Next Level.

While at the Salzburg Global Seminar, one need not look far to see the power of music to connect people of different backgrounds. After engaging conversations and workshops, Salzburg fellows of an array of different backgrounds could be found most evenings either dancing to music from around the world or joining together to play songs that have crossed boarders and engaged artists and listeners across the globe.

About
Adam Ratzlaff
:
Adam Ratzlaff is special series editor and a specialist in Latin American foreign and public affairs.
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.