Exemplars 10

The Music of Cultures

College of Arts and Sciences

Matthew George travels the world and discovers “new realms of sound.”

Q: How did you develop an interest in this particular research topic?

George: As a conductor, my research is materialized through live performance. I have done several concerts inspired by my exploration into “internationalizing wind band repertoire.” I have been extremely fortunate to travel to many different parts of the world, conducting both amateur and professional ensembles. Because I was actively engaged in these different countries, as opposed to a passive observer or tourist, I have had the distinct opportunity to learn about the culture firsthand, working with musicians and officials from the particular countries. I have been immersed in cultures by doing, being part of, and in essence, serving through my music making. My experiences along the way have introduced me to the cultural aspects, norms, rituals, and practices of the various countries. This has made me quite interested in learning about the musical traits in the respective countries that represent particular cultural attributes such as musical styles, social and political immersion into music, and any other conditions which affect music making and composition in a country and culture.

 

Q: What have been some of the significant developments along the way?

MG: Probably the most significant outcomes of all of this, beyond my understanding of the cultural attributes of world musics, is the progression of the commissioning concept at the University of St. Thomas. The UST Bands have had a long history of commissioning music from respected composers and have premiered over 70 new works since 1991. But in the last 10 years or so, more focus has been on commissioning music from international composers. These composers have been asked to write music that in some way reflects their own cultural heritage, however that is manifested in their unique compositional styles. The result has been incredible and the interest in the discipline among the world community has turned enormous.

 

Q: How has your research impacted your work?

MG: I have gained a far greater appreciation for and depth of knowledge in conceptual music making, seeking new realms of sound through cultural representation. For me, it is a new way of thinking about music and how to per
form it.  It is my hope, and there is already significant evidence, that my work is influencing other conductors and music educators to pursue this international repertoire and to embrace it as a viable and important part of the repertoire being performed today.

 

Q: What impact will your research have on your field and our community?

MG: My hope is that as we become more globally connected politically or otherwise, that people in my field, but more importantly, within the international community at large, will see that there is a viable way of directly experiencing other cultures through art, specifically in this case, music.

 

Q: How have you engaged students in your research?

MG: My students are essentially the driving force behind my research. The commissions that we do are studied and performed (premiere performance) by my students. They are the direct beneficiaries of my research endeavors and they most often have direct contact with the composers and the cultures they represent.

 

Q: What has been the most fascinating aspect of your “research journey?”

MG: The opportunity to experience first-hand the incredible diversity of music tied to culture, but at the same time coming to realize that no matter what the culture, whether in Asia or Latin America, the human condition generally expresses the same sentiments, only in different languages and rhythms.

 


Matthew J. George holds a D.M.A. degree in conducting from the University of North Texas, an M.M. degree in music education from Southern Methodist University, and a B.M. degree in music education and trumpet performance from Ithaca College. George is professor of music, director of bands, and chair of the Department of Music at the University of St. Thomas. He has taught in public schools in New York and in Texas as well as at the University of North Texas and Southern Methodist University.

“For me, it is a new way of thinking about music and how to perform it.”

Matthew George
George is professor of music, director of bands, and chair of the Department of Music at the University of St. Thomas. He has taught in public schools in New York and in Texas as well as at the University of North Texas and Southern Methodist University.