Pitt to Host Dec. 4 Symposium on Cultural Rights

Issue Date: 
November 30, 2009

Today, music, as both a cultural practice and a commercial product, is enmeshed in a contentious debate concerning international law and the rights attached to individual creativity.

This controversy will be examined at the University of Pittsburgh in a symposium on music and cultural rights from 2 to 5 p.m. Dec. 4 in the Kurtzman Room of the William Pitt Union.

The symposium is a follow-up to an April 2005 conference at Pitt that offered global and local perspectives on the study of cultural rights through music. The papers presented at that conference are chapters in Music and Cultural Rights (Univ. of Illinois Press, 2009), a new book coedited by Andrew Weintraub and Bell Yung, Pitt professors of music. The symposium celebrates the publication of the book, which provides individual case studies that demonstrate how musical aspects of cultural rights play out in the specific cultural contexts of China, Hawaii, Peru, Brazil, and others.

According to Weintraub and Yung, “cultural rights” refer to a group’s ability to preserve its culture, raise its children in the ways of its forebears, continue to communicate in its language, and not be deprived of its economic base by the globalized environment in which it is located.

Weintraub’s current research addresses the cultural discourses, aesthetic practices, and social meanings of Malayu in the popular music of Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore. Yung’s research interests center on the history and theory of traditional Chinese music, including opera, storytelling, and the instrument qin.

In addition to Weintraub and Yung, the symposium’s speakers will include Beverley Diamond, Canada Research Chair in Music and Ethnomusicology, Memorial University of Newfoundland; Michael Madison, professor of law, University of Pittsburgh; and Damien Pwono, executive director, Global Initiative on Culture and Society, The Aspen Institute.

Presentations to be given during the afternoon symposium are titled “Introduction to the Book Music and Cultural Rights,” “Traditional Indigenous Protocols and Property Concepts in a World of New Media,” “Melayu Music and Cultural Rights in Indonesia and Malaysia,” “Gift and Ownership in Popular Music,” and “Culture and Security: Implications for Music Diversity and Rights.”

Following the presentations, there will be a 5 p.m. reception featuring music by members of the University of Pittsburgh Gamelan Ensemble. The ensemble plays the gamelan music of the Sundanese people, an ethnic group that inhabits part  of the island of Java.

In addition to Pitt’s music department, sponsors include Pitt’s Asian Studies Center, Center for Latin American Studies, Center for Russian and East European Studies, School of Law, and Office of the Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences.

For more information, contact Andrew Weintraub at anwein@pitt.edu or visit www.ucis.pitt.edu/inpac/conferences/music.html.