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World Music Composition

Photo by Steve DiBartolomeo

The sources of "art music" throughout the world have always been manifold, with each music a mixture of influences in its own right. Over the past century, however, musical hybridity has become increasingly radical and explicit. Such mixtures have emerged from musical cultures as diverse as China (Chou Wen-chung), Korea (Byung Ki Hwang), Indonesia (Nano S), Japan (Takemitsu), African-American culture (from Ellington to Braxton), as well as European and American cultures (from Bartók and Stravinsky to Harrison). The emergence of these hybrids suggest the arrival of a multilingual "world art music" unanchored to a single cultural context. Because of the cultural complexity of each alloyed style in each unique composition, world art music offers unprecedented challenges and opportunities for composers, performers, and listeners.

Because of the backgrounds and expertise of most of our faculty, the UCSC program requires at the outset a sophisticated theoretical and compositional control of Western styles and techniques. Upon entrance, however, we offer opportunities for wide-ranging cross-cultural study and collaboration. UCSC’s internationally- recognized composition faculty in world music composition is supported by an equally distinguished faculty of performers, ethnomusicologists, and musicologists who offer expertise in some of the diverse classical and vernacular musics of Korea, China, Indonesia, India, Uzbekistan, Latin America, Africa, Europe, and the United States. While most faculty and graduate student composers in our department are open to a wide range of influences, most find that immersion in a single non-Western or vernacular musical style in cultural context fosters the most profound and genuine stylistic synthesis.

Along with many of our contemporaries, UCSC faculty Hi Kyung Kim, David Evan Jones, Karlton Hester, and a number of our graduate students have intensified this cross-cultural exchange by creating compositions in which musicians expert in certain styles of Korean, North Indian, Balinese, Sundanese, Global African, or Bulgarian music have collaborated as performers and — in a few cases — as spontaneous co-creators of our compositions.

Composers in our department work with scholars and performers to design individual programs to strongly support highly individual graduate student interests and goals. While our program does entail scholarly study and research, this work generally finds its ultimate expression in the form of new hybrid musical styles, new improvised performances, new "world music composition."