Towards a Polynesian pianism: Dissemination of Tahitian polyrhythms and hīmene on the keyboard

 Presented at the Annual Student Symposium of the Musicological Society of Australia, Sydney Chapter, Seymour Centre, The University of Sydney, 5 September 2015.


Today scholars acknowledge that the ever increasing globalisation process throws a threat on the fragile Pacific Islands cultures. In this context, one can wonder whether musical products of intercultural contact can represent an opportunity for the post-colonial Tahitian society, and what could be the meaning and the operational mode of a sustainable tradition in the contemporary changing environment.

In this paper, I shed a light on selected compositional aspects of the creative outcomes resulting from my PhD research, which examines contrasting approaches to cultural sustainability through new aesthetic developments for Tahitian musical tradition.

Drawing on previous research in creative musicology and ethnomusicology, I define the contours of a fresh, dynamic approach to the connection between ethnomusicology and composition, that encompass not only musical analyses, but also local epistemologies and methodologies, that is connected to broader aspects of musical practices and their context.

Taking as an example the delineation of a Polynesian pianism, I focus on the way elements of traditional percussion music and hymnody, through new collaborative approaches to composing and performing indigenous musical repertoires, can successfully cross fertilize with jazz and operatic musical languages, taking Tahitian cultural heritage to new creative shores.

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