endangered languages

“The music of endangered languages” conference

The Foundation for Endangered Languages (FEL) Conference in early October 2015 in New Orleans, USA, featured the theme “The Music of Endangered Languages.” It focused on how music and songs can assist in the revitalization and preservation of endangered languages.

FEL Conference Chair Brenda Lintinger, a member of the Tunica-Biloxi tribe, said the conference enabled delegates to share their experiences and solutions with each other “and foster a deeper respect for the cultural differences around the world. It really helps promote harmony among all peoples.”

Read a Media article on the FEL conference.

“They don’t die, they’re killed”: The thorny rhetoric around music endangerment and music sustainability

 In a recent edition of the SEM newsletter, Robert Garfias reflected on the issue of music endangerment:

[L]ike biological diversity, species are disappearing, languages are disappearing. And in a sense cultures are disappearing. Every few years some­body dies who was the last person who knew how to do something or other; the last person who did this or the last person who knew this tradition dies. And when that species dies, you can’t reconstruct it, you can’t bring it back. So I’m concerned about the things that are being lost forever. . .it’s terrible to lose something. (in Rice, 2014, pp. 7–8)

As the viability of music genres features increasingly as a topic for (applied) research in our discipline, it is important to keep a close eye on the way we characterize the issue. The words we choose—the rhetoric, the metaphors and analogies—reflect and reveal certain values and assumptions, and for this reason warrant careful consideration. Perhaps even more critically, they affect whether and how we take action against a perceived threat to, or loss of, music genres (for example by supporting communities to reinvigorate intergenerational transmission, secure funding, grow governmental support, or engage the media or music industry).

Read the full article on the Sound Matters blog.

One world, many voices

The 2013 Smithsonian Folklife Festival highlighted some of the world’s most endangered languages and cultures. Smithsonian believes that their loss would be “a catastrophic erosion of the human knowledge base, affecting all fields of science, art, and human endeavor” and “an incalculable loss to indigenous peoples’ sense of history, identity, belonging, and self”.