Interdisciplinary Modes of Presentation as Vehicles for Diversity and Inclusion in Classical Music


Interdisciplinary Modes of Presentation as Vehicles for Diversity and Inclusion in Classical Music

A Robert Trotter Lecture for the College Music Society

Carmen-Helena Téllez, D.M.

Professor of Music, University of Notre Dame

October 26, 2019











2. New modes of concert presentation:

Principles and techniques of interdisciplinarity with other arts and the humanities

•The artistic use of technology

•Opportunities for co-creativity and interactivity between performers and audience







3. New modes of concert presentation

•Source alternative artistic techniques, meanings, and experiences

•Realign our perceptions of classical music culture

•Open spaces for the participation of artists, students and audiences from all walks of life.






4. New trends in classical music

•Blurring of the division between so-called high and low musical styles

•Reemergence of transcriptions

•Unusual locations for a classical music performance






5. Terminology

•Multisensory and multimedia ?

•Inter-artistic or intermedia?

•Interdisciplinary or transdisciplinary ?








•Musical presentation may be combined not only with other arts, but with a fuller range of disciplines in the humanities (including, of course, musicology and ethnomusicology), social studies, cultural studies, and technology

•“Interdisciplinary/ “transdisciplinary” suggests that one art form can borrow the methodology and goals of another art, both being transformed in the process

•Immersive environments, interactivity with the audience and artistic use of technology






7.…in theatre: SLEEP NO MORE









8….in dance: Pina Bausch and Tanztheater Wuppertal:  THE RITE OF SPRING










9. Markers of Interdisciplinarity

Blurring of the demarcation between one of the arts and a related art form or humanistic discipline

Resulting interpretation would not mean the same if the other art form or scholarly perspective were removed or changed









10. Potential of interdisciplinarity for the causes of diversity and inclusion

 Integration of diverse or non-canonic narratives and artistic languages into the interdisciplinary art forms

Point of integration of outsider elements may be the space for the provocation of agencies of diversity and inclusion

Confluence of unexpected elements will generate questions and reconsiderations of what we took for granted








11. KOYAANISQATSI (1982) –  a film by Godfrey Reggio and Philip Glass.




















12. Common approaches to generating interdisciplinary presentations to carry messages of diversity and inclusion: 

• Collective vs personal experiences and how they illuminate each other.
• The authorship and agency of hegemonic groups versus underrepresented social groups
• Artistic and activist collectivities in socially engaged art
•  Process-based approaches where the creation matters more than the result
• Co-creation between all the participants in the art work, as opposed to top down authorship
• Temporality-spatiality: Can music be sculpture? Can art be music? Can we travel through a space with our audience?
• Performativity and performance ecologies: Can we analyze performance in all aspects of life?
• Materials and media: Can they impart different meanings in different cultural traditions?
• Interactivity and immersivity: Can they affect the perception of the message?
• Machine agency and automated practices, often enabled by new technologies: How do they expand the artist’s relationship with audiences and society in general.




13. The five critical markers of interdisciplinarity.

  • An exchange of languages, methodology, and goals between music and the visual arts, staging, scholarship, socio-cultural concerns or technology. The relationship between the collaborating artists is responsive and co-creative to each other, and is not a simple juxtaposition of other arts around music, or a hierarchical decision by a single artistic director 
  • Promotion of immersion of the audience in the work, (as opposed to standing separate from the work) and seeking interactivity with the audience so they feel they are also creating the work (as opposed to the supreme authority of the composer)
  • Context affects perception. Changing contexts may imply seeking unconventional environments for performance, or addressing the musical work as part of a socio-cultural issue that provides a new context, and even an embodiment, in physical ways, of philosophical ideas in the social dialogue. 
  • New technologies give us tools for immersion and interaction with the audience, besides being ubiquitous in our current society. They are part our present context.
  • The participant spectator is a key element in the interdisciplinary work of art. The artists acknowledge that the ultimate meaning takes place in the mind and heart of the spectator.






14. What does an interdisciplinary presentation look like–if I were to conceptualize one for purposes of diversity and inclusion?

two principal modalities to construct an interdisciplinary presentations, seeking to engage with issues of diversity and inclusion:

a.Visual components in an interdisciplinary presentation potentially reveal embedded or subliminal concepts, designs, narratives and symbols inside the music. A subversive or contrarian visual representation of the embedded concepts, with the usage of visual languages from non-hegemonic constituencies, will excite new opportunities for inquiry, representation, dialogue, and emotional engagement.

b.The creation of the presentation can evolves in the manner of a workshop where the modality of co-creation aspires to operate in a non-hierarchical manner. The decisions can come from anywhere within the participants.




15. From American composer and philosopher John Cage and the art movement Fluxus led by George Maciunas and Kristin Stiles:

The experiential process of creating must be privileged over the finished product.

•“The extraordinary is latent in the ordinary”.  

•”Global humanism could be achieved through the breakdown of boundaries in artistic media, cultural norms, and political conventions,”






16. Some case studies of engagement with diversity and inclusion…

•An interdisciplinary model is never a formula or even a template

An individualized creative act should respond to your context, and to the persons that are going to collaborate with you. Your deliberate creative intent is to devise opportunities of creative action by all your collaborators











Why Classical Music? Is it able to embrace it all?

Can popular music and traditional music of diverse constituencies be art?







18. The joining of cultures and ethnic experiences in an interdisciplinary mode of presentation results in a transformation. The resulting artwork is unique. It is never exactly the same as the original paradigms that generated it, but we still recognize ourselves in it.









19. A few techniques and pathways for the generation of interdisciplinary presentation concepts:


a.The creation of an original or re-combined interdisciplinary work that mixes styles derived from diverse traditions in a linear sequence, eliciting dialogue among the performers about the values that are expressed in the different traditions, and promoting in all a sense of belonging to a common artistic objective.








b. The transcription of a Western-European classical work into the instruments and musical idioms of a non-Western-European tradition. This elicits a trans-traditional dialogue and permits the approach to new audiences.







c. The substitution of the socio-cultural context of a canonic work with one belonging to your diverse constituencies, permitting the meaning of the original work to be reinterpreted.









d. Antipodal and simultaneous co-existence of two or more artistic languages coming from diverse constituencies, without mediation, allowing the participant spectator to draw their own meaning out of an ostensible incongruence.








e. Creation of an original interdisciplinary musical work through the embodiment, ritualization or allegory of the experiences lived by non-hegemonic communities. This allows for transformative and healing opportunities, especially if developed in a communal workshop situation. It will often lead to the reconsideration of a heretofore popular genre as a high art.







f. Recreation and dramatization of the experience of diverse communities, by actions and participation of both the performers and the audience, outside of the confines of a theatre.






g. Employment of digital technologies to capture the sounds and images of diverse experiences, for insertion into an interdisciplinary artwork.



















21.CASE 1. Pasión según San Marcos- composed by Osvaldo Golijov 

Concept- The composer addresses diversity and inclusion through the usage of diverse Latin American, Spanish and Sephardic popular music languages without transcription or mediation, in a linear sequence.  We also have a case of recontextualization of a canonic story, i.e., the Passion of Jesus Christ is equated to the suffering of exploited peoples in Latin America, focusing on the word WHY/POR QUE?

The objective is to address issues of historic exploitation while lifting representative popular genres of the affected communities into the expressive realm of high art.

Approach and techniques:

Composed with a classical oratorio structure, it mixes contemporary classical techniques, including digital manipulation; but the composer commissioned collaborative segments written in  popular styles. These styles attached their own symbolism into the oratorio, which was still considered a work of contemporary classical music.

Demands for the performers: The work requires acting, dancing, and possible memorization by the choir, as the music can be learned aurally. Requires also popular performers who are willing to enter into the rehearsal process of a classical oratorio, but also classical conductors and performers that are willing to learn the aural traditions in the popular repertoire.



Venezuelan conductor Maria Guinand-




American conductor Robert Spano






22. CASE 2: The Magic Flute of the Andes

Concept: Transtraditional transcription and recontextualization of a canonic work, developed in a workshop environment.

Objectives: The Magic Flute of the Andes was commissioned and produced by the Teatro Sucre of Ecuador with the objective of bringing audiences to opera that had never visited before.

Approach and techniques: The complete opera by Mozart was transcribed for the National Orchestra of Andean Instruments. The libretto was translated into Spanish and Kichwa, with the godlike figures in Mozart’s opera syncretized into Andean divinities, while the presentation aesthetic followed Ecuadorian popular traditions, such as costumes, animals, puppets, etc.

Demands: The producers assessed the areas that would remain canonic and the areas that would be transcribed or recontextualized. The solo singers were still trained in operatic bel canto, while the transcription into the Andean instruments generated many opportunities of interaction with the Andean music players, who proposed technical solutions for their instruments and alternative Ecuadorian dances for Mozart’s most popular characters.


Flauta Mágica de los Andes – Teatro Sucre Ecuador. Concept and stage direction:Chia Patiño. Transcription and music direction: Carmen-Helena Téllez.










23. CASE 3: Antipodal juxtaposition of two apparently incongruous languages.

Objectives: In this modality there is no intention of translation from one the other cultural expression, but they are allowed to coexist, so the participants express themselves freely with their own content, but the audience can establish its own parallelisms and new levels of understanding.

Approach and Techniques: The essential tool is free co-creativity. The subversive confrontation of two cultures and ways of being produces some of the most fascinating artistic results and opportunities of dialogue between dominant and underserved social groups. Each participant should be allowed to offer what emerges authentically from their social and cultural experience.

 Demands: This model is better achieved in a workshop environment of trust and non-judgmental participation, where topics of representation and techniques of expression can be tested and accepted.







1.Les Indes galantes, Opéra-ballet en quatre entrées et un prologue (1735) Musique : Jean-Philippe Rameau; Livret : Louis Fuzelier; Direction musicale : Leonardo García Alarcón; Mise en scène : Clément Cogitore; Chorégraphie : Bintou Dembele Cie Rualité








THEATER AN DER WIEN Messiah by George Frideric Handel ;Jean-Christophe Spinosi conductor; Ensamble Matheus; Arnold Schoenberg Chor. Staged by Claus Guth.







24. CASE 4. Context affects perception.  Technology helps us enter new contexts of immersion and interactivity: The 40-part Motet by Janet Cardiff.

Objectives: Changing the context can alter our perception of both the musical elements involved and the value of the experience.  This can permit members of different social groups to engage in a common  experience together without prejudices

Janet Cardiff-The 40-Part Motet














Interdisciplinary modes of presentation can open new rituals beyond or outside those of the conventional concert hall. In this regard, the use of modern technologies, digital or otherwise, open explorations of immersion, interactivity and new environments for the enjoyment of art that are not available in the conventional theatre.








26. CASE 5. This is America: Embodying, ritualizing and allegorizing experience. Recognizing the potential of popular art as high art.

Childish Gambino: This is America



























How can we attend to our goals of diversity and inclusion through new modes of presentation?


  1. Mix the arts with scholarship to change the context
  2. Mix the musical repertoires and styles of your constituencies, even without mediation or transcription, if necessary
  3. Encourage workshops of co-creativity
  4. Encourage immersion and interactivity for your performers and your audience
  5. Use digital technologies in any way helpful to the process and/or the final result










•Concerns with cultural appropriation

Institutional challenges



In spite of these challenges, the embrace of new interdisciplinary modes of presentation is one of the most effective ways to have all members of a diverse community of faculty and students be part of a common artistic goal, because understanding diversity and inclusion is best achieved, not by learning guidelines, but by doing something meaningful together.













Questions? Feedback?

Carmen-Helena Téllez