BA in Music
The term “Occidental” is derived from the Latin locution occidens, which literally refers to the setting of the sun in the West, and is antonymous to the term “Oriental” which also finds its origins in the Latin terms for sunrise, oriens (East) and orior (to rise). These geographical distinctions are entirely ethnocentric to the Roman Empire, which first claimed its province in Egypt in 30 BC. Referring to the rising of the sun over the East in relation to the Roman Empire, “Oriental” has evolved over time to be a subjective term that is dependent upon the biased lens of western European empires involved in colonial mandates over civilizations in North Africa, the Mediterranean, Arabian Peninsula, and greater Asian continent. In his book Orientalism, the Palestinian-American literary theoretician Edward Said discusses the connotative effects of looking through a Eurocentric lens which distorts the actual reality of the places, peoples, and customs in the Near East and Middle East. Said claims that “despite its overreaching aspirations [in literature and the humanities] Orientalism is involved in worldly, historical circumstances, which it has tried to conceal behind an often pompous scientism and appeals to rationalism.” An important critique, Said’s book highlights the artificial creation of a cultural dichotomy between West and East. While differences in ideological thought, religion, and politics have arisen from this divide threatening the relationship between East and West, the arts, and in particular music, have flourished. Influenced by sounds of the Occident, some Arab art musicians and composers have chosen to embrace this “other” element in their music. At the same time Western-European classical musicians and composers have produced a wide array of Orient-inspired music. In doing so both have challenged tradition and forged a unique musical dialogue between East and West. This program observes this musical dialogue between Occident and Orient, and the way in which these juxtaposing music cultures gaze upon one another.
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