This Sunday will see the premiere broadcast of the three-part BBC Radio 3 feature, World of Classical, that I’ve been working on over the past year. Each episode focuses on some core themes (e.g. Music Notation) in Global music histories and makes connections between different music traditions and how those themes were approached or used.

How much richer would our listening experience be if we could join the dots between classical music traditions around the world?

In this three-part series, Thai-American cellist, composer and transcultural researcher Jon Silpayamanant traces shifting global trends across different musical cultures.

BBC Radio 3 “Pious Voices and Plucked Strings” episode description,

World of Classical Episodes:

Episode One: Pious Voices and Plucked Strings
Airs 10 July 2022, 23:00 GMT (7:00pm EDT)

  • This episode visits the Middle Ages, and the emergence of music notation. Silpayamanant opens with music from the 12th century by Hildegard von Bingen, then travels back to show how liturgical chant was being preserved 600 years prior to this in Ethiopia, while developing in parallel in other Christian cultures such as Armenia. Other forms of musical record keeping were emerging in China, in the griot lineages of the Mali empire, and with the troubadours of south west Europe, allowing increasingly complex and rich musical traditions to be sustained.

Episode Two: Courtly Dances, Imperial Advances
Airs 17 July 2022, 23:00 GMT (7:00pm EDT)

  • In this second programme of the series, we listen to the impact of patronage, empire and colonialism in the early modern period. How did political power blocs shape the way classical musics were created and performed? Silpayamanant explores court music from Italy, Thailand and Japan as well as a suite written by the Khan of Crimea, before reflecting on the role of enslaved peoples in the emergence of Baroque music in Latin America.

Episode Three: Nationhood and New Sounds
Airs 24 July 2022, 23:00 GMT (7:00pm EDT)

  • The series ends in the 18th and 19th centuries, as music around the globe moved from courts and sites of worship into concert halls and onto the streets, different classical traditions cross-pollinating more than ever as colonialism and global trade surged. While Mozart and Debussy drew inspiration from Janissary bands and gamelan, the rise of nationalism saw traditions from the Balkans to Zanzibar developing new ensembles and musical forms of their own.

Classical Commonwealth

If you’re tuning into BBC Radio 3 for the World of Classical episodes on either July 10 or 17, earlier during the day Errollyn Wallen’s Classical Commonwealth Part 1 and Part 2 will also be airing. I contributed to both episodes. Part 1 was previous broadcast last year so is already archived online so can be listened to now at this url:

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