Professor teaches local music, culture

[bold on]David Anderson[bold off][fm][bold on][bold off][bold on][bold off]
Staff Reporter[fm]
In the Twin Cities, as in New York, Paris or Tokyo, the musical landscape is a bit like the Internet, to speak in modern terms.
“Any geographical or cultural space is a world of its own,” said Mirjana Lausevic, a University assistant music professor.
And like Internet sites, different musical genres cross over one another and interconnect in a web of diversity.
Lausevic’s class, MUS 5950 Musical Ethnography of the Twin Cities, offered in spring 2000 for the first time, examines that musical scene in the Minneapolis and St. Paul areas. Musical ethnography is the geographical study of music as culture. A dozen music majors showed up, but Lausevic said the next class, in spring 2001, should be open to all students. The class helps students better understand communication and exchanges between different cultures, Lausevic said.
Amy K. Roisum, a music doctorate student, wanted to find out why Bob Marley’s music is omnipresent in Jamaican culture when she traveled to the island in March. She said Lausevic’s class taught her to ask questions in a respectful and meaningful way.
“I think that the most important thing that (the students) learn in the class is how to see,” she said. “How to see difference, how to understand difference, how to pay attention to it. We learn about us, and we really learn about each other and how to understand each other, and how to appreciate and how to communicate.”
Lausevic, who is 34, was born and raised in Sarajevo in the former Yugoslavia, now the capital of Bosnia and Hezergovina. Early on she developed an interest in music and its role in both uniting and dividing ethnic groups in the Balkans.
In 1991, following centuries of ethnic tension, the Yugoslav Army and independence-seeking Balkan republics started one of the decade’s bloodiest conflicts. That same year, Lausevic moved to Connecticut where she attended Wesleyan University and earned a master’s degree and a doctorate in musicology. Later on, she taught at New York University before moving to Minnesota.
Lausevic, who earned her first tenure job at the University last fall, said the larger goal of her class is to make people aware of each other and to provide an opportunity for ethnic musicians to grow in the Twin Cities. She herself belongs to a traditional Bosnian vocal group called Zabe i Babe.
The ongoing class project is to design a Web site that offers a virtual tour of the Twin Cities and its musical landscape. The idea is to eventually create a database of local ethnic musicians available to the public to facilitate contacts, Lausevic said.
The spring class worked with Congolese guitarist Siama Matuzungidi. While Lausevic’s students designed a Web site about the musician and produced a recording, Matuzungidi – who has lived in Kenya, Saudi Arabia and Japan – brought to the class his insight into different types of music.
“Working with (Lausevic) was a good experience for me to explain (my music), because I had a lot to say,” he said. “That gave me a chance to explain myself to people.”
Lausevic said she was fascinated to see Hmong musicians play side by side with traditional Lutheran church choirs in joint congregations, or Bosnian songs serving as the background music in a Kurdish restaurant.
“Different groups of people use music very differently,” said music senior Marie Harvat, who next year will study in Prague, Czech Republic. “And that often tells a lot about what they value and how they want to create their society or their life.”
When Lausevic arrived in Minneapolis in 1999, she was surprised to see that the Twin Cities were more diverse than the stereotyped Midwest.
“The first time I got here I was really expecting to see nothing else but Norwegian bachelors,” she said.
The class was an opportunity to highlight that diversity. Lausevic’s students agreed that the ethnomusicology class changed their perception of a place they already knew by mapping its ethnic scenes.
“I became much, much more aware of the diversity in the Twin Cities,” Harvat said. “I think I always realized there were a lot of different people here, but I really came to appreciate the very large population of Hmong people or a person from an African country, and how each of them is building a life here.”
[italic on]David Anderson covers University [italic off][italic on]communities and welcomes comments [italic off][italic on]at [email protected][italic off]