Musical Processes as a Metaphor for Conflict Transformation Processes

  • Craig Robertson Nordoff Robbins


Music is part of every society, but it is not aesthetically isolated, being forever associated with a myriad of extra-musical parameters such as gesture, customs, settings and power relations. It has thus far been difficult for scholars to ascertain just what music accomplishes in the social world, since any analysis ends up being like analyses of other social activities. Despite this, the belief in the special status and power of music proliferates both within the professional musician classes, those who consume music and those with the means to organise social music programmes. Music strongly interacts with memory, identity, emotion and belief (Robertson, 2017), which goes some way to demonstrate how music is believed to have such power regardless of any evidence shown, and this is supported by recent neurological research (Patel, 2010). Conflict transformation, if it is to be successful, requires an understanding of the identity formation processes, since ideally a new shared identity evolving from those involved would emerge. How this process works requires an understanding of how identity belief is related to emotions and memory, and how all these affect behaviour, past, present and future. It has been suggested by a number of international mediators that music and the arts provides a metaphor or amalgam for conflict transformation, albeit in a safer environment (Lederach and Lederach, 2010, p. 206). This paper shows how two choirs, one in Sarajevo and one in London, have approached music as a metaphor for the conflict transformation process.

KEYWORDS: Music and conflict transformation; metaphor; choir; memory; identity; emotion; belief