In 2009, I started with a proposal to travel the world and collaborate with musicians for the Michael B. Keegan Traveling Fellowship. What that was building on was the foundation I’d set in motion years earlier, when I first began intertwining my musical passion with Chinese language. I realized that the intersections between the arts and relationships across international boundaries were plentiful, yet rarely ‘used’ in all the ways I thought they could be.
Following the Keegan year, I built yet another layer on top of that foundation. I got my master’s degree at the University of Cambridge with a platform that may look more than a little familiar juxtaposed with the Keegan plan.
Now, I’m working with Arts Diplomacy Network, an international network of professionals dedicated to furthering initiatives of cross-cultural exchange through the arts. My focus lies with music and US-China relations, as you may imagine.
This page includes proposals for the Keegan fellowship, graduate study, and my graduate thesis, as a way of highlighting the transformations I’ve taken on in practical, academic, and professional settings, all centering around a passion I’ve pursued for more than two decades.
Collaborative Musical Composition: A Global Vision
Kathryn Tierney Moreadith
Michael B. Keegan Traveling Fellowship, 2009
Note: What follows is the original project proposal submitted to the selection committee. During the interview and after being selected as a recipient of this fellowship, I decided to add several destinations to my itinerary: India, Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia, Kenya, Tanzania, Brazil, Argentina, Czech Republic, Italy, France, Switzerland, and Turkey. (I’m aiming high here!)
Music has, for centuries, been a medium through which social, cultural, and individual identities are expressed, awarding it a unique ability to transcend standard communicative boundaries. A pianist and composer since age five, I consider music a tool for communication. What most inspires me about music composition is the global power it possesses—a flexibility of power that, while it stands in contrast to verbal communication, offers a close link to universal human experiences. It is not surprising now, upon reflection, that I was immediately drawn to Mandarin Chinese at age eleven because of its musical qualities, and that the two languages have since been manifested as parallel facets of my self-identity and closely intertwined in my academic and extracurricular endeavors. Essential to its ability to traverse communicative boundaries is the idea that music is not an isolated pursuit, but rather a collaborative art, which provokes the relevant question: can musical collaboration—specifically the process of composer and performer working together—be achieved across global boundaries in the dynamic community that is the twenty-first century?
As a double-major in Music Composition/Theory and East Asian Studies, I have become intimately aware of the intersection of these spheres; however, I have also noticed that a necessary supplement to my academic endeavors will be the interpersonal collaborative research I am able to conduct in postgraduate years. With support from the Michael B. Keegan Traveling Fellowship, I will embark upon an international quest to uncover and analyze musical identities within distinct communities. To appreciate how music is incorporated into cultural practices of the geographically, politically, and socially disparate regions of the world requires immersing oneself in those regions, and subsequently provides a unique lens through which to view the importance of traversing cultural boundaries. This will lead me to explore musical idioms beyond my own Western classical background, with hopes of illuminating the ways cross-cultural transmission can be achieved through an artistic medium. My research will focus on traditional music and musical communities of mainland China and Egypt, to be documented through field recordings and a portfolio of personal compositions which will be written in conjunction with professional musicians and their compatriots. The year will culminate in a combinative analytical review of this research to be conducted in the United Kingdom, where I will work with mentors from the Royal Academy of Music and the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. I seek to discover—through collaborative musical composition, research, and performance—the expansive role of leadership in the global community by first understanding elemental aspects of individual cultures.
Beginning in China, I will study music composition from both Western classical and Chinese traditional perspectives by writing music for mixed ensembles in collaboration with native Chinese musicians. Studying the differences between classical music of the West and of China will expand my body of applied knowledge, offering new compositional techniques, practices, and instrumentations. Though I have some experience in Chinese musical traditions and instruments, my approach to music composition has thus far stemmed from a Western classical heritage. I will study privately with Chen Qian, Resident Composer for the People’s Liberation Army of China, whom I met during his commissioned visit to Vanderbilt University in 2007. I will also collaborate with Chen Jun, one of China’s renowned performers of the erhu, a traditional Chinese instrument. In the summer of 2008, I traveled to Beijing to study with Chen Qian privately. During this time, we explored techniques in writing for the erhu when I wrote a piece that combined my newly-acquired understanding of the instrument with my learned background in Western practices and notation; the piece was performed and recorded by Chen Jun. These two colleagues, and their musical compatriots, will be my guide to musical creativity and primary collaborators during my research in China.
Secondly, traveling to Cairo, Egypt, will allow me to examine the tribal musical influences from various regions of Africa that have informed modern styles of music, as well as the greater rhythmic varieties that influence contemporary musical development. Mohamed Shams, a renowned pianist from the Cairo Conservatory of Music, will coach me in the languages of both traditional musical styles of Egypt and Arabic, which I began learning recently. Obtaining a deeper familiarity with rhythm in musical practices from ethnic to urban areas of Egypt will illustrate to me the relationship between premodern and current musical systems, while working with native musicians—Mr. Shams and his colleagues at the renowned Cairo Conservatory—will suggest how collaboration may differ from what I will have experienced in Beijing, China. Ultimately, the research I conduct in Egypt will be twofold: to study the systems in place in Cairo and ancillary regions independent from those I will learn in China; and to compare those traditions to what I learned from working with musicians in China. This research will help me understand what, on a broad scale, it can mean to be a ‘modern’ musician in both China and Egypt.
Finally, in London, United Kingdom, I will conduct an analytical review of the music—both personal compositions and catalogued musical works—brought from China and Egypt. Peter Sheppard Skaerved, Research Fellow at the Royal Academy of Music, has agreed to work closely with me to discuss my research outcomes, and, because he is also an acclaimed violinist worldwide, has agreed to perform a piece I will be composing during the year and in collaboration with him upon my arrival in London. With contacts at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, I will rely on guidance from the community of musicians and scholars to inform my amalgamation of musical traditions gathered in China and Egypt. While ancillary pursuits at the School of Oriental and African Studies and the Royal Academy of Music will not culminate in a degree, the academic setting that London offers will provide a framework in which to analyze and engage in the material I will have collected during the months of research in China and Egypt. Furthermore, the focused atmosphere of the British education system is conducive to such analysis and my audience—comprised of musicians and scholars from over fifty countries, including China and Egypt—will illustrate how this kind of research and musical output will be received by an internationally diverse community.
One of my primary goals in designing this research project is to expand my musical vocabulary to incorporate world traditions beyond my familiar background. Keeping a journal of lessons and collaborative sessions with musicians during the year will ensure that I am able to compare notes between my adventures in China, Egypt, and the United Kingdom, and allow me to assess the outcomes of my research both independently within each region and in consideration of the over-arching theme of this project. My compositional agenda specifically includes a cycle of songs with piano and erhu accompaniment, expanding work that I began in China in 2008. This cycle will be completed in stages, with the first set of songs to be finished by December. I will develop an orchestration project which adapts some of my early approaches to the erhu as a solo instrument and my acquisition of rhythmic techniques in Egypt, to be completed in February. The Beijing Central Conservatory, whose program in traditional Chinese instruments and music is unparalleled in China, will supplement my private training while providing a glimpse into the life of aspiring musicians in one of the largest cities in the world. Likewise, the Cairo Conservatory of Music will complement my collaboration with musicians by providing an outlet for experimentation in music and an academic atmosphere in Egypt. In addition to maintaining an online chronicle of my research and experiences while abroad, I plan to embark on a lecture-recital tour upon my return to the United States in 2010, which will allow me to circulate my experience and new perspectives to the community back home. I have spoken to Roger Wiesmeyer and Dan Rosemergy of the Greater Nashville Unitarian Universalist Church, who have promised forums upon my return. I have also spoken with Irene Moser from the Nashville Chinese School, Jonah Rabinowitz of the W.O. Smith Community School of Music, and two Nashville honors high schools who have agreed to host lecture-recitals and presentation opportunities. In North Carolina, Brooks Long and Dr. Lian Xie of the North Carolina China Center have agreed to organize a forum in which I will present my research.
I believe that this year will not only significantly shape my own compositional voice and prepare me for a life of globally-informed musical outreach, but will support my dedication to enhancing communication across cultural boundaries, from within the Vanderbilt community to the world beyond its borders. I envision the result of this year of research to be a symphonic amalgamation of world traditions, familiar and foreign, classical and contemporary. To me, the most measurable form of success in pursuing this project will be that I am not considered an ephemeral scholar, but rather a lasting and contributing member of the international community, informed by global styles as well as global concerns.
Research Proposal for the University of Cambridge
Title: Cultural Foreign Policy in the U.S. and China: The Efficacy of and Applications for the Arts as Diplomatic Tools
Objectives: Develop applications for the fine arts as cultural diplomatic tools in national and international cultural foreign policy structures and forums, specifically in the U.S. and China. Analyze the historical use of culture in foreign policies internationally, assess efficacy of current cultural foreign policies internationally, but with specific focus on the U.S. and China. Subject areas of focus within the Department of Politics and International Studies will be International History, Foreign Policy and Security Studies, and International Politics.
Methodology: Methods of my research will be primarily discourse-analytical, with particular focus on contemporary assessments of international policymaking in the U.S. and China. Additionally, research will include theoretical-practical analysis of applications of the arts in public policy and political forums nationally and internationally. Research will include investigations into artistic-cultural trends, and specific cultural anthropological discourse relating to the developing relationship and issues between the U.S. and China. Heretofore, articles assessing the fine arts as tools for political processes are relatively sparse, encouraging the expansion of this topic in international discourse. Supplemental focus will include discussions on historical foreign policy in the U.S. and China, and the relationship between China and the U.S., and China and other western nations. Further specialized research will include a combinative analysis of U.S. and Chinese diplomatic policies, procedures, and structural organization; differences in foreign policy creation and modification in distinct government systems; chief conflicts between political organization and diplomatic policy-making in the U.S. and China in order to address and develop alternatives to current shortcomings in international diplomatic procedures; and ancillary investigations into intellectual property law and current cultural-political tensions between the U.S. and China.
Preliminary Texts: Culture and Cultural Analysis as Experimental Systems (Michael M.J. Fischer, Cultural Anthropology); A Fragile Relationship: The United States and China since 1972 (Harry Harding, The Brookings Institution); The Changing Politics of Foreign Policy (Christopher Hill); Emotional In-Difference: Exploring Exteriority in Late Imperial Chinese Drama and Fiction (Ling Hon Lam, University of Chicago Thesis/Vanderbilt University); The Making of Chinese Foreign and Security Policy in the Era of Reform (David M. Lampton); American Orientalism and American Exceptionalism: The Old and New Significance of Political Economy in Diplomacy (Donna Lee and David Hudson, Review of International Studies); The Journal of Asian Studies; World Politics: Progress and its Limits (James Mayall); Cultural Relations between China and the Member States of the European Union (Werner Meissner, The China Quarterly); Deadlocks in Multilateral Negotiations: Causes and Solutions (Amrita Narlikar ed.); A Critical Rethinking of US Hegemony (Meghana V. Nayak and Christopher Malone, International Studies Review); Subsumption or Consumption? The Phantom of Consumer Revolution in “Globalizing” China (Pun Ngai, Cultural Anthropology); China and International Harmony: The Role of Confucius Institutes in Bolstering Beijing’s Soft Power (James F. Paradise, Asian Survey); Selected Readings from The Rise of China in Asia: Security Implications, including The U.S. Security Commitment to Taiwan Should Remain Ambiguous by Brett V. Benson (ed. Carolyn W. Pumphrey); Chinese Foreign Relations: Power and Poilcy Since the Cold War (Robert G. Sutter); The Discourse of Human Rights in China: Historical and Ideological Perspectives (Robert Weatherley); Politics in China Since 1949: Legitimizing Authoritarian Rule (Robert Weatherley); Selected Readings from Literature, Religion, and East/West Comparison, including Cannibalizing the Heart: The Politics of Allegory in The Journey to the West by Ling Hon Lam (ed. Eric Ziolkowski).
Cambridge and Faculty: The intellectual rigor of the University of Cambridge, the breadth of its International Relations program, and the opportunity for self-directed specialization make it not only the most desirable atmosphere for academic study, but also a natural complement to my own training, which has largely been characterized by multidisciplinary pursuits. Ultimately, I intend to combine my work in International Relations with my background in the arts to develop more integrated applications of the arts in cultural foreign policy structures internationally. The experiences during my yearlong traveling fellowship urged me to continue developing ideas for the integration of the fine arts in political international forums, and further, to study the methods of foreign policy creation in order to assess the efficacy of the fine arts as tools in modern policies and diplomatic procedures internationally. The University of Cambridge compels students to develop individual voices through diligent research and expects excellence beyond academic achievement; the formal structures in place at the university are unparalleled and will provide support as I develop specialization in U.S.-China cultural relations, while working with premier faculty in the field will provide direction and guidance throughout my studies and research.
Of the six general fields of study in the Masters of Philosophy International Relations program, the most relevant to my pursuits will be International Politics, International History, and Foreign Policy and Security Studies. I have met with Drs. Christopher Hill and James Mayall personally, and both have encouraged my proposal for study at the University of Cambridge. Dr. Hill, with his specialization in Foreign Policy Analysis, will be an invaluable resource as I conduct analyses of foreign policy and write my thesis. Dr. Mayall, whose prolific writing career and vast practical experience in the field of international relations is virtually unmatched, will provide critical advice as I develop my specializations and research methods further. Dr. John Dunn’s interests in democracy in different parts of the world and re-conceptualization of modern political theory will help me understand how trajectories of modern states are considered and shaped. Dr. Mike Sewell’s expertise in the history of U.S. foreign relations will provide a solid foundation for beginning my graduate education and directing subsequent research. Dr. Robert Weatherley offers expertise in the realm of Chinese law; beyond direct engagement with him during my studies, his publications will aid in my thesis research methodology and execution. Other faculty, including Dr. Thomas Larsson, Dr. Amrita Narlikar, and Dr. Philip Towle, will help me consider broader applications of my ideas and research. The supervision of unparalleled scholars in the field of international relations will help me develop my academic voice and my professional direction. Working with the above faculty members at the University of Cambridge will allow me to engage on a deeper level about Chinese and U.S. foreign relations and develop innovative approaches to policymaking – representing the core of my research – and will also offer invaluable suggestions for the broader applications of my studies. Further, the academic distinction of the University Cambridge as a whole will stimulate my growth as a scholar, my ability to contribute to the community, and my development beyond the borders of the university.
Personal Background and Ambitions: I am a multifaceted scholar whose background intertwines international and language studies, musicology and music performance, and global contemporary politics. My experience as an American in China, from language immersion programs to the founding of the first Chinese-American International Piano Institute in Chengdu, represents my longstanding commitment to understanding and enhancing the relationship between the U.S. and China in a way that does not assume the stance of politics and culture as mutually exclusive systems. My experience as a musician, from consulting with the administration of foremost music schools in the U.S. on curricular redesign to solo performances, lecture-recitals, and research projects on five continents around the world, represents my innate dedication to multilateral communication and desire to develop applications for the fine arts in cultural-political realms. Earning a Bachelor’s degree in Music and East Asian Studies has equipped me with skills that will transfer not only to further academic study, but that will also translate to success in the professional arena. My intrinsic desire and ability to interact with people across international boundaries has been nurtured through extensive international travel and research, and fostered by professional relationships and institutional affiliations. In November 2009, at Beijing’s People’s University, I produced a concert bringing together Chinese and American musicians during a weeklong conference led by Stanford University. The conference, which focused heavily on political and economic forums for exchange, became a microcosmic example of how integrating the arts into reputed models of exchange ultimately enhanced cross-cultural communication. The concert not only drew a larger crowd than any other event during the week, but also spawned campus-wide conversation between Chinese students and American delegates from Stanford University, which many confirmed made the conference more impactful overall. Graduate study of the international system, especially during a period of pressing tensions between western nations and the rising power of China, will prepare me for contributions in cultural foreign policymaking in the U.S. and China. My practical and academic experience awards me an advantaged perspective upon entering graduate study, while the intellectual rigor of the University of Cambridge will provide essential training, stimulation, and preparation for meaningful contributions to the field of International Relations. Whether it is by obtaining a position in government or directing a corporation’s international development, my ultimate professional role will be determined by its propensity to allow me to make significant changes to the process of international discourse. I am eager to embark upon academic study of the international system at the University of Cambridge, which I see as an unparalleled opportunity not only for personal growth, but also for contribution to the community at-large.