The day the music tried / News / The Foreigner

The day the music tried. The Norwegian armed forces have brought a new element to their operations in Afghanistan. If you listen carefully, you might hear tunes instead of mortars. Music is a paradox. Even though it is a type of language, it defies description. It communicates with and is a way of defining human beings, even though words are not always spoken or sung. The military believes that music can be used for effective conflict-management – encouraging soldiers to think twice about shooting – and is part of their peace initiative in Afghanistan.

jon, roar, bjoerkvold, professor, musicology, music, oslo, universitymajor, hilding, rune, norwegian, norway, military, troops, afghanistan, kabul



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The day the music tried

Published on Thursday, 19th November, 2009 at 17:41 under the news category, by Michael Sandelson   .
Last Updated on 20th November 2009 at 09:47.

The Norwegian armed forces have brought a new element to their operations in Afghanistan. If you listen carefully, you might hear tunes instead of mortars.

Make music, not war
Make music, not war
Photo: wlodi/Flickr


Listen, don’t shoot

Music is a paradox. Even though it is a type of language, it defies description. It communicates with and is a way of defining human beings, even though words are not always spoken or sung.

The military believes that music can be used for effective conflict-management – encouraging soldiers to think twice about shooting – and is part of their peace initiative in Afghanistan.

Jon Roar Bjørkvold, professor of musicology at the University of Oslo, has been lecturing about building bridges through music for many years, and opened a conference the military organised in Oslo last week.

“Music connects body and soul and opens you up to life. It brings soldiers back to being human beings,” Bjørkvold tells The Foreigner.

Though he finds it a paradox that the military is now turning to music, as this is why he left them in 1964.

“I thought then that music was the way to peace. I couldn’t do shooting, but I could do music.”

Value

The idea of music for the troops is nothing new, though. Further back in time British soldiers had pipers accompany them into battle, and the songs of Vera Lynn almost certainly boosted troops’ morale during WWII.

Today’s Norwegian troops are in Afghanistan primarily to keep peace and security, not as a threat. Major Hilding Runar in the military’s department for culture and tradition thinks music has many benefits.

“I don’t believe that the solution to the conflict in Afghanistan is purely military. You have to have music too. Music can create things, can have a calming effect on conflicts, and can build relationships and trust.”

He goes on to say that their move is part of a professional discussion that’s currently taking place in the military, and previous experience has shown him that they have lent their ears to it.

“As musicians in the military, we’ve already played in Northern Afghanistan and Kabul for NATO and have had a fantastic response. We’ve received requests for it from the allied forces,” Runar says, though it’s the German rather than the British forces that have used music for now.

As old as the hills

But they don’t only play what is normally considered to be military music. Runar says he uses Afghan music as his point of departure – being of particular value in situations with children, the sick, and for education purposes – but thinks Bach and Mozart are also well-suited to get a message of peace, rather than conflict across.

The instruments also have to be portable, as they use them under all sorts of conditions.

“Coming from a military band tradition we mainly use wind instruments, but some of our musicians can also play stringed instruments or sing. We also have music educationalists with us.”

And Runar is convinced that music is the way to go. Afghanistan used to have a vibrant music life up until the 70’s before being the country was invaded by the Soviets and the Taliban.

“There are many hidden treasures here.”



Published on Thursday, 19th November, 2009 at 17:41 under the news category, by Michael Sandelson   .
Last updated on 20th November 2009 at 09:47.

This post has the following tags: jon, roar, bjoerkvold, professor, musicology, music, oslo, universitymajor, hilding, rune, norwegian, norway, military, troops, afghanistan, kabul.





  
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