Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

The "Bitter Sweetness" of Hybridity: Being a Bicultural Greek Australian Musician

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

The "Bitter Sweetness" of Hybridity: Being a Bicultural Greek Australian Musician

Article excerpt

"Calista" is a bilingual, bicultural Greek-Australian musician in Melbourne, Victoria who explores and enacts her bicultural identity by musicking (making music). This single case study explores the formation and development of hybridized identity which is a complex lifelong process that may generate tensions for an individual that changes across the lifespan. There are strengths and challenges for those traversing different cultures. This study focuses on a bicultural identity formed by personal, musical and cultural contexts. Calista enacts her bimusicality in different musical genres and in different modes of musical engagement. Data were collected by semi-structured interview and by reference to published materials. Data were analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis. The findings are reported under three themes that reflect different stages in Calista's life: Becoming a Greek-Australian musician; Mature musicking; and Teaching and community work. Keywords: Greek-Australian Identity, Bicultural Identity, Bilingual Identity, Greek-Australian Singer Songwriter, Musical Identity

Introduction: Bicultural and Musical Identity

The subject of this study is a Greek-Australian musician. Musical identities are just as "complex as identities per se--they are complex and are made up of cultural, musical and personal aspects formed by an individual's life experiences" (Georgoulas & Southcott, 2014). Musical identities are formed in interactions between music, the individual and their sociocultural context. Music is a fundamental channel of communication that offers people a way to share meanings and emotions (Hargreaves, Miell, & Macdonald, 2002). Musical identities are rarely confined within a narrow musical range as most individuals frequently musick in a range of musical genres and styles. The concept of music or musicking (making music) is in itself complex and encapsulates many cultures, styles and practices. Small (1998, p. 9) argued that that the word "music" should be considered a verb as to music is "to take part, in any capacity, in a musical performance, whether by performing, by listening, by rehearsing or practicing, by providing material for performance ... or by dancing." Given this breadth and complexity, musical identities are, like all identities "mobile, a process not a thing, a becoming not a being, best understood as an experience of the self-in-process when the subjective and collective sides of musical identity are inseparable" (Frith, 1996, p. 110).

Bimusicality is considered to approximate linguistic code-switching which can be alternate or simultaneous (Cottrell, 2007) in which musical styles can be seen as equivalent to languages. Musickers competent in more than one music may alternate between them within a single performance to meet the ethnically diverse understandings of performer and audience for (Slobin, 1979). There can be clear separations or influences and adaptations depending on the musicker's intent. Ethnographic discussions of bimusicality begin with the notion of a musicker with competence in one music being immersed in another music in which they seek immersion and ultimately cultural competence (Blacking, 1973; Hood, 1960). Bimusicality could be used metaphorically to connote a subject shift in which "when one acquires knowledge by figuratively stepping outside oneself to view the world with oneself in it, thereby becoming both subject and object simultaneously" (Titon, 1995, p. 288). The inference is that being bimusical allows the questioning and understanding of identity. For individuals with bicultural personal identities, musicking is formed with two cultural backgrounds and may be enacted as singer, instrumentalist, songwriter, performer, improviser and/or teacher all of which are central to the identity of a professional musicians" (Hargreaves et al., 2002). These different facets of one complex identity alter according to the demands of culture, occasion and personal preference. …

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