Opening address by Nicole Corti
Willems® International Meeting in Lyon – Tuesday 20 July 2021
The human, artistic and social missions of music education, beyond methodologies: an echo of the “Freiburg Declaration”.
Adopted in Fribourg on 7 May 2007, a text was drafted by a group of intellectuals and human rights leaders. This group is organised from the Interdisciplinary Institute for Ethics and Human Rights at the University of Freiburg.
The Freiburg Declaration (full text on the link) reaffirms that “human rights are universal, indivisible and interdependent and that cultural rights are, like other human rights, an expression of and a requirement for human dignity.“
It states the conviction “that violations of cultural rights provoke tensions and identity-based conflicts which are one of the main causes of violence, wars and terrorism.”
In Article 2 of this declaration, it defines the term “Culture“. This term covers the values, beliefs, convictions, languages, knowledge and arts, traditions, institutions and ways of life through which a person or a group of persons express their humanity and the meanings they give to their existence and development.
In Article 6, it states: “Within the general framework of the right to education, everyone, alone or in community with others, has the right throughout his life to education and training which, by meeting his basic learning needs, contributes to the free and full development of his cultural identity, while respecting the rights of others and cultural diversity.“
This text seems to me an appropriate opening to the work that will occupy us during this week. It signifies to us the vital importance of human and social development through culture, and in our case, through music as one of the arts mentioned.
It tells us that everyone must have access to art if they so wish, with respect for who they are and for their chosen involvement in the collective.
It means that art, among other values, contributes to social balance through knowledge and individual progress.
Indeed, contact with artistic practice awakens the senses, questions our functioning in depth, and puts us in touch with beauty as a testimony of authenticity rather than an aesthetic revelation.
And indeed, sharing it becomes a powerful engine of subtle communication between beings.
We are here today to nourish our activity of transmission through reflection, exchange, the growth of our knowledge, the desire for constant renewal of our know-how and our savoir-être. In fact, we are here to open up our field of competence a little more, aware of the proven value of music education.
We are in search of what provokes the desire to transmit, the pleasure of the experience during the lessons, the awareness of the invaluable contribution of our work with children, teenagers, adults, people limited by illness, by the lack of mobility, by constrained confinement.
Our role is all the more understood because we ourselves know the implications, the beneficial and structuring effects.
Music, considered as a synthetic act by Edgar Willems, seems to have the power to move, stimulate and harmonise organic and sensitive functions.
Importance of partnerships
Two conferences will be offered this week by Gérard MICK, Doctor of Medicine and Neuroscience, who has been studying the virtuous relationship between music and health for several years. He is also a musician and the voice of many of his colleagues who are looking for an alternative to medication.
We invite you to attend these two fascinating testimonies given by the brilliant scientist that he is.
The artists for their part are redoubling their inventiveness and generosity to go where people are constrained and cannot move. Some associations, such as “L’invitation à la beauté“, founded by the neurologist Pierre Le Marquis and the psychologist Laure Mayoud, organise exhibitions of works of art in patients’ rooms in hospitals. With this association, Spirito and its professional choir are musically active in retirement homes, hospitals and prisons.
With the MERL association in Lyon, musical education in underprivileged schools creates the conditions for contemporary musical creation thanks to seasoned speakers and top-flight composers.
The aim is to demonstrate and confirm that music can alleviate suffering and foster links between people.
It can also awaken the spirit of analysis and strengthen the ability to discern and make choices.
The avid music lover is sometimes more than the musician himself, able to compare interpretations of the same work, to retain one and to connect intimately with this version.
Neuroscience tells us that those who listen deeply activate special neurons, the so-called “mirror neurons”. The brain activity of the listener is of the same intensity as that of the musician who is playing and/or singing.
And listening feeds the ear, which enriches its sensory capital.
Hearing small to hear big
Isn’t this the very first Willemsian proposal that makes auditory development the first stated priority?
Making the ear more and more efficient, more acute, allows the voice to express itself with all the more ease and spontaneity.
The voice, our identity, our dignity, says a lot about us. It allows the other person to understand our moods, our desires, our questions. The voice allows us to take over the singing of our elders and to invent freely by exploring new sonic regions.
Aren’t singing and improvisation the ‘key’ propositions of the Willemsian proposal?
All the more so as the primary driving force of singing is breath, which acts all the more as the body is available. The rhythm that is struck and the body movement are fundamental to our physical ease.
For many, musical practice represents instrumental practice, which is simply an extension of the musician’s sensory and even solfegetic preparation.
Playing with one’s instrument allows us to broaden the spectrum of timbre discovery, to push the limits of our motor faculties further.
The quality of instrumental beginnings deserves particular care so that curiosity and desire combine to create the motivation for daily training necessary for any discipline conducted with a spirit of deepening.
Beyond the methods
Beyond the methods, all of which are marked by noble intentions and sincere convictions, we, as music teachers, must know that we can count on this exceptional and complete art to help us live, to live better, and sometimes to survive.
And for this reason, institutions such as the Willems International Federation® are committed to informing people about the multiple and existential issues of education through music. To understand these issues in order to promote familiarity with beauty through art, to equip oneself with numerous tools for greater creativity.
To feel the importance of transmission and to experience teaching as a door to professional fulfilment through music and art in general, to overcome difficulties through the conviction of their human and social usefulness, such are the reasons for our presence here.
Welcome to all of you, and to all those who are joining us by videoconference.
This week will be educational and artistic. The daily musical moments will allow us to meet the performers, Professional Musician Artists, and pedagogues who make up the MPA group of the new FIW training.
You are of course invited to come and hear them, in the great hall of the Chartreux or even the magnificent Saint-Jean de Lyon cathedral, whose great organs Thibaut Louppe will be ringing on Saturday 24 July.
On a more administrative level, we thank you for attending our two General Assemblies scheduled for Friday 23 July, the first of which, an Extraordinary General Assembly, is dedicated to the vote on two statutory amendments.
On behalf of the Board of Directors of the International Willems® Federation, I wish you a rejuvenating week and a happy reunion.
Good evening to all.
Thank you for listening.
Nicole Corti, President of the IFW.