World Forum On Music


Music will always be there. We can always tap our toes, clap our hands, and sing. But a global exchange of ideas can open our eyes and ears to new ways of thinking about music and how music can bring us together. The following report was written by Leah Barclay, composer and New Music World Associate based in Brisbane.


The 5th IMC World Forum on Music

Leah Barclay, Brisbane, December 2013

Founded by UNESCO in 1949, the International Music Council (IMC) was charged with the promotion of musical diversity and accessibility across cultures. Since then, the IMC has evolved into a dynamic network of organsiations and individuals exploring contemporary music-making worldwide. The activities of the IMC pivot on the World Forum on Music, an international conference designed to unite the IMC network and develop ideas for the future. Launched in Los Angeles in 2005, the conference has traversed the globe. The most recent event was hosted in Brisbane, Australia, in November 2013.

From the outset, the 5th World Forum on Music (WFM5) challenged the preconceived format of a conference by programming a large number of performances, public events, interactive installations and virtual projects. Among these were the 1001 VoicesYouTube Project, a venture designed to engage a global audience twelve months prior to WFM5 and create accessibility for those that couldn’t physically attend the event. Participants in the YouTube project responded to the Forum’s overarching theme — Sustaining Music, Engaging Communities — and explored the future of music from their personal perspectives, which culminated in a video installation that was featured in the foyer of the Queensland Conservatorium at Griffith University throughout the forum.

Over 1,000 people attended the event. 600 people registered for WFM5 and one or more of its twelve satellite conferences happening simultaneously in Brisbane.

The conference program featured sessions on the following subjects: education, life-long learning and the training of the professional musician; community, society, and conflict resolution; tradition, innovation, and sustainability; advocacy, policy, and funding; and technology, creativity, and the music industry. All of the sessions were intertwined with artistic laboratories and networking that was representative of the ‘ecosystem’ of today’s music.

The driving forces behind the program, Professor Huib Schippers and Dr. Danielle Bentley, intentionally avoided the standard format, opting for a program that allowed greater room for creative discussion, collaborations across borders, and the sharing of expertise. The plenary sessions featured a group of world leaders who framed the ideas of each conference strand and inspired debates. The group included one of Australia’s leading didjeridu players William Barton; Dr Shubha Chaudhuri, the Director of the Archives and Research Centre for Ethnomusicology of the American Institute for Indian Studies in New Delhi; innovative digital artist Nora Farell; and world-renowned musician and peace advocate Eugene Skeef.

The performances and installations were a highlight for many delegates and solidified as the core of the program from the moment of the opening ceremony.

The opening event, titled Dot Enter, featured a new work, commissioned for the event, that involved ten emerging musicians from five different conservatories around the world in a site-specific performance across the roof, stairs, balconies and terraces of the Parklands and Conservatorium. Conceived by Dutch director Gosse de Kort and Australian percussionist Vanessa Tomlinson, the opening was designed to explore and question the very act of openings. As Gosse de Kort commented, “the piece is about how time, space and movement are used during an opening ceremony and how artists from different music and art disciplines relate to an act of opening." The intent of the work was to allow members of the audience to perceive, as individuals, connections between the different musical elements.

While this ambitious performance mystified some of the delegates, the event, in my view, was an ideal beginning to the conference and a relevant analogy for the underlying intentions of the forum.

Click here to watch Dot Enter

The sheer scope of the conference made it difficult to draw out single ideas. But it did inspire conversations intersecting many visions of what the future may hold. The IMC President, Professor Frans De Ruiter, provided a persuasive summary on the value of this event in his opening remarks, alluding to the fact that we are all searching for the intangible magic that music brings, yet it is often clouded by industry or by an artistic capitalism that contradicts the goals of the IMC. For Professor De Ruiter, the forum is about finding that magic “that moment that we forget to breathe” and taking it back into the local and national networks to continue the conversations and ideas for the future.

In order to ensure that those conversations and ideas retain their vitality, many of the WFM5 sessions were recorded. The recordings will be released on the official website over the coming weeks.

World Forum on Music