Cultural Conversation: Past Life Melodies

Join us January 31 for a Cultural Conversation: Past Life Melodies

Elektra invites indigenous and non-indigenous musicians, composers, educators, and music presenters to a presentation and discussion on the evening of Thursday, January 31, 2019 in Vancouver. We hope this small gathering will build networks and open fruitful conversation around respectful, informed, and inclusive cross-cultural collaboration in our community. The evening opens with a presentation by ethnomusicologist, Dr. Jeanette Gallant (D.Phil. Oxford), on indigenous borrowings in Australian composer Sarah Hopkins’s iconic 1991 choral composition, Past Life Melodies [registrants are encouraged to listen to this recording in advance. Following this will be an informal discussion about similar issues in our current, Canadian context. Our discussion facilitator is Shelley MacDonald, National First Nations, Métis and Inuit Programs Leader, Learning Through the Arts.

Thursday, January 31, 2019  7:00pm – 9:00pm
Venue: Quilchena area in Vancouver. Full address provided to registrants.
Free registration; Light snacks provided

Space is very limited – please register early by emailing  Your spot will be confirmed by reply email.

If you are not able to attend this time, please email to be added to our notification list about future Cultural Conversations.

Dr. Gallant’s presentation is called Choralscapes: An Examination of Indigenous Borrowings in Sarah Hopkins’s Past Life Melodies

Representations of the ‘exotic’ in choral composition is not new, and performances of non-western vocal traditions now common because of the evocative sounds being created. But educators face growing concern over questions of cultural appropriation and misrepresentation even in canonic pieces like Past Life Melodies. Can pieces that draw on the soundscapes of indigenous cultures be viewed as problematic in today’s context? Or can these works – found in typical North American choral programs – serve to teach indigenous world views and perspectives? What can a close reading of this composition offer performers, educators, composers, and audiences alike?

This presentation examines the use of indigenous musical materials in two of the chant melodies in Past Life Melodies. Delivered in a lecture format and supplemented by culturally rich film clips, this talk will examine the sociocultural and musical aspects of each tradition, and contextualize how these materials helped form a choralscape capable of promoting mind/body connections to non-indigenous people in the western world.

Attendees can expect to leave with three things: a clear understanding of the musical origin of each chant type; insights into indigenous worldviews from a global perspective; and an analysis of how this piece may or may not fit with choral education programs in schools and universities in Canada today.