Through taking Dr. Jenny Su’s Cultural Psychology course during the fall semester of my sophomore year, and Dr. David Henderson’s Musics of the World course my second semester freshman year, I grew fascinated by the notion that culture impacts how we interact with the world. As a psychology and music major, I have focused much of my research on the concept of how music and psychology interact with one another. Upon my receiving notification of my acceptance into the Danish Institute for Study Abroad (DIS) program, I knew I wanted to experience first-hand what I have been learning in my classes at SLU.
The primary focus of my research was to analyze busking (also known as street performance) in relationship to an audience through a cross-cultural lens. What began as a broad two country/cross-cultural comparison, soon expanded to a nine city (seven country) observation on street performance and what inferences are made about culture through viewing performance.
While travelling to various countries, I kept careful notice of several aspects which pertained to how I would dictate the overall impact perceived by me (the observer) and my interpretation of others’ cultural motivations. One aspect noted was recording where street performance occurred (categorized as: populated areas, abandoned areas, tourist hotspots, ‘local’ hotspots). This related to the socioeconomic understanding of a given area, which assisted in making inferences about cultural social status. My second aspect was geographic area (Northern Europe, Southern Europe, Eastern Europe, and Western Europe). Through understanding geographic location of the cities, I was able to make connections between historical elements. This aspect in fact had one of the largest impacts on my observations. A sub-section of geographic area included categorizing the countries in terms of historical relevance to one another (i.e: WWII impact on Austria and Poland). Looking into historical relevance allowed me to look deeper into how certain cultural norms and values are ingrained into a society, and how the same historical event has very different ramifications geographically. My third aspect was taking quantitative data of how many people were viewing the street performance, their perceived gender, if they were in groups or by themselves and for how long they viewed. This led me to the final component of my observation, which was if there was interaction between audience members with other audience members, and audience members with the performer.
Through the course of my semester in Denmark, I visited Vienna, Austria; Interlaken & Basal, Switzerland; Warsaw & Kraków, Poland; Jylland & København, Denmark; London, England; Barcelona, Spain; Malmö, Sweden. I observed street performance in each of the cities, which in turn provided me with a large insight into how music and culture relate. I discovered through my small-scale observations that culture is heavily ingrained in all areas of our interpretation of what is around us and how we filter our understandings. Something as simple as stopping to listen to a violinist in Kraków, clapping at the end of a harmonica solo in Jylland, dancing in the street in Barcelona, mass crowds gathered around a keyboardist in London, or complete silence listening to a didgeridoo, really solidified how our culture is present in how we as individuals experience music.
Thanks to the generosity of a grant by Romeo-Gilbert Intercultural Endowment, I was able to learn about different cultures on a completely unique level through music. Through this opportunity, I have been able to delve intensely into many facets of the countries I visited, which in turn encouraged my ultimate appreciation of cultures different from my own.