Your voice with the voice of others

Claudia interviewed Nicoletta Zannoni, flautist and teacher, who studied music in Italy and presently lives and works in Ramallah, Palestine. Nicoletta participates in our monthly challenge with…music!


Some time ago, you shared these words in an interview

What in music has always fascinated, attracted and pushed me to study, is the possibility of playing ‘together’, to put my voice with the voices of others who are completely different from me. The resulting combination is beautiful…very beautiful! The richness of this togetherness is made possible thanks to the cooperation and the coming together of differences, of things sometimes opposed, contrary one to another, that can, however, live together and create something new and beautiful

I find that wonderful and a perfect example of the power of music. In your experience, is playing together influenced by the cultures that participate in the work? Will the result be different if a piece is played by people that come from the same national culture or by people who come from ten different cultures?

nicoletta-mainI am talking about people in a group, let’s say as in chamber music, where there is no conductor, but where music is created by the members of the group relating one to the other.

In playing together, as in any form of teamwork, the background of the participants certainly plays an important role. During rehearsal, different ways of thinking, different styles and techniques will emerge. The same passage will be interpreted in contrasting ways that will have to be harmonized. This allows us to learn new things while offering what we know, acquiring insights that may be very different from our usual way of making music – and this is why it is so good to discover these new ways: you would never otherwise have thought about them!

In my experience, playing with people of different nationalities is very enriching; each one brings a personal and cultural contribution that is new to the other, and it is fascinating to put them together while yet not losing the richness each one expresses when playing or talking about the music of his culture or nation. I remember a concert with a Japanese colleague, and the preparation of some Japanese traditional songs…I still get tears in my eyes!

It’s clear that the one who plays – the artist – directly enjoys this privileged means of mingling with other cultures, learning about them, taking thought, and absorbing something new. On the other hand, how can those who, like me, do not play, use music to be “touched” by its power? I am talking from the point of view of approaching different cultures, of understanding diversity…

Music works in many ways, and before “making” it, there is of course the listening. Letting oneself be touched by the music of a country – whether one is a musician or not – means going to concerts, turning on the local radio when one is driving, maybe listening to the music played in the gym, in the machine hall…I believe all this is the quickest and simplest way through which music opens a door on another culture. The first reaction will probably be of not being comfortable with what one listens to (I think in particular of the strong differences in musical systems, like moving from Western to Arab music for instance) and of feeling estranged… These sounds, however, will quickly become familiar and part of the landscape.

nicoletta5I so much appreciate these comments because they are perfectly in line with the aims of our project, ‘What Expats Can Do’. The idea is to find ways to get closer to the cultures that host us, so that the unknown becomes more and more familiar and does not frighten us. We are convinced that music is a wonderful way to do it. In some situations it is also a great way to break down barriers and “universalize” feelings. You have played (and have led others to play) with people from many walks of life – would you say that music is a language that contributes to minimize conflicts?

Music is certainly a language that helps different people and cultures to get close; sometimes it is more direct than a thousand speeches and declarations, because it touches a deep part in each one of us. However, it must be said that music alone is not enough: if two people with a conflict sit down and play together, and thanks to music can collaborate, this does not mean that the conflict between them is solved. It remains. But a work together has been done; one had to relate to the other: this could be the first step towards knowing the other and his story. So, it is true that music is very powerful in putting people in relationship one to another, but it is only the first of a series of steps that may in the end allow the breaking down of walls.



Nicoletta Zannoni
Ramallah, Palestine

October 2016