4- A Pattern Language of Traditional and Oral Music Cultures – Anna Beresford, University of Waterloo
In A Pattern Language Christopher Alexander developed a design philosophy that sought to reverse the dehumanizing logic of modern architecture and planning and recover generative principles that are implicit not only in nature but in gestalt beauty and harmony that is readily apparent in many traditional settlements. Pattern Language theory has since been developed for application in numerous fields including software design and medical education. This paper proposes an innovative application of Pattern Language theory to traditional/oral music cultures as the basis for more effective interventions for musicians, community entrepreneurs, music industry stakeholders, educationists and local policy makers. Responding to a pattern of social isolation, fragmentation, aesthetic impoverishment and spiritual anomie that he saw as consequent upon modern architecture, Alexander argued that to recover a shared and living language “we must first learn how to discover patterns which are deep, and capable of generating life” (xxi). In A Pattern Language he breaks down thousands of iterative and generative architectural patterns – from the minutiae of window seat alcoves to the road systems of whole conurbations – which form a language. Applying Pattern Language theory to Canadian Celtic traditional music and dance and drawing on decades of ethnomusicological and anthropological case studies, this paper breaks down the nested hierarchy of reoccurring and life-affirming patterns that characterize vibrant musical cultures and successful revivals. The application of Pattern Language theory to music cultures offers an entirely new theoretical approach to music study, with direct applications for music pedagogy and wider implications for social cohesion.