Gauss-Telegraph: Creating music together as a small exercise for a harmonious coexistence
A conversation with Mariniki, Amine and Ronja about their experience gained by playing music with the Music Ensemble of the University of Thessaly–
As part of a German-Greek cooperation, students of TU Braunschweig got a unique opportunity from 30.11.2018 to 02.12.2018 to get to know the Greek language and culture by playing music together with the music ensemble of the University of Thessaly from Northern Greece. The three students Mariniki, Amine and Ronja took the opportunity of this musical-cultural voyage of discovery and were participants in the workshop. Together, they practiced two days under the artistic direction of the music teacher and singer María Thoídou (the teacher of music and singing of the University of Thessaly) 28 famous Songs by the famous Greek composer Manos Hadjidakis. Under the title “Streets of Dreams”, a concert took place on the 1st Advent in one of the oldest town halls in Germany – the Dornse Braunschweig.
In addition to the musical experiences, the intercultural exchange left many impressions of which the three participants reported in a joint conversation:
First of all, who are the three Gauss Friends who performed together with the Greek musicians? And what relationship do you have with music?
Ronja Schwenkler studies Environmental Sciences at TU Braunschweig. She grew up in Germany, likes to travel and loves other languages and cultures. When she encounters exciting people on her travels, she asks them about their favourite songs, from which she then creates playlists. When Ronja listens to those songs again after a while, she is reminded of those encounters. She sees great connection between music and memory. Ronja sang as a child in a choir – and she also taught herself to play the guitar and the piano.
Mariniki Pnevmatikou studies Electrical Engineering at TU Braunschweig. She grew up in Greece and has been living in Braunschweig for almost six years. She speaks fluent Greek, German and English. Mariniki loves to sing and also plays the saxophone passionately. Music is an international language to her, through which you can feel connections.
Ben Tourkia Mohamed Amine is studying Industrial Engineering/Electrical Engineering at TU Braunschweig and has moved to Germany to study from Tunisia. He has been living in Braunschweig for the past two years. Music is his life and his passion is playing the bass. He also plays regularly at the jam sessions on Thursday evening in the Gauss House. For him, too, music can be a commonality, a shared experience (if you are interested to join these sessions write to firstname.lastname@example.org).
What motivated the students to participate in the workshop?
When Ronja spent a year as a volunteer in Europe, she got to know many exciting people. Sometimes she misses cooking together, various languages and cultural exchange. That’s why Ronja comes every week to the Gauss Haus, because she can find something similar there just as from her various travel stories but only in Braunschweig. She also heard about the music workshop from Gauss Friends and saw the special event that weekend as a unique opportunity, even though she had a lot to do.
“These days can open doors to new cultures and worldviews, one can re-learn and expand their network. Music brings people together. ”
Mariniki became aware of the German-Greek exchange via a Facebook-post of the Gauss Friends. Although she flies home twice a year, she sometimes misses Greece. That’s why she was especially pleased to meet people from her home country and play music together. The Greek songs of the composer Manos Chatzidakis, who has written many songs for well-known films, reminds Mariniki of her childhood. A bit of homesickness, among other things, motivated her to participate.
Amine has always been a big fan of Greek mythology. When he was young, he dreamed of living in ancient Greece. The stories of the gods and heroes of ancient Greece fascinated him. However, he could experience the culture and the country only by reading books or watching videos. He never had contact with people from Greece. For Amine, the meeting was a chance to finally get to know the culture first-hand that he had already read so much about. Since Amine also loves music, he could not resist the workshop.
Which experiences from the weekend were perceived particularly striking by the three students? What impressions has the musical and cultural exchange left on them?
Ronja, for example, found the methodology very exciting, the way music was made together. In the rehearsals the musicians moved the melody in the “major”, so they became familiar with the Greek rhythms – they were felt within the whole body. Especially awesome, Ronja found the energy that you could feel through the music.
At the final concert she had to sing about 15 songs and two of them solo in a foreign language. Ronja’s scientific background helped her “deciphering” the scriptures, since almost all formulas include Greek characters and she already knew so many letters from the Greek alphabet. She also received a lot of support from the other workshop participants. So by the end of the weekend she could read 80% of the texts. Ronja was particularly positive about the cordiality and the intuitiveness, the coexistence and the physical but not obtrusive handling of the Greek musicians.
Amine accompanied eight songs with the bass for the final concert. Actually, he could not read music very well. “I had to decode it.” Amine said. Despite the great efforts and the race against time, he did not feel tired – it was just fun. Even if he could not understand all the texts, he felt something. Especially since the people were very helpful. He also discovered on common days that Greek culture has some similarities to Tunisian. “They are warm and we are warm.” He wishes for such a family as this group of musicians.
Mariniki also talks about how physical borders between the countries were blurred during the days. Whenever you sing, even if it was not quite right and you are almost desperate, you were encouraged by other. There was a lot of support and a family like atmosphere. The homely feelings had made her very happy that weekend. The songs freshened the childhood memories in her.
Mariniki reflects that she sees an international language in music. By playing together you can feel the connections. “We got closer through the music – even if that was not the primary goal.”
First conclusion: Music, therefore, enables a cultural-scientific exchange.
Music as a mediator to build bridges of friendship between people of all backgrounds.
Music as a universal language to overcome national borders.
Music to develop a mutual understanding.
Music as a mediator in order to bring cultures together and find a common level.
When you make music together, you have to empathize with others – is there a connection between intercultural, harmonious living together and playing music together?
For Mariniki, one might consider society as an orchestra, where sometimes the individual has to take a step back to make other audible. Everybody has a specific voice, a unique character. To facilitate a harmonious interaction, it is important to help each other. When playing music together, as well as in an intercultural society, it is very important to empathize with other people. The goal should be to create harmony. You cannot be too selfish. But sometimes you need something like a guide. Mariniki and Amine tell that the conductor Theodoros Kotepanos has greatly facilitated the joint interaction.
Amine said that the conductor had helped them, despite the lack of common musical experience, to facilitate intercultural interaction and reach their goal. Theodoros Kotepanos guided them through the days and shown them the way.
Finally, many brilliant musicians were on stage at the final concert. The sounds, which consisted of a mixture of accordion, guitar, bass, piano, saxophone, vocals, violin and the typical Greek Bouzouki were very unusual for me. Even if one could not understand the lyrics during the concert, the musicians succeeded in transmitting together a specific sound, a harmony and a rhythm. A sound that I will connect with Greece and this weekend for a long time.
„We were bound by music and we will be separated by music“. (Amine)