The book Musics of the Free State is an imposing volume: nine substantial and far-reaching essays (preceded by an introduction) offer the reader a plural, occasionally disturbing and intellectually invigorating analysis of Bloemfontein and its environs through the prism of the Odeion School of Music (OSM). The (comparatively) recent formation of the OSM clearly serves as the animus and motivating impulse of the entire book. Indeed, most of the contributors are intimately associated with the OSM and serve on its faculty, so that the School itself acts as a nexus or fulcrum for the deliberations on music as an agent of political, cultural and social engagement in South Africa which animate the volume from beginning to end. In this respect the book affirms a coherence which, despite the (valuable) plurality of its contents, invites a readership from across the entire musicological community.
Musics of the Free State doubtless makes its most intimate appeal to South Africa itself, but the essays are so profoundly indentured to international modes of scholarship (notably North American, British and European traditions) that it is difficult to escape the compelling relevance which the volume as a whole maintains in relation to global musical practice, especially in three domains: ethnomusicology, education and socio-cultural discourse. Such domains do not exhaust this volume’s reach (there are important contributions on infrastructure and the analysis of art music which easily transcend their local context), but the book’s engagement with musical practices in post-Apartheid South Africa in general (and the Free State in particular) speak over and again to postcolonial and indeed postmodern problems which resonate far beyond sub-Saharan Africa. This is a volume which is truly international in its address.
Editor: Martina Viljoen