Re-enchanting the global village

Bards were part of an oral culture, which began to die out with the advent of writing. Accordingly, as part of its progress towards literate modernity, the world became (according to Max Weber) increasingly “disenchanted”. Marshall McLuhan‘s concept of the “global village”, which he coined to describe the “shrinking” of the world due to modern telecommunications, similarly references a characteristic sense of alienation that is produced by hypermedia interconnectedness. Global Village Bard refers to the traditional role of the village bard in oral culture as a means of responding to the present globalised situation. And, although this agenda may legitimately be seen as articulating a Traditionalist position, Global Village Bard does not deny, but on the contrary explicitly acknowledges, modernity in all its contradictions and permutations.

The music of translation

The Global Village Bard project also sets out to explore the idea that music and language became separated at around the same time that language started to be written down (according to legend, in Mesopotamia at around the time of the mythical Tower of Babel). This separation is thought to have created the profusion of tongues and voices we know as human language today and may help to explain the mysterious impulses that articulate human emotion, which arise as a consequence of language and music remaining intimately intertwined to this day. As global village bard practitioners can attest, the act of translating verse releases the musical linguistic component, placing it at the service of memory and imagination.

Practical issues in verse translation

It is clear that there is no returning to the enchantment of an oral, preliterate society. Not only is writing here to stay, but so are all its hypermedia variants. Nevertheless, language—and especially sung language—still has an important enchantment function. Why is poetry so memorable compared to ordinary language? What is it about a popular song that still exercises such power over the imagination? What is the specific role of English compared to other great languages and literatures? Does it make any difference what language a song is sung in? It is in order to explore these kinds of questions concerning the role of language in communication that Global Village Bard supports the development and presentation of bilingual repertoires.

Of course, Global Village Bard is not just a theoretical, but also a very practical project. Clearly, while hyperconnectivity is a key fact of modern existence, misunderstandings—often based on language and culture—still get in the way of trade and business, not to mention their presenting a very real threat to peace.

Collaborate! The social and cultural functions of global village bards

Like the original village bards, it is by adopting a respectfully critical attitude towards power at the same time as continuing to participate in and provide focus for public or ceremonial occasions, that a contemporary “global village bard” can help to rejuvenate cultural life, support business and diplomatic communications and enrich linguistic sensitivity and learning.

As well as developing bilingual repertoires of songs for bicultural events, the Global Village Bard project is advanced through many different kinds of collaborations between singers, songwriters, poets, translators, dancers, musicians, filmmakers, and visual artists from all over the world (but especially, at the present time, those working between the Russophone and Anglophone spaces).