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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, November 12, 2002

Symphony program challenges all of us

By Kaili Chun
Hawai'i Kai resident

Founded in cultural tradition and permutation, the arts reflect and record the multifaceted life experiences of the many peoples that comprise society. In "Cinematic Masterworks," the Honolulu Symphony demonstrated an innovative approach to arts integration by striving forward with a commendable effort cultivating a progression toward both societal discourse and artistic expansion.

To its credit, the Symphony has elicited a philosophical and cultural exchange specific to this place — this home we experience and know to be Hawai'i — through its collaboration with Dr. Elizabeth Kapu'uwailani Lindsey Buyers, and her film "Then There Were None." This partnership has enlarged the window of expectation in relation to visual and aural image, while delving into the more significant aspect of unequal reciprocity between Native Hawaiian and "newcomer" communities here in Hawai'i.

The disparate "styles" of Western music and composition preceding the presentation of "Then There Were None" illustrates the societal realm that Native Hawaiians have faced in the past, experience today and will continue to encounter.

Gershwin's "An American in Paris," played with enthusiasm that demonstrated the carefree spirit of American experience, set an interesting stage for the more revealing "Symphony No. 1, Lili'uokalani," by Lalo Schifrin. Selections from this symphony, commissioned by the Queen Lili'uokalani Trust, were joined to the film in a way that offered access to an understanding of Native Hawaiian history that has been traditionally and systematically denied.

The film challenges people to engage in dialogue about the indigenous experience, a dialogue essential to bridging the gap in understanding. "Then There Were None" can either motivate the ascent to a higher plane of knowing (learning), or provoke a descent into a prejudicial framework structured to dismiss indigenous cultural perspective and practice.

Instead of positioning Western pedagogy as the only frame of reference, this collaboration unveils the "interconnectedness" of diverse communities living here in Hawai'i, by allowing the voice of Native Hawaiians to speak to their unique living experience of a shared history within the traditional constructs of Western society.

"Then There Were None," asks us, all of us, what are we willing to give for our taking?

Correction: The film "Then There Were None" was shown as part of Honolulu Symphony concert this month. The title was incorrect in a previous version of this column.