History is, no doubt, an important component of life regardless of what perspective one intends to view it from. Notably, many people engaged in particular stages of history enlighten the events that historical perspectives present or just document them to give the generations to come an opportunity to have a clear picture of the past.
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From a basic point of view, all forms of art have their own history of origin and development, like any other subject, issue or event. According to this, the history of art education opens up opportunities to study depending on what form or component of the art subject one wishes to fathom. In this discussion, we seek to single out various developments that have a relation to an instrument popularly known as a Steel Pan.
From a historical point of view, the steel drum can be said to have been in existence for as a long as steel itself. However, its history of development, from the days of its origin till nowadays, is still hotly debated. Perhaps, the most common story about steel drum is told in Trinidad and Tobago, an independent republic island that is found in the south eastern Caribbean, about seven miles off the coast of Venezuela (Allen & Lois, 1998).
Here, players used pots, pans, paint cans and almost any kind of metal objects that could produce some sound. It is argued that the popularity of this instrument increased in the 1930s because it was highly attributed to the strong drumming culture that was characteristic of the immigrants who were sold to Trinidad and Tobago as slaves during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries (Keel, 1963).
They tried to observe native customs and keep some traditions in spite of the oppressive conditions imposed by their colonial masters (Martin, 2011).
When people follow their native country’s cultural practices for ages even after being assimilated into completely foreign society, this shows how strong their bound and attachment to their origin and culture are and this is really worth studying (Elder, 1994). This study will provide some insight into this history and, more importantly, look some of the sources that provide this information.
Subject of Interest
As previously established, our subject of discussion is the steel drum which is also commonly referred to as the steel pan. Basically, steel pans are music instruments created using sheet metal.
As opposed to the past days, nowadays, many manufactures do not prefer to work with used steel containers in constructing the steel pans because they are fond of experimenting in a combination of various elements to develop original new sound and some specific technical effects.
The Steel Pan and the History of Art Education
The historical perspective of all subjects often is an interesting read for educational or general purposes of gaining knowledge or sharpening the brain. However, if we try to examine the source which provides that historical, it would be necessary to seek for some clarity even on a controversial subject.
In fact, one of the most challenging dimensions of history remains to verify the authenticity of the information that exists on a particular subject (Allen & Lois, 1998). In other words, people want to get some assurance that the information provided is reliable enough.
In this case, the steel pan becomes a relevant tool to pursue most specifically because of its relationship to music and, even more fundamentally, because of its cultural aspect. In many ways, music is taken to represent and define peoples’ culture. Since this instrument and music are inseparably linked, it directly connects to the education of art as music is one of the forms of art (Efland & Soucy, 1991).
Whether by chance or otherwise, the steel pan happens to be the only instrument invented in the twenty first century, and this is another reason why it is a good case study on the history of art education having gained popularity in the 1930s.
The Primary Source and Its Relevance
Documented data on steel pan exist mostly based on a historical background. However, one of the most reliable sources that give in depth insight into this subject is a dissertation paper presented by Andrew Richard Martin titled Pan-America: Calypso, Exotica, and the Development of Steel Pan in the United States.
This paper circumspectly details the historical aspects of the steel drum, going as far as providing a background of the people who participated in a long and great process of making it a popular and favorite instrument (Martin, 2011).
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Further, the paper makes us to take a journey into the history of the evolving characteristics of the steel drum that begins on the islands of Trinidad and Tobago where the instrument originated and began spreading to the other parts of the world (Martin, 2011). Such a presentation cannot pass unnoticed by a historian digging deep into the subject.
The Dissertation and the Spell Drum: What the Dissertation States
Although the paper is not entirely aimed to examine the history and evolution of the steel drum because it is seen to investigate its introduction and development in America, it does provide a relevant and quotable data that can be used as a part of the history of the spell drum.
To start with, Martin (2011) introduces us with Trinidad and Tobago, the birth place of the steel pan, and continues proving that that small island nation has a special socio-musical culture of the instrument (Korzenik, 1984). As noted earlier, the slaves brought from Africa were highly instrumental in shaping the history of this instrument, primarily because they exported their drum beating traditions to those small islands.
Another notable highlight is that the steel pans still stand out against a background of other instruments in Trinidad and Tobago because of their great popularity. One of the popular films that archive information about the steel pan is Music from Oil Drums directed by Peter Seeger and produced by Folkways Records and Services Corporation in New York in 1956. The internet also provides a collection of data on this study.
Allen, R., & Lois, W. (1998). Island sounds in the global city: Caribbean popular music and identity in New York. New York: New York Folklore Society.
Efland, A., & Soucy, D. (1991). A persistent Interpretation: Art education historiography and the legacy of Isaac Edward Clarke. History of Education Society, 31 (4), 489-511.
Elder, J. D. (1994). Folk songs from Tobago. London: Kamak House.
Keel, J. S. (1963). Research review: the history of art education. Studies in art education, 4 (2), 45-51.
Korzenik, D. (1984). Doing historical research. Studies in Art Education, 26 (2), 125-128.
Martin, A. R. (2011). Pan-America: Calypso, exotica, and the development of steel pan in the United States. A dissertation Submitted to the faculty of the graduate.