to the world of music archive

the world of music 45, 2003-3

Cross-Cultural Aesthetics

Guest Editor:
Daniel Avorgbedor

ISSN 0043-8774
ISBN 3-86135-737-2

Content
 
Articles

Daniel Avorgbedor
Preface

Lawrence Kramer
Music, Cultural Mixture, and the Aesthetic

Ian Chambers
Some Notes on Neapolitan Song: From Local Traditon to Worldly Transit

Judith L. Hanna
Aesthetics—Whose Notions of Appropriateness and Competency, What Are They and What Do We Know?

Marc Benamou
Comparing Musical Affect: Java and the West

Benjamin D. Koen
The Spiritual Aesthetic in Badakhshani Devotional Music

Chan E. Park
Poetics and Politics of Korean Oral Tradition in a Cross-cultural Context

Cheryl L. Keyes
The Aesthetic Significance of African American Sound Culture and Its Impact on Popular Music Style and Industry  

 

Book Reviews (Tina K. Ramnarine, ed.)

Sofia Joons
Martin Clayton, Trevor Herbert and Richard Middleton, eds. The Cultural Study of Music: A Critical Introduction

Jonathan McIntosh
Bruno Nettl, Encounters in Ethnomusicology: A Memoir

Tina K. Ramnarine
Margaret J. Kartomi. The Gamelan Digul and the Prison Camp Musician Who Built It: An Australian Link with the Indonesian Revolution

Tina K. Ramnarine
Andy Nercessian, ed. Old Armenian Songs: A Nineteenth Century Collection by Ghewond Alishan  

 

Recording Reviews (Gregory F. Barz, ed.)

James Porter
Scottish Tradition, vol. 1-19. School of Scottish Studies, University of Edinburgh, Greentrax Recordings, 1993-2000

Mark Slobin
Before the Revolution: A 1909 Recording Expedition in the Caucasus and Central Asia by the Gramophone Company.
Compiler: Will Prentice for the British Library National Sound Archive. Topic Records.

Edda Brandes
Niger—Musique des Touaregs/Music of the Tuaregs. Vol. 1: Azawagh. Vol. 2: In Gall.
Archives internationales de musique populaire. Musée d’ethnographie de Geneve.
Fieldworkers: Francois Borel and Ernst Lichtenhahn. VDE-Gallo

James R. Newell
(1) Davie Stewart: Go On, Sing Another Song —
(2) Jimmy MacBeath: Tramps and Hawkers —
(3) John Strachan: Songs From Aberdeenshire.—
(4) Two Gentlemen of the Road: Jimmy MacBeath and Davie Stewart.
The Alan Lomax Collection: Portraits. Rounder Records

Gregory Barz Domba 1956-1958: A Personal Record of Venda Initiation Rites, Songs, and Dances,
film by John Blacking, Accompanying Study Guide by John Baily and Andrée Grau. The Society for Ethnomusicology

About the Contributors

the world of music

 

Abstracts

Preface
Daniel Avorgbedor

What is this world of music? This is an important rhetorical question, which may well serve a pragmatist’s other questions. Much of today’s discourse on music and its non-sonic significations are buried in obfuscation and neologism, thus blurring further any possibilities of knowing about music of our “own” and that of “others.”  Too bad, we can never know ourselves well enough; and too good, we can always safely talk about “others.” This issue devoted to cross-cultural aesthetics represents an effort to create an additional dialectical space for clarifying the substance of and notions about musical practices, worldwide. There is no intention to limit what, which, when, how, where, who, and why of any particular musical tradition.

Music, Cultural Mixture, and the Aesthetic
Lawrence Kramer

Purity, the positive experience of mixture as a prohibited or impossible absence, is the distinctive property of the aesthetic qua aesthetic in that, no matter how heterogeneous the work of art may be, the aesthetic, whether in the work or the perceiver, unifies and synthesizes.  This capacity for synthesis has most commonly been theorized for the single-medium artwork, but in practice it traditionally extends into the more problematic arena of mixed media. The aesthetic becomes genuinely liberatory only when it becomes impure, which is to say, more or less than the aesthetic—where, one might say, a windowless monad becomes a hermeneutic window.  The danger of the aesthetic is not that its purity will turn us all into lotus-eaters, but that we may mistake the aesthetic formulation of our obligations and commandments for their uncontestable truth rather than the very form of their contestation. Since music has notorious magpie tendencies, snapping up stylistic valuables wherever they may be found, this process of mixture and refinement has become a basic strategy for regulating the impulse to cross-cultural boundaries.

Some Notes on Neapolitan Song: From Local Tradition to Worldly Transit
Ian Chambers

The history of a place can be seen as an archive of sound, a collection of musical accents and accidents, an accumulation of historical notes, an orchestration of cultural traces. If sounds historically emerge from certain places, they are nevertheless destined to travel in a manner that easily exceeds the boundaries imposed by local identities and national boundaries Yet, localities inscribed in sound do stick out, and sometimes remain seemingly untranslatable, as shown in the Neapolitan song. Traditions, in whatever language they are expressed, are invariably lived as though homogeneous, without contradictions. To suggest otherwise is to contest their authority. If we know that historically all traditions are in debt to others, to the strangers and foreigners they are designed to exclude, this is not what tradition desires to tell us. Yet, if tradition draws its power from narcissism, it can only survive, live on, by borrowing from the other, by reproducing itself through encounters that are not of its own making. Almamegretta’s first release in 1994, “Figli di Annibale / Hannibal’s Children,” clarifies a grammar of hybridity, and yet Almamegretta’s “sound” remains readily recognizable.

Aesthetics—Whose Notions of Appropriateness and Competency, What Are They, and How Do We Know?
Judith Lynne Hanna

Although aesthetic enterprises draw much suspicion, any effort in identifying the aesthetic nonetheless invites debate. There is no uniform interpretation of an art form, because people perceive phenomena based on individual experience, knowledge, and cultural background. This paper considers two fieldwork experiences (the Benton County, Minnesota, exotic dance case of July 2001 and the Indian dance renaissance including the classical Kuchipudi form) to raise the following questions: What is aesthetics? How do we know? How do we find out? A subsequent passage examines the evolution of hybrid dances and of different schools, even within highly codified genres like classical ballet. Final thoughts turn to the nature of dance as nonverbal. Acknowledging this fundamental quality, contemporary dance research recognizes sensuous epistemologies, a corporeal mode of knowing, and mind/body integration of cognition, feeling, and emotion that constitute realities for both performers and perceivers. Employing such an approach ,it is possible to approximate a groups’ dance aesthetics.

Comparing Musical Affect: Java and the West
Marc Benamou

Comparison across traditions obscures intracultural variation as well as the many mutual influences between cultures—that is, it ignores the heterogeneity found within cultures and the permeability of cultural boundaries. The goal of increasing cross-cultural understanding remains one of ethnomusicology’s principal raisons d’être, despite recent critiques of the practice of multiculturalism and of the concept of culture.  There are three principal ways we can know what people feel when they listen to music: introspection, observation, and the language used by insiders to describe their musical experience.  All of these contribute to an understanding of emotion and music, but they each have their problems.  What we feel when we listen to music is very much influenced by words we have heard or overheard; even self-deceptive clichés enter into our musical education and become a part of our experiential reality. The internal structure and connotations of  Javanese and Western categories differ, but there are musical features that have the same affective meaning in these two cultures, especially in the areas of tessitura and rhythmic density.

The Spiritual Aesthetic in Badakhshani Devotional Music
Benjamin D. Koen

This article explores the sounds, symbols, and metaphors at the center of the maddâh aesthetic. The ritual performance of Badakhshani devotional music relies on the creation and maintenance of a spiritual sound ideal, which resides at the nexus of performance.  Maddâh is the preeminent genre of devotional music among the Isma’ilis of Tajik Badakhshan. Symbols and metaphors from the genre, local religious belief and cosmology, as well as the natural and built environments,  interact to create the spiritual aesthetic necessary to achieve the goals of maddâh.  Performers and listeners aim to embody the meaning inherent in maddâh, and to carry the spiritual aesthetic from the performative, sacred space of the maddâhkhane into daily activities.

Poetics and Politics of Korean Oral Tradition in a Cross-cultural Context
Chan E. Park

A discussion of cross-cultural aesthetics is instantly embedded in the discussion of geopolitical strategies of cultural hybridization.  All forms of contemporary music in the world have intercultural roots, and the traffic of influence can be metaphorically referred to as the flow of water from high to low position, from center to margin, and vice versa.  Korea adopted as her main intercultural partner Western music, ranging from classical to gospel, folk, pop, ballad, jazz, rock, blues, rap. P’ansori is a story-singing art that emerged from the repertoire of the outcast kwangdae singers during the mid-Chos?n era and evolved into Korea’s Intangible Cultural Asset No. 5 in the twentieth century—it is an intriguing matrix of societal and aesthetic crossings, contradictions, engagements, disengagements, tale, and telling. Every cross-cultural act breaks new ground, forging a new connection, a new hybridity, a new aesthetics, and it would be presumptuous to define cross-cultural aesthetics in fixed terms.  My performance of the Tale of H?ngbo, a cross-cultural p’ansori narrating the travails and triumphs of the Korean-American journey, sums up the key issues linking hybridity and cross-cultural aesthetics.

The Aesthetic Significance of African American Sound Culture and Its Impact on American Popular Music Style and Industry
Cheryl L. Keyes

African American sound preferences emphasize timbres and concepts that also have roots in African performance practices, and as shown in contemporary approaches to sound and rhythm in rap. New technologies continue to shape the “aesthetic” in African American sound culture, which is informed also by the global market primarily through intercultural and intracultural borrowing.  Black cultural productions overwhelmingly contributed to the making of American popular culture, from the minstrel stage to its appropriation by Tin Pan Alley songwriters.  Blues was the dominant musical genre of the “race” music industry of the 1920s, and the boogie-woogie piano style represented the commercialization of an instrumental form of blues; it provided the musical basis for “jump blues bands.”  Chicago blues guitarists experimented with distortions and feedback sounds, which laid the roots for the 1960s “psychedelic” rock scene. The transistor radio and the expansion of the recording industry provided the stimuli for the mass commodification of black popular music forms.

 


 

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