Bill Paley (mycroftca) wrote,
Bill Paley

Essay #1 for World Music class

In listening to the Rorogwela Lament, I was struck by its beauty and its authenticity. It had strength in its simplicity, unembellished. It clearly evoked great emotion for the singer in its content and meaning, even if tht meaning is lost in my lack of understanding of her native language. I would define this as having innate value. The next version, by Deep Forest, loses most of the humanity, and the music uses her human voice as merely a counterpoint to their own composition. It might be said that the singer in Rorogwela is overwhelmed by the technology used by Deep Forest in that work. In the third piece, Deep Forest uses the singer of Rorogwela more extensively; her voice is used as the essence of the piece, with the other instruments working around the theme she sets. Finally, the jazz piece, A Pygmy Lullaby, takes the music of Rorogwela, and incorporates it thoroughly into a completely different musical tradition, fully absorbed into Western musical style. I find myself torn between the distress of seeing the music of the Solomon Islands being copied without gain to those who sang, while also delighted with the use of Rorogwela to stimulate the artist into jazz riffs based on the Lament. I am appalled at the misappropriation of the woman's voice, but I find the interpretations by each of the groups beautiful.

I am not knowledgeable about the intricacies of the music business, though few in the Western World are unaware that this business is undergoing great changes as the Digital Age expands. I'm uncertain about the details of how a person in an aboriginal culture would be able to be remunerated for music that they performed, if at all. I feel concern that such peoples are not receiving proper credit (i. e. the misnomer "A Pygmy Lullaby"), let alone any payment for their works. US courts have supported copyright holders in making financial agreements with those who would sample their works for use in their own creations, but in this particular case, what research I could do via Wikipedia suggests that the recorder of the piece, Hugo Zemp, was not asked by Deep Forest for permission to use the sound clips. Therefore, there was no attempt by the music producers to pay for use of the material, and so this could and should be viewed as being theft of Afunakwa's work. If one were to argue that she was singing a traditional melody, it could be counter-argued that her particular voice, inflection, and emotion were her own, and should have been protected. Contrariwise, copyright requires application, and I was unable to research whether Zemp copyrighted the music of the Solomon Islands that he recorded. I admit to being less concerned about Jan Garbarek's work based on Rorogwela, as he didn't use the singer's voice as a clip, but the tune as a starting point for his jazz work. Still, it was clear that he was unaware of the real source of the music, and so the failure of attribution in its title.

This becomes more of an issue as the computer becomes widely available in more societies. At least two of these pieces would be far more difficult to produce without digital sampling capability. I feel great conflict with how much I liked all the works that were involved here, each for different reasons. There is clearly great stimulation to be found in hearing the music of other cultures and this can lead to excellent works when leavened with the techniques of local instruments. In my youth, I got great joy out of listening to music of other cultures via vinyl records, and I occasionally recognized when these forms would be emulated by popular musicians. However, in the Digital Age it's as easy to listen to Gypsy music from the Balkans as it is to listen to a local radio station playing the Oldies. It remains to be seen whether or not this will lead to homogenization of music world-wide, though many groups continue to play traditional music in a traditional form (such as The Chieftains, Kodo) while also dabbling in the music of other cultures. The music of the next generation should be very exciting as they will have had opportunities to be exposed to so many forms of music that were unknown to musicians of prior generations.

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