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August 18th, 2012

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06:56 am - World music essay when we studied pygmy music
Having reviewed the material about the Free Culture Movement, I find myself in a quandry. I would like to experience the cross-pollination that occurs with cultural interactions, but I can also see the point of those in the cultures sampled from that they deserve some acknowledgement, especially monetarily. I find myself fascinated by music that has been inspired by the styles of foreign lands. It exhilarates me; it does not bore me. On the other hand, I wish the artists of these lands to profit from their sharing. I can commiserate with them if they see Western musicians taking their work, especially if sampling, and profiting from it.

The Free Culture Movement's agenda is freedom of information generally available to society, but especially in view of the capabilities of infomation technology this would allow massive dissemination. Those who adhere to this philosophy see the cultural items of others, sounds being just a small section of what they offer, as raw material in itself and belonging to no one, simply to be used to whatever ends. Their intent is to stimulate hybrid forms, and to lead to new insights and new beauties. Herbie Hancock's piece of music would be an example of such a hybridization, and it did not benefit the pygmy from whom he got the inspiration.

Those opposed to Free Culture, in its many forms, feel that the raided cultures deserve payment, and deserve the option to stay diverse, separate and unalloyed with any form of Western contamination. They find collaborations to be no improvement over the original, and would prefer that the culture invaded be left alone to grow in its own way. At the very least, the artists whose works are emulated, in their eyes, should be fully compensated. However, a key difficulty is that the cultural exchange is just that, it's an exchange, and not only would funds pass to the group, but mores, icons, foodstuffs, habits and other behaviors not previously known in their society would work their way into their lives. The collaborative works of Baka Beyond would be a good example of hybridization, however in this case the mined culture's members did benefit to some degree in a remunerative sense, but all of these interactions with Westerners have changed the pygmy livestyle profoundly. It is this kind of contamination that the counter-Free Culture folk fear for the world's aboriginal cultures.

Thus, I am torn. I do love access to these musics. But I also realize that my opportunity to listen to it risks the peoples from whom it comes to be inundated with McDonalds and KFC.

(4 comments | Speak, or forever hold your peace)


[User Picture]
Date:August 18th, 2012 02:14 pm (UTC)
Interesting. I agree with you that "cross-pollination" can be less than beneficial for some groups, such as the pygmies. Also, if someone "takes" something of theirs, there should be a return.

I do think, in fact, that a group whose music influences and inspires that of other cultures actually does receive a return. It's not tangible or quantifiable, but I think that having their music (such an integral expression of their cultural identity) travel and become part of the lives of others is a way for the group to see itself as equal and honored and part of the world's broader culture. It's also a way for those outside the group to understand how profoundly different and yet how similar others are to themselves, and to bring those conceptions home to listeners. Anything that makes people into members of a world culture rather than a member solely of a narrow group is, I think, a good thing – a necessity, actually, if the world is going to survive the destructive traits of humans, especially of those in narrow groups unexposed positively to difference and otherness.

Edited at 2012-08-18 02:15 pm (UTC)
[User Picture]
Date:August 18th, 2012 03:11 pm (UTC)
That's an interesting point-of-view, Natalie, but a bit hypothetical. It's not always clear that such groups have enough connection to the world as a whole to be aware of any influence that they might have had. Still, I find the suggestion thought-provoking.

[User Picture]
Date:August 18th, 2012 09:03 pm (UTC)
John Forster (I think that's the name) has a great song that addresses thes issues, especially in terms of Paul Simon. It's called "Fusion".
[User Picture]
Date:August 19th, 2012 03:43 am (UTC)
I really should search this out...
World music essay when we studied pygmy music - This ain't no party, this ain't no disco... — LiveJournal

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