Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Response to Arthur

My question revolves around whether music is a medium and what message it sends. You very well explained your points that certain types of non-expressive music such as the Mall of America music can inform social discourses and not necessarily have to focus on melodic and harmonic structures. Here you make two categories: non-expressive music and expressive music. I had originally thought of music wholly as one entity as a “medium”. I’d like to define “medium” as an extension of ourselves, just like any other new technology. Therefore no matter what genre it is or whatever expressive meaning it has, music is a “medium” or a “tool” to change the scale/pace/pattern of previous human functions. Such as an airplane, by accelerating the speed of transportation, it dissolve the railway form of city, politics and association, quite independently of what the airplane is used for.  Regarding your example of the music television in the 80s, I believe that music video is also a medium, just like the airplane and its contents are also mediums (music, video images, dance performance, graphic arts) themselves. If digging deeper, the content of music is rhythm, melody, harmony and form. The content of each of these four is human thoughts, knowledge and expressions.
The “content”, such as the musicality of a music piece, often blinds us to the character of a medium.  The music television itself did not introduce the individual elements of music, video, etc, but it changes the pattern of our previous lives in society. Maybe MTV the music video channel, at that time had came to realization that it was not the business of producing videos, music or performance, but rather in the business of processing and distributing information.

Challenge Question answer for Riyad

Here's Riyad's challenge question:
Kunst (1959) wrote the following as a definition of ethnomusicology: “The study of ethnomusicology… is the traditional music and musical instruments of all cultural strata of mankind from the so-called primitive peoples to the civilized nations. Our science, therefore, investigates all tribal and folk music and every kind of non-Western art music.”
Is it accurate to call Ethnomusicology a science? Comment with respect to the objectivity/subjectivity, research methodology, the element of discourse, and ethical dilemmas within the field.

 Here's my first response:

According to Webster's Dictionary, the definition of science is
1: the state of knowing : knowledge as distinguished from ignorance or misunderstanding
2 a : a department of systematized knowledge as an object of study <the science of theology>
  b : something (as a sport or technique) that may be studied or learned like systematized knowledge <have it down to a science>
3 a : knowledge or a system of knowledge covering general truths or the operation of general laws especially as obtained and tested through scientific method
  b : such knowledge or such a system of knowledge concerned with the physical world and its phenomena : natural science
4: a system or method reconciling practical ends with scientific laws <cooking is both a science and an art>

In a nutshell, science is not only the "knowledge attained through study or practice," or "knowledge covering general truths of the operation of general laws, esp. as obtained and tested through scientific method ", but also a system of acquiring knowledge. This system uses its scientific methodologies to describe and explain certain phenomena. This definition confirmed that in a broader sense, science is not only limited to the study of the physical world; it is also concerned with society and human behaviors, such as anthropology, economics, sociology, history, etc.

It is widely accepted that we distinguish social sciences with natural sciences. But even within the realm of social sciences, there are two distinguished views held by scholars ever since the early 19th century: the positivists and the Interpretivists. Positivism is a philosophy of science based on the view that data derived from sensory experience, and logical and mathematical treatments of such data, are together the exclusive sources of all authentic knowledge. Obtaining and verifying data that can be received from senses is known as empirical evidence. This view holds that the society operates according to laws like the physical world. Interpretivist social scientists, by contrast, may use social critique or symbolic interpretation rather than constructing empirically falsifiable theories, and thus treat science in its broader sense.

Ethnomusicology, to my understanding, pairs music analysis with characterizations of value systems behind esthetics via field field work. It also closely combines with Ethnography, which studies a culture group and produces a written document to stand as an exploration/explanation of cultural practices among given population. These aspects of Ethnomusicology therefore fits the definition of social science for three reasons. First, the main focus of Ethnomusicology is to understand and give explanations to social phenomenons and human behavior, which is similar to Anthropology and Sociology, only with an additional musical analysis aspect.  Second, the strict requirement of engaging in fieldwork in Ethnomusicology, indicates the potential use of scientific methods that includes observation, research hypothesis, prediction, experimentation and conclusion(one of several of these methods at least are used, maybe not in a strict way sometimes). Third, even though similar studies/researches had existed for a long time, Ethnomusicology had not been recognized to stand on its own as a field until the 20th century, a lot of its earlier researches were actually done by anthropologists and sociologists who treat music as a cultural aspect. Therefore, the methodologies and concepts in Ethnomusicology, from my point of view, originally came from the field anthropology and sociology, which are certainly categorized as social science.

Notably, both quantitative and qualitative researches are used in Ethnomusicology researches; different ethnomusicologist has different approaches in how much of each is used.  Jaap Kunst clearly is a very technical and scientifical person. His researches proved him a positivist.

However, I have some concerns about the reliability and authenticity of ethnomusicology research processes including observations, data collecting and etc). One of the reasons is: a lot of the ethnomusicologists(especially in the earlier days) are not very objective because they are often westerners who have preconceptions about non-western people and culture. Kunst himself, for example, in his quote mentions “...all cultural strata of mankind from the so-called primitive people to civilized nations...” He assumes the western music as the highest form/class of music and tags other culture’s music forms with their social/economical status. If some ethnomusicologists observes a cultural group with a pre consumption that was not “scientifically” verified, then his/her research could be biased/false from the ground up. Although this is not to say that ethnomusicology has to be completely subjective in order to be a science. Similar to Anthropology and Sociology, it is inevitable for different individual scientist to shine different light on a subject. As long as the objectives are clearly made-aware and acknowledged,  the research observations and conclusions should still be considered reliable and scientific.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Review for Epitaph for the white hipster

This last article for the semester seems a lot different than the ones we have previously read. Greif started by talking about class, race and ethnicity issues in big cities(New York City and Boston), revealing dissatisfaction/hatred of the lower class towards higher class(example of the Alife shoe store rooting). He then draws upon his personal experience on beholding the changes of the streets in New York while also coming from a white town in Newton. He then calls attention to hipster subculture and seem to discount it: " This subculture was pro-consumer, pro-consumption, amoral, pro-lifestyle. It credentialed itself as resistant because its pleasures were supposedly violent and transgressive. " He then categorize the hippies, not as a subculture, but as an ethnicity. He thinks the hippies in the cities symbolizes" a return of rich whites to big cities in the 90s and 00s". He also used the term "urban renewal"- I have known this term before in a architectural context; it was quite interesting to see it used by the author in here, to represent this phenomenon.
According to the author, the hippie movement died down around 2003. I haven't come to the US until 2007 so when I learned about Hipster Movement in the American History textbook for the first time, it didn't mean much to me. I couldn't even visualize it because I had never seen one. When I came to Brown/RISD for college, I started to notice a campus fashion that include leather shoes, moleskine notebooks, urban outfitters vintage clothes, second hand shop, feather earings. I quickly caught up on what "artsy" people wear nowadays. It seems to me that, nowdays, it's hard to see any prominent type of subculture among young people, unlike the 60s 70s, or 80s. Fashion wise, it seems more like an unconscious blending of hipster, bohemian, vintage, art...Do young people nowadays still care about tagging themselves with a certain subcultural group? Are some people really just pretentiously trying to be unique? Considering being unique varies in different environment, (artsy designy style might seems unique in a rural town, but not in SOHO at New York), how should we go about defining what is mainstream and what is distinctive?

Review on Novak

The author points out that bollywood films are largely incorporated into the western markets but it is often interpreted partially with its unique song and dance sequences. He then illustrated that this remediation in an anthropological and social context. He also posed questions on methodologies and logics of this re-appropriation. He argues that creative appropriation is a positive act and it pushes what could have been lost to a new globally-circulated form.
The authors started by pointing out that
I have watched the film Ghost world previously and had an impression that the intro credit song was very awkward and confusing; it did not seem like a dance/song combination that would exist in an American comedy movie about teenagers. Before reading the article, I had no idea it was an excerpt from a Bollywood film. The fact that the excerpt was actually on TV in the movie in a clever way explained its raison d'etre, but it still didn't seem believable to me that it was an America TV program. The following scene when the girl was dancing along in such a twisted and absurd way seem to hint that she is an awkward person and this type of music/dance performance on TV is by no means a common/normal/popular performance among people at that time.
The article then went about how Clowe made the clip circulate. One thing I find interesting is that, in now days with social media websites like facebook and youtube, sharing a "Hey you gotta see this, man"Video/Sound Clip happens too often, in a wide range of subjects and all around the world. And this current situation, when remediation commonly takes place, challenges us even more on analysis of the remediation process and its consequences.
The author seems to overly prove remediation and the resulting global circulation, but I'd like to ask, what might be the consequences of a false/biased interpretation of a culture's original art being globally marketed and sold? If every country in the world has its TV programs or films remediate things coming from outside into something its own people could understand/appreciate, will that impede its people from reading into the real outside world and will that encourage people to over generalize and make quick conclusions?

Monday, April 16, 2012

Review on Meintjes

I haven't previously heard of Graceland or Paul Simon, but through looking up online, Paul is known for the hit song Graceland. The song is unique as an eclectic mixture of musical styles including pop, a cappella, rock, isicathamiya, and mbaqanga(the last two styles of music originated from South African Zulus). The song sounds very engaging to me; i was especially drawn to the rhythm consisting of very complex layers of percussion instruments-bass drum in two, sycopated tamborines, and a distant sound of a bamboo like instrument.
It is interesting to see in this article by Meintjes, the song is considered as a complex polysemic sign vehicle that comes to stand for social collaboration, specifically between a White American and Black South Africans. Since the song was produced in the 80s, way past the hot conflict time(civil rights movements) in the 60s , maybe it wasn't news for these them to collaborate in music, but the collaboration still seems politically ambiguous. The author repeatedly stresses that, it is often up to the listener to interpret the political meaning behind the song or make sense of the musical collaboration in his or her terms.
For lengths of the paper, the author describes how Simon, while claiming to collaborate with, but actually sort of "exploit"the african musicians in production and organization. And from there he brings up the point about music styles and their integration. He defines music styles in its social terms as " an intuitive, felt, social feature expressing, forming, and representing a social coherence system."
In the end, the author states that It is the timing and placing of Graceland in South Africain the 1980s as well as the prominence and problematics of South Africa'spositioning within the global system that has made Graceland controversial and, along with the artistic and technical skills of its makers, the winner of the 1986 Record of the Year Grammyaward. My question is, is the author overemphasizing the political/social meaning of the song? Best record of the year Award is often highly associated with its commercial success and popularity, are the majority of the fan listeners actually aware of any of the controversies?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Review on Helbig

In class we learned about influences of roma people on Hungaria, Bulgarian, Macedonia, and other countries in the surrounding region. Notably, there is quite a difference in music/dance scenes before and after socialism/communism. And in this article by Adriana helbig, I read about how romani musicians, during soviet era were put under the stereotype as Gypsies therefore not equally represented as a culture in Ukraine and how the culture image of the Romani people were manipulated by the government for political purposes. . One top of that, there is a even more complicated problem that she talks about: The romani elites's prejudice against "Tsyhany" people who are the poorer population of the romani peoples. Described in the paper as"lazy, thieving, politically apathetic musicians, entertainers, and dark-skinned people who possess magical powers to frighten and manipulate the local non-Romani population". The romani elites considers them as a seperate entity because they think the Tsyhany lost their romani culture because of their poverty. Interesting, the Tsyhany also happen to be the more assimilated and not adhering to traditional forms of Romani cultural behavior.
The author obviously seem to side with the Tsyhany and try to argue that they should be included in the romani culture despite their economic state. I am curious about what the people themselves think of themselves? Since they are highly assimilated, regardless of being poor or rich, do they necessarily still want to stick to the romani culture? What are the romani elites afraid of? People from the outside world associate non-affluent Gypsies with them therefore disrespect their culture? or is there any other reasons?

Monday, April 2, 2012

Review on Bartok and Hungarian music

Just like music of any other cultural groups, Hungarian music is hard to be generally defined, while the term"magyarsag" existed; the term is associated with Hungarian's glory past, and often used opposed to the music of Austria. A debate regarding unification of the rural and urban music styles was raised, mainly because of several reasons: the consideration of "peasant" as insult, the arrogance of the nobles, and how the pop music of the gentry is often regarded as a representative of the nation's spirit.
Bartok, in his paper, strongly criticized about the previous conceptions of what was hungarian music. In his point of view, a mixture of Gypsy music and bad imitations of it made up what people thought of Hungarian music.
He claimed that they did not have a valuable and yet distinctive art music that is characteristically Hungarian, though they had a precious folk music tradition. He also criticized how their "musicologist"consider any melody sung in Hungarian as Hungarian folk song.
Bartok seems to be speaking in a very angry and hostile tone. I can't help wondering under what context he started making these statement since they certainly don't seem like academic papers. They look like public speech debate to me. Therefore, I am expecting reactions from his opponents.
Then I learned from the Trumpener paper that, Bartok, as an ethnomusicologist, was trained with classical music, yet grew up with folk songs, and also broadens his perspective as he works. I also learned that his rejection of Gypsy music and such is partly due to his racism, which was unspoken. And that, from my own observation, is reflected in his own remarks (Page 207, Bartok) "It is disconcerting, though, to observe how musical artistes and writers in high positions endeavour to endow this popular music with the attributes of a serious and superior art."
He is afraid that making Gypsy music as a superior art will inherently make Gypsy culture as a superior culture than Hungarian culture.
After all, I am questioning, shall Bartok's remarks and statements about what is and what is not Hungarian music/culture be justified? Maybe they were justified in his age, when racism itself was justified. But how about nowadays?