Western Music and Its Others: Difference, Representation, and Appropriation in Music

By Georgina Born; David Hesmondhalgh | Go to book overview

through Caliban's [Papageno's, Porgy's] expressive traditions— traditions that sing a joyful song on the far side of an acknowledgment of the fictional character of 'self' and 'other.'” 79

In such strategies, the demands of meaning are inescapable. No retreat is available from the increasingly intense play of representations so characteristic of the cultural sphere under the conditions of modernity. Thus struggles over music's meaning—for particular discursive translations of musical signifiers—cannot but be fought. Yet there have been arguments that much of music's power stems from a capacity to slip the leash of these discursive mechanisms, engaging us on a less reflective level—a level that, elsewhere, I have conceptualized as one of “gesture.” 80 It is possible that it is in this arena where the most radical attempts at “deformation of mastery ” take place: where, for example, Abdullah Ibrahim's treatment of his four-chord sequence does not so much contest its meaning as redesign its implications for our sense of the body's location in time and space. The result is to produce a sense of a particular “gestural habitus”—a place where, as an embodied organism rather than a reflecting consciousness, one can feel at home.81

There is a danger here of reinstating romantic myths of immediacy. Yet such myths misrecognize a truth. If we conceive the gestural sphere not as that of some kind of mystical unmediated “presence” but as simply that of practical, as opposed to discursive, consciousness, we see that what the romantic theories get wrong is the structure of possession. While music can never belong to us (as myths of authenticity would wish), belonging to a music (making ourselves at home within its territory) is distinctly possible. 82 As we have seen, however, for low-others this sort of possession normally functions as a kind of tenancy, for they themselves are possessed—their home belongs to the master. Deformation makes possible strategies which, because they break down binaries, freeing the other to express his or her internal differences, also free the master-discourse to accept its own differences to itself (rather than projecting them outwards or assimilating them into false identity). Needless to say, this can never guarantee the new position against a further move of projection or assimilation. Short of utopia— or at least an end to gross social hierarchies—a permanent condition of negotiation represents the limit of the musical politics available to the lowother .


NOTES
1
Whatever faults might remain, this chapter owes a good deal to helpful comments made not only by the editors but also by Dave Laing and David Horn.
2
The usual historical image of the eighteenth century, which sees the rise of Viennese Classicism as signalling a move away from explicit meaningfulness into “pure form, ” is misleading. As Agawu has shown (Playing with Signs [Princeton: Princeton

-78-

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Western Music and Its Others: Difference, Representation, and Appropriation in Music
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Introduction - On Difference, Representation, and Appropriation in Music 1
  • Notes 47
  • Musical Belongings - Western Music and Its Low-Other 59
  • Notes 78
  • Race, Orientalism, and Distinction in the Wake of the “yellow Peril” 86
  • Notes 110
  • Bartók, the Gypsies, and Hybridity in Music 119
  • Notes 137
  • Modernism, Deception, and Musical Others: Los Angeles Circa 1940 143
  • Notes 160
  • Experimental Oriental - New Music and Other Others 163
  • Notes 183
  • Composing the Cantorate - Westernizing Europe's Other Within 187
  • Notes 207
  • East, West, and Arabesk 213
  • Notes 229
  • Scoring the Indian - Music in the Liberal Western 234
  • Notes 251
  • The Poetics and Politics of Pygmy Pop 254
  • Discography 275
  • Notes 276
  • International Times - Fusions, Exoticism, and Antiracism in Electronic Dance Music 280
  • Notes 301
  • The Discourse of World Music 305
  • Notes 320
  • Contributors 323
  • Index 327
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