Controversy up North

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by BeatupGetzen, May 17, 2017.

  1. BeatupGetzen

    BeatupGetzen Pianissimo User

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    Jan 20, 2017
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    I know very few outside of The Great White North will be familiar with the CBC, the Walrus, or the recent issue surrounding cultural appropriation in literature. The backlash against insensitive cultural appropriation has spawned a backlash against the backlash, especially where the arts are concerned. If you aren't familiar with the term, educate yourself because the future of Jazz outside of New Orleans and Chicago may hang in the balance. Not due to lack of interest or enjoyment, but due to policy and well meaning people trying to right the wrongs of the past.

    But it's not as simple as that either. In terms of art, and music, there is a whole lot of grey and nuance about the role that working in a medium outside of your own can play. As this unfolds up here, there is a general assertion that the privileged have no right to use the cultural artifacts of the oppressed for their own entertainment. However, the understanding of what culture is and what makes a cultural artifact is open to interpretation. And so right now here in Canada we have progressive white liberals being condemned as bigots for writing stories about the underclasses on the grounds that they apparently don't know what it is like to actually live it. We have the far left and the far right unified in their protest of anything that seems to cross boundaries, anyone who isn't acting exactly like the culture they were born to...

    The issue at hand was a joint venture between some Canadian writers wherein the white editor made a case that representing art or literature from cultures not your own can be a way of bringing people together and that writing from a perspective that is not yours may expand your world even if it is, according to definition, cultural appropriation. Cultural appropriation is in essence, stealing the identity and customs of a marginalized group and using it without awareness of the significance of it to the originating culture. It has been used by assimilationists, oppressors, and the ruling elite (fat white men) to entertain themselves with the circus of their conquered. His argument was poorly worded, caused offense and an uproar and resignations, pain, backlash; and late night twitter stupidity went crazy.

    I bring this up because as musicians working in a worldwide medium it is something we are going to have to face. It might be easy to just come up with a simple and pat answer but I can tell you that this is not going to go away. We need to ask ourselves... What does it mean to play the music from a slave culture when we were the rulers? What does it mean to play the music of rich dead white men (which is my heritage) who may have also promoted some very regressive ideals about other human beings (especially women)? There is a tacet acknowledgement of the tension surrounding the use of hymns in a non religious setting. We have all felt it. The art and beauty in some chorales that may also grate on us because of how the words speak about the world...

    Am I condemned to play only Canadian Folk Songs and Orchestral music if I want to remain sensitive and avoid imposing my privilege on another culture that doesn't share my experience? Or should I to just assume that 'music is universal' and remain ignorant of what it really means when I as a (mostly) straight white cisgendered man play ska or New Orleans Brass as though somehow I own it? Eminem had the moral authority to rap because he lived the downtown Detroit life and grew up with that hanging over him... What about those of us who take up a song and haven't?

    Questions that I have no answers to. But questions that are in my mind as I play Jazz, Dixie, esp. Traditionals, and Latin for sure.
     
  2. OldKing

    OldKing Pianissimo User

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    I've come up with a response for the holier-than-thou types you refer to: "What's missing in your life that you feel the need to control mine?"

    I read an interesting article recently about the psychology of third party moral outrage and it's soothing effect on low self esteem and self loathing.
     
  3. BeatupGetzen

    BeatupGetzen Pianissimo User

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    Perhaps the simplest in the short term is to ignore it as just that. But as I am also profoundly concerned about my role in this world and its effect on those with less privileges responding with my own moral outrage and offense does nothing to further the healing that is so desperately needed.
     
  4. tobylou8

    tobylou8 Utimate User

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    Some people don't want to be healed if forgiveness is a requirement.
     
  5. pss

    pss Piano User

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    Luxembourg
    Culture is appropriation and miscegenation, none of the musical traditions you are talking about would exist without miscegenation. And I really mean none. We tend to have a really short chronological insight on things due to our very short lifespan, try to put things into perspective and go back some 500 years. How much of this music we are talking about existed already? And please look at it from multiple sides, not just from the self-conscious "appropriators" side. None.
     
  6. BeatupGetzen

    BeatupGetzen Pianissimo User

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    Thank you Pss. There is much wisdom in this. What is, is. Everything that came before now is what created now. It is useless to suffer needlessly. Again, appropriating some Daoism and someone else's thoughts leaves me with a sense of irony. But still, not forgetting the past, and being humbled by the weight of all of it doesn't mean that anything can be changed.

    It is awfully self-righteous of me to sit here and feel anguish about my moral right or not to play someone else's music.
     
  7. pss

    pss Piano User

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    Jun 14, 2016
    Luxembourg
    It's easier for me to focus on musical traditions other than the North American ones (I'm Portuguese). Things are not so (literally) black and white if you move to South America and try to understand the crossing influences between the Iberian peninsula, Latin America and Africa, both North and Sub-Saharan. These influences and miscegenations are very fortunately still very strong today and go way behind the slave trade or even the colonization of America by the Europeans. I'll give you an example: why is Barbarito Torres playing a (moorish) lute with Buena Vista Social Club? These influences are reciprocal, a lot of African music was also influenced by popular European music (check Cape Verde, e.g., one of my favorites). Historical guilt aside, we all end up much rich culturally, and nobody questions (in this Latin-African-American context) the rigth to sing or play this or that kind of music, we have been mixing it all for centuries.
     
  8. fels

    fels Pianissimo User

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    I studied (majored) in Anthropology (cultural) in the early 1970s. I am sure the field has changed. But the basic principles of "diffusion" and "independent invention" are - well they are basic. Cultures change by contact with others - contact comes in a number of ways - some good- others not so good. But cultural traits and artifacts cross the boundaries. Some flourish in the new environment - others do not. There is no ownership.
     
  9. jimc

    jimc Mezzo Piano User

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    Spokane, WA USA
    I have just as much right to positive cultural influences as you do. I don't care who you are, nor should you care who I am.
     
  10. chapmand

    chapmand Piano User

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    Jul 26, 2010
    Edmonton, Alberta
    I have enjoyed reading this thread. In a few of my classes ( I teach in an academic high school) we have discussed the issues occurring in Canada regarding the 'cultural appropriation' debate. And although I see the slippery slope of the discussion it has caused me to ponder it.

    What first came to mind was the reference to Pablo Picasso who is believed to have said "art is theft". I have heard many variants of this idea over the years and in teaching improvisiation to my students I encourage them to 'steal from the best'. Of course this is taught as a guide to learn from the masters and to then encorporate what they learn into what will hopefully become their own style or voice. --no matter how many times I play a Miles Davis solo, I will never sound like Miles Davis (for so many reasons).

    Anyway - as I googled my way through these ideas I came across a page that speaks to this and has some wonderful gems as well. Here is the link. Enjoy. Create.

    https://studiolightblue.com/2012/04/27/art-is-theft-pablo-picasso/
     

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