Building the Bridge

gap between musical cultures

Stems from 2 historical events
1. Domination by Western Culture during the advent of Globalization. Film I believe remains more experimental in mainstream media as a result of still being in its infancy around the same time as the advent of the extreme globalization that we experience today. For clarity I consider First World War and on the advent of Globalization as we know it today. Music however existed and matured LONG before globalization and because history is written by the winners, music theory was canonized by westerners. Examples of areas where mainstream music could have evolved while remaining simple and digestible are Gamelan music, Indian music, other Eastern, Modal, Odd Meter, etc. Instead, these genres of music have been limited by the relentless reinforcement of systems of tradition. Thus they have remained on the outskirts of mainstream music.

2. The extreme change in direction of academic theory in the early to mid 1900s, birthed by composers such as Schoenberg and his contemporaries ultimately ended the growth of tonality in academia with atonal systems (this is up to debate and is a heavy research topic in and of itself). My problem isn’t with Atonal Music in general but rather the academic fixation on it, and what I perceive as a lack of focus on exploring tonal systems. There is a huge gap of potential between Late Romanticism and the birth of Atonal Music. I also do however believe that Atonal Music can only fill a small niche in mainstream media as a result of the long standing and potentially biological fact that human cultures gravitate towards and natural develop tonal music systems (once again, a research paper in and of itself. I believe this resulted in mainstream artists disinterest in the works of high art/academic composers. The schism only grew as pop culture and mainstream media grew in size and ease of distribution. We allowed our music to stagnate due to a newfound disinterest in the experimental drive of the high artists (notice the difference between this and Beethoven or Mozart, who both garnered mass appeal despite creating forward-driving, intellectually dense material). I also believe there is a social tendency for experimental outliers (such as academic composers) to fuel artistic evolution (yet again, a research paper in and of itself). Thus, I hypothesize that musical evolution in mainstream media was stunted by a long-overdue surge of atonal fixation in academia (the would-be experimental outliers) causing pop culture to cease latching on to potential growth, resulting in the stagnation/ devolution of music in mainstream media.

MY PROBLEM: Isn’t that mainstream media or mass-consumer culture and its effect on music is terrible necessarily but rather that we have found ourselves at a point where when it comes to breadth vs depth, we have decided to (in popular culture) delve so deeply in the very specific sphere that is Common Practice music theory that our collective knowledge is starting to look more like a horned circle rather than an all expanding sphere. I also believe that we are relying too heavily on the new timbres of new technology to short cut and simplify other musical aspects (but thats a different story).The fault is not in the creators of mainstream music. In my opinion that job is not to explore the new realm of musical possibilities but rather to spread, share, and reinforce the music of our culture in an accessible way that academia cannot.

Ultimately, my opinion is less “songwriters and bands need to be less conforming to the musical norms that have been asserted by Western culture and consumerist culture” and more along the lines of “there needs to be more communication between the musicians of mainstream culture and the academics of music.”

WHERE I WANT TO BE:

Is in between academia and mainstream artists. I want to befriend both. I want to be academic enough to influence other academics to leave isolation and open communication with pop culture. I want to be accessible enough for the mainstream artists to be interested in newer ideas. I want to be the bridge between academia and pop culture that seems to have burned in the 1930’s and open the eyes to the bridges burned from Westernization of music so that others may seek to rebuild them.

WHY I CARE ABOUT THIS: I believe in the importance of art. I believe collaboration is key. I believe that art is most effective and significant when it is understood and shared. I believe that the mind is heavily influenced and sometimes limited (in both good and bad ways) by the contexts we live in, and the history we’ve decided to tell. I want to explore what we can create if we keep all of these things in mind.

PLEASE chime in with opinions and corrections if you have any for me.

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