A few thoughts… (AWPW)
Since I’ve written that first blog post about understanding local music in a contemporary context, I’ve had a lot of thoughts about what it is to be a musician versus being a listener, where the line is blurred, what is an inspiration versus what is an appropriated aesthetic in a new context.
I don’t think there is an identifiable answer. I’m a personal firm believer in the overexposure to ‘otherness’ of this generation compared to any else and that as we grow with multimedia we become lost in this interconnected world (which leaves us with a longing of the past). The ability to adopt a chosen aesthetic and to completely relate yourself with a time of the past is too real, and kind of Instagram cringe worthy. Cue “I was born in the wrong generation” quote here. Where does this leave us though? We have the technical ability to develop new and intriguing sounds yet many musicians still wish we could all write songs with complex but accessible chord progressions like the Beatles. Who are the great modern songwriters? The days of pushing the barriers of what is deemed new and exciting music (strange to the ears) seems to take place so far out of the mainstream and instead what we are left in is a constant regurgitation and new understanding of the past. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing though.
I often think about something I learnt in one specific ethnomusicology class, and excuse the vagueness, of how an ethnographer travelled to Africa, in search of an ‘authentic’ music source untapped and unaffected by western ears, taking place in isolation, only to find out that the original music conceived in this place was significantly altered by a travelling American missionary, whom taught church songs to the local tribe. This disrupted the tribes natural musical prowess, and they were greatly inspired by the missionary and what ‘must be’ good music from the developed world. What the ethnographer found was a mosaic of native songs with illegible bible verses within a rhythmic style of music which was never meant to be appropriated into any form of western notation. But this led to a new music, which was exciting to the local ears as it connected a longing for the outside world, within the realms of familiar musical understanding.
I’m not saying that modern music has been disrupted by what we think is great music of the past, but I do wonder if our hypercontextualization in the modern world affects our perception of what is ‘good’ and ‘accessible’. Or maybe these are pretentious statements from someone who needs to dig the vibe. Or maybe these are just the times we’re living in, maaaaaan. Either way it’s important to reflect on where the music we are listening to comes from. As a shitty NZ BBQ reggae band once said, “don’t forget your roots my friends
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