by jody diamond
MusicWorks 47 (Summer, 1990), pp. 12-23.
World music is a dangerous idea. | A Composer in Indonesia | An Indonesian Composer | We are what we learn, but we are also who we are |
What Influence? | Both Dangerous and Wonderful | II. | Acceptance of Globalization | Observing Ourselves |
III. | Toward a Manifesto of Global Values | Naming Names | Sharing Resources and Results | "Self" as Participant |
"Other" as Partner | Time and Distance | Daily life as Global Activism | MANIFESTO | IV. | footnotes
If "world music" means all music except Western music, it perpetuates a hierarchy of knowledge.
It separates Western culture as reality from Other culture as an exotic variation to be observed.
"We" know who "they" are but they don't know who we are.
We understand the entire world but they only understand part of it.
We decide what is good for our world and for theirs.
We can participate in their world but should not have too much influence.
We study "them" and don't share the results; they don't need the information.
All of these propositions must be abandoned.
There is no they there.
There is no "Balinese village where white people have never been before."
There is no primitive culture, untouched by the "West," to remind us of what we think we once were.
Stop looking for places that don't exist. Every person on earth knows the extent of the world and can participate in it. Destroy the distinction between East and West, primitive and civilized, known and unknown.There is no one to "discover." We are all here. We always were.
There is only one we.
There is no they there.
An ad for a TV special evokes "our own modern world" and "the ancient timeless culture of Bali." But there is no ancient time for the Balinese to live in while "we" partake of the modern era. The camera crew just came back a few weeks ago. The performances were filmed while the Berlin Wall was coming down.The tourists are as real as the rituals.
There is only one "time" at a time.
We are all in it together.
There is only one we.
There is no they there.
Who studies whom? An ethnomusicologist once told me: "I don't think native
artists should spend more than two years abroad. They get too many ideas and
when they go home they change their music and then it isn't there for us to
study any more." Having the resources to travel does not guarantee a
unilateral right to research. Arther C. Clarke suggested that banning all long
distance telephone charges would change the world. That day has arrived. It is
The walls of the laboratory have disappeared.
We are all natives. We are all scientists.
There is only one "time" at a time.
We are all in it together.
There is only one we.
There is no they there.
I returned in 1989 from a year-long survey of contemporary music and
composers in Indonesia.2 My original purpose was to see what "they" were
doing. I interviewed over 60 composers, made audio and video recordings,
watched rehearsals, took lessons, played traditional and experimental music,
and collected scores, tapes and books. In the course of this research I gained
a stronger sense that I was not a "stranger in a strange land," but part of a
global community of composers. Although there are undeniable differences in
our lives, we all face similar challenges: a small (but loyal) audience for
new music, limited financial resources for the production and documentation of
new work (this problem is particularly severe in Indonesia), finding a process
for the realization of ideas, considering the relationship between the music
and the public.
What began as observation became friendship, participation, collaboration, and
sharing of resources available to artists internationally. A final project was
to commission and record of new works by seven Indonesian composers. The
project was co-ordinated by the composer Larry Polansky, my husband, who
worked with me all year. Our goals were made clear to each composer and all
the musicians: to publish, distribute and broadcast the recordings, and
arrange for some of the pieces to be performed outside Indonesia. Each
composer is given full credit for his or her work, and receives royalties in
countries that observe international copyright laws for performances and
broadcasts (Indonesia currently does not but may soon).
We might be criticized for imposing the idea of authorship, performance
rights, or even of "composer" into a cultural system where traditionally the
identity of the composer was unrecorded and the music belonged to everyone, or
was credited to whatever prince or sultan was ruling at the time of its
creation. That still takes place, and is something to be appreciated, but
composers can also be given a choice about how to identify, document and
disseminate their works, particularly when those works will reach an
Awareness of an individual identity does not cause a person to stop being part
of the community. A musician does not stop memorizing music if notation is
Art does not stop being spiritual when it is also intellectual.
Only if a choice is known to exist may a choice be made. There
is no need to hide these choices; they can be made by everyone.
The reaction of Westerners to the videotapes and recordings I made in
Indonesia almost invariably includes surprise that there is experimental music
in a third world country known so well for its "ancient culture." At an
ethnomusicology conference in California3, I read a description of a piece by
I Wayan Sadra, written by the composer (here translated from the original
"I am interested in the ideas of time and space. The beginning of my piece
Lad-lud-an  was not actually on the stage, but outside the theatre. The
musicians started playing when they were about 250 meters away. The audience
only heard the faint indiscernible sound of the gamelan as it gradually came
closer, finally entering the hall.
'"In one section of the piece, a performer stood up. In his hand he held an egg,
as if to drop it, high above a black oval shaped stone. Very slowly and with
full attention the egg was dropped and, pyakk! ... the egg crashed onto the
stone and broke. After the quiet 'pyakk' sound was a stillness without sound
as the egg trickled across the stone. This created a visual effect that was
contrasting yet harmonious. Against the black of the stone, [we saw] the white
of the eggshell and yellow of the egg yolk, and the rest that seemed
transparent. Then, the circulating air in the theater spread a foul smell. I
had deliberately chosen an egg that was sure to be rotten -- and the audience
reacted by pinching their noses.
"My concept is that every sound always has a relationship with elements other
than the sound itself. I also explore the concept of the existence of a sound
and the process of creating a single sound. Noise and sound are the result of
'something', and can also cause something else to occur. That something can be
experienced as artistic, or as a negative annoyance. A truck rumbling down a
main road can create a negative experience, with its deafening sound and the
foul smelling exhaust. Or the sound of a bird on a mountainside can give a
feeling of happiness and pleasure. Or, on the other hand, the interpretation
of sound may depend on the emotional state of the person at the time the sound
After the paper, a graduate student in ethnomusicology challenged me. "This
sounds like a performance piece from New York! Isn't this just Western
influence?" Perhaps meaning, "They don't come up with ideas like that on their
own, do they?"
At first, I wanted to say that there is no Western influence. But of course
European-American culture has influence in the world today, not just in art
but in everything. And it would be difficult to argue its absence in
Indonesia: the Dutch ruled there for 200 years, and ties with the U.S. are now
very strong. But Sadra's concepts, and the experimental work of other
Indonesian artists, are not just Western influence. The ideas fit with and
flow from existing traditional systems interacting with an evolving world
whose citizens are in increasingly better communication.
Sadra's inspiration does not arise from imitation of outside forces, but from
an artist's awareness of the world and of an increasing range of ways to
express that awareness.
We are what we learn, but we are also who we are.4
Sadra's description of the same piece reveals the source of his "influence."
"[In Lad-lud-an, these concepts are] expressed in music. It actually reminds
me of my own cultural past in Bali. This perception resembles experiences I
had when I was very young, when I went to temple festivals, a ritual that I
cannot forget. How could I!? The moment I entered the temple, my ear was
tempted by the sound of gamelan, my eyes were stimulated by the colorful
offerings. When I began to pray, the priest sprinkled me with holy water, my
mouth tasted the yellow rice and holy water that seems to only make us
thirstier, [I could smell] the smoke of the incense and probably the smell of
rotten food that had been cooked for the offerings days before. All of this
opened my senses, the feeling in my skin, ear, eye, nose, so I would be more
engrossed in the ritual, and become one with God."
Many Indonesian composers work with Western traditions and instruments, yet
create unique styles in forms from pop/rock to classical to electronics. One
of the most active of such artists is Harry Roesli, an important composer in
contemporary Indonesian theatre and dance. Roesli studied composition and
electronic music in Holland for eight years before he returned to work in
Indonesia as a composer and journalist.
In an interview at his home in Bandung, he described his early musical
experiences (translated from Indonesian).
"My first composition was for guitar, when I was twelve. It was truly a
creative work, because I did it spontaneously before I had been influenced by
others. ... To tell the truth, I am influenced by lots of people, but then,
who isn't? I feel that perhaps I like John Cage too much, both his music and
his way of thinking -- he pervades my thoughts.
"Some Indonesians thought my music was too modern, that it didn't have roots
in the tradition. They said that my music was too far out, almost to the point
of absurdity, and that I didn't care about the audience. But I'm not someone
who doesn't care about the audience -- I'm really sad if my work is not
enjoyed! I tried to find a way to compromise, but the music I created to be a
compromise actually became a new style, different from my earlier work that
had been called 'supra-modern.' I tried to accommodate the audience, but ended
up making a music even more unique, which they still didn't like!"
Stereotypes and narrow assumptions about others are common, and people will
ascribe certain qualities exclusively to members of a particular culture.
Indonesians often tell me: "I know you. You are an American. You think time is
money, you have no soul, and all your music is written down note for note and
must be played exactly as the composer demands, like Beethoven." A lot has
happened to music since Beethoven!
"Western influence" is portrayed as destroying other cultures. Yes, capitalism
exploits, but is that the whole story? Can't every culture have a chance to be
influenced and changed in some way? What about the artists whose own musical
culture was "destroyed" by Eastern ideas?
The history of contemporary Western music in this century reveals composers
for whom feeling and flexibility are far more important than notes, whose
music has the sense of timelessness and selflessness that is so often
attributed to Javanese gamelan music. Did these composers arrive at these
ideas "on their own"? Or was it just Eastern influence?
Composer Daniel Goode describes an intense "confrontation with the exotic
other" that becomes a personal "engine of change", a "conversion experience."
"It would be presumptuous to say that among two generations of [North]
American composers many have had conversion experiences with the music of
other cultures (high and low). But this is exactly what I do presume. The list
is long: from Henry Cowell teaching world musics ... in the 30's and 40's, to
Lou Harrison calling himself a world musician rather than an American
composer, to Terry Riley and LaMonte Young as disciple of the Indian vocalist
Pran Nath, to Barbara Benary studying with Javanese and Indian masters; and
Philip Corner having revelations about Oriental music while stationed in Seoul
in the late 50's, Annea Lockwood composing a chant based on a Maori word from
her native New Zealand, Richard Teitelbaum's numerous collaborations with
Japanese musicians, ... Meredith Monk's voice from under the skin of the whole
world, Ned Rothenberg turning the saxophone into a non-western instrument, ...
Stockhausen over there in the bastion of civilization stealing it all for
Stimmung, and back home with a total lack of fanfare composers on the west
coast, like Paul Dresher, Ingram Marshall, Jody Diamond, Henry Kaiser
routinely melding Asian influences into their work, because, as Charles
Amirkhanian reminds me from California, 'Asia is very close to us here.'"
Perhaps the question of influence is no longer a significant or important one.
In the arts, at least, we are in a time of cultural exchange. Western
influence is dominant in certain areas, like global distribution of mass media
and material goods. But is there only one villian here? Or are many cultural
practices both dangerous and wonderful? Is television only bad? Is the oral
tradition only wonderful?
We bemoan the spread of the TV mentality; Indonesia's top shows last year were
Dynasty, Valerie's Family and Hunter. I often watched TV with my teachers or
friends, explaining the jokes that weren't translated in the subtitles, and
trying to convince them that not all North American homes and families were
like the ones on the screen. But televison also provides a vital communication
network (albeit one controlled by the government) for the millions of
Indonesian people, encouraging use of the national language and, ironically,
developing literacy through the reading of the subtitles and plot summaries
that appear with programs broadcast in English or Japanese.
We admire the non-linear, intuitive aspects of the oral tradition in music;
students of gamelan who want to "play with their feeling" must eschew notation
as a way of learning. Indonesians traditionally teach by rote, and I myself
teach gamelan this way, making students sing and internalize the music rather
than conceptualizing it visually. But then one must learn directly from the
teacher, who has the power to determine who receives knowledge and who does
not. Access to information becomes exclusive, and may be blocked for personal
or political reasons. I knew a very talented musician in Java who was invited
less frequently to certain rehearsals and performances after refusing a
teacher's personal request. Notation can have a "democratizing" effect on
music, making information available without restriction; once music is
printed, anyone can read it.5
No one will excuse colonialism and economic imperialism, but perhaps we can
learn something even in the worst of situations. Mochtar Lubis, one of
Indonesia's greatest writers, ends his history of Indonesia's dominance by
other countries by assessing the value of cultural interaction and looking
toward the future.
"It is no shame to the Indonesians to recognize the positive legacies the
Dutch colonial administration has left in Indonesia. The Dutch educational
system ... opened the minds of the elite to the world of modern ideas, science
and technology. ... Our world today needs a better understanding of the values
of both the highly industrialized and the developing countries. To stop the
rapacious use and senseless destruction of our natural resources, the
industrialized societies need to learn from ... the Indonesian sense of
cosmological balance and harmony between the macro- and micro- cosmos. The
Indonesians and others in the developing societies will gain by learning the
value of rationality, of human dignity and rights, human freedom, and the rule
of law. ... Both the Dutch and the Indonesians are today in a unique position
to apply the lessons from their past to the needs of the new world community."
Our recognition of the environmental, political and economic unity of the planet
can be extended to artistic, cultural, human unity.
Television is a powerful propaganda tool, and most programs may be insipid, but the medium
does communicate with and connect an international audience. Learning through
the oral tradition is spiritual and right-brained, and creates certain
fascinating perceptions of sound and time, but it can limit access to
information and restrict the freedom to learn. We all have weakness and
strength, ignorance and knowledge. We are one people. We are one world.
"Since we are not yet fully comfortable with the idea that people from the
next village are as human as ourselves, it is presumptuous in the extreme to
suppose we could ever look at sociable, tool-making creatures who arose from
other evolutionary paths and see not beasts but brothers, not rivals but
fellow pilgrims journeying to the shrine of intelligence.
"Yet that is what I see, or yearn to see. The difference between raman and
varelse is not in the creature judged, but in the creature judging. When we
declare an alien species to be raman, it does not mean that they have passed
a threshold of moral maturity, it means that we have." (Card 1986:1).
A concern with global perspectives has appeared in many fields, not only
science fiction, but anthropology 6, ethnomusicology, art and art history,
comparative literature, psychology and other disciplines. Previous practices
in cross-cultural fieldwork are being questioned and reformed: the
relationship of "informants," the removal of "data" from its source, the
dissemination of material, the definition of art and artist. James Clifford is
an anthropologist who has described both the wonder and danger of the conept
of "culture" and the way it has been defined in the past. In his book The
Predicament of Culture (which has 22 pages of references in three languages),
searches for "a concept that can preserve culture's differentiating functions
while conceiving of collective identity as a hybrid, often discontinuous
inventive process." (1988:10).
The contemporary challenge to those fields based on the study of "other"
cultures is revealed in a footnote by George Marcus, writing on the literary
nature of ethnography: "It is the traditional subject matter of anthropology
-- the primitive or alien other -- that primarily repels, or, rather,
undercuts the full potential of anthropology's relevance in a widespread
intellectual trend, which it has long anticipated. The figure of the primitive
or the alien other is no longer as compelling as it was in [earlier] periods.
Global homogenization is more credible than ever before, and though the
challenge to discover and represent cultural diversity is strong, doing so in
terms of spatio-temporal cultural preserves of otherness seems outmoded."
What facilitates this change in our worldview? What is changing in ourselves
and our lives that makes us capable of it? When we abandon the distinctions
between ourself and the Other, we will find that interaction comes easily and
swiftly. Our determination to dissolve this barrier is supported by certain
trends in the globalization of culture. Frederick Turner looks for a set of
"universal solvents," those processes or ideas that will break down the
distinctions between cultures and allow for "liquidity and translatability of
cultural value." He cites the worldwide communications media, including
television, where visual representation transcends the boundaries of language,
and computers, because they generate new international languages of their own.
He also cites the growth of multinational corporations, whose loyalty must be
(ideally) to a planet not a nation; the global ecological crisis and the
recognition of planetary interdependency of ecological systems; the growing
acceptance of the scientific account of the universe; and, "in some ways the
most intriguing, the trend in contemporary popular music to synthesize
elements from a variety of cultures, as well as afford opportunities for
artists with widely varied backgrounds to work together in a musical
An increase in "native" scholars is another major change in the global
hierarchy of cultural studies. Education in the academic disciplines is
becoming increasingly international, with scholars and artists from many
countries "going abroad" for schooling in Western countries. Many programs now
train scholars to research their own traditional cultures. People who were
once "studied" become the self-observers. No longer can one offer "they don't
care about publications," or "they won't understand my analysis" as an excuse
for not sharing ethnographic results with the very people who provided much of
the data. This necessitates a new way of seeing ourselves -- who is the
"other" if we are both subject and examiner? We can no longer hide behind our
research methodology. The fieldwork process becomes more transparent when we
understand each other.
Sri Hastanto, a Javanese scholar and composer who
earned his Ph.D. in England, explains his perspective:
"The appearance is that we give, but actually we receive something extremely
valuable. As we give, we gain the experience of discussing what it is that we
posess. At first we didn't have that experience. If we only teach insiders,
people from [Java], we only express a small part...the cultural background
that completes it doesn't need to be expressed. But when we are faced with
foreign students, they continually query us. We are made aware of deficiencies
when we explain things. This is an immensely valuable experience. Secondly,
most of those who conduct research are far more precise than ourselves. This
is something we should emulate, without losing our own culture. For example,
the system of notation employed in [music] research...certainly it is a
Western custom, but why not use it? If it's good? Because if it's good, it can
help." (Devereaux 1989:19).
We are erasing the distinction between researcher and informant, scientist and
native, and challenging the role of Western scholars as the ones who study the
rest of the world. A new publication,The Leonardo Music Journal, limits how
many authors in an issue can have an address in the United States, Leonardo,
the Journal of Arts, Sciences and Technology has always had the rule that
artists of any country must write about their own work rather than be written
about. A journal from England7, Third Text, has the subtitle "Third World
Perspectives on Contemporary Art and Culture."
In an introduction to a series
of articles about an art exhibit in France that combined works without regard
to the artist's cultural background, the editor, Rasheed Araeen, comments:
"... the 'other' has already entered into the citadel of modernism and
challenged it on its own ground. The question is no longer what the 'other' is
but also how the 'other' has subverted the very assumptions on which
'otherness' is constructed by dominant culture."
Our perception of the "other" may seem one-sided; the destruction of the
concept of -- and fear of -- the "other" is something we will accomplish
"'Why can't we be friends now,' said the other, holding him affectionately.
'It's what I want. It's what you want.' But the horses didn't want it -- they
swerved apart; the earth didn't want it, sending up rocks through which riders
must pass single file; the temples, the tank, the jail, the palace, the birds,
the carrion, the Guest House, that came into view as they issued from the gap
and saw Mau beneath: they didn't want it, they said in their hundred voices,
'No, not yet,' and the sky said, 'No, not there.'" (E.M.Forester in Said
Toward a Manifesto of Global Values
Now that we have recognized this impending step in our evolution, the human
group dance and interaction that Turner calls "the truth of things," what are
we going to do about it? What are the barriers that we must confront, in our
own thought and actions? What will transform the idea of global values into a
worldview and a way of life? We must be on the watch for our weaknesses. Do we
unknowingly perpetuate the values that we desire to be free of?
We have world music radio shows, world music institutes, ethnomusicology
courses, festivals like WOMAD and World Drum. Are these based on fascination
with an exotic, incomprehensible "other," or on an assumption that we can
actually understand each other in some intelligent way? What does "world
music" mean? Whether we cross, and seek to destroy, cultural boundaries as
artists or as scholars, we need to identify the actions by which our global
values will be concretized. What are the patterns that perpetuate the
problems, and what are the alternate paths?
The newsletter of the Society for Ethnomusicology printed a memorial quote
from the work of the late John Blacking, intended as a tribute to his belief
in music as a species-specific human ability, one as necessary to our
humanness as language itself. (Blacking 1984). He lists a wide range of music
that express the human spirit (roughly): ... a symphony by Beethoven
or an African melody, a cantata by Bach or a Balinese gamelan piece,
a composition by Berlioz or a sitar solo from India, etc...."
What is wrong with this picture? Why do the Western pieces all have composers,
while the other music is subsumed under the label of an entire continent or island?
I don't know who chose this quote, or whether Blacking himself would have
agreed that it was representative of his thought, but how could it have been
used? Why are the non-western pieces anonymous? I could list a dozen Balinese
composers by name, and sitar players in India have enourmous personal
reputations. Even if those pieces had no "composer," there might have been an
arranger, a specific style. What if we contrasted a piece by I Nyoman Windha
for Balinese gamelan and saxaphone quartet with "Western brass music" or "jazz"?
How does the anonymity of the artist lead to his or her exploitation? Sally
Price quotes a Parisian art dealer: "If the artist isn't anonymous, then the
art isn't primitive," and Henri Kamer: "The object made in Africa ... only
becomes an object of art on its arrival in Europe." (1989:67-68).
The lopsided distribution of the world's wealth has given westerners the means
to travel and study others, and at the same time to complain that grants isn't
large enough. One of the biggest shocks of life as a Fulbright Scholar in
Indonesia was to become filthy rich literally overnight. How was I to explain
to my Indonesian friends that at home I live quite modestly? That still meant
I have a car, a telephone, unlimited electricity and running drinkable water
in my house! Are they supposed to feel sorry for me?
In "Custer Died for Your Sins," Vine Deloria Jr. angrily exposes the pain and
irony of this situation: "...an anthropologist stated that over a period of
twenty years he had spent, from all sources, close to ten million dollars studying
a tribe of less than a thousand people. Imagine what that amount of money would
have meant to that group of people had it been invested in buildings and businesses.
There would have been no problems to study!" He goes on to suggest that before any
anthropologist is given permission to study a particular tribe, an amount
equal to the research grant should be donated to the tribal treasury!(1969:97-8).
Anthropology made a methodological advance when it moved from observation to
participant-observation. The effect of this on ethnomusicology was profound.
Jaap Kunst wrote the two volumes of Music in Java without ever playing
gamelan; but fortunately his student, Mantle Hood, suggested that his students
actually learned to play the music they were studying.8 Still, most research
was reported as if the researcher were not there, and as if the people playing
the music were merely a convenient system for the delivery of data. K.A.
Gourlay exhorts the ethnomusicologist to "begin with recognition of his [sic]
existence," but then goes on to describe the "ethnomusicological process" as
one in which the "ethnomusicologist applies his skills to investigating a
particular facet of musical activity as supplied by the performers" and
prepares the results for "a particular social network ... within his own
culture ... to an audience of academics or the general public through
articles, lectures, record programs or a doctoral dissertation." (1978:21-22).
(Where is the ongoing benefit for the "informant"?)
I was once in an ethnographic film course at U.C.L.A. My favorite film was one
where the subtitles translated literally everything that was said, including
the comment "Why are these crazy people out here filming us herding sheep?"
The filmmakers were admitting they were there. (But did they train the film's
subjects to use the camera?) Let's not ignore Heisenberg's Uncertainty
Principle; the observer is an element of the observed.
What we study is what we are. All of us together.
While in Indonesia I attended a conference of all the Fulbright students and
scholars currently in the country. One of the topics we discussed was the new
LIPI (Indonesian Science and Research Institute) policy of assigning an
Indonesian "research counterpart" to each foreign researcher. The idea was
that the Indonesian would gain professionally (and financially in many cases)
by working with and participating in the research activities of a highly
trained scholar. Some of the anthropologists were unhappy with this situation,
saying that certain aspects of the research could not be explained to their
informants, now called "consultants."
When I suggested that dissertations have major informants listed as co-authors,
some complained that for academic credibility dissertations had to be by one person,
and that they depended more on original analysis of data than the data itself.
While the latter may be partially true, we need to find ways to re-distribute academic
gain to the people whose lives and traditions provided that precious data. I also
suggested that all research budgets include funds for translating final
results into the source language. Why should dissertations on Indonesian music
be in libraries in North America and not in the libraries of Indonesian arts
institutes? (Although when I suggested this to K. Saini, the director of the
ASTI, the Arts Institute in Bandung, he said, "That's a nice idea, but most
foreign research is too elementary to be of much use to us.")
My research counterpart was I Wayan Sadra. I was indescribably fortunate to
have him "assigned" to my project. He is a composer and music critic, had
written a research paper on new music in Surakarta, and had attended, as
composer or performer, almost every major new music festival in Indonesia in
the previous decade. At times I felt that I should give him my grant money and
go home -- he already knew so much. Yet as we worked together, we learned from
each other. Sadra gave me names and contacts and history and insights into
music and language. I introduced him to composers in other parts of the
country, particularly creative traditional musicians whom he had not thought
of as "composers", and shared with him a methodolgy that tried as accurately
as possible to discover who Indonesian composers were and what they were
doing. And, perhaps most important, he and Larry and I spent hours exchanging
books and information about all kinds of music and thought, from the "fourth
dimension" to computer software Larry wrote to meaure gamelan tunings and
On the way back from Indonesia I gave a lecture at Monash University in
Melbourne, Australisa on "New Music in a New World: perspectives on
cross-cultural research in the arts." I questioned the group" "Please describe
the relationships you have had with people in the countries where you have
done fieldwork. What role did they play?" The list begins. Host. Teacher.
Guide. Informant. Supervisor. Resource. After a while, the board is covered. I
look at it and turn to the group. "No one said colleague," I point out. "Or
collaborator. Or counterpart. Or any word that implies a relationship of
The entire globe revolves everyday; there is not one part moving slower than
another. As we are in increasingly direct communication with each other, even
the gap of time zones will disappear. Electronic mail, fax, satelites -- all
reduce the distance between people. And our recognition of each other as
co-habitants of the same time will also dissolve the illusion of distance.
Daniel Goode presents the challenge: "Any musician seriously interested in
the transformative possibilities-- for music, for culture, or for the
individual--of world music will have to deal with the whole culture we live
in, not just just note-to-note techniques. This will make one an activist, for
at least part of a life-time." (1987:71). We must construct a global values
manifesto -- a set of clear guidelines that lead us towrd the goals of
respecting and partnering with the other until there is no they there.
1. Extend the same rights to everyone that would be demanded or expected for
oneself. Follow the Golden Rule.
2. Be aware of one's own depth of knowledge and skill. Assume that same depth
in all people.
3. Accept the truth. See what is, not what might be in a romanticized cultural
4. Identify and work with counterparts: musicians, scholars, writers,
5. Have an identity. Interact as well as observe.
6. Avoid the "they" words: primitive, authentic, traditional, untouched,
7. Name names. Ask for names. Give everyone the choice of being named.
8. Avoid distinctions and assumptions when they are not useful or relevant:
West vs. East, traditional vs. contemporary, intellectual vs. spiritual,
industrialized world vs. third world, art vs. craft, we vs. they.
9. Share and distribute information in a form that will be useful to all
concerned. Publish in two languages whenever possible, that of the "gatherer"
and the "gathered."
10. Seek opportunities for mutual benefit: share money, co-author articles,
give credit whenever possible, lend out equipment, participate in local
"Perhaps the most remarkable fact of the modern world is that now for the
first time all the member cultures of the human race now know of each other,
and have, more or less, met. There really is no human Other now." (Turner
Fear of the other will be absolved
when there is no longer an "other."
Ignorance of the other will be absolved
when to know the other is to know ourselves as well.
What we admire in "other" cultures is what we think is lost from our own. The
"mysterious East" will no longer carry the burden of the world's imbalance. We
must recapture spirituality, community and timelessness for ourselves. This
must become a localized challenge, inside each person and community. We
require another revolution in consciousness, similar in significance to the
end of slavery and the beginning of the women's movement.
We must accept global values as "given" and proceed from there, in the service
of understanding others -- and as a way to rediscover ourselves as well. I
thought for a long time that only through the playing of Javanese gamelan
music could I maintain a sense of connnection with the timeless, cosmological
Self. Eventually I realized that gamelan was not the source, but a path to an
aspect of my own consciousness. And my own culture has mystical traditions
that lead in the same direction. Is this an example of what Paul Rabinow calls
"comprehension of the self through the detour of comprehension of the other"?
If the grass looks greener on the other side of the fence, just take the fence
down! Turner hopefully suggests that "[a]s the human race recognizes itself
more and more as a 'we,' it will paradoxically be more and more suprised by
the otherness of what was once considered familiar. How strange, how exotic,
how attractive our own culture is! Is not this the strangest and most
interesting of worlds?"
"It's not a zoo; we live in it too," admonishes Jowi Taylor, a world music
programmer at radio station CKLN in Toronto. If the people of the world have
been trapped in the cages of culture, looking at each other through the bars,
perhaps we can now stand outside of the enclosures, to walk and work together
and leave the empty cages behind.
An acceptance of global values, whether in anthropology or in music, does not
mean the death of traditional culture, or the loss of cultural variety.
Culture is a living thing; by its very nature it changes and survives. We have
a responsibility to respect and protect the richness of our human diversity.
A world in which all people have equal rights to information and identity
doesn't threaten scholarly inquiry into cultural systems. It means a
committment to sharing the results of that inquiry. It means the end of one
people deciding the cultural direction of another. It means the end of
inequality in considering, choosing and implementing the changes that are sure to come.
As I watch human values change, I often wonder what is coming next. What will
be the next arena in which the previously acceptable becomes the currently
unthinkable? We now admit the mistakes of racism, colonialism, slavery, the
unequal treatment of women. Perhaps we will one day find other human practices
equally unthinkable: nationalism, culturalism, false distinctions, war,
capital punishment, poverty; limited access to health care, education,
We are moving toward a global mind. As we reach it, perhaps we will marvel at
our previous ignorance. How could we have thought they were different from us
when there was no they there?
1. "They are what we were; they are what we must become. We were Nature, just as
they are, and our culture must lead us back to Nature along the path of Reason
and Freedom." Rousseau, quoted in F. Jameson, Marxism and Form. Princeton,
NJ:Princeton University Press, 1971.
2. I want to thank the Council for the International Exchange of Scholars for
the Fulbright Senior Research Fellowship that made this trip possible. In
Indonesia, I was greatly assisted by the National Research Institute (LIPI),
the National College for the Arts in Surakarta (STSI), and by my research
counterpart, I Wayan Sadra. Larry Polansky also contributed invaluable
professional and personal assistance.
3. "I Wayan Sadra: an Indonesian composer," unpublished paper read for the
Northern California Chapter of the Society for Ethnomusicology, November 24,
4. See interview with Philip Corner, for an American composer's perspective on
personal integrity in cross-culturally influenced composition. "Philip Corner:
You Can Only Be Who You Are." Balungan, III(2):3-10.
5. This idea was proposed by Larry Polansky. Ironically, I had too romantic a
view of the oral tradition to see its flaws.
6. I would like to thank Rachel Cooper and William Collins for recommending the
work of James Clifford, George Marcus and Paul Rabinow.
7. Third Text is distributed in Canada by Marginal Distribution in Toronto, and
in the U.S. by Ubiquity Distributors in Brooklyn.
8. Among those students was Robert E. Brown, who suggested that his students
become artists in the traditions they studied. And some of those students
(including this author) became composers and instrument builders and
participants in a tradition of international gamelan.
9. Wayan Sadra and Larry Polansky collaborated on a composition, "Bedhaya
Guthrie." Since the piece and the composers are registered with BMI, they
will both receive royalties.
10. Fredrick Turner also included such a list at the end of his article. Mine
was written before seeing his, so the similarity was even more striking: "We
may console ourselves with the reflection that if this view of things is
correct, the new problems will be side-effects of the gradual elimination of
many old enemies of humankind: large-scale war, poverty, the idea of economic
and social justice (as opposed to the old idea of justice), racism, the
destruction of the environment, political and ideological oppression, and the
cultural stagnation that attends materialist economies." (1990:93).