[Smt-talk] Theory of "Intercultural" Composition

Victor grauer victorag at verizon.net
Sun Apr 26 13:27:24 PDT 2009

At 10:34 AM 4/24/2009, Linda Seltzer wrote:
>The incorporation of non-Western theories and philosophies into Western
>music has enhanced the creativity of Western composition.  My teacher in
>Indian music, Ustad Vilayat Khan, was always highly concerned about the
>reverse, that the incorporation of Western music, particularly pop music,
>was damaging Asian culture.  In particular, are Western influences causing
>Asian music to lose the subtleties of tuning and intonation, the gradual
>changes of pitch and timbre in the course of a long note, and complexity
>of rhythmic structure. . .


I share Dr. Seltzer's concerns. What many fail to recognize is that 
an asymmetry is involved. First and foremost what is important to 
understand is that the so-called "Western" tradition is and always 
has, from the very beginning, been multicultural. One could even 
claim that its multiculturalism is what distinguishes it from almost 
all other traditions. And here I'm including both the "classical" and 
"popular" branches of Western music, not to mention Western culture 
in general, from literature, to philosophy, math, science, etc., 
which has always been open to influences from everywhere and 
anywhere. In this sense all these Western traditions can be seen, to 
some extent at least, and not always in a negative sense, as "colonialist."

On the other hand, just about every other tradition in world music, 
and culture generally, can be regarded as almost the opposite of the 
Western tradition, i.e., as not only fiercely opposed to 
Western-style multiculturalism but also highly vulnerable to it. I 
could add a lot more on this very interesting and also troubling 
topic, but for now simply want to endorse Linda's view, which makes 
considerable sense, as I see it.

Victor Grauer
Pittsburgh, PA, USA


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