Fluid and Global: Proper “World” Music

Just how important is knowing, understanding and appreciating a historical and cultural context to the realm of music? Cross culturally, I think that while it maybe helpful it is not necessary, and dwelling upon it causes the authenticity debate to rear its (ugly in my opinion) head. Nevertheless, within the context of a specific culture and then subcultures, I think that such an understanding is absolutely imperative. It is what gives music meaning and transforms into something more than spaces, lines, bars, key signatures, loops, samples and notes. It gives the music a message. Consider the use of music to further environmental causes. For me techno means club culture–more specifically those darker, more abstract folks, too artistically inclined for vocal house, not quite dark enough for deep, acid or tribal house and way to underground for trance and its massive dj followings. I would never think first to tie it with environmental activism. This is the innovation yielded by the global potential of culture. Something that started in Detroit can become an arm for change half the world around.

Also the three segments of post-techno as according to Kiku Hibino serve as an example of the global but not universal nature of music and cultural expression. The idea that techno and its various derivatives like minimal and noise could garner enough respect to be considered art museum/exhibition worthy is both incredibly awesome and unbelievable to me. I find that State Side, a general ignorance of what techno actually is and a confusion with either “dance” or trance pop commonly referred to as “euro trash” has detracted from the appreciation of electronic music as art. Were I not an avid fan of the techno (well at least various house and electro) genres and I approached the post-techno era in Japan with such an attitude I would have no understanding of its meaning in its various contexts–the opera house, museum and club. Even then, as in the case of techno and environmental activism, I do not understand it fully or comprehend the connections, meanings, representations and symbols entirely.

Thus, music can never be universal, but it can be global. The understandings, the perspectives, styles and interpretations will never be synonymous across the world because even if a french, spanish, russian, chinese and british person all speak fluent english, their english will never sound the same. But music is and will continue to have the potential of being increasingly global. It spreads like culture always has synthesizing new culture, sounds, expression like creole, cuban, afro-beat, J-pop and visual kei. And, as a dynamic art form it continues to change and evolve, escaping the static cage of category and genre. It cannot be contained, as we have seen. Somehow Detroit High School party music from the late 70s finds its way into the dark, intermittently lit, underground club in Tokyo with at least one common thread–artists who want to say something to fans who “get it.”

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