Adoration, Appropriation, or Approximation? Rethinking the Exotic in Western Music
|Zohn, Steven David, 1966-
|Merlino, Shannon M
|Throughout the history of European art music, the desire to portray “Other” cultures has been given voice by composers by way of exoticism. The ability to depict the exotic has, for centuries, held the fascination of listeners and composers alike. In spite of this, the identification and study of exoticism as an aesthetic trend in music has not been given nearly as much attention as it deserves. Drawing from and expanding upon the work of Ralph Locke and Jonathan Bellman, I explore and illuminate some of the deeper issues that undermine the potential study of this aesthetic trend. First, I present a discussion of the problems and difficulties inherent in the study of exoticism in music, some of which I believe are related to the relative lack of study in this area. Because of the nature of how elements of non-European cultures were historically assimilated and appropriated by the Europeans, questions of ethics and terminology are abundant and not easily answered. In some cases, the cultural “Other” is portrayed reverently, almost to be feared; in others, they are portrayed almost comically. But can this portrayal be attributed to the composer alone, or have decades and even centuries of performance traditions influenced certain attitudes towards these works? And are these original attitudes, no matter whether positive or negative, an essential part of understanding these works? How might we amend the language used in discussing this topic so that our own cultural bias (or lack thereof) does not affect it? After addressing the issue of how musical scholars have, until now, discussed these issues, I present my own method of dealing with them: the reorganization of what we have come to define as “musical exoticism” into four categories: appropriative allomimesis, approximative allomimesis, evocative exoticism, and temporally-exotic evocation. Using musical examples, I discuss how these terms might be used in place of simply the term “exotic”, hopefully paving the way for future scholarship on the topic. I believe that with more understanding of the study of the exotic in music and a more erudite manner of discussing it, a greater understanding of the aesthetic and its sociological ramifications might be achieved. By revising the language we use to discuss the exotic in Western music, I hope to provide my readers with a means toward insight into the deeper implications of composers’ choices to portray people from countries, cultures, and places other than their own. My intention is that this will allow and inspire performers and scholars to consider these implications in their studies of these works.
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|Adoration, Appropriation, or Approximation? Rethinking the Exotic in Western Music
|Lardin, Heather Miller
|Locke, Ralph P.
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