“The Dawn of Indian Music in the West: Bhairavi”

Peter Lavezzoli's book "The Dawn of Indian Music in the West: Bhairavi"

Found this excellent quote from Peter Lavezzoli’s book, The dawn of Indian music in the West: Bhairavi

Well, Western music has been Eurocentric for hundreds of years.  When I was a student at Julliard, if you wanted to hear a record of Indian or African music, you looked in the library under Ethnomusicology.  It was not considered classical music in any real sense.  At this point, that’s completely changed.  It appears to us that all music is ethnic music.  Everything.  Popular music is ethnic music.  It’s ethnic to it’s community.  All music is indigenous to somebody.  John Cage pointed this out in his book A Year From Monday.  In the beginning of the book he says, “Here’s to the day when America becomes a part of the world.  No more, no less.”

I think it really happened after the second World War, which was when people–especially Americans–became aware that there was another world outside of their own borders.  Soldiers had been to Japan, Europe, and elsewhere.  People went to Europe to study, Americans were living in Paris and London.  That was happening all over the world, and right after World War II, and into the 1950s, the borders of the civilized world began to change very dramatically.  At a certain point we began to talk about what Marshall McLuhan called the “global village.”  This all eventually became part of the hippie generation and so on.  And it became clear that there were great traditions of concert music that existed outside of the West.  An astonishing idea.  [Laughs]  They would be in Africa, Asia, Australian, or wherever else.  But we really couldn’t call it concert music because there were no concert halls.  You didn’t find concert halls in India when I went there in the late ’60s, they didn’t have them.  People played in homes.  The concert halls were eventually built when some of the technology of Western music found its way into non-Western traditions.

Basically world music is now a fact.  The fact is that an educated musician today would be foolish not to acquaint himself or herself with the traditions from all over the world.  They can hide from it if they want to, but the reality is that it’s not just that we know it, but the audience knows it.  It’s become a kind of parochialism to be confined to a Eurocentric tradition.  So what we say is going to happen has already happened.  Ravi [Shankar] was a very important part of that.  He worked tirelessly at that, and was criticized in the beginning, when he was writing sitar concertos, playing with Menuhin, and so on.

 

The video to the Menuhin/Shankar collaboration is in the previous post.

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