Thursday, May 29, 2008

Music becoming a monoculture...

David Huron writes an interesting essay in the May 22 issue of Nature noting the fact that as millions of musical recordings have become available over the web, there has been a
...collapse in the diversity of musical minds. A Nigerian group might sing in Yoruba, but the harmonies are thoroughly Western. Native American Navajo singers make valiant efforts to preserve their traditions, but to the trained musicologist, their singing bears the unmistakable imprint of Western scales. The casual listener hears a wealth of variety; the musicologist detects a rapidly spreading monoculture — albeit expressed in many forms.
...Linguists know how fast languages disappear. Musical cultures may be an order of magnitude more fragile. It will be many centuries before the whole world speaks Mandarin. Meanwhile Western music has swept the globe faster than aspirin. Robust musical cultures remain in China, India, Indonesia and the Arab world, but even in these regions, most people are thoroughly acquainted with Western music through film and television. Less robust musical cultures are disappearing rapidly or are showing deep infiltration by Western musical foundations. Many have already disappeared. There remain only a few isolated pockets, such as the highlands of Papua New Guinea and Irian Jaya.

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