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Music has a fundamentally social life. It is made to be consumed—practically, intellectually, individually, communally—and it is consumed as symbolic entity. By “consumed” I mean socially interpreted as meaningfully structured, produced, performed, and displayed by varieties of prepared, invested, or otherwise historically situated actors. How does this happen? What does it mean? How can one know about it? These questions focus on the nature of the music communication process, and to rethink them I turn back to the question posed often by Charles Seeger: what does music communicate? To answer he also needed to ask: what does speech about music communicate? Through diagrams and dense prose, Seeger (1977:16–44) argued that to address the issue of what music communicates requires specifying what it could not communicate. The logical preoccupation with differences between the speech and music modes led to the notion that speech is the communication of “world view as the intellection of reality” while music is communication of “world view as the feeling of reality” (ibid.).
One need not be an exceptionally gifted observer to note that human societies, whatever their level of development, tend to get more and more complex. What becomes of music and, in particular, its modes of production in the course of this “complexification” process?
The expressive culture, including the music, of the ethnic groups of the United States has not been given much scholarly attention. What little has been done has often relied on models like decline and loss of Old World traits. If revivalism is mentioned, it seems to allude to what is sometimes called “retribalization”. Few researchers have followed up on the fascination of what the Canadian folklorist Robert Klymasz called the “immigrant folklore complex.” In a 1973 article, he wrote of a “dynamic state of flux replete with the various tensions, seeming contradictions, and ambivalence that reflect the conditioning impact of the acculturative process in the New World” (Klymasz 1973:135).
During the last decades, rapidly growing interest in folk song styles has manifested itself in a number of fruitful investigations representing many different approaches. The Cantometrics project, for instance, starts from the premise that “song style symbolizes and reinforces certain important aspects of social structure in all cultures” (Lomax 1968:vii). Using recordings of music as primary source of data, Alan Lomax and his co-workers have developed a method for “systematically and holistically describing the general features of accompanied or unaccompanied song performances” (op.cit.:34). Thus, the Cantometrics project focuses on the song performance in its cultural and social context. mance in its cultural and social context.
From 1933 until 1939 the burgeoning musical culture of Palestine underwent a transformation of explosive proportions. The transformation not only effected an increase in the sheer quantity of musicians and musical traditions, but also provided the foundations on which the institutions of Israeli musical culture were built. In less than a decade, orchestras in both Tel Aviv and Jerusalem were established where before none could survive; music academies and a broadcasting service supporting myriad chamber ensembles took root; an active and broadly based concert life throve in the urban centers; and immigrant composers were attempting to mold the confluence of musical styles into an aesthetic that would reflect the culture of the region.
In Romania today, large groups of Gypsies have retained a nomadic existence in spite of consistent endeavor by the state to make them sedentary. These “Gypsies of the carts”, tiganii de cărute, or “Gypsies of the tents”, tiganii corturari, as they are called, retain the oldest Gypsy traditions in Romania and live largely apart from both the Romanian peasants and town dwellers. However, in the cities and towns of Romania there live groups of “urban” Gypsies engaged in various trades and professions, one of the most prominent and distinguished being music. These sedentary Gypsies live their lives almost entirely without any contact with the nomadic Gypsies. The urban Gypsies speak Romanian almost exclusively, although most still understand and speak a few phrases in Romani. They are, therefore, also linguistically isolated from their nomadic counterparts. While the nomadic Gypsies may regard their city counterparts with some disdain, the city Gypsies do, among themselves, recognize that they are Gypsies. They tend to socialize only with each other and generally marry only within the Gypsy group.
Gidayū-bushi, the music of the bunraku puppet theatre, was systematized by Takemoto Gidayū in the second half of the 17th century. One of Japan's narrative musical genres (jōruri), gidayū-bushi is customarily performed by a single vocalist accompanied by a single shamisen player (see Figure 1). The tayu (singer) and shamisen player sit at an angle to the front of the stage in order for them to have a clear view of the puppets. The musicians' most important task is to evoke the emotional states depicted by the puppets on stage and, to this end, they are required to master a variety of individual expressive modes which give those emotional states concrete form.