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    Most people encounter some kind of music in their daily lives. Some people actively seek out music by making it themselves, attending concerts, purchasing or downloading audio recordings, or using media such as radio or the internet. But music finds even those who don’t go looking for it. Music is a persistent backdrop in public places, from the quiet ambient sound in shopping centers to the booming of a loud car radio as it goes by. A friend shares a beloved song; a parent hums a lullaby; a busker plays the saxophone on a street corner. In all these ways, whether requested or not, music is an integral part of our social world.

    Take a moment to consider the music you have heard in the past week or so. How much of the music was already familiar, and how much was new to you? How much of the music you heard was chosen by you and how much by other people? When you did choose, what factors helped you decide what to listen to? Each of us will answer these questions differently, and the answers help us sketch our particular social and musical networks. For example, some people find most of their music through direct social contact, like the recommendations of relatives or live performances at religious institutions. Some find their music through the media, at a remove from their personal social contacts; this might happen through television shows or the tips provided by music sellers on the internet: “if you liked this song, try that one.” Some might choose a favorite café for its excellent playlist. In any case the music you hear points to a variety of connections in your life, and these connections can support, direct, or even limit your access to musical experiences.

    The music you hear may also tell you something about who you are as a person: you may choose particular kinds of music for particular purposes or to make yourself feel a certain way. Some people listen to music because it feels calming, or energizing, or challenging, or fascinating. Workout music differs from the music that accompanies a romantic dinner for two. Many people enjoy musical experiences that help them feel connected to others, like joining Page 2 →a large crowd to sing a traditional song at a college sporting event. Likewise, songs your family has always chosen for weddings or funerals might inspire a feeling of connection with an entire family network and its history.

    Some of these effects are internal to one listener, but most of them are also social effects: they take place at least partly in the listener’s relationship to social networks. Individuals might prefer music that makes them feel “cultured” or refined, hip or cutting-edge—that is, music that confers social status in some way. Throughout history, groups of people have defined some kinds of music as more important or beneficial than others. For example, European Americans in the United States treated classical music this way in the early 1900s. Collectors, too, take pleasure and pride in having a lot of one kind of music and demonstrating expertise about that music. And some people like to be central players in their musical networks: they like to be the ones to hear a new song first or recommend it to others. In these cases music helps people define their relationships to one another. You can probably name some examples from your own experience.

    We might ask, too, about the origins of the music you have heard. To what extent does your music come only from your home country? To what extent is your listening international? Your answers to these questions may depend on your family’s history and traditions. If you or your parents are recent immigrants to your country, you might have strong ties to the music from your place of origin and to the communities that support this music. Even families that have been settled in one place for a long time sometimes hold on to special kinds of music from another place, like wedding music or holiday music, that are passed down through generations.

    Some people are simply more likely to come across music from far away because of where or how they live. In densely populated places such as Toronto, New York, or Los Angeles, many people cross paths as travelers and immigrants. In places that rarely host foreign visitors, this process happens more slowly. When people move to faraway colleges, undertake church missionary work, or go on vacation, they often encounter music they haven’t heard before, and they might bring music with them into their new contexts.

    How you get your music might also depend on your access to media. Many people in North America are fans of Japanese animé soundtracks or Jamaican reggae; they may have encountered these cultural forms through travel, but their primary encounter with them more likely comes through radio, television, the internet, or audio or video recordings. Of course, this process is not separate from the process of in-person contact. A friend’s recommendationPage 3 → may lead to intense engagement with a particular kind of music through the media, and people who share a passion for a particular music may meet in an online forum, then make contact offline as their common interests grow.

    Depending on who you are, some networks that are right in your part of town may be entirely invisible to you. When the Chinese American pop star Wang Leehom (1976–) performed at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles, he filled the venue to capacity with some 17,000 enthusiastic fans. Wang is a major celebrity in East Asia. He has produced 16 albums in Mandarin and Japanese, and he has appeared in several films and dozens of commercials. Yet many white or Hispanic Angelenos have never heard of him, and his concert held no significance for them. The population Wang reached in Los Angeles was primarily a Chinese and Chinese American network, people who live in the United States and follow the East Asian popular music scene.1 Our networks not only expand our view; they also limit our view according to language or interest so that we fail to cross paths with some people, even our neighbors. What we see through our networks is never all that exists but only a fraction.

    Thinking about how music is transmitted within and among communities can help us understand our own places in the musical world and how those places have come to be as they are. Thinking about music this way helps us see that music is not an object: it is an activity, something people do. It exists not only in our imaginations, in performances, and in recordings but also within our social relationships. It runs along the lines of human connection to new places and links people to one another—even when those people are not together in one place.2 Music can also define our relationships with one another. We are makers, givers, or receivers of music; we assess others based on their favorite music; a fondness for certain music can help us become friends. The transmitters and users of music are all part of this ebb and flow of relationships.

    Music in the Global Network

    It is a commonplace these days to hear that music, or the music business, is “global.” When you think about your own social network, you may notice many threads of connection to music from elsewhere, even though your personal network doesn’t literally blanket the globe or connect you directly to Page 4 →every person on Earth. Even the internet, the “World Wide Web,” reaches only a little over half of the people in the world.3 Our media do provide us with a feeling of connectedness—of being able to see everything that’s going on or access all the music that has been created. But that feeling is an illusion: some people do not have any access to this form of interconnection, and only a small fraction of the world’s music is audible through our network.4

    Still, this illusion is powerful. Without a doubt we feel as though we are connected. It might fit our intuition better if we think of the “global” not as a blanket covering the world but as a changing network of connecting threads that may extend over distance, with some places and peoples more thickly connected than others. John Tomlinson has called this situation of “complex connectivity” globalization. Others have defined globalization as a collection of “flows” of people, goods, and ideas.5 The anthropologist Anna Tsing has proposed that the idea of the “global” is a way of imagining one’s place in the world—a “dream space” that has shaped human ambitions since the mid-1900s. Musicians, environmentalists, human-rights activists, religious groups, marketers, and governments have used this idea to envision controlling the world, making money, or moving societies toward justice and equality.6

    People have also used the words global and globalization to describe this sense that music and ideas are moving far and fast. Many commentators say that since the 1980s we have been living in an “age of globalization.” Sometimes the use of these terms is an attempt to describe the feeling of living in our times. From the 1960s to the present, air travel has become available to more people, and communications networks are expanding and becoming more comprehensive. Jet-setting business professionals and government officials move among grand international hotels that are nearly the same regardless of location. These developments have led some observers to describe a “time-space compression,” in which the ease of travel makes it feel like distances have shrunk. Likewise, advances in communications technology have allowed music, images, and ideas to come at us ever faster, providing more and more information for us to process, which sometimes makes it feel as though we have less time, or the time is too full.7 If we take the internet as a point of origin for this feeling of time-space compression, we might decide that the era of globalization started in 1989.

    The “global” has not always been defined in terms of this feeling, though. Some commentators have emphasized economic globalization, an increased interdependence of financial markets that began in the early 1980s. International corporations, including music and media corporations, operate more Page 5 →and more across borders, hiring workers distant from their headquarters. They even seek to influence the laws of many countries to smooth their path in global operations. Large media companies have pressed governments to increase protections for copyright and intellectual property by enforcing laws against illegal copying of music; this combination of state and corporate power is profitable for the owners of music. Yet economic globalization is not only for the powerful. Disadvantaged low-wage workers migrate to seek better incomes but also send money home and listen to music from home, building economic and social ties between their places of employment and their places of origin.8

    More recently, scholars have turned to political definitions of globalization. The world is not united by globalization: we have not come together under one world government, nor is there full agreement among nations. But we have developed institutions like the World Bank (established 1944) and the United Nations (1945) that attempt to operate in a truly international way, setting ground rules that apply to all countries. (Of course, the playing field is still not level: many commentators have criticized these institutions for being biased in favor of larger and economically powerful countries.) Furthermore, during the 20th and 21st centuries national governments have vastly extended their reach, establishing permanent military bases, placing information into foreign news media, and using international institutions to govern the behavior of peoples outside their borders. Countries began developing national brands by choosing which music to export as propaganda, and the United Nations initiated programs that protected musical traditions that might otherwise disappear. Those who define globalization politically might mark its beginning during the Second World War.9

    The word globalization as it is used in everyday conversations attempts to capture some or all of these relatively recent trends of interconnectedness. As we have seen, looking at globalization through the different lenses of political, economic, or musical evidence yields different definitions and different historical accounts of what it is, what caused it, and when it started. The term invokes a wide variety of experiences, and it is therefore fuzzy rather than specific. One idea that is common to many theories of globalization is the idea that activity is happening at different scales. Worldwide trends can affect local experiences and habits, and local practices can be absorbed into national, regional, or global action. Music in a neighborhood in the United States may reflect a holiday defined for the whole nation-state—like the fife and drum in an Independence Day parade—or even celebrate a holiday originating on the other side of the globe, like a parade in New York for the Chinese New Year.10 Page 6 →Rather than using the terms global and globalization, I will try to use more specific terms to describe how and why music moves. Still, it is hard to get rid of these words altogether: they are the commonly used shorthand for all this activity and connectedness that feels different from what came before.

    In spite of this feeling, music did not start moving around recently. Music has been in motion ever since there were human beings to make musical sounds. Migration, or the moving of populations of people from place to place, has been a persistent factor throughout human history, and it has become a pressing concern in our own time. Part 1 of this book describes situations in which music has moved with its makers to new places. When peoples move, they establish new connections as individuals and groups, and these connections have lasting effects on music-making, not only for the migrants but also for those who receive new neighbors. For example, the Romani people, whose ancestors migrated to Europe and the Middle East hundreds of years ago, are not completely integrated; yet their music-making has become a part of European music, and they have changed their playing to adapt to new situations.

    Part 2 highlights political, social, and technological changes during the 20th century that brought new possibilities for moving music, including long-playing records, film, television, cassette tape recorders, and digital media. A musical performance is always mediated by the various factors that help the music get from its makers to its listeners. Media need not be new or high-tech: a musical instrument is a medium, as is printed music. Sometimes people think of mediation exclusively as a means of transmission, bringing music or messages easily from one place to another—and this form of mediation has become important in communication and commerce. But mediation is also built into the very nature of music, for all music requires some kind of making or performance process.

    Just as important as the technological development of audio recording was the developing sense of a “smaller world.” The United States and the Soviet Union actively solicited political and economic alliances with peoples all over the globe; to support these alliances, the superpowers purposefully increased communication among the peoples of the world. During this period, music was both “pulled” and “pushed” across international borders—in person, on recordings, and by broadcasting.11 The channels of communication built through these efforts formed a foundation for our time, when music moves quickly across international borders.

    When the idea of globalization became popular in the 1990s, people liked Page 7 →to think that in the new era people, money, goods, information, and ideas would zip around in a global network at very high speeds, without obstacles. Nonetheless, as Anna Tsing has pointed out, there is friction in the network: our interconnections across distance are “awkward, unequal, unstable, and creative.”12 Some music moves easily through the network, while other music gets lost in the shuffle. Some routes of travel are encouraged, others discouraged. Some people have access to the network as creators, others as listeners, others not at all.

    In part 3, therefore, we look at some of the ways global interconnection supports the flow of music, and we focus on some of the points of friction that impede or direct that flow. We will see that some music-makers have been empowered by access to distant music, using it to craft musical identities for themselves that do not depend on the heritage they received through their families or ethnic groups. We will observe the music industry as it creates and fulfills the musical desires of niche markets, and we will see how constraints built into the global marketplace remain a key factor in the music business. We will also see how migration and mediation work together in the lives of people who have moved: they continue to use both travel and media to maintain contact with faraway homelands.

    The conclusion brings together recent assessments of these “flows” and their effects. Some scholars describe the ethical dangers of globalization in more practical terms: loss of local or regional identity, economic exploitation of the poor by the rich, and conflicts over what parts of a musical heritage are worth preserving. Some scholars have mourned the loss of stable identities that results from the movement of people and ideas. These matters remain controversial, partly because different outcomes are observed in different places. The anthropologist Arjun Appadurai (ah-PAH-do-rye) argues that the genie cannot be put back into the bottle; that is, despite these dangers, it may not be possible to go back to a world in which cultures seem distinct from one another. He suggests that the best solution may be to embrace the multiplicity of selves and values that results from globalization.

    Tradition, Heritage, and Boundaries

    This book makes reference to many groups of people—that is, people who consider themselves to be groups and people who are called a group by others. Boundaries between groups are meaningful to insiders and outsiders alike: Page 8 →they are an important part of how human beings think about themselves. These boundaries are, in some sense, imaginary: they exist in people’s thoughts about themselves in relation to other people. Yet they are also real in that they shape human behavior.13 Boundaries between groups can be used to create a spirit of solidarity, where each member of a group feels a strong sense of loyalty and belonging. They can also be used to divide people, to promote one group and diminish another.

    It is common in conversation and scholarly writing to refer to “a culture,” meaning a set of behaviors or beliefs that distinguish one group from another. In the words of Seyla Benhabib: “Whether in politics or in policy, in courts or in the media, one assumes that each human group ‘has’ some kind of ‘culture’ and that the boundaries between these groups and the contours of their cultures are specifiable and relatively easy to depict.”14 Once people define and give names to certain groups, they treat those groups and their “culture” as real; naming them seems to nail down those boundaries.15

    Yet observation of real-world situations reveals that the boundaries between groups are usually movable and often loosely defined. These boundaries are human-made: they are produced through transactions, arguments, and negotiations. In addition to setting political boundaries between nations, people also choose what behaviors they consider “inside the lines” for members of their group and what is clearly outside: what music is good and what is not, who is acceptable to marry and who is not, or which words to choose and which to avoid in particular conversations. According to the music scholar Stephen Blum, “We begin to understand something of what people mean by ‘culture’ when we hear them arguing about it—comparing one culture with another, or with something they refuse to regard as culture.”16 The philosopher Frantz Fanon argued that separating people into groups may lead us to see the “other” group as a fixed object, incapable of change, with “phrases such as ‘I know them,’ ‘that’s the way they are.’”17

    How we think about groups of people matters. Throughout the 20th century and into the 21st, some countries with multiethnic populations have witnessed vicious acts of genocide: attempts to wipe out an entire group, usually identified by ethnicity, race, nationality, religion, or sexual or gender orientation. According to Gregory H. Stanton strong group identity is a necessary precondition of genocide. In the cases Stanton has studied, a large population first defines a minority population by name, drawing a distinction between “us” and “them.” The majority then use hate speech against the defined minority, usually claiming that members of the minority group are not really Page 9 →human. Then they organize the power of the state or military to harm the people in the minority group.18 In recent decades, as majority populations have experienced political and economic uncertainty and migrants have moved to seek refuge from violent conditions, attacks of this kind against minority groups have increased.19

    Obviously, not every case of dividing people into groups ends in genocide. Yet it is clear that human beings experience groups as a social reality. The perception of groups shapes human behavior, and in some cases the drawing of a boundary between groups can cause harm. In this book we will watch people drawing these lines and using them for purposes of bonding their groups together or excluding people from their groups.

    One way that people mediate music is by telling stories about how their music is different from other music—drawing boundaries that define the music.20 The idea of tradition is one important story people tell to identify a group. Tradition is that which is handed down from one person to another. Sometimes people believe that a song has to be very old to be traditional, but that’s not necessarily the case. Along with the handing down—the teaching of a song—come the stories about why we sing this song, who the teacher learned it from, and what it has meant in the past. The tradition is not just in the song but also in the story: traditional music “teaches, reinforces, and creates the social values of its producers and consumers.”21 Saying that music is “part of our tradition” usually increases its value, giving it a pedigree that is justified by history and connects today’s musician to people in the past.

    Another kind of story that delineates who can be part of a group is heritage. Heritage is a tradition passed down among a family or kinship group. People often say that heritage means cultivating and preserving musical or other practices as they have existed in the past.22 It is useful to recognize, though, that the stories we tell today about heritage define the heritage: even though heritage is about the past, people can change ideas about it in the present.23 Unlike tradition, heritage requires a sense of kinship: it defines the group by pointing to a shared set of historical experiences and, usually, to ethnic or genetic ties. The sense of jazz as a particularly African American heritage, for instance, relies on that sense of kinship.

    The act of acknowledging heritage in the present often helps to strengthen belief in those ethnic and genetic ties, using ideas about history to demonstrate the existence of a group. Repatriating Native American artifacts by taking them out of museums and giving them back to the tribes where they originated is an action that is based on the idea of heritage. The individual Page 10 →recipients of the artifacts are not the same individuals they belonged to originally, but both the museums and the recipients perceive that these recipients have a claim on these objects because of their belonging in a particular Native American tribe, ethnically and historically.

    Kinship can be a broad concept. A very expansive example of a kinship group is a nation, which is imagined as a coherent group occupying a coherent territory. If there is a plausible story that helps people believe they are connected, they can feel that connection, even over great distances. The idea of a nation implies that there is something—a set of customs, a language, a shared musical heritage, a shared history—that unites its members.24 The idea of a nation can also render invisible the existence of anyone or anything that does not conform to beliefs about what that nation is and who its people are.

    We imagine “nations” or “cultures” as unified wholes, yet clearly they are not. Songs sung by the Canadian singer Céline Dion play a vital role in defining stereotypes about love in Ghanaian popular music and literature.25 Some people in the small Southeast European country of Slovenia enjoy salsa dancing.26 The generalizations we carry in our heads about what people or nations might be like are stereotypes: simplified versions of reality that we use as “good enough” approximations. If we had to actively think about all the detail that we can perceive, all the time, we would go mad: unless we are taken by surprise, our brains make an approximate sketch of the situation and move on. The hazard, of course, is that the approximation may not be accurate enough, creating errors in judgment.27 As with the example of Wang Leehom in Los Angeles, it is useful to keep in mind the principle that “what you see is not all there is.”

    Using concepts of culture and nation requires similar caution, for regarding any group’s music as a unitary “thing” is apt to lead to inaccurate conclusions. There are aspects of performance style that are unique to each individual player, to each region, and to people who participate in more than one group, more than one tradition. Music changes with every performance, and it changes a lot over time as musicians get new ideas. When music is transmitted from one person to another, it may also gain new meanings just because the new listener interprets it differently.

    Some scholars have written about hybrid musics—musics that are created by combining two or more different source musics. This term comes from biology: a hybrid is the result of cross-fertilization between two different species of plant or animal. The biological analogy assumes that the source music can be easily divided into separate types that have clear boundaries. Yet musicalPage 11 → creativity does not work that way. First of all, the idea of a hybrid assumes that we have precisely distinguished and identified the sources, what they are and to what group they belong. Because musicians freely imitate and adopt music from other musicians as they go along, though, it is impossible to establish an unmixed source for any kind of music. The blending of different musical ideas is not exceptional; it is the norm. In this regard music works like the borrowing of words between languages: it is a process of “constant redefinition and appropriation.”28 Or, in the words of the American composer Lou Harrison, “Don’t put down hybrids, because there isn’t anything else.”29

    And second, musicians may choose musical styles self-consciously, in part because of the story or group membership that a particular style suggests. A musician may want to present herself as loyal to a particular tradition or as an innovator loosely tied to that tradition. She may want to surprise others by adopting music that is completely different from her heritage or cause a political stir by adopting the music of her enemies. This is not “hybridization” in the manner analogous to biology: the musician’s chosen form of expression is purposeful, not an accident of genetics. These choices musicians make can stretch or redraw the boundaries of what we consider a musical style and thereby alter the boundaries of groups of people, as well. For this reason I will avoid the word hybrid, describing instead the choices of musicians who mix or blend musics.30

    Drawing boundaries around musical styles, then, is just as much a contested process as drawing boundaries around groups of people. There are lots of ambiguous cases, and where people choose to draw the boundary reflects evaluative categories like good and bad, ours and not ours. In order to name and talk about music at all, scholars draw borders around types of music, and so do the makers and listeners of music. Yet we need to keep in mind that these borders are human-made and that they are not fixed but negotiable. As we explore how music has moved, we will encounter situations in which a majority adopts the minority’s music and situations where the minority adapts to the majority’s music, but we will also discover the creation of entirely new types of music for new situations.

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