Thursday, March 4, 2010

Music and Language

I have recently been enrolled in French Classes which means I have been studying French for 30 hours a week for the last three weeks. My head has been spinning with a mélange of French and English, as well as the idea of a language. I am taking a class made up of mostly immigrants that speak multiple languages already, and my appreciation for the amount of effort and sacrifice that immigrants make to become Canadian has awakened. I had no idea of the difficulties, why do we have to give some many wonderful people a rough time? I guess humanism is dead in this part of the world and most. Especially with wars being replaced by homeland security, but this is for another time.

What I really want to talk about is the globalization of art and music, and in particular the use of music as a language. The phrase, music is the universal language, I doubt is anything of a surprise to the people reading this blog, but music itself is a blanket term for countless numbers of musical dialects, most of which are very hard to learn. However what makes music interesting is how over centuries musical dialects have mashed and mixed with one another, creating new languages and fashions for creation. The laws of the language of music are extremely flexible and adaptable. Like the English language I will argue, after years of colonization, has undergone a constant and rapid evolution. The English rose to global power with the great advancements in technology, distribution, capitalism, and of course the United States. New methods of distributing the mass amount of American Culture emerged in the 1900s, which of course backboned by capitalism. These technologies, which ultimately led to digital technologies, the Internet, and today’s musical landscape, have allowed the language to mash and bend faster than the technologies can keep. The spell check on the Microsoft program I am using to type this is a prime example.

I have an interest in world music, and in particular pop, rock, and psychedelic music of the 60s and 70s. I am amazed at just how well artists from around the world were able to synthesize the evolutions in rock and integrate them into their own cultural characteristics. Artists like Omar Khorshid, who did his version proto-eruption guitar heroics, melding fiery Egyptian modes with American surf music. He is perhaps, only rivaled by Dick Dale or Link Wray. Another example is Korean guitarist Shin Jung Hyun, who was doing his own heavy, fuzzed, out, wah-worship, proto-prog jams, around the same time as Hendrix. But unlike Hendrix, he music does not seemed to be rooted in blues, but in something way far out, or just foreign to my ears.

It is amazing how these cultures were able to understand the musical dialects, syntaxes, and accents. Just listen to groups of the above-mentioned artists. Someone learning a language will attest to how difficult it is to learn an accent. It takes years to learn a language if you are not born into it.

This idea of musical globalization should not be mistaken for western imperialism; it’s symbiotic. This is particularly obviously with late 60s American psych-rock or the experimental music of the minimalists. Both borrowed heavily from India and African musics. They took their ideas of musical architecture, rhythm, improvisation, and trance. Globalization in music is in fact way older. An early example is that of the chaconne, a popular dance of the baroque period. Bach composed a famous Chaconne. The rhythm itself however, actually comes from South America, imported by colonization. Mozart too, Rondo a la Turk, was largely inspired by Turkish music (hence the name). As well as Ravel who was deeply moved by the music of Indonesia.

With technology our world gets smaller, and global consciousness increases, but as we can see our world has always been small, and maybe music points to a future where we speak a melting pot language.