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Has Globalisation Changed The Disposition Of Music Cultural Studies Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Cultural Studies
Wordcount: 5053 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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To begin with the globalisation of music, we will have to understand that Intuitively, globalization is a process fuelled by, and resulting in, increasing cross-border flows of goods, services, money, people, information, and culture (Held et al. 1999:16). Sociologist Anthony Giddens (1990:64; 1991:21) proposes to regard globalization as a decoupling or “distanciation” between space and time, while geographer David Harvey (1989) and political scientist James Mittelman (1996) observe that globalization entails a “compression” of space and time, a shrinking of the world. The discourses over globalization of music constructed over these debates of Giddens and Harvey.

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When we talk about globalisation, we are in a sense talking about unity of the states across the globe. How this unity is brought up? Then how does it link the states together? What are the major contributors in this unification process? Along with a myriad of intellectuals I will also sum- up with an answer, ‘global- culture’. However, it is one of the measures required for the unification process.

One set of theorists, who are pro-global- culture say, that the global culture is making the world closer and more united. The people of the world are combining their differences and being more cooperative towards one and other. This process of emerging global culture can be seen in times of need when everyone has pulled together to strive for peace and freedom. Although, there exists a wide range of religions of which people are becoming tolerant, forming a homogenised society.

If we say that the global culture is the synonym of the common culture, then there are wide range of opinion on it. Wight uses the term ‘common culture’ so loosely that it is unclear whether he has in mind a deep, historic sense of culture, or the more superficial agreed rules that compose a contractual society. (James 1993: 277-8) Alan James, ‘System or society?’, Review of International Studies 19: 3, 1993. I argue that to certain extent global culture is a common culture among the people of the world.

Worldbeat is a term for various styles of world popular music, or pop, that are practiced outside the European-American mainstream. The Popular music (music produced and marketed on a mass-commodity basis) first emerged in the early 1900s, during which time numerous distinctive popular music styles began to develop around the world. The rise of such genres was linked to dramatic transformations-especially urbanization and modernization-occurring throughout the world. Such changes disrupted traditional attitudes, lifestyles, and forms of artistic patronage, while creating new urban social classes with new musical tastes.

As per Terence Lancashire, The term ‘world music’ usually conjures up images of musics from ‘remote’ corners of the world. However, that remoteness is not always geographical and can. The formal emergence of ‘world music’ in 1987 as a commercial gloss denoting a body of music which hitherto defied conventional categorisation – namely musics other than popular and classic forms from North America and Western Europe or, alternatively, the incorporation of such musics into Western popular genres, has met with a variety of responses from musicologists/ethnomusicologists seeking to clarify the dynamics that underlie the production and reception of world musics and the related and sometimes indistinguishable genres of ‘new age’ and ‘healing’. Regional case studies and overviews (e.g. Frith 1991; Keil and Feld 1994; Taylor 1997) often draw attention towards the relationship between the West and the rest where production and presentation of non-Western music has often meant some form of Western control in terms of ‘discovery’, production, marketing and distribution. Accusations of cultural exploitation and appropriation have, therefore, often run central to the debate on what appears to be yet another dimension of that unbalanced and uneasy relation between the first and third worlds. In reality, the question of who is exploiting whom is often a complicated one as non-Western musicians find access to markets hitherto only dreamt of. Nevertheless, in order for such musical projects to be realised, financial backing is essential and it is here that resources are, more often than not, concentrated inthe West. Thus, a music flow from south to north and east to west seems to define the ‘world music’ equation. Yet, there are other players who, through cultural ambiguity, occupy an alternative arena less easily defined. Economic development in the Far East, coupled with rapid modernisation, has meant the emergence of countries which share similar economic goals, cultural interests and perceptions with the West but, resulting from other cultural differences, most obviously language, are not so often included in debates on musics both ‘popular’ and ‘world’. (Lancashire: 21)

Globalisation, which generally implies westernisation and the Asianisation of Asia, is often posited to be a culturally, economically, technologically and socially homogenising force in the distribution of music, whilst localisation refers to the empowerment of local forces and the (re)emergence of local music cultures. These two notions of globalisation and localisation seem to be mutually contradictory, posing a fundamental dilemma for the understanding of the transformation of popular cultures into global forms. As argued by Law (forthcoming), the debate between globality and locality, or between homogeneity and heterogeneity in globalisation discourse, could be regarded as a product of similar antagonisms in the literature of development concerning theories of modernisation, dependency and world systems. Although there is no clear definition or model of globalisation (Hirst and Thompson 1996), its discourse attempts to theorise the phenomenon in terms of The temporal and spatial compression of human activities on the globe, to recognise, explore and explain the interaction and interdependence of economics, politics and cultures beyond local, regional and national boundaries, and to predict possible influences on human activities (Law, forthcoming, also see, for example, Featherstone 1995; Comeliau 1997; Poisson 1998; Jones 1999; Crawford 2000; Croteau and Hoynes 2000). Cohen (1995) suggests that locality could be most usefully used in popular music studies ‘to discuss networks of social relationships, practices, and processes extending across particular places’, and to draw attention to interconnections and interdependencies between, for example, space and time, the contextual and the conceptual, the individual and the collective, the self and the other (p. 65). In this respect the local is defined by reference not only to a community, but also to a shared sense of place within global culture. Globalisation promotes the meeting of musical cultures, whilst simultaneously encouraging regional differences. Local popular industries perceive their potential audience in international terms, and ‘local’ pop markets are now awash with global sounds, since, as Wallis and Malm (1984) maintain, globalisation encourages popular musical practices to look towards global styles for possible inspiration, whilst also looking inwards to (re)create national music styles and forms. For decades, critics have depicted the international circulation of American and British pop as cultural imperialism. Yet US-American and British youth have increasingly been shaped by Asian cultural. Similarly, there is wide-spread recognition of the willingness amongst popular musicians ‘to create novel forms that express a widespread experience of dislocation’ (Jenkins 2001, p. 89).

For example, contemporary Afro-pop sometimes combines the ‘electric guitars of Western rock and roll with melodies and rhythms of traditional African music’, whilst Western rock drummers have long adopted ‘a tradition from Africa whereby the sounds of different drums are combined’ (Croteau and Hoynes 2000, p. 333). Jenkins (2001) describes such musical eclecticism as the product of ‘third culture’ youths, who fuse elements from mixed racial, national or linguistic backgrounds. Although the big international music companies affect local production, their markets are also influenced by particular local cultures. So, globalisation signifies more than environmental interconnectedness, and the meaning of musical products with global features strikes at the heart of the major social and political issues of our time. This is how Bennett (1999) represents the attempts to rework hip hop as a localised mode of expression by Turkish and Moroccan youth in Frankfurt. Economic globalisation is often considered to undermine the local foundations of the popular culture industry. The flow of capital through transnational monetary tems and multinational companies means that words, ideas, images and sounds of different cultures are made available to vast networks of people through the transmission of electronic media. Among the most prominent multinational electronic media companies are two Internet partnerships – MusicNet, involving AOL, RealNetworks, EMI, BMG and Warner; and Duet, incorporating Yahoo!, Universal and Sony. The two most recognised online music providers so far, Napster and MP3.com, have also linked up with record companies (Source: http://www.grayzone.com/ifpi61201.htm). Furthermore, the international division of labour and the global circulation of commodities have ensured that processes of production and consumption are no longer confined to a geographically bounded territory. Consequently, economic globalisation has been characterised as the ‘deterritorialisation. ( Ho: 144) (Appadurai 1996) or ‘denationalisation’ (Sassen 1996) of nation-states.

Global economic forces ‘reside in global networks that link different nations and cultures in profit-maximising webs of production’, leading to the transformation of all sectors of all state economies and their mutual accommodation in the global context (Crawford 2000, pp. 71-2). Negus (1999) maintains that the ‘global market’ is a concept that has to be constructed in a particular way to target ‘the most profitable categories of music within the recording industry’ (p. 156). However, as we have seen, the (re)emergence of local cultures competes with global factors in a process that Morley and Robins (1995) refer to as the ‘new dynamics of re-localisation’ in The attempt to achieve ‘a new global-local nexus, about new and intricate relations between global space and local space’ (p. 116). Levitt (1983) explains that localisation is practised by multinational companies insofar as they must have a committed operating presence in the markets of other nations.

However, electronic communications have also enabled the global broadcasting of messages of universal peace and love, and, in the case of www. indymedia.org, have even served as anti-capitalist noticeboards. Anderson (1983) suggested that the nation depends for its existence upon a sense of social- psychological affiliation to an ‘imagined community’, which was facilitated by the emergence of the mechanical printing press and consequent capital investment (Negus and Roman-Velazquez, 2000, p. 330). Similarly nowadays, global electronic communications can evoke a sense of a trans-national ‘imagined community’. In music, an example can be well illustrated by the 11 September 2001 tragedies in New York and Washington D.C. The US-American national anthem was thundered Not only all over the States but also in other countries, such as at St Paul’s Cathedral in London. Whitney Houston’s record company intends to re-release her version of the US-American national anthem that was produced ten years ago during the Gulf War. International popular artists such as U2, Britney Spears, Limp Bizkit and Destiny’s Child, worked together for the album What’s Going On, the market profits from which will be donated to funds for the relief of the families of victims of the tragedies of September 11. John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’, which evokes a world free from all state boundaries, has now become popular even in some non-English speaking regions, and was sung by all the artists involved in the Carlsberg’s Rock Music Concert held in Hong Kong on 24 September 2001, who also prayed for those who died in the disaster two weeks earlier.

Globalisation and localisation are in a dynamic dialectic. Globalisation is a process of local hybridisation that determines a great number of processes that change and even transcend the regional and national characteristics of popular music. Current debates about globalisation in popular music show that local actors become increasingly involved in global flows of meanings, images, sounds, capital, people, etc. Through the technology of global networks, new affinity group formation emerge, centring on particular musical styles and ways of expression. Economic globalisation always has cultural effects on the localisation of popular music. (Ho: 146) Hudson and Cohen bring out the detail of local musical cultures, the way in which music, produced through and producing space, may act as social glue.(431)

Does globalisation of music produce convergaence?

The very first argument for the present paper is the consequences of the globalisation of music as to the convergence of societies towards a uniform pattern of cultural organization. AS expressed in modernization theory, the spread of markets and technology is predicted to cause societies to converge from their preindustrial past, although total homogeneity is deemed unlikely. The sociologists reject the convergence debate by arguing that globalization homogenizes without destroying the local and the particularistic. For example, Viviana Zelizer (1999) about the economy that it differentiates and proliferates culturally in much the same way as other spheres of social life do, without losing national and even international connectedness.” Robertson (1995:34-35) sees the global as the “linking of localities.”

Issues of music getting de-territorialised

Other argument is that the original is getting lost in the wake of globalisation. Other sets of arguments which emerge from this view are :

How do listeners identify music with a particular place? The evolution and geographic distribution of instruments, use of specific melodies or scales, and existence of common rhythms are some key characteristics that help define and limit the territorial range of a music.

How common traits can provide telltale clues about where a form of music originated and how it spread?

How can music retain its association with certain places in an increasingly global society?

If these questions could be answered the music could be retained as intact.

IDENTITIES: Music and its origin

Other argument flows that in a globalised village, where is the identity of the music? Four basic positions are highlighted in the successive integration of both MUSIC and identities, from separation to fusion: demonizing exclusion, primitivist polarization, diversifying hybridization and normalizing assimilation.

Lomax also states that due to the widespread distribution of “industrialized” music and the loss of music that exemplifies cultural aspects and characteristics, civilizations are not maintaining a sense of national pride and identity. Without these distinguishing lines, Schiller states that at one time it was cultural diversity that flourished, and now we are witnessing the diffusion of such a process, if such a process of cultural breakdown were to keep evolving, we would have to face a “global consumer monoculture.”

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AMERICANISATION: Westernisation or polarisation of music

Another argument of the discourses on the globalisation of music is that the music which is going global is by and large Americanised. One of the major fears associated with the globalization of music is the creation of a global monoculture. Barlow investigates how the global monoculture has infiltrated every corner of the earth. He feels that North American corporate culture, including the music industry, is destroying local tradition, knowledge, skill, artisans and values. Specifically artisans have been affected through the fact that the product that they have tried to market has been outdated and overrun by the popstar garbage that has taken over the world and destroyed cultures. The premise of Barlow’s argument finds that this is corporate America is not only destroying traditions, but it is burying a cultures overall identity. As best said by Nawal Hassan, a Egyptian artisan activist, ” This is an issue of identity. All our civilizations has ceased to be spiritual. Our civilization has become commercial.” (Barlow 2001)

I came up with the view that People arguing over the loss of a nation’s cultural identity, the terror of westernization, and the reign of cultural imperialism. Through topics such as these we explore the possibilities or the existence of hybridization of cultures and values, and what some feel is the exploitation of their heritage. One important aspect that is not explored that such influences can also be more than just a burden and an overstepping of bounds. These factors can create an educational environment as well as a reaffirmation of one’s own culture. With the music being the highly profitable, capitalist enterprise that it is today, it is no wonder that it is controlled and regulated by a few large conglomerates.

COMMERCIALISATION: Consumerism of music

Another issue of debate is that the transnational corporations are making money on music, whether the music is twisted or re-mixed. So it is a kind of threat on the originality of the music. Growth of a profitable and varied music services industry producing everything from remixes to music marketing strategies. Standing at the forefront of this growth industry are a large number of firms attempting to combine in innovative ways music and ICT. This can take a variety of forms, for instance: selling and distributing music over the internet; web design and computerised advertising services tailored to music products; software design focused on multimedia products and virtual instruments; high-tech post-production and mixing services; and virtual centres and communities of music industry actors.

Brunnette in empirical studies of market concentration in music (1990, 1993),reports that seven corporations together controlled no less than 50 percent of market share in any country where they had operations and up to 80 percent in some countries (199:104-5).The seven corporations, with their nation of origin and reported 1990 sales, are:Sony (Japan, $3 billion), Time/Warner (U.S., $2.9 billion),Polygram(Netherlands/Germany, $2.6 billion), Bertelsmann Media Group (Germany, $2 billion),Thorn/EMI (U.K., $1.88 billion),MCA(U.S., $1 billion), and Virgin (U.K., $500 million), total 1990 sales $13.88 billion (1993, pp. 141-143).With no. such as these it is nearly impossible to deny the fact that these companies do not have a great affect on the influence of music and media that they distribute. Conglomerates not only run the market for music,but determine which music is to be distributed and to where, therefore pushing an idea or culture onto a nation. Seeing that westernization has become a industry term for many businesses it is surprising that recently much of the profit that has been received from music conglomerates has been non-U.S. artists.

The contemporary music industry

The making of music is not only a cultural and sociological process but an economic one. However, economic geography perhaps because of a lingering productivist bias has yet to undertake a serious appraisal of the dynamics of the music industry (see Sadler 1995). Trends of globalization, internal corporate restructuring and global-local relations are, however, as evident here as in other sectors. In 1992, the music industry generated worldwide sales of US$29 000 million, dominated by just five major global corporations: Warners, Bertlesmann Music Group, Polygram International Group, EMI-Virgin and Sony. Seventy per cent of world record sales were generated in just five national markets, each dominated by the ‘majors’ which between them captured 73 per cent of sales in the USA (31 per cent of the global market), 60 pe cent of sales in Japan (15 per cent), 90 per cent of sales in Germany (9 per cent), 73 per cent of sales in the UK (7 per cent) and 87 per cent of sales in France (7 per cent) (Monopolies and Mergers Commission 1994). (Leyshon. Mayshell, Revill: 427)

Music and traditions?

The music is a tradition? It is another issue of debate. Because there are other instances which suggest that sometimes the popular music of a place was against the traditions. In some cases, as with jazz, Greek rebetika, and the Argentine tango, the emergent popular music styles came from the colorful underworlds of urban taverns and brothels. As such styles grew in sophistication, they came to attract the interest of cultural nationalists and middle-class enthusiasts. Eventually these styles shed their less reputable origins and developed into dynamic national genres. Powne (1968:vii-viii) referred to a ‘debased or Westernized music’ in Ethiopia, and Price (l930a; 16) to ‘the slovenly and immoral music called jazz’, which he regarded as ‘crude, negroid in form and vulgar’. Even the sensitive scholar Kunst referred to the partially Western-derived genre of Indonesian kroncong as a ‘monotonous and characterless wail’,listing it as one of the causes why the native ‘is either dying away or degenerating’ (ibid.) Some writers have indulged in a romantic zeal to save traditional music everywhere from the contamination that was often supposed to result from musical contact between the West and the non-West.

Fryer (ibid., 482) laments cuts in musical education, For Fryer, the environment of pop is an anti-culture with universally commercialized African rhythm undermining the universal cultural standards of the classical wester canon. For Bunge, the new and global is to be celebrated because it is popular and young; Fryer (ibid, 482) chastises a ‘resurrection by a professed radical of the discredited economic doctrine of consumer sovereignty’. (Leyshon. Matless, Revill: 424)

Caroline Bithell says, The world music marketplace opens up a new area of representation of a culture by its own participants, while the high density of recording in its turn stimulates an increased preoccupation within the culture with questions of musical identity, all of which provides fertile ground for ethnomusicological research. The ensuing detective work is aimed not at flushing out cases of inauthenticity, but at uncovering ever more pieces of a multi-dimensional jigsaw rich in unexpected meetings and happy accidents and documented in different ways by field recordings and commercial recordings alike. While some of the groups identify themselves completely with the notion of “the tradition”, regardless of what they are actually doing in practice, others are quite clear that they are simply “doing what they want to do” and resent the imposition of the spectre of tradition as a restrictive framework (e.g. Minicale interview 1994). They do not in any case view the tradition as something fixed– this can only lead to ossification–but as a continually evolving organic entity which needs to find contemporary forms of expression (e.g. Poli interview 1995). (Bithell: 61) They feel that they should not be held to ransom by the notion of tradition or More precisely by other people’s perception of their tradition. (They remain concerned, nonetheless, that they should be seen as being grounded in the tradition.) What is at stake is not what is done but the way in which the “traditional” label is appropriated. At the same time, the concept of tradition itself is clearly flexible and contested and does not necessarily imply either great age or superior status. (The alternative designation “popular” does not share this problem but, in the modern media age, creates new difficulties. It also fails to bestow a sufficiently elevated aura.) There is also a danger of idealising or romanticising the workings of the oral tradition where songs were passed down directly from one generation to the next. In reality, the process did not always run smoothly. Some older singers were jealous of their repertoire and reluctant to pass on their secrets to younger singers. In many places, singing remained the prerogative of the older men (Sarrocchi interview). The availability of commercial recordings means that some of these human difficulties can be by-passed and the younger generations of singers can empower themselves as and when they are ready to do so.( Bithell: 62)

Globalisation of music

J. Mc Gregor Wise : Music is a landscape in which people negotiate their identities.

There is prevalent a view that the growing ease with which capital and commodities cross international boundaries will serve to erode and perhaps even obliterate that which might be considered ‘local’. This particular conviction invokes a range of starkly different political responses. On the one hand, there are high modernists like Anthony Giddens who foresee that individuals will be enabled increasingly to transcend the strictures of the ‘local’ in order to participate in what is understood as the rather richer environs of a global community forged out of the communications revolution (Giddens 1991, pp. 1467; 1998, p. 36). On the other, there is a swelling band of critics who fear that globalisation entails simply the homogenisation of cultural practice and taste. These anxieties are captured best perhaps in the lucid polemic of Naomi Klein (2000). While the contention that trans-national forces are inexorably eroding that which is particular to given societies exercises considerable appeal, it has of course been challenged in various quarters. Some social scientists have sought to suggest that the process of globalisation will not in fact impose homogeneity but rather will illuminate and foster the local. This particular reading of contemporary social trends finds an especially keen illustration in a new book by Andy Bennett. In Popular Music and Youth Culture we encounter a distinctive conception of the ways in which the social world is experienced and understood. The author sets out to challenge the view that popular music constitutes a cultural text that has a meaning independent of its audience. Social actors are not – Bennett insists – mere cultural innocents who passively consume the wares of the music business. On the contrary, he argues, people are in fact reflexive agents who interpret and appropriate popular music in ways that are critical and creative. As a consequence, the meanings of musical texts should be acknowledged not as singular and given but rather as plural and contested. The particular reading advanced within Popular Music and Youth Culture insists not only that social actors engage critically with popular music but that they do so principally in the context of the ‘local’. This is defined throughout the text not as a demarcated physical space but rather as a set of discourses. The specific discursive practices through which the local is called into being are, Bennett asserts, intimately associated with the production and consumption of popular music. Those musical texts that originate elsewhere are routinely read through sensibilities that emerge out of a specific understanding of place. These particular sensibilities are themselves, however, heavily influenced by exposure to musical texts that originate else- where. Looking at musicalised forms of social practice would seem to suggest, therefore, that the relationship of the global to the local is a complex one not of dominance but rather of dialogue. (See Willet : review)

African American musical adaptations formed the roots of blues, jazz, and other genres of modern music in the United States. But elsewhere in the Americas, especially in the Caribbean and Brazil, drums remained integral to the black musical tradition. In these areas, African music has mixed with both indigenous and non-African traditions to produce a variety of musical styles, including calypso and reggae.

Further Andrew Leyshon, David Matless, George Revill, talk about universal and national music. Shepherd, the assumed fixed criteria against which all music can be judged are rooted in the musical languages of ruling groups privileging the ‘classical’ over the ‘popular’ and the ‘masculine’ against the ‘feminine’. Such cultural distinctions were brought to bear both within and beyond thewest.n Leppert and McClary (1987, xviii) show how such formulations have legitimized western sophistication and complexity against the ‘primitive’ and suggest that ethnomusicological questioning of music and society has been acceptable only when applied to other cultures: recognizing that other musics are bound up with social values does not necessarily lead to the conclusion that our music likewise might be: more often it simply results in the chauvinistic, ideological reaffirmation of the superiority of Western art, which is still widely held to be autonomous.


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