question: what happens when you read as much as you can about 60 kinds of music, all created in the 20th century and in the U.S.?
answer: you wonder about the rest of the world.
we’ll do a more elaborate song and dance (har har) in Rotterdam, but PL suggested I fill you in a bit, in part because these /foggy mcfogster mcmc tweety apo/ people would be interested. i donno.
santayana said, “your prior model will condition your findings”, so how about if we start with this boss table…:
quickly: the table shows what we call “attributes of genres” in the first column. these sociological characteristics help us to sort musics into mutually exclusive, exhaustive categories. (now I feel like I face the same problem as those dudes last week. they phoned it in, referring to the “giant pool of money“.) each successive column represent the features of a distinct genre form, of which there are four. not every music has every genre form, but lots of them do…like…rap music, rock-and-roll, bluegrass, for ex.
So, as you can tell, your garage band in high school is an Avant-Garde genre (if you were lucky), and Hair Metal was an Industry-based genre in 1983, and BeBop Jazz lives on as a Traditionalist genre. The idea is that most musics move through these forms in stages, mostly growing from wee to big, but sometimes not. Some musics get stalled, some skip steps, etc. But that’s the work we’ve done on trajectories which is the subject for another day.
Now, the question I just asked (myself) was: What happens elsewhere? Do these forms obtain?
The answer is largely yes. It does seem like the genre forms (Avant-Garde, Scene-based, Industrial and Traditionalist) exist, to greater and lesser degrees, across the globe. While in some cases they obtain particular attributes, these attributes often contribute to or compliment the form, rather than constituting a new type. However…
…There is one candidate for a new genre form found outside the U.S.: the government-made genre. We find these mostly in totalitarian or otherwise restrictive state systems, like China, Turkmenistan, Myanmar, etc. For example, since 1949, the Chinese government has more-or-less specialized in music genre creation as a component of its propaganda machine. For example, the national media monopolist, China Record Company, was charged with responsibility for popularizing guoyue, a new form of music that combined Chinese opera (xiqu), folk songs and revolutionary art songs, in order to displace Euro-American popular music. Similarly, during the Cultural Revolution (1966-76), Beijing opera (Jingju) was transformed into famous revolutionary “model operas” (yangbanxi), which became the core of the unitary revolutionary mass culture, was popularized all over the country and replaced numerous varieties of local opera. The Chinese government used the same technique to dominate the Avant-Garde pop scene in China, permitting several Beijing-based organizations and schools (e.g., the Eastern Song and Dance Troup, the Gu Jianfen Training Center for the Singing Stars of the Central Song and Dance Troupe) to train some of China’s leading pop singers and composers in the 1980s, including Mao Amin, Wei Wei, Su Hong and Li Jie. The state-manufactured genre is also found in both the Soviet-controlled and “democratic” Turkmenistan, as I mentioned, although I’m having trouble getting a genre name. Work in progress, and help solicited here.
A sub-type of the state-manufactured genre emerges in contexts where governments promote reindigenization movements. Bolivia, for example, saw a nationalistic revolution in 1952, leading to increased rights and social awareness for natives. The new government established a folklore department in the Bolivian Ministry of Education, and radio stations began broadcasting in Aymara and Quechua. By 1965, an influential group called Los Jairas formed in La Paz, Bolivia; the quartet fused native sounds into forms suitable for urban Europeans and the middle class. By the late 1960s native groups such as Ruphay, Grupo Aymara and quechua singer Luzmila Carpio were performing in reasonably big venues. Later, Chilean groups like Inti-Illimani and Los Curacas used early works by Los Jairas and the Parras as inspiration to invent nueva canción. This music was later reinvented in Bolivia in the 1980s as canto nuevo (see artists like Emma Junaro and Matilde Casazola).
There are a couple of points to all this. First, the idea that new genres of music could emerge in such contexts may strike some readers as counter-intuitive, especially if you think of censorship as having a freezing effect on cultural innovation. Second, I find it surprising that this is the only new genre form I discovered in weeks of reading musicology on genres in Asia, Central and South America. Of course, there are things I’ve missed, and I’m hoping you’ll fill in the pieces, so this surprise may have a very short half-life. Third, there’s the potential contribution that a good model of genres would offer. I don’t want to be immodest, but I think it might be really helpful to a bunch of questions. For example, if the model evolves into ‘necessary and sufficient conditions’, then artists and arts communities can use the model to determine what forms of support will most help the music to flower into a bigger genre form. Or, preservationists might be able to halt its popularization, by starving it of resources. This could, as they say, enrich the vibrancy of our cultural heritage. Plus which, this model might apply to other art worlds like genres of painting, or dance, or architecture. In fact, it might apply outside of the arts: there’s some indication that the growth of music genres, as we’ve documented it, bears a strong resemblance to the evolution of academic disciplines, and perhaps also social movements, and maybe also religious organizations.
and here’s a picture. because you read until the end.