Critical World
Thinking Globalization Through Popular Culture
World Music Today
Categories: Critical World Book

This article was created to accompany a text that appeared in the edited volume entitled “Music and Globalization:  Critical Encounters” (Indiana University Press, 2012). For more information, visit:  http://www.iupress.indiana.edu/a/MUSGLP

A good deal has happened in the realm of “world music” since my book Global Pop: World Music, World Markets appeared (Taylor 1997). While I have written quite a bit about world music since Global Pop, I have had few opportunities to step back and attempt to take the long view about world music in the marketplace.

My aim in this chapter is to lay out the nature of some of the changes that have taken place in the last decade or so, as well as fill in some lacunae in Global Pop that have come into focus since it was published.

This chapter is less about “world music” itself than how its representations and constructions have changed in the years since Global Pop was published. The music itself has not changed all that much, in fact.

To be sure, it often shows an increasing familiarity with Anglo-American popular music, and makes use of more sophisticated technologies and production techniques. But in a more abstract and broader sense, it is still a category of music that includes many clever and complex amalgamations of local musics from around the world with Anglo-American popular musics.

––Timothy D. Taylor

 

Listen to Tim Taylor talk about advertizing and pop music on New York Public Radio here

Watch a video from UCLA in which he talks about his new book The Sounds of Capitalism here

 

Disco Apocalypto?

M.I.A.’s collaboration with Angola’s Buraka Som Sistema:

 

 

The digital world has digitized, atomized, world music, so that it is broken up and disseminated everywhere, though not always in ways that can be easily recognized by listeners.

This process could only have happened after world music—which is, after all, a vast collection of wildly different musics from all over the planet—had been reduced to a “style” or “genre” so it could be disciplined, managed, and discursively constructed.

Then the music and marketing industries could dissect and disseminate it for their profit-driven ends, marking their triumph over this vast collection of musics. At least for now.

––Timothy D. Taylor

 

The importance of global informational capital needs to be understood in part by examining the recent emphasis in the business world on globalization, and, more generally, on discourses of globalization in the public domain. It is now commonly believed that everyone now lives in an information economy or an information age or a global economy, or whatever one wants to call it.

––Timothy D. Taylor

 

World Music Awards 2011

Since Global Pop appeared, world music has become somewhat better known, increasingly part of the average American’s musical landscape. It is used in the soundtracks to television programs, films, and advertising, in the background of music played in shops.

But the sales of world music are still quite small, so small that the Recording Industry Association of America, which keeps track of sales in various categories, doesn’t bother with the world music category, instead including a category called “Other” which has a footnote to say that that it includes “Ethnic” and “Folk” music, among others.

The “Other” category accounted for 97.1% of sales in 2008, the last year for which data are available as of this writing (Recording Industry Association of America 2008).

––Timothy D. Taylor

More than simply filling in the gap left by a waning classical music, world music has begun to mix with classical music sounds.

––Timothy D. Taylor

World music now occupies the noise-proofed portion of this particular store. Another major retailer in New York City also noise-proofed this portion of its store, and it has a separate entrance so patrons do not have to walk through the rest of the store to get to it.

This segregation of world music from the rest of the store is the same kind of protection of the ears of world music listeners from the rabble of other customers and sounds that classical music listeners expect.

––Timothy D. Taylor

String bands are popular across the Pacific but nowhere more so than in Vanuatu (check out the link below)

Vanuatu string band music

 

Use: Adventure, Light Industrial, Travel

Category: Light Hearted, Motivational, Warm

Use: Ceremonial, Educational, Light Industrial

Category: Floating, Meditative, Pensive

I think that there is in fact a new kind of capital, in Pierre Bourdieu’s sense of cultural capital, that is increasingly deemed to be necessary in this moment of hype over globalization (Bourdieu 1984).

In an article on the use of world music in television advertisements (Taylor 2007), I called this new capital “global informational capital”.

This term refers to the increasing importance in the developed countries of possessing a kind of capital that stands in for real knowledge of the world in this cultural moment of globalization, transnationalism, information age, or however one wants to characterize it.

––Timothy D. Taylor

 

1990s conceptions of World Music

 

More than simply filling in the gap left by a waning classical music, world music has begun to mix with classical music sounds. It is now possible to hear classicalized world music performances such as Jonathan Elias’s The Prayer Cycle, released in 1999, featuring singers ranging from Alanis Morissette to Nusrat Fateh Ali Kahn (Elias 1999).

The result is a mixture of world music, classical, and new age “styles”, a sound that is increasingly common (Parney 1999). It is not a coincidence that Jonathan Elias is the head of one of the biggest advertising music companies, Elias Arts.  To give some idea of the sound of this work, and its somewhat forced eclecticism, the sixth movement of nine, “Innocence,” features a chorus that sings in Swahili, Alanis Morrisette in Hungarian, and Salif Keita in Bambara.

I should also note that this recording was released on the Sony Classical label, another sign of the classicalization of world music—or in this case the “worldification” of classical music—as the label seeks to broaden what may be included in the “classical” category.

––Timothy D. Taylor

 

KasaiAllStars

 

It is clear from sales data that, while world music is not important to the music industry since it does not provide much revenue, it nonetheless has seeped into the broader musical soundscape of the contemporary west, largely through samples and usages in broadcasting.

In a sense, the digital world has digitized, atomized, world music, so that it is broken up and disseminated everywhere, though not always in ways that can be easily recognized by listeners.

This process could only have happened after world music—which is, after all, a vast collection of wildly different musics from all over the planet—had been reduced to a “style” or “genre” so it could be disciplined, managed, and discursively constructed. Then the music and marketing industries could dissect and disseminate it for their profit-driven ends, marking their triumph over this vast collection of musics. At least for now.

––Timothy D. Taylor

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