One of the main challenges of the modern world is globalization along with the transformations that it brings to all spheres of social life. Music as a part of culture also becomes influenced by unification that follows the establishment of strong international relations as well as of a multicultural society. Separate cultures that produced local music before the impact of globalization now become elements of a single united world culture that provides art based on a full scope of international collaboration. In some respect such changes bring positive results because they may increase mutual understanding of different cultures and nations within the new global world. Another positive feature is a possibility of creating new aesthetical points of world’s interpretation through the global perspectives without the national limitations. The main negative feature is the possible fading and eventually disappearing of national cultures (and national music as a part of it) because of cultural and political unification. There can be different approaches to the issue and the key point of this essay is to evaluate these approaches in two questions: the question of globalization’s influence on musical homogeneity and the problem of today’s musical world in the context of local, regional and global influences.
The Possible Impact of Globalization on Musical Homogeneity and Diversity
Globalization is a very complicated issue that involves different possible interpretations of its influence on culture. On the one hand, it results in homogeneity of cultures because each of them accepts some features from others through interaction and cultural exchanges. In this point, “The limited explanatory power of the cultural imperialism thesis becomes increasingly apparent”… “when direct, palpable American (or even distinctively Western) economic domination has been replaced by a virtual, amorphous world of rootless multinationals”. In such a way, Western culture’s prevalence is not an actual problem for the modern global culture because of its amorphous essence and real equality of all cultures that make some impact on the general situation. Philip Bohlman holds similar views as he claims that due to the postmodernist inclusive approach that influenced the world culture, each of the modern metropolises includes some “patterns of ethnic, racial, and religious divercity”. Thus, according to Bohlman, even though the globalized societies resemble melting pots, each cultural group is nevertheless able to preserve its identity within them. On the other hand, “the issue of authenticity is such a weird can of worms” , as David Byrne remarked when he tried to underline that in fact the idea of some borders between cultures always was a kind of public delusion, because cultures have always interacted and debates may only concern the degree of such interaction.
All of the authors understand the situation from their own perspectives, which is why none of them is wrong in this point. In fact, Middleton and Manuel, as well as Bohlman, claim that musical diversity is an inevitable consequence of globalization because the role of the Western culture decreases and instead of “cultural imperialism” comes, quite paradoxically, the equality of musical styles and traditions. At the same time, when Byrne claims that he hates world music, it is clear that he just tries to equate all of the cultures (as he does with Latin American music) because he considers the term “world music” humiliating. In such a way, Byrne’s article is the illustration of the realization of the prism that Middletone, Manuel and Bohlman have proposed.
The Different Sources of Today’s Musical Culture
The question of the factors that determine the direction of development and transformation of some cultural phenomena (such as music) is equivalent to the question about the power that determines the social transformations in general. In such a way, in order to understand the interrelations between different cultural centers of local, regional and global levels and the degree of their influence on the global music, it is important to understand the specifics of the modern world. Middleton and Manuel interpret the musical transformations through a prism that considers the economic and political relations as well as technological advancements as the most important reasons for cultural transformations. Thus, according to them, “the spread of the Internet and related digital technologies in the 2000s further enhanced the velocity, ease, and extent of cultural flows”. Besides, it is clear through the statement of Bohlman that Western culture’s dominance in the XX century was a result of economic and political dominance of the West, which allowed it to share its cultural forms and oppress others. In fact, Bohlman claims that the situation has since changed with postmodern transformation , but the evidence provided by Middleton and Manuel demonstrates that most of the non-Western musicians try to accept some features of the Western pop-music in order to gain more popularity in the world. In this respect, the mentioned statement about the Internet as the main way of sharing music is a piece of evidence for the Western dominance that took new forms because of tight connections between the economic and technological development. To some degree, that resembles the main point of Byrne’s article about the so-called “world music”. The author claims that he does not like this term because it embodies the chauvinistic Western approach to other cultures, according to which there is a dichotomy of the West and the rest. Byrne, as well as Bohlman, underline that the political pressure of the West is replaced by the economic one. That is why popularity usually requires incorporation of some typical Western features of popular music. On the another hand, the evidence provided by Bohlman demonstrates that the dominance of the West is significant only in the global perspective, when metropolises have their own specific musical cultures that include members of different coexisting and authentic styles and cultures. This detail allows us to understand the influences of local, regional and global music as phenomena that cannot be compared due to different spheres of realization and differences of the methods for their sharing.
The most illustrative result of globalization on music is appearance of the so-called “world music”, which is a synthesis of regional and global musical features. On the one hand, the dominating influence of the Western culture is obvious. Besides, it is also clear that the West changes with the responding influences of the world music as well. The appearance and increasing popularity of Indian, Japanese, Latin American and other non-Western music bands that produce music of Western type allow one to talk about indirect collaboration rather than Western dominance. In addition, it is difficult to overestimate the importance of the not so popular local music but that which exerts the same influence on the society. There is also an issue of local music that may become globally acclaimed through synthesis and popularization. All of these points demonstrate the difficulty of an adequate evaluation of globalization’s influences on music, because most of the studies take into account only the point of view of the Western perspective. That is why the problem of a relationship between globalization and music requires different approaches in order to pay an sufficient amount of attention to all of the problem’s dimensions.