26.1.08

Artículo: Globalización musical y la evolución cultural

Versión en español
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Cultural Development and Musical Globalization.

When it comes to taking the musical experience into a whole new level of understanding, you must take one thing into account: music is culture. That is because as in any other form of art, music is the result of many factors: the view of the world by the artist, musical knowledge of the medium, and the resources available to conceive and record. For that reason, the study of social and cultural interactions is a useful tool for a detailed study of the evolution of musical styles, as well as the other way around.
With this in my mind, I have always felt interest in music as one of the most descriptive aspects of culture, and that is for a very valid and simple reason: everyone listens to music, and unlike other art form, music is not only enjoyed by most people, but also very commonly created by many artists everywhere. Therefore, the culture, as well as the music within, are both destined to evolve throughout time.

Characteristics of the musical evolution cycle
To understand how music is distinguished by the listeners, it is necessary to understand that genres and musical styles are the product of many factors that interact in a cultural transmission system, distributed among scenes. The most important steps in the development of musical styles and tastes, in my opinion, are the following:

1. Cultural exchange: whether by means of actual migration of people from different regions, or the effect of mass media; the transference of the musical heritage among cultures is the seed of change itself. For example: how did reggae became so famous in the UK? Well, it all happened when inmigrants came from Jamaica in the 70's. And how did the Beatles get to be so famous in the US? It was all about radio and TV.

2. Time and social transformation: society is dynamic, hence the music is in constant change, and the ‘cultural seed’ will be able to develop new and different means of expression. Therefore, the same musical influence might develop different final products, depending on the characteristics of the society that experiences it. That's what happened to rock music: it's everywhere in the world, and different societies feel and develop it in their own unique way. The result: cultural background defines different styles, attitudes and yes, fashion tips as well.

3. Breakthrough: sometimes, a creative and innovative artist will change the course of musical history, by the means of musical creations, or actions that might have a cultural impact. Most of the time, the real innovators aren't really appreciated as they deserve.

4. Feedback: the regional influence of musical genres, and the time to be assimilated by new bands, allows the development of new styles, and the same occurs whenever the roles of musical influence reverse to allow people to create something new thanks to a different kind of new experience, along with music and their available resources (instruments, recording technology, distribution means, etc.). A good example is jazz music, as it's constantly changing, and artists interact in many different ways, improving their techniques, or just adding a different taste to their repertoire. As long as this interaction comes into place, the course of music evolution will flow indefinitely.

The evolution of evolution
Traditionally, music was transmitted by two means: live performing, and written notation. Thanks to technology and the development of ways of transmission of information, new ways to create and share material have favoured the distribution and the cultural exchange through music. It is important to notice that throughout time, such distribution means have greatly evolved; transforming music into a dominant art style, as being highly representative of the people participating from its experience.
With time, better ways of recording and distribution have arisen, thanks to technology improvements; and more important, the means for sharing information (music, in this case) have allowed the musical evolution cycle to accelerate at a very fast rate, changing the importance of certain characteristics. For instance, geographic location and ethnic origin don’t seem to possess the same importance they did thirty years ago; and people from around the world seem to enjoy different styles of music, disregarding their cultural background. All of this comes to one fact: people know more about music, than ever in history. That means, in some way, that there are new and exciting possibilities to create new and innovative material.

Future of musical globalization
Checking the last.fm charts, brings one thing into my mind: standardization. It is obvious that disregarding location or age, everyone in the site seems to be a fan of Radiohead and Coldplay. It doesn’t surprise the fact that there are so many emo kids anywhere on the planet, how it is that In Rainbows is known by everyone, and why everyone seems to think that indie is cool. As information has multiplied and been shared with the rest of the world, it would seem that tastes and musical tendencies are unifying, but at the same time, there are so many alternatives to recur to. Indie fans ask about the new Kayne West, and Post Rock fans go to Daft Punk gigs.
Of course, the question is: What will happen in the future? As people diversify musically, there seems to be a global tendency to define good and bad music. Whether thanks to word of mouth, MTV or the internet, there might be a point where only one cultural element (artist, band, trend or ideology) will define the course of music globally. In spite of it all, as long as music and its lyrics continue being the voice of personal experience in their environment, interaction and development of cultures will continue to determine a difference in music created among different people, and even if regional differences are wiped out from our understanding, interpersonal influence and cultural evolution itself will continue being possible, starting with filesharing, as a way of breaking cultural barriers.

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