2 March 2009

A Dance to the Music of Home

Continuing my theme of carbon-free culture I have arrived at the importance of music in a bioregional economy. With this in mind, I recently dusted off my ancient violin and am taking lessons. The sounds is appalling but I feel thoroughly virtuous and well-prepared to entertain myself - if not others - once we run out of oil.

Shared music-making will be a staple of the convivial community as it already is in so many communities across the world. Gary Snyder writes that 'When men drink together in Japan, at a certain point in the evening they begin to take turns singing folksongs of their home provinces. When the American in the group is called on, he has a hard time knowing what to sing.'

Having Welsh relatives and living a large part of my life in Wales - renowned as "the land of song" - this has never been a problem for me. In Wales songs are used for identification, for affirmation and for raising your spirits or those of your rugby team. Tough men are quite happy to shed drunken tears. Emotions are unleashed.

In classical music the foremost example of nationalistic music-making was surely Smetana, whose tone poem Ma Vlast (my home country) portrays in music six aspects of the natural world of the Czech Republic, most famously the musical portrait of the river Vltava. Such music was instrumental in supporting the establishment of the nation-states of central Europe in the 19th century.

As we lose the ability to import goods from across the globe the sense of local pride and identification will have to act as a substitute. But the emotional power created by a strong identification with your local soil has a dark side too, a potential for exclusiveness and parochiality that we have to beware in our economic as well as our cultural relationships.

1 comment:

  1. 100% with you on the importance of live home made music, but I am not sure Gary Snyder got it quite right. For all its faults, the USA has supplied the world with huge amounts of authentic music, music from the human heart. And a lot of cr*p music besides, of course.

    At the Upton Folk Festival, there were long jam sessions, with people singing in turn the songs they knew by heart, with others joining in the chorus - surely the definition of folk music. I was interested to notice that there was a scattering of pop songs - such as Under the Boardwalk - appearing in the repertoire. Maybe some of the songs we bought as 78s will make their way into true folk traditions in the future...
    Dee you Friday