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Live Music Versus Audio Tourism

Keith Howard gives his inaugural lecture as Professor of Music at SOAS on Tuesday:

Live Music Versus Audio Tourism: world music and the changing music industry

Inaugural Lecture by Professor Keith Howard (SOAS)
11 November 2008, 5.30pm,Brunei Gallery Lecture Theatre, SOAS
Chair: Professor Jonathan Stock, University of Sheffield
Professor Paul Webley, Director and Principal of SOAS, will preside.

Keith HowardIn his inaugural lecture Professor Keith Howard will discuss the implications of the oral qualities of musical communication. The academic discipline of ethnomusicology gives central importance to fieldwork, to documentation and – increasingly – to learning from expert teachers how to perform. Ethnomusicologists promote, through rarely profitable recordings, books and concerts, their take on the social and cultural distinctiveness of specific world musics. Joining them, UNESCO, in its Intangible Cultural Convention and ‘Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Mankind’, and along with member states from Korea to Japan and Yakutia to Uzbekistan, now seeks both to preserve ‘traditional’ musics and to promote them. Music is now marketed along with World Heritage Sites for domestic and international tourism. Music has become an icon of identity.

In contrast, the established music industry, entangled with issues of politics and control, promotes World Music. Critics argue that World Music promotes a new aesthetic form of the global imagination by packaging products in a homogeneous, flashy, but shallow way in order to generate profits. Audiences listen, in their own homes, in concert halls or at festivals, posing as audio tourists who no longer need to travel.

Worldwide, musicians make choices as they move between local and global systems, as they travel the world to perform, reinforcing soundworlds from the local or capitulating to the global. What, then, are the potential futures for World Music and the academic discipline of ethnomusicology?

All Welcome (no booking required)

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