I want to explain the ship metaphor I used in class on Thursday, not because I think the metaphor is perfect, but because I want to think more about why I used it, what it meant, and what parts of it remain relevant in spite of the ways it might “break down”; further, I want to address some of the frustrations I felt in class because I was on the cusp of completing the idea, but was also limited by the time we had and my intention to listen to the ideas of everyone else. No one actually has to read this, though, so I can vent as I wish! So, without further ado:
The idea of the ship being made with several parts drew upon the idea of the Ship of Theseus from philosophical thought. The actual function of that ship philosophically is, well, unrelated; to summarize, the idea is that the ship constantly has its parts replaced to the point where it no longer maintains any of its original parts. While this is a fun thought experiment in regard to the actual identity of the ship, the ship metaphor I brought up in class used the assumption that the ship had an overarching identity greater than its parts, that the particular organization of the differing parts of the ship made up its identity rather than the parts themselves. I assume this particular “solution” to the paradox and proceed from there.
The important part of the ship, though, was no so much its organization but its country, or area or, most specifically, culture, of origin. The idea I tried to present was that the parts themselves could be from a variety of areas, but the specific combination of parts, the Adiemus or other simulated world music, could be unique to a particular area–that being the Western advertising market. The ship itself could have any number of American or Japanese planks, but could still fly a British flag. What I realized was that this example cracked when considering the multiple possible definitions of world music. Two in particular stood out: one in which each individual country counts as part of the world music, and the other in which the idea of “world music” as a whole represented its own type of music. If one is to take the second interpretation, it would be difficult to even consider the metaphor. The ship, being made of music, would essentially just be a performance of various parts of what already was “world music,” and, consequentially, would be the same, its own sort of world music. However, when considering “world music” as a broad word encompassing a wide array of cultures and musical traditions instead of a specific side of a dichotomy that was the opposite of western, the advertising music seems clearly not to fit in. After all, no single country or culture could lay claim to a tradition of music that was Frankenstein’d together from each one of them. Rather, the reason for the music’s creation would have to be considered, that reason being a western one; as would the composer, the intention, and the literal genre of the music.
The problem with calling the advertising music “world music” is its inability to fit into any singular world musical tradition. In fact, the only tradition it fits into is the Western music tradition, in spite of being composed of influences all sourcing themselves outside of that tradition. Like the ship, the music is less of an actual structure and more of an organization (admittedly less solid than wood), and in many cases music has drawn upon other music without becoming that music; for example, some modern electronic Western styles sample heavily from swing music. Those types of music are not called “swing,” but rather, either “electronica,” or “electro-swing,” or even “low-fi hip-hop.” In spite of the fact that they draw from old sounds, they don’t fit into the old genres because the organization of those sounds is modern with modern instrumental backing. The advertising music is similar. In spite of being made up of ideas from different cultures, it is ultimately still music made for advertisements, which is still a tradition for Western peoples made by Western composers that fits into no other specific world music tradition. The ship that takes wood from South Africa and sails from Colombia, but is made in Britain and follows a British construction style, it is not South African or South American–it is British. That said, if the boat was made by a Colombian or South African shipwright to fit the style of traditional boats from those countries (should there be traditional boats from those countries) and bequeathed to the British naval force, it must then be labelled Colombian or South African. The important part of the identity of the boat is which tradition it actually falls under and, because the advertising music has no tradition outside of its own, it must be labelled as being part of, primarily, that tradition–the Western one. That said, I am not particularly proud of it being from a Western tradition, should I communicate myself that way; I simply feel that designation to be the most accurate.