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Halloo! When I found out I could go to med school with a Humanities degree with an Ethnomusicology emphasis, I almost peed myself. Here's to me holding it in.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Annotated Source

At a party with a few members of my field studies group, our in-field facilitator put on the above rendition of "Om Mani Padme Hum," the most famous and perhaps most important mantra in Tibetan Buddhism. I love it, but I was (and am) rather amused by it. Most of the Tibetan monastic music I have listened to in my studies has been nothing that a typical Westerner would call peaceful. Cymbals clang, giant horns blurt, and thigh-bone trumpets wail. Here's something to consider

The annotated source for today deals with this very issue: the commodification of music for tourist consumption, and the way commodification helps cultures subsist while also creating new cultures.

"Commodification and the selling of ethnic music to tourists" by Xiaobo Su,
Received 19 July 2009
Received in revised form 5 March 2011 Available online 12 April 2011
Department of Geography, University of Oregon, Eugene, OR 97403-1251, United States 
Geoforum 42 (2011) 496–505

Su explores the tourist commodification case in Lijiang, China. To sum up his conclusions, 
1. Examining commodification as a process is useful in understanding the links between economy and culture.
2. Commodification shapes local cultures in general, and ethnic music in particular.

It's another story in the saga of how new traditions are created in preservation efforts, and how learning how to survive in an increasingly globalized world molds cultures in fascinating ways. The first track above is beautiful, and several of my friends have taken to using it for morning and bedtime music with a frequency that surprises me. It is unlikely that the second track would take that kind of role, though I find it beautiful in a different way. Perhaps the sentiments of the Karmapa are shared by many - it is important to keep one's roots, but it is the 21st century and denying that is useless.

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