About Me

My photo
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 24, 2012

Queen Kong Does it Again

Environment and Planning D; Society and Space 1996, volume 14, pages 273-292

Popular music in Singapore: exploring local cultures,
global resources, and regional identities
Lily Kong
Department of Geography, National University of Singapore, 10 Kent Ridge Crescent,
Singapore 119260
Received 21 March 1995; in revised form 12 September 1995

'Geographers concerned with the ways in which local communities are drawn into global arenas and with the means by which global forces become resources for indigenous modification, may thus find music
a worthwhile research area. In this way, "music is integral to the geographical
imagination" (Smith, 1994, page 238), and deserves more space on geographers'
research agenda.'

The more I read Lily Kong, the more I realize why everybody who is anybody in musical human geographies cites her. Her writing style is lucid and accessible, and the arguments she makes are too. Many of the basic ideas I seek to explore in Bylakuppe are present in her works and the works of the other human geographers she has empowered through her seminal writings. Add her and Kiela Diehl together and you have someone who would do incredible things with my project, things I'm sure I haven't yet dreamt of.

The big ideas in this article are the local vs. global views of acculturation, and whether local versus global is the real issue. Perhaps it's not so much a battle, and in any case seeing it as a battle is only marginally useful in research because battles tend to push one towards taking a side. Perhaps it is better to look at a local and global model of acculturation, addressing the issue from all sides. Again, she uses the theoretical framework of "text, intertext, and context," which I love. Lyrics and aural content are examined, as is common in musicological studies, and context/environment (family, national, political, social, etc.) is also examined per normal course. The inclusion of intertext is a wonderful and unique way of tying it all together - what clothes are the musicians and listeners wearing, what goes on the album art, what food and drink are associated (if any), and on and on. Taking in the whole musical scene becomes the essential work of the day. Kong analyzes the person and work, as well as the reception and critical review, of a famous Singaporean pop star, Dick Lee. His music is a lot of fun to listen to - a few tracks are on youtube, if you are interested. The result is a fascinating and satisfying look into music, expression, and identity.

In Bylakuppe, I don't want to spend all my time analyzing texts, or learning instruments, or taking notes of what kids are wearing or listening to - I want to spend time with people, first and foremost, and do all of the above mentioned activities as they are relevant. Since I don't really know what I will find, it would be foolish to go in looking for too specific an idea to test - the set-in-stone idea may not even be relevant, and in any case might blind me to things more interesting and vital. The way I look at things, people are the music they make, and vice versa. I don't mean that a singer believes every word they ever sing, or that the emotion they have to reproduce every night in performance has to be fresh and entirely heartfelt, but that a person choosing (or being forced, as was the case for the great Art Blakey) to make music of any type reveals something vital about their character and environment. Maybe a Chinese national singing an anthem doesn't quite buy into the words about the greatness of their leader, or perhaps that guy singing next to you in church doesn't believe at all - the fact of musical production in such circumstances is itself a fascinating manifestation of personal and cultural phenomena. Music is a struggle, and music is easy, all at the same time. Looking at the music itself (the "text"), the context, and the intertext in a holistic method is a powerful way to get at the heart of the human experience, and a powerful way to get at the heart of a particular human's experience.

No comments:

Post a Comment