Tuesday, October 9, 2007

96. The Lesson for Today -- Carried Over from Last Week

I see that it's almost a week since my last post. Sorry, but I've been really busy for some time now, with various responsibilities and projects and also people, all of which -- and whom -- are important to me. I was planning on launching a discussion of certain noteworthy and commendable examples of how certain indigenous traditions were successfully protected and promoted, but it seems I don't have the time to do full justice to the full scope of what's at stake here. So I'll have to rest content with some brief mentions.

1. British folk traditions have had a long history of support on many levels and from many notable individuals, from Maud Karpeles, to Ralph Vaughn Williams, Percy Grainger, etc., etc., to Alan Lomax, Peter Kennedy, etc., etc. and most recently Rod Stradling and Fred McCormick, editors of the remarkable online journal, Musical Traditions. All sorts of traditions from all over the world are represented here, but it is the British traditions that get most of the action and rightly so, since both editors are highly committed advocates, determined to see that these extraordinarily powerful and meaningful traditions remain viable, even on the Internet. Have I explained that well? Probably not, so I hope they'll forgive me. My point is that no tradition can survive in the absence of attention and support -- but also that any tradition has a far better chance of survival when even just a small group of dedicated advocates, such as Stradling and McCormick, take the time and make the effort to get the message across regarding what is truly important to them and why it is also important to the rest of us. As indeed it is.

2. I'm thinking of the enormous impact that a single outsider, Colin McPhee, had on the music of Bali. When McPhee arrived on that amazing island during the 30's, its extraordinarily rich musical traditions were in danger of dying out. Thanks to McPhee and also some other dedicated individuals, such as Walter Spies, these traditions were revived -- to the point that today the remarkable gamelan music of both Bali and Java has spread -- in its most authentic forms -- all over the world, enriching the lives of music lovers, and students, everywhere. All it took was the interest and dedication of a few sensitive souls to re-ignite the powerful flame of traditional Indonesian gamelan music, dance, and art.

3. I'm thinking also of a truly Earth-shattering development in the realm of visual arts, where, again, the attention of a few outsiders, intelligent enough and sensitive enough to see the importance of what was dying out before their eyes, has made a world of difference. I'm speaking of the astonishing development, over the last 40 or 50 years, of a truly remarkable and unique "school" of Australian Aboriginal artists, like no artistic school that has ever come before, bar NONE. You might think of me simply as a musician and/or musicologist, but that's not true, I'm a visual artist as well and I've published a fair amount of critical and theoretical work in that area over the last several years. I do think I know what I'm talking about when it comes to visual art. And I must confess that the work of these Australian aboriginal artists has impressed me as NO other art of our time has. The great book to consult on this development is Aboriginal Art, by Wally Caruana. The best internet connection I've found is Nangara, with a dizzying array of truly great art by a remarkably large number of enormously gifted artists on display. Too often one reads of the pressures on artists from all sorts of backgrounds to conform to the accepted styles of either the western past or the "postmodern" present. Here we find artists of great talent and originality, drawing on the indigenous traditions of their forbears with an authenticity evident in every stroke and symbol, yet at the same time powerfully imaginative and original. It CAN be done, ladies and gentlemen, just spend some time at the Nangara website and you'll be convinced.

As a parting shot, I'll leave you with this fantastic description of Balinese dance by the great poet and visionary of the dramatic arts, Antonin Artaud -- if this be "orientalism," he certainly makes the most of it:

"What is in fact curious about all these gestures, these angular and abruptly abandoned attitudes, these syncopated modulations formed at the back of the throat, these musical phrases that break off short, these flights of elytra, these rustlings of branches, these sounds of hollow drums, these robot squeakings, these dances of animated manikins, is this: that through the labyrinth of their gestures, attitudes, and sudden cries, through the gyrations and turns which leave no portion of the stage space unutilized, the sense of a new physical language, based upon signs and no longer upon words, is liberated. These actors with their geometric robes seem to be animated hieroglyphs. It is not just the shape of their robes which, displacing the axis of the human figure, create beside the dress of these warriors in a state of trance and perpetual war a kind of second, symbolic dress and thus inspire an intellectual idea, or which merely connect, by all the intersections of their lines, with all the intersections of perspective in space. No, these spiritual signs have a precise meaning which strikes us only intuitively but with enough violence to make useless any translation into logical discursive langu'age. And for the lovers of realism at all costs, who might find exhausting these perpetual allusions to secret attitudes inaecessible to thought, there remains the eminently realistic play of the double who is terrified by the apparitions from beyond. In this double‑trembling, yelping childishly, these heels striking the ground in cadences that follow the very automatism of the liberated unconscious, this momentary concealment behind his own reality‑there is a description of fear valid in every latitude, an indication that in the human as well as the superhuman the Orientals are more than a match for us in matters of reality."


"the Dude" said...

Hi, from one of your early posts:

For Chen et al., therefore, just as for Rouget and Lomax, the genetic research suggested that the Biaka Pygmies and !Kung Bushmen stemmed from "a common root." The geneticists went on to estimate that the ancestors of the Biaka Pygmies diverged from the hypothetical founder population between 76,200 and 102,000 years ago, with a divergence time for the Kung Bushmen between 41,000 and 54,100 years ago."

Briefly, lullabyes, humming & song (later vowels and m, n) derived from backfloating with infant, while clicking (later consonants) derived from underwater foraging for molluscs, at the shore of the Indian Ocean about a million years ago, this became tonal speech eventually, and when nets & dugout canoes were invented ~150,000 yrs ago, safer travel allowed vast distances inland, separating a former coastal homogenized population into linguistic fragments, as radiating waves of humans expanded into Europe (displacing the non-boating neandertals in low-lying valleys eg. Moscow 45,000 yrs ago), SE Asia (Borneo 44,000 yrs ago), etc.

Victor said...

Hi "dude" --

That's quite a summary! Everything you mention interests me, but I must confess I'm puzzled. Can you provide some evidence for any of these theories? And provide more details -- and some explanations? Are there websites you can point us to that might help?

"the Dude" said...

Hi Victor,

OK, "Dive Song" describes how during divng & backfloating (w/ infant) produced a clicking, humming habit in Homo erectus at pocket beaches along coasts between 2.5ma and 100ka. The loss of the tail and enlargement of the laryngeal air sacs indicate upright posture both in trees and in water, producing a vertical bipedal wading/floating LCA Hominoid, this is confirmed by Aaron Filler's book The Upright Ape, which discloses that Moropithecus of 20ma (and other later fossil apes, and extant siamangs and humans) had a shift in the spinal septum, making vertical locomotion more conducive than the more normal quadrupedal monkey-like locomotion of older anthropoids. The later loss of the air sacs in small gibbons and Homo indicates no more vertical flotation, gibbons entirely left the water, becoming specialised brachiating canopy dwellers, while Homo (pre-erectus) was a seashore coastal dweller gradually becoming better at daily diving and backfloating with abundant subcutaneous fat and loss of most hair. Myosin jaw muscle reduction, NeuGc5 sialic acid change to NeuGa5 (in H sapiens and neandertals), and other genetic mutations indicate softer foods, better mouth control and breath holding, change in hearing, reduced olfaction and improved airway valving, larger paranasal sinuses and heavier occiput with keel improved backfloating, more hydrodynamic form of skull and post crania with hydrodynamic hair filling voids of body in the neck/throat, pubic and axillary armpit areas).

This set the table for speech to evolve in the LCA sapiens, who appeared similar to the !Kung but with longer nose, more fat, straighter hair and no steatopygia. To Pygmy, add nets, salt trade, bows, isolation, etc.