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On the Ecology of Music Author(s): William Kay Archer Reviewed work(s): Source: Ethnomusicology, Vol. 8, No. 1 (Jan.

, 1964), pp. 28-33 Published by: University of Illinois Press on behalf of Society for Ethnomusicology Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/849769 . Accessed: 16/12/2012 20:15
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ON THE ECOLOGY OF MUSICl


William Kay Archer

I. ome years back, the literary critics began to interest themselves in what There were a number has come to be called "the literary audience." of reasons for this interest: one, certainly, was the increasing transfer of the literary experience from the private study to the public classroom; another, the shift in caste structure the world over, particularly with respect to the consumption, comprehension, evaluation and utilization of the aesthetic (though specious) distinction between experience; a third, the increasing "science" and "art" and the ensuing spurious hostility between them. These factors had, in turn, their own causation though it would take us too far to now discuss this. Suffice it to say that this transfer of interest from the product qua It has product to production and consumer has been a most seminal shift. brought together in a happy symbiosis, psychology, ethnology, sociology and other such disciplines and criticism. Proalong with traditional aesthetics fessor I. A. Richards, for example, asked directly not what texts meant but what, in fact, they conveyed to their readers (as against, be it noted, their Professor Lennox Grey has inescapable purport lexically and syntactically). inquired how literary affect is learned and taught (by no means ends of the same line!). The parallel with music seems obvious. Indeed, Music and Its Public is, in a way, a more embracing and productive phrase than The Musical Audience since it rids us of a certain notion of passivity; the musical consumer, unlike the literary one, is an integral part of the musical act. We are forced, however, away from the consideration of music as an entity complete and sufficient unto itself. Instead, we must view it (in its most integral as a commodity sold, pursubstance) as intricately interrelated to societies; chased and consumed; as an artifact-probably the most important one in most cases-of a culture; in short, as anything but pure, abstract and selfcontained. This suggests, of course, that music is a social communication, a (so to speak) 'language'.2 As such, it has "meaning" (and rather precise meaning at that!), it is learned, it is an agent of cultural unity. We are perhaps justified then in suggesting music to be especially amenable to an ecological approach in which a mobile, fluid, dynamic interrelationship with every other social aspect exists (sometimes transparently, sometimes not). Ecology, regrettably, is a cumbersome discipline; moreover, the idea of the "ecological web" necessarily of values. displaces a discussion But, in a time when the total pattern of musical dissemination, consumption and response is undergoing extraordinary changes, it may be as fruitful to consider sources of raw materials for instruments, patterns of leisure, technomusical "listening-spaces" and the like, as to consider logical developments,
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It may be that the most intimate and rewarding understandthe music itself. of music may come from recognizing seemingly irrelevant social, ethnic ing and economic dynamics which affect it. This peculiarly rich "informationbearing system" is, I suggest, largely formed and changed (and appreciated) because of factors utterly outside itself. II. the properIt is commonly noted that there are two musical universals: But ties of vibrating bodies, and the properties of the auditory system. the universality of music itself. there is a third, surely the most interesting: Seemingly, there is no one of the world's peoples which does not have a mupitifully simple, but more often than not, of considerable sic; occasionally This ubiquity of the aesthetic imcomplexity and uniqueness. sophistication, pulse, and this particular expression of it (indicating both an irrational and is curious. As with language, we are enjoined an abstracting characteristic) against seeking its origin, but (as with language also) we cannot escape noticing that it is, ab ovo, a social act involving at least two persons for its internal system known a own structural fulfillment, and a pre-determined (N.B. It is a knowledge of the system and priori by both those persons. the content which must be known.) not necessarily It is an artifact. Within certain obvious limitations, Music is invented. its fundamental system is arbitrary. Withal, it is invariably a system ema cumto elicit certain "affect-sequences"; ploying certain symbol-sequences of saying that certain mubrous way (and therefore desirable scientifically) sics inspirit certain emotions deliberately and, all things being equal, there is precious little vagueness in the process. Vagueness, of course, has nothing to do with functional ambiguity. We are not here concerned with the musical occasion; i.e., why these emotions are generated (though we shall return to this) and to what accomwe may note with Plato that musical occasions are usually paniment-though ritual ones and hardly less frequently poetic ones! (Archer 1960). We must insist, however, that the "public" is familiar with the musical system, with with the occasions, with (in a special sense) the expected the instruments, emotions and how to produce and manifest them. (In India, one clucks and Opera and ballet at least-except murmurs; in Copenhagen, one is silent-at for visiting artists; in Naples, applause and cheers. Opera behavior is not chamber music behavior.) is part of one's education in the broadest sense; what This familiarity though it is little technically is known as acculturation and socialization; One may get a certain picture of what is involved by lisstudied as such. tening to a gamelan or a symphony orchestra if one has not the slightest There is no idea of what the instruments are or when they are employed. less a time factor: even in simple societies where no reproducing media exist, the sheer amount of music heard (and more often overheard and not One would tend to associate musical learning "attended to") is considerable. In both cases, the vastness of the needed repetitions with linguistic learning. is masked by its indirectness. and instructions Perhaps by now a picture of the kind of observation suggested by musiand assume that all cal ecology may be drawn. We are seeking correlates with music. interrelate We expect a music to be shaped social correlates by the incidence of certain diseases within by climate, by natural resources,

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affect needs of teaching in certain the population (which may significantly ways), by economy, by the type of political bureaucracy, by the capacities of technology.3 (I pass over the fact that the conventional ecological chain-the describes a predator-prey so-called food web-usually though relationship, involved with music would consider this a useless metafew professionally (Archer 1962.) phor). that the dynamics of Obviously then, the ecology of music presupposes music shift in proportion to the dynamics of the total culture, and, by and Few cultures large, are some index of the emotional needs of the culture. indeed (popular notions notwithstanding) are static, and those who argue, for example, that Japanese Gagaku has "remained totally unchanged over the centuries" are innocent alike of the nature and utility of recurrent rituals The and the realities of culture contacts, to say nothing of the "public." reverence for accuracy in the presentation of "ancient music" has an inescapable naivete; a Bach trumpet is not enough since one also needs a "Bach audience," even as "Globe-type" productions of Shakespeare bespeak a jolly cultural antiquarianism and not a particular dramatic truth. work both ways. It would be diffiSimilarly, the social interrelations cult to assay a music without detailed consideration of which classes and castes in a given society produce musicians and how they are rewarded. The obsession with progress and modernity in modern European music has but is a mild tribute to Hegelianism, neither musical nor social necessity, (e.g. Newlin) even as the ambivalence toward that music which finds wide but and ready acceptance reflects the shift in caste power above-mentioned has little to do with substantive critical criteria. The form and content of American popular music, for example, can well be explained with reference to certain sexual patterns in the United States, particularly with respect to courtship procedures and their development But does the spread and influence of since the beginning of this century. this music (carried by gramophone, radio, cinema and now television-all artifacts so primary to music and its public that we need not fear their being overlooked) bespeak only a similar shift in sexual behavior-patterns or does it also betoken an influence in this respect? (Indian elsewhere, cinema music and lyrics are extremely instructive in this regard.) But I hope the in their abundance. Examples topple over themselves For point of music as existing only within an ecology is easily acceptable. it makes the problem of the "meaning of music" that much easier to discuss. III. We have suggested above that functionally, music generates emotion-or, as we prefer to term it "affective" or "connotative" meaning-fairly preciseIt follows that ly by means of a fairly rigorous and standardized system. there is a need or a demand for this kind of emotional release and that (since music is a social system inherently) this demand and the agencies of its fulfillment must be socially ordered.4 It may be, of course, as certain classical Indian theoreticians cogently argued, that there is a basal musical psychology, and my colleagues and I are presently engaged in research on this thougii with no report as yet. But even if there is such, it is surely swiftly tempered in most musics Much of this is by a heavy freight of allusions and cultural specificities. of a denotative situation: music underlying song musical reinforcement

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lyrics, religious music such as an organ offertory, monotonous drums and some blaring horns to establish a proper frenzy for some barbaric rite such Not surprisas a scarification Etcetera. ceremony or a military display. ingly, and for sound psychological reasons, musical type and ritual response get intertwined; organs, for many of us, forever have the moan of piety. to be sure: Elgar and Gershwin There are more sophisticated associations are, whether one likes them or no, virtually metaphors of certain affects of certain places. Ultimately, one comes to that incomparably brilliant statement of musical synesthesia modern redaction) (alas, with as yet no fully satisfactory which is classical India raga-rasa theory, that nearly incredible sorting of time of day, weather, state of mind, tonal sequence, pictorial rendition, poetic allusion, and differential ordering which, when fully ordered (and tested as now we can) will come to be, I believe, the definitive statement of musiI believe only Professor cal psychology. (Amongst modern psychologies, Charles Osgood's mediation theory with its supple treatment of metaphorical process and its able description of the relation of symbol to signifier to blend of undifferentiated feeling-tone, meets the physiological and intellectual See Osgood 1957 and problems of music and aesthesia in raga-rasa terms.

1962.)
Music, it would seem, controls emotions and directs them referentially, both specifically and abstractly; its (as with fanfares or nature-imitations) rather "meaning" is the language of feelings, of (so to speak) responses, than the language of pointing and denotation. (I believe this can be demonstrated experimentally.) Poetry, it is said, has its "musical" as well as its meaningful aspects. But it may be more desirable to suggest that affect, that quality of feelingtone which is engendered by reference to denotable phenomena, is (so to speak) directly communicated or stimulated by music where, ceteris paribus, the cognition of denotata plays a negligible part. Therefore, the very ubiquity of music, its increased consumption and diversity everywhere, the overt and observable powerful effects it produces, the passion it engenders, even the nature of its enemies, bespeaks its soIt is not difficult to explain why it is demanded and emcial importance. the product. ployed and how the demand shapes and re-shapes We are led inexorably, I believe, to Yet this is but half of an ecology. a further (and terminal) question; to my mind a most powerful one, though seldom asked. What does this powerful channel of emotion do for its public? What does it do to societies? Not to reinforce them but to direct them? Is there a musical ethology, as Plato asked? How does the increase in music affect the nervous system? Are there correlates between types of music Is there a relationship and mental pathologies? between music and war? Does a certain type of musical utilization engender beneficial or harmful changes in the social fabric? Save for some work in industry and therapy (much of it ambiguous), our knowledge of music as a social dynamic is slight. Of questions, then, there is a plethora. They are sharpened by two phenomena: the vast change in the technical presentation of music, and the contacts. great increase in cross-cultural These, in turn, are manifests of the great educational, social and population shifts of this century. It is

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these which cause without value.

us to believe

that the ecological

study of music

is not

University of Illinois Urbana, Illinois FOOTNOTES 1. This paper was delivered at the Unesco-International Music Council Congress, "Music and Its Public," Rome, September 27-30, 1962. It appears substantially as presented. I have taken the liberty of adding a few quotations supportive of the ecological position from other papers there delivered, but have not taken issue with any of them since they may not be publicly available. The bibliography is suggestive; none of its contents were available to me at the time of writing. I am grateful to the Human Ecology Fund and to the Institute of Communications Research of the University of Illinois for their support. 2. That is, it is an "information-bearing system," one with an elaborate system of rules and decorums analyzable as a grammar (embracing syntax) and a rhetoric; that, in accordance with general theories of communication it requires a code, and an "encoder" and "decoder." 3. It is regrettable that I cannot reproduce all of Dr. Narayana Menon's brilliant paper which is virtually a case-study of musical ecology in India, and a most gracefully written one. But the following few excerpts may sharpen the point: "The leisurely, all-night-long sessions in the salons of the nobility and the rich are already things of the past. The nobility can no longer afford the luxury of the paid musician for its entertainment. The musician's new patron is the public and his new place is the concert platform. *** The new patron has not the time for all-night sessions. "There is another vital point. The platform imposes a barrier between the musician and the audience. No longer is the intimacy of the salon possible. . .The platform implies a big audience and a big voice. . .So the ubiquitous microphone is on the scene, debasing quality and coarsening our sensibility. *** In the last 15 years, the microphone, while it has made good music accessible to large audiences, has had a serious detrimental effect on the performance of Indian music. *** With large concert halls and large audiences, the dynamics of our shy instruments will begin to change gradually.. .Our shy instruments will have to cast off their shyness and acquire clear, bold tones, and science will have to take a hand in their manufacture. *** . . .the Shamianas and the loudspeakers still dominate the musical scene, with the mounting fees of performing musicians and the growing numbers of 'fans.' The 'celebrity' is already on the scene..." 4. To this point, Miss Nancy Martin, out of much experience in adult education in New Zealand notes: "Music history bears witness to the fact that the forms in which amateur musicmaking are cast show a close relationship to patterns of living. They are in fact functional. They derive their impetus and vitality from community needs and depend for their survival upon their ability to be modified by and adapted to the changing structure of society. Those which cease to have close links with cultural patterns decline in popularity or simply do not survive. "Further to regain the interest of the amateur, attempts are made to superimpose the successful activities of past cultures upon the present. Many of you will not agree with me but I believe revivals of folk-singing, recorder-playing, madrigal-singing and similar activities to belong to this category. I suggest that none of these things will be successful in terms of our visions of success. . . no matter what our aim for amateur music making may be.. the dominant force in shaping the musical expression of the amateur will be the changing patterns of living." BIBLIOGRAPHY Archer, William Kay 1960 "The instant of crisis," American Record Guide 26:210 etc. 1962 "Reflections on buying records in Tashkent," American Record Guide 28(6):436 etc.

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Newlin, Dika New York: King's Crown Press. 1947 Bruckner, Mahler, Schonberg. Osgood, C. E. American Psy1962 "Studies on the generality of affective meaning systems," chologist 17:10-28. Osgood, C. E., G. J. Suci, and P. H. Tannenbaum The measurement of meaning. Urbana: University of Illinois Press. 1957 Seeger, Charles and play, part I," 1962 "Music as a tradition of communication, discipline, ETHNOMUSICOLOGY 6(3): 156-63. Weaver, W., and C. Shannon 1949 The mathematical Urbana, Illinois. theory of communication.

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