Sunday, 27 January 2008

bodies/music at last

Finally we're holding the preliminary b/m meeting on Weds 30 Jan at 4pm. We'll sketch out a plan as a group.

In terms of projects, I have one that might or might not be suitable. I was thinking of doing something on early music and singing, but then I wondered about early music and whiteness. Now, I'm not sure exactly how this might work at the moment, but I was thinking of doing something on early music in Ireland/England (possibly also rest of Britain) in relation to those who attend festivals and/or performers. Nick Cook is giving a seminar paper in a couple of months on 'Western Music as World Music' in which he's going to be looking at Western music in Korea, so that could be relevant in a way.

I was thinking particularly about some anxiety/frustration with arts funding that I've heard expressed by early music performers based in England. It seems to tie in with the SE England anxiety about immigration--our government is giving our funding/benefits/work (privilege?) to x immigrant group, basically. So that's quite interesting. It ties in with the whole discourse on privilege in really fascinating ways. That's not to say that internationally early music is about whiteness, but I am interested in certain ways the conversation I've heard relates to whiteness.

Some things to consider.

1. My informant says it's impossible to get arts funding for concerts now; you have to get the money for other work (community outreach etc), and you're still left having to scrape the barrel to pay for concerts. So, one of the issues here is that festival organisers (well, at least one) feel like the arts council is forcing early music to be a local/community music when perhaps they don't see it that way. In a sense, although early music in southern England does seem to be the domain of white people (in terms of audience, performers, if not also scholars, instrument builders, festival organisers etc) the festival organisers don't like to be reminded of this. Would I need demographics for early music in S. E. or is it enough to work with people's perceptions? Should I contrast perception with demographics collected over a period of time?

2. The idea that early music is nevertheless good for people--part of cultural history that one needs to know about, but also somehow conveys good . . . morals? or other attributes--not sure quite how to articulate this--education, cultivation, sophistication all come into it. Anyway, early music is good for everyone--universal, transcends cultures etc. Very colonial attitude. Complimented, perhaps, as Han pointed out, by the white liberal enjoyment of world music that we saw displayed so provocatively in UCC's Glucksman Gallery last year. (Niwel Tsumbu's ensemble included a "mysterious" Japanese player of the shakuhachi flute; the same announcer made some comment about Niwel's rhythmic guitar, but said nothing about the Irish and German musicians in the same group: western Europeans were unmarked.)

3. The resentment about funding is directed primarily toward non-'Western European' ('old European'?!) cultures--Asian, Afro-Caribbean, and even Polish ('Eastern European'/'new European')--not toward the big institutions that seem to me to suck up substantial amounts of arts council funding (opera houses etc). I'd need to check out the stats on arts funding in Britain. On top of this resentment about the allocation of funds by a presumably already cash-strapped arts council is going to come resentment about the diversion of arts council budget away from arts in favour of the Olympics. I am guessing this will particularly hit southern England, even as the Olympics potentially brings in an arts audience (even if arts isn't the main activity of sports tourists, athletes etc, one assumes at least one or two will visit a gallery, catch a show, attend a concert, check out a museum...).

Lots to go on, and more to come here. Cross-ref to one of my earlier rants about classical music .