Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Random thoughts toward a paper (or papers) on early music, bodies, whiteness, privilege, modernity, and intersectionality.

So, if early music in Ireland and Britain is about the production of socially appropriate bodies (listeners and performers), bodies that are raced, classed and gendered, not to mention modern (ref Cook ‘Western Music as World Music’ and Taruskin or Butt on authenticity/early music and modernity), then what does that mean for diversity? On one hand, no wonder early music in Ireland and Britain has a hard time with outreach for in order to attract new audiences—audiences whose bodies are diversely raced, classed, and gendered—the early music community needs to deal with its position of privilege. Not just its historical privilege in the production of music associated with European courts around the time of the ‘birth of modernity’ but also its privilege in the 20th century.

What does that imply about the complaints regarding arts funding in Britain? How might Ireland’s early music scene avoid the painful situation of the British early music scene?

Complaints of arts funding in Britain stem in part from the painful redistribution of funding that is considered politically and socially necessary (although IMHO not distributed well--I'd prefer a more radically socialist feminist model!). The recognition of whiteness and privilege is painful. Acknowledging the role one plays in a system of privilege, the role one plays in the perpetuation of a system of privilege is extremely painful but a necessary preliminary step to the critical examination and potential dismantling of that system. Perhaps in part the problem is that rather than increase the arts funding pot so that 'non-privileged arts organisations/practitioners' (I'm using really awful shorthands here, since this blog is really a very grand note to self) can get a hefty increase bringing them to a par with similarly sized 'privileged arts organisations/practitioners' that some (but not all) of the culturally privileged organisations have had a decrease and they see that their money is being redistributed to 'non-p arts orgs/pract'ers'. Of course, the situation might not actually favour those organisations: perhaps everyone's funding is being cut proportionally. Need to look into this.

Would a dismantling of white privilege mean the end of early music? No, it doesn’t have to. There’s no reason for early music not to be one ethnic music among many. There’s no reason for early music not to continue to be available. Why should the kinds of bodies produced by and through and in early music be any less valid than the kinds of bodies produced by and through and in any other kind of music? But equally, they should not be more valid.

The feminist consideration of whether the kinds of bodiesi being (re)produced, inscribed etc by a given music is desirable . . . The kinds of bodies validated by contemporary chart music or hip hop subject to substantial feminist critique and rightly so. The kinds of bodies created and validated by privileged arts also subject to substantial feminist critique.

But from the perspective of someone who loves ‘early music’, can anything be done to disengage from the privilege system, even to begin dismantle that, without losing the music, the repertoire? An expansion of the repertoire certainly is in order (and has begun: music by women (esp. nuns), for women, music by ethnic ‘others’ [Rossi etc]). How to be an early music feminist activist within & through early music? Isit possible? Is it desirable?

Hip hop feminists find ways to reconcile their politics with the less desirable aspects of the system that produces the music they enjoy. Can feminists in early music? Can early music feminists achieve similar goals?

No-one in hip hop to my knowledge is talking about outreach—is anyone in hip hop trying to get white grannies in to the audience? If that is a ridiculous idea, perhaps the reverse is also ridiculous? While it is desirable to dismantle systems of race, class and gender privilege, it is not actually possible or desirable to do that by attempting to ‘colonise’ other audiences…. How can early music practitioners and devotees seek to diversify their community in a way that is not colonial, patronising? In a way that does not require diverse raced, sexed, classed, gendered bodies to become white middle class bodies? Is that even possible?

Friday, 4 April 2008

beginning of the rest of the year....

Teaching ended about 10 days ago and I'm now returning to the research projects from which I allowed myself to be sidetracked.

First, the good news. My piece on 16th century male friendship and music has been through several revisions and will shortly be in press. It's nice to have something finished and coming out, and it's nice to have a piece on friendship for a friend, but I am a tad concerned about certain aspects. For a start, I totally sidestep the friends/lovers issue: these homoerotic 'true friendships' are now part of the history of (homo)sexuality as much as they are part of the history of friendship. I feel I should have addressed the issue because by ignoring it I think I might be taken as promoting heterosexism which is not my intention at all. However inadvertent, that might be the result. I suppose that's the problem with privilege—for those who are straight, it is too easy to forget to address these issues, or to miss the political significance of a particular angle. And that is what concerns me. I wasn't thinking critically enough about the political implications of that piece--or at least, not in as many ways as I could have done. It has a postscript in which I reflect upon certain ideological issues, but I ignored that one. I agonised over it in private discussions, but these were not reflected in the written work.

So, what are some of the issues?

Well, the historian part of me says that the male-male relationship I focus on was described in its own time as a 'true friendship' and briefly explains some of what that meant at the time. The historian acknowledges that language of 'true friendship' is and was homoerotic, and in the 16th c. that kind of language and that kind of friendship could be interpreted as sexual. So I come down on all sides of the fence. But I don't explicitly say something I might have said: there's no reason to believe that the men were or were not having a sexual relationship, and there probably isn't going to be evidence either way.

I suppose what I'm concerned about is that I just avoid/ignore the debate over terminology for human relationships past and present. Same-sex relationships existed, but there is considerable uncertainty about terminology, the nature of these relationships etc. I'm all for accepting and acknowledging difference, yet what strikes me about this particular case is that there is no such argument against heterosexuality existing in the 16th century. It seems to me, though, that if there wasn't such a thing as homosexuality as we understand it today, then there wasn't such a thing as heterosexuality either, and of course that also suggests that friendship as we know it today was different too--and the archetype of 'true friendship' really doesn't seem to have a modern equivalent. (But then, I am quite tired and perhaps I'm just not firing on all cylinders. I have a cold. My back hurts. There are many distractions.)

That said, I'm reading (still) Guido Ruggiero's book on Machiavelli in which he argues that actually homosexuality did exist.

Now, the not-so-good news. I'm waaaaaaay behind with work for the other book chapter I'm writing at the moment. Waaaay behind. And I don't currently have access to the materials I need to see to complete that.

And other projects are nagging at me: two or three articles have been on the back burner for several years (I am mortified) that I want to submit to peer-reviewed journals; and two book reviews (one a joint review with a colleague). And there's the vexing question of whether I should propose an edited collection from a conference I organised.

Ugh. Now I'm going to feel real guilty. That's a recipe for a really good night's sleep.