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?

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