Saturday, March 19, 2011

“I therefore believe the term 'art music' is a better generic term to use.”

[James P. Johnson (Art work by Suzanne Cerny)]

On March 17, 2011 AfriClassical posted a comment by our principal advisor, Prof. Dominique-René de Lerma: “This raises a very interesting question on the difference between classical music and jazz.” Michael S. Wright of Devon, England is one of our associates and is the head of ISAAM, the International Society for African to American Music. He continues the discussion with these remarks:

'Well spoken!' I am becoming more and more of the opinion that we should ditch the term 'classical music' to only include its use to describe music of the (so called) classical period - in the case of European music. Of course, that is open to some debate too! We then enter into the territory of other forms of music that are described as 'classical music'. My trip to Kerela, South India last October included going to concerts of Indian classical and talking to the musicians. Whilst the use of 'traditional' Indian instruments is well known, the use of the European violin (often with the shorter neck associated with the 17th and 18th century) is less so. Whilst Indian classical music is not performed with 'essential use' of printed music, it does does follow a recognised form with learned motifs BUT much improvisation. One would compare the process with that associated with Jazz.

This leads me to believe that in Africa, there has been comparable musics that could also be described as 'classical'. I therefore believe the term 'art music' is a better generic term to use. This of course covers jazz. I also very much like Professor Akin Euba's term 'neo art music' for modern African 'classical music'.

Look even further - I understand that Astor Piazzola, for instance refused to categorise his music. Ed Bland (African American composer) appears to take a similar view on his music.

Over to you all!!!
No doubt, I am stirring up a 'hornets nest'.


Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Unknown said...

Sorry, Bill, I forgot to sign my response to Mike's comments. My comments were sent from our office server, hence the "AKA" signaled. The comment is hereby reposted so readers don't start wondering who "AMA" is.


Stirring an hornet's nest, indeed, our friend, Mike. Though the term "Classical" allude to a certain period, its usage has become contextual and differs from culture to culture. One talks in India of being adept at diverse "ragas" and "classical methods of instruction." In griot/Jaliya or minstrelsy traditions of West Africa, especially among skilled "kora" or balafon/kontingu players, there are parallel terms used to connote a "more classical approach" or "classical tuning." The great Ali Farka Toure (now late) interchangeably used "genre classique" with "maniere traditionelle." Ditto Essais Afwerki the famous "kraar" player from Eritrea, etc. In most cases, the reference to a "classic approach" often alludes to adhering to "a well-established standard..." So, yes, the phrase "classical music" has become a sort of a conundrum. But the term "art" perhaps is worse as it now tends to elicit more confusion than clarity. So the debate goes on, and continues to be shaped by popular lingo.