[jahsonic.com] - [Next >>]

Philip Tagg

Related: European music - 'Afro-American - black music - white music - semantics - cultural hegemony

'Black music' is much more common than 'white music', probably for the same sort of reasons that expressions like 'women's history' or 'women's music' would cause far fewer eyebrows to be raised than 'men's history' or 'men's music' [...]. Such terms are relative to the hegemony of the culture of their user, so 'men's music' and 'white music' will sound stranger in a culture dominated by white males than 'women's music' or 'black music'.--Philip Tagg, 1989

Open Letter about 'Black Music', 'Afro-American Music' and 'European Music'

I found this essay in the late 1990s while doing research on black music. Philip Tagg questions the notion of 'black music' and 'white music' with regard to the semantics of cultural hegemony. The easiest solution to this problem is to speak of 'music from the African diaspora' and 'music of the European diaspora'. Much simplified the first strain stands for rhythm and the second for harmony and melody. [Mar 2006]

Excerpts

Over the last few years I have found myself reacting with increasing irritation every time I stumble across terms like 'black music', 'white music', 'Afro-American music' and 'European music' in writings and discussions about popular music. Apart from hearing myself slip up on a few occasions, I have seen or heard one or more of these terms used or misused by students and by trusted and less trusted colleagues alike. I have been just as worried every time. Hence this letter which I have written with these mainly white European or North American students, friends and colleagues in mind.

Although these colourful terms are rarely seen in print, they often turn up in discussions. 'Black music' is much more common than 'white music', probably for the same sort of reasons that expressions like 'women's history' or 'women's music' would cause far fewer eyebrows to be raised than 'men's history' or 'men's music' (if ever the latter were ever to be used at all in our part of the world). Such terms are relative to the hegemony of the culture of their user, so 'men's music' and 'white music' will sound stranger in a culture dominated by white males than 'women's music' or 'black music': they are the exception and we are the rule. They need identification cards, we don't. But if we are not totally satisfied with the culture we belong to and this is shown by a choice of terms disclosing our sociocultural habitat we had perhaps better be clear about why we use such terms and what we mean by them. --Philip Tagg, 1989 via http://www.tagg.org/articles/opelet.html [Mar 2006]

your Amazon recommendations - Jahsonic - early adopter products

Managed Hosting by NG Communications