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World Music Paper

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29 May 2009 13:43 | Quote
Joined: 27 May 2008
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Heres a paper i had to do for school on world music for anyone who is interested in a long read. enjoy

The five musical cultures chosen for this paper are the Gagaku (one musical form found in Japan), Scottish, the Maasai (a people group from Kenya), flamenco (one musical form found in Spain), and Sami (a musical form found in Slavic countries). For each will be given a brief history of the music, the geographical parameters, languages and spiritual beliefs of the culture, the rhythmic pattern, formal structure, timbre and texture in the music, the main instruments used, and the way the voice is used.
The first musical culture I chose is Gagaku, which is the oldest classical music in Japan. Japan is a country of over 3,000 islands, extending along the Pacific coast of Asia. There are seven different dialects of the Japanese language. There are many religions, but Shintoism and Buddhism are the main ones. Gagaku was introduced into Japan from the Korean Peninsula in the 500’s. In 589 Japanese official diplomatic delegations had been sent to China to learn more about Chinese culture, and Gagaku was influenced because of this. The music is improvised most of the time so has no real formal structure. The tempo starts out slow, gets faster, then returns to slow again and has a drawn-out ending. It has sparse rhythm. One cannot beat time with one’s hand because there is an internal “ma”. The rhythms are based on “ma” and silence is important. I couldn’t actually find out what the term, “ma” meant. Different from western music, Gagaku music flows, reflecting the feeling of nature. The most common musical instruments associated with Gagaku are the wind instruments, the stringed instruments and the percussion instruments. An example of a wind instrument would be the Sha, a type of reed instrument. The Biwa, a short-necked fretted lute, would be one of the stringed instruments and the Kakko, a double-headed drum, would be used for percussion. The music is mostly instrumental and the voice is rarely used.
The next musical culture I chose was that of Scotland. Scotland comprises the northern third of the island of Great Britain. Just over two-thirds of the Scottish population reported having a religion, with Christianity being all but 2% of these. The main language is English. The oldest form of music in Scotland is thought to be Gaelic singing and harp playing. The harp has a long and ancient history in Scotland, and was the national instrument until it was replaced by the Highland bagpipes in the 15th century. Stone carvings in the East of Scotland support the idea that the harp was present there well before the 9th century A.D. Vocal music is popular in the Scottish musical tradition. There are ballads and laments, generally sung by a lone singer with backing, or played on traditional Scottish instruments. There are many traditional folk songs, which are usually melodic, haunting or rousing. The rhythmic pattern depends on the song or dance. All jigs have multiples of three beats to the measure, but reels, strathspeys and most hornpipes have either two or four counts per measure. The most common musical instruments used are bagpipes, fiddles, tin whistles, and drums. The voice may be used in whatever way the singer is comfortable with. There are no strict rules.
The music of the Maasai tribe of Africa was the next culture I chose. The Maasai live in Kenya and northern Tanzania in eastern Africa. They speak Maa and are educated in the official languages of Kenya and Tanzania, these being Swahili and English. The Maasai originated from the lower Nile valley, north of Lake Turkana. They began migrating south around the 15th century, arriving in a long track of land stretching from northern Kenya to central Tanzania between the 17th and 18th century. The music of the Maasai has an “olaranyani” or song leader who begins each song by singing a line of a song. The group will respond with one unanimous call in acknowledgement. Each song’s specific structure is based on call-and-response. Traditional music is based on a rhythmic pattern called “laleyio”. All songs directly or indirectly incorporate this term as a basis for rhythmic structure. The breathing pattern a song is sung with affects the rhythm. Common rhythms are in variations of 5/4, 6/4, and 3/4 time signatures. The most common musical instrument is the voice. They are nomadic people, so because they are always on the move the voice is the easiest to carry. Maasai people use singing as a way of friendly competition and to deal with daily life. They do lots of chanting and call-and-response. They also use grunting like a drum to keep time.
Flamenco is one of the musical styles of Spanish culture. Spain is a European country. Gibraltar and Morocco lie to its south, and Portugal borders it on the west. Roman Catholicism is the main religion of Spain. The official language is Spanish but some regional languages are Aranese, Basque and Catalan. Flamenco is believed to have evolved out of a mixture of early Byzantine, Arab, Jewish and some Gypsy cultures. No one is sure where the word “flamenco” came from, but it’s said that it derives from “of Flanders” or referring to the word, “flame”. Flamenco is one of the most technically demanding, yet one of the least understood music in the world today. Much of it is based on improvisation and a basic rhythmic and chord structure. The structure is not always obvious while listening. In flamencos it is more important to feel the rhythm, rather than to mechanically count the beats. In this way it is similar to blues or jazz where performers seem to simply feel the rhythm. The most common musical instrument would be the flamenco guitar, which is a type of classical guitar made especially for flamenco. The voice uses microtonality, an interval smaller than a semitone. Changing from one note is frequently done in a smooth transition, rather than using distinct intervals.
The final culture I chose is Sami music (yoik) found in Scandinavia, which is the wide peninsula that divided the Norwegian Sea from the Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Bothnia. It is dominated by a mountain chain that runs form almost its entire length. The Sami people live in the northern regions. The Sami people have inhabited the northern regions of Scandinavia and Russia for at least 2500 years. Since they are the earliest of the contemporary ethnic groups represented in the area, they are consequently considered an indigenous population of the area. The timbre of the singing is heard as “harsh” or “nasal”, and makes use of intervals which often sound either too long or too short for Western ears. The articulation of notes is also dissimilar to music from other areas. Yoikers often use glissando notes, “sliding in and out of pitches”. This makes it difficult or impossible to accompany a yoiker with musical instruments. Sami music has no formal structure. The rhythmic structures are unlike that which is valued in Western music. It may sound as though it has no rhythm but there is just none of the symmetry that we are used to in Western culture. The most common traditional musical instruments would be the flute and drums, but modern bands also use the fiddle and accordion. The main instrument is actually the voice; the singing sounds similar to the traditional chanting of some American Indian cultures. The tonality of yoik is mostly pentatonic but yoikers can use any tone they please. The main vocal characteristic in the traditional yoik has been described as “constrained or compressed”. It requires careful breathing control because the vocalizations tighten the throat and stress the vocal chords.
In conclusion, there are many different musical styles and cultures all over the world. The five I chose were different in style and sound, even those within close geographical area like the Sami from Scandinavia, flamenco from Spain and Scottish or Gaelic from Scotland. It was interesting to study and learn about a few different musical cultures from around the world.
29 May 2009 13:52 | Quote
Joined: way back
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Very informative.I really only read the Flamenco paragraph but it was good.
29 May 2009 18:52 | Quote
Joined: 28 Aug 2008
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It's actually a good read, some things in there I didn't know about so thanks for sharing!
29 May 2009 20:08 | Quote
Joined: 27 May 2008
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partly wiki, mostly actually lol

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