Sunday, May 11, 2008
Passing it on
Every society passes music along as part of its culture. People learn by hearing, watching, and imitating. In some societies learning is more formalized, through apprenticeship arrangements, and even more formalized through what we in the West know as music education, with teachers and students and a written system of notation. In this way music is sustained as part of the normal cultural work that people in families and communities and societies do in bringing up the next generation. And yet music, or rather certain kinds of music, are regarded as endangered, as the cultural resources and the ways of life that would normally pass it on are threatened, sometimes toward extinction. Just as languages have become extinct, so have musics. The argument is made that just as biodiversity is adaptationally advantageous for life on earth, so is biocultural diversity (and hence musical diversity). For that reason, music should be conserved. Conservation is one means toward sustainability.