Saturday, November 21, 2009

Music, Sustainability, and Cultural Policy: China Lecture 3 Summary

In this lecture I discussed ways in which government and non-government agencies may apply lessons learned from sustainability thinking to public policy initiatives aimed at conserving and/or developing musical cultures and music. I examined two music cultures--the blues musical culture, and the musical culture of the Old Regular Baptists (a religious group)--in light of cultural policies and sustainability. In the blues music culture, governmental and non-governmental institutions have intervened to sustain different visions of blues music, and the result is tension over issues such as authenticity and aesthetics. In the music culture of the Old Regular Baptists, a combination of far-sighted community leaders and a small number of scholars have partnered with governmental and non-governmental institutions to institute cultural policies that seem to be working to help strengthen these musical cultures. Ironically, because this is a religious musical culture, there is less outside interest in intervention and more internal interest in preservation; the result is that with more direction from within, the musical culture has been better sustained. 



  1. Thank you for this excellent blog on sustainability in music and beyond.

    Can you elaborate on both of the examples you gave here?

    - In the blues context, I am curious if the project encompassed a large region spanning multiple states, or if it was a more local community effort focusing on their traditions? Both could easily develop challenging situations questioning 'authenticity'.

    - In the Old Regular Baptiste example you mentioned "cultural policies" and how they helped preserve their music. Were these recruitment measures, recording and archiving practices, or some other policies that helped preserve this music?

  2. Many governmental and NGO interventions have taken place since the 1960s to support blues. Some large festivals attract performers from multiple states; local festivals which are community efforts. Museums such as the blues museum in Clarksdale, MS emphasizes Delta Blues; there is a Blues Trail in MS that also emphasizes this regional form.

    For the Old Regular Baptists, the cultural policies resulted from work with a local traditional arts agency, Appalshop; and also with national agencies--the Smithsonian Institution, and the National Endowment for the Arts. These were recording and archiving practices that served conservation needs but at the same time the attention given their music from these institutions raised community pride and helped the community leaders to steward and maintain their traditional way of singing.