Music, Authenticity and Appropriation

Posted February 29th, 2008 at 5:23 pm.

Do you have a right to sing the blues? Is appropriation with attribution OK, or is it still using someone else’s property/culture/history? About 15 of us discussed these issues today (2/29/08), and our exploration was guided by Prof. Michael Tratner, Shayna Israel ’08 and Nikki Lopez ’10. Some of the additional issues we grappled with included identity, everyday experience, money, access, blame, obscurity, recording, preserving, reproducing, stealing and influence. People spoke from both the heart and the head, sharing information from readings as well as from their own performing history/present. As usual, the discussion looped around a lot of territory in 50 minutes. Although there are many questions that remain, three stood out for me: Whose job is it to tell the cultural story [behind music/a work of art]? Can you ever have the whole story? And can we share that story, or do some people, as originators, own it?

What questions stood out for you? Please continue the conversation!

Filed under: arts,culture,diversity,history,language,music by Vanessa Christman

2 Responses to “Music, Authenticity and Appropriation”

  1. Anne Dalke Says:

    For me the real questions have to do with this language of property and ownership: once you’ve named any cultural form as a thing which can be “owned,” then you’ve set yourself up to feel either angry or guilty, depending whether you are inside or outside the fence. Seems to me that there must be other, more productive ways to talk about culture…

    and about creativity. So much of the creative and intellectual work we do happens unconsciously: there are so many inputs we are not aware of; how can we be held responsible for them? Why is the gatekeeping so important?

  2. Chris MacDonald-Dennis Says:

    I would say the “gatekeeping”, as you call it, happens because art/creative output has been stolen–literally as well as figuratively. The creative work is “unconscious” because we have not been told where things come from and have been taught that it is our “right” to consume whatever we wish without understanding where it comes from. For me, this is the ultimate hubris.

    Too often, forms of entertainment would be taken from devalued groups and repackaged for the masses..would anyone acknowledge it? No. The groups that were the original creators of the work were still being seen as “less than” but their cultural contributions would be taken.

    For me, it is important to note where creative products come from, if we know. I think we should share culture—look at Leontyne Price (the African American opera singer) or Third Bass (late 80s white/Jewish rap group) but we should realize/ackowledge the long history of exploitation and theft.