15 October 2006

When Will Primitivism End?

BEWARE: Generalizations/stereotypes abound below.

Around the turn of the 19th/20th century, a new artistic trend started: Primitivism. All of a sudden, the civilized world was no longer kitsch. Anything from "uncivilized" societies had instant merit, and Western artists, writers, and composers jumped on the band wagon, each attempting to spin tribal rhythms into a palatable yet authentic style.

Over a century later, we're still riding the wave of Primitivism. Can you say "World Music"?

In the Rogue Valley, we have the One World Music Series. Maria Kelley does an incredible job bringing musicians from every continent on the planet, Antarctica excluded, to play for us. Many who attend these concerts go in order to experience another culture without having to leave home. The one thing that the One World Music Series does well is presenting the visiting artist's accolades.

Another Ashland-based music company, St. Clair Productions takes the Oriental approach though (see the consummate work by Edward Said). They paint anyone from another country as "others," distinctly different from us. Instead of alluding to the effects of the visitor's music on listeners, they focus on what makes them "not us."

One hundred years after Primitivism first freed us from stodgy classical artistic style and Wagner, we still seek to find "primitive" art forms from other cultures instead of looking within ourselves to find our own primitive nature and expounding upon it.

When will we start to notice that we continue to distance ourselves from people who aren't really that different from us? When will Primitivism end?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Interesting post. I don't feel informed enough on the topic to make an intelligent comment, but wanted to offer up this link for anyone who needs a primer on the subject (like I did):