AbstractIn recent years there has been an increasing interest in the use of instruments (and their performance traditions) from other – usually non-western – cultures in contemporary western art music in general and electroacoustic music in particular. This article examines the possible bases for such inter-cultural interactions. Many such instruments come from highly developed traditions, which may be little understood by the western composer; many performance practices, attitudes and aesthetics may likewise be misunderstood in both directions. The problems and opportunities afforded by technology is a major issue.
The article will examine critically these issues drawing particularly from the author’s experiences working with Indian, Korean and West African musicians (as well as ‘non-standard’ western instruments such as the harpsichord) with ‘western’ electronics. It is divided into three parts:
Cultural exchange has always enriched western European music from the time of crusades to more recent musical appropriations such as Mozart and Haydn’s ‘Turkish Music’. But since the Paris Exhibition of 1889 and Debussy’s encounter with the music of Indo-China – and, for that matter, other more indirectly ‘exotic’ influences from Russia – this became increasingly more explicit. We see a self-conscious reappraisal of western tradition apparently searching for the seeds of renewal both within and outside its increasingly less defined boundaries.
I have been working with musicians of other backgrounds than those from standard western academies since 1988. Firstly with a mixed Anglo-Indian ensemble (Shiva Nova which at that time included flute, cello, sitar and tablas) for whom I wrote a piece (Pathways) with the addition of sampler and live electronics in 1989; and now more recently with the Korean kayagum player Inok Paek for whom I wrote a live electronic work completed in 1998. In addition I have written another