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The following program was originally released in 1967 though they produce it in a variety of ways and for many different reasons all the peoples of the world have music. Being. Good. Guiding Hand saying that they did it. Yet I. Think. That. The. Michigan State University Radio invites you now to a program of music around the world produced and hosted by Martin Nicholas. Not. That I did not. Smile. People often say that music is a universal language. That's rather a wild
generalization but it is based on a couple of important points about music. One is that music is a universal form of expression. So far as is known there are no people on earth who don't have music of some sort or another and there are bone flutes and cave paintings scroll manuscripts and all sorts of other archaeological and historical evidences that indicate that music has played an important role in culture and society for a long time. Another point is that music often does seem to be able to transcend the barriers that divide people such as geography and politics religion and ethnic groupings. People with very different backgrounds and no verbal language in common can sometimes get a general grasp of and maybe even a real understanding of each other's feelings and ideas as expressed in music. But of course that's not true in all cases. Let's listen to a recording of one of the so-called talking drums which occur in some parts of Africa. Many of the African languages are tunnel a good linguist with a native speaker to give
examples could probably expound the principles of total tonal languages in about an hour. But for our purposes here the main point is that understanding is dependent upon the vocal inflection of each word. Thus each phrase in each sentence has a distinctive pattern of intonation. Drums tuned to pitch can imitate the actual flow of speech word for word. You can hear how it works in this example. The drummer speaks each phrase after he drums it. We may not. I don't know but I really want to get into that I think about that. I'm sure that very few if any of us hearing that could tell that the message being groomed was
an invitation for everyone to come and dance because comprehending the meaning of that selection is pretty well dependant upon knowing the language of the people of the Congo. However it's possible that you found the pattern of sounds a statically pleasing or intellectually interesting or both. Even with no knowledge of the idiom or the associations or the context. Let's listen to another sort of talking. The kind used by the orbit peoples of Nigeria and we'll hear some greetings played on a pressure drum which is able to follow the verbal inflections even more exactly. A few other groups who have tonal languages for example some of the Indians in
Mexico take advantage of the regularized musical qualities of their language and have a supplemental communication system by imitating the speech flow and whistling. It's legitimate to ask whether or not this kind of use of musical techniques can be considered music. I don't really know for certain but it's likely that people who use those systems don't consider them as music when they're using them for straight communication. Though the African drum phrases are often very ornate and poetic and performing them is considered a specialized art.. I'm not a musicologist and I don't intend to engage in any discussions about the philosophy of music course that iks I only want to point out that certain concepts such as what distinguishes music from other sounds. What a natural scale sounds like what moods and meanings are associated with certain rhythms and tonal arrangements. These are all things that we learn as part of the pattern of a particular culture. If our set of musical perceptions is enough different from the assumptions on which another culture's music is
based then that music might very well not communicate anything to us or at least not what was intended. For instance listen to this piece of music from Cambodia. The impression that you're getting of this music that it's happy music sad music pleasant music with no particular emotional import unpleasant music or even non
music just noise. Your impression depends upon the particular musical ideas to which you're accustomed. Actually it's funeral music played in the classical style of Cambodia. But to know that by listening one must have a knowledge of and a feeling for the idiom not necessarily the spoken language but the musical idiom. The cultural idiom. Luckily gaining a capacity for at least sympathetic appreciation of musical
idiom is much easier and much more pleasant than trying to gain a comparable grasp of linguistic idiom even in the case of the strictly language based talking dumb phrases. If you participated often enough or watched the dancing that followed the first phrase that we heard which you may remember was a call to dance. You would make the association between the sound and the idea and the feeling are the same thing could occur by just listening to it over and over with the emotion and action meaning in mind completely bypassing the specific language which the drum pattern was originally taken from. I played the drum selections because they illustrated in the extreme. The impact that some patterns can have. However music usually tends to form broader more vague patterns so that specific exposure to certain kinds of music can easily lead to enjoyable familiarity with a larger range of music. Although I personally feel that it's more intellectually satisfying to have some background knowledge some of the who how when a blah is of the music of other cultures I see nothing
inherently bad in listening to music completely out of its context on its own. For instance this next election. I want to read and knowing I remembered it where ever heard of them or that I can read and
write a little mad and I have remarried and I am a very rare where I have a mother and I haven't been aware of them or. Since the booklet that's supposed to explain the music on this particular record is missing. All I know is that that song is from somewhere in the area of the gazelle peninsula on the south coast of New Guinea. And that I like the way it sounds. I'm not sure what the instruments are but there are some even more interesting sounding instruments on the other bands even though they sound like perhaps they're from an electronic studio. The musical instruments which you will hear next are from the Sepik River area of New Guinea. Oh.
Not. Yet. Not. Yet. I hope to be able to tell you what all those sounds were on the next later program.
Which brings me to an important point. The reason I've been talking so much on this program is because I intend to keep talk to a minimum on the rest of the programs in this series. The few hypotheses and principles which I have an NCAA didn't will enunciate on this program will be self illustrative from now on in the series. I'll be concentrating on the music outside of what's usually referred to as the Western tradition of music. I strongly object to that particular term because it's misleading as well as imprecise but there's no convenient substitute term. In general I'm using it to mean the musical traditions derived from Western Europe the music which with. With which most average Americans are most familiar the number of people who share this western tradition is far from a majority of the world's population. Yet because most of the industrially advanced countries are included in the group more of their music is easily available to us. Also of course because of natural cultural subjectivity the demand for music of other
cultural cultures is probably not widespread enough to promote easy availability in this country. Frequently bring in reference to and perhaps even illustrations of the music of Western traditions but mainly all feature music which is less familiar in this country. There is no exact dividing line but this will include the music of Eastern Europe. The many peoples of Asia and Africa. American Indians and other enclaves of Aboriginals which are surrounded by Westerners such as occur in Australia. I'm also including Central and South America since the musics of those places are often very interesting blends of various cultures and most people in the United States aren't really familiar with the range of styles there. Even though we live nearby. Americans are becoming increasingly interested in the music of other cultures however. Just the other day I heard an interview with a young composer who was excitedly extolling the wonders of certain rhythm patterns which are quite common in Greek folk music but don't ordinarily occur in the music of Western tradition for example.
You got me. Lol. Lol. Lol meet. Me again. Need.
A rather ordinary Greek group doing a rather ordinary Greek song in rather ordinary Greek nine phrases. One of the advantages of the current craze for things Greek is that records of Greek music are much easier to find in ordinary American record stores these days. There's a similar advantage in the present fad for the India scene although that country doesn't actually produce many records it's now somewhat easier to obtain those that are produced there and also the big name artists of India India are being recorded in America and Europe more than they used to be. The South Asia sub continent that is to say India and Pakistan encompasses a very rich assortment of musical traditions. Each region has its distinctive style of folk songs. For instance the theme song for these programs comes from Bengal.
There are also many modern pop songs mostly from the movies but it's the classical tradition that's been getting the most attention. Though many American fans may not even know that it is the classical tradition. Yes everybody's doing it even the Beatles.
I do give them credit for having a better grasp of Indian music at least than most other present Indian faddists have of the other elements of Indian culture that they're so blithely tossing around however the sitar is a long neck string instrument in addition to six or seven main strings. It has a number of sympathetic vibrating strings strung across the neck all the strings are tunable and all the frets are movable. Let's hear a bit of the M.C. Taurus Ravishankar. That. Was. That. It's almost impossible to give a valid impression of an Indian classical piece. It's called a rather. Quick sample like this because every performance is an improvisation inspired by a specific melodic form appropriate to a
particular time and mood and one part leads on to the next through many expositions and variations. Sometimes for hours and almost never less than a quarter of an hour at least. We're hearing only the beginning of a long section of invocation of a robin titled hideout which is described as a Morning Raga of a devotional mood with a tinge of pathos. Obviously as is true with almost all music especially the elaborated formalized classical traditions the more familiar you are with the idioms and conventions of that particular music the more you'll appreciate all the subtleties of the performance. You can still enjoy and appreciate it with little or no background. Playing along with the sitar is the border which is the drone instrument that's continually repeating the same pattern. No. This establishes the. Scale being used. Later on in the drummer playing tabla which is a set of two drums joins in.
The whole program later on discussing and illustrating the many types and styles of music in India and Pakistan and similarly we'd like to concentrate programmes on other areas of Asia on regions of Africa South America Eastern Europe etc.. Of course the extent to which this will be possible is dependent upon the availability of materials and time. But I think it would be very interesting to hear the different musics of a geographical area in the context of the cultures and history of the place. One of the things I find fascinating is how much of a group's history is evident in its music particularly the movement of peoples. A clear example right here at home is the strong
African influence in American jazz and popular music. It will be pointing out the sort of thing rather frequently and we may possibly do a whole program of illustrations of cross-cultural influences. A very interesting place in this and many other respects is Japan will be playing quite a bit of Japanese music because it's a country that not only has an enormous array of interesting musical traditions which are conscientiously maintained but it also has a large recording industry so that it's much easier to have examples of Japanese music than say of Indian music. The Cogia getting a lot of attention lately. It's a large string instrument which is used as a
solo instrument into singers in the position it maintains in a cultivated Japanese household is similar to that of a piano in the West. This piece being played by the well-known was composed by Michel master who died only a few years ago. Because of its melodic quality. Coto is quite adaptable to Western styles of music and Western appreciation. In fact the other side of this record features the flute of the American jazz musician. The next piece we're here will illustrate some of the kinds of interesting things playing on other programs
of this series. It's a song of one of the aboriginal tribes of Australia the fog horn like instrument is a didgeridoo. You may remember that a couple of years ago there was a an Australian popular song Tie me kangaroo down and there was a verse play me didgeridoo blue. Well the didgeridoo is a hollow length of wood or bamboo about 45 feet long and two to four inches in diameter. The player who is called a puller usually sits on the ground and the instrument rests on the ground but occasionally he stands in and someone has to hold the end of the instrument. It has a vegetable mouthpiece which is a bit like a cornet. Although only one notice used in this particular selection it can also reach a second or about a tenth above. You'll notice the tone of the singing voice in this piece. A static standards of vocal quality vary enormously from culture to culture. The nasal quality that we try so carefully to suppress and classical Western tradition music is just as carefully cultivated and mired in the music
of many other cultures. The clip syllables in the song are in imitation of the Allied troops which these tribal people saw drilling during the war. On the other hand the break in the middle of the piece is part of the traditional dance pattern of that tribe. They dance half way across the dance arena. Stop and mark time and then continue. One suggestion made by the man who's studied the music of this group The closest is that the motion is to imitate the tide which comes to the shores edge stops and then flows on to the beach. Most of the programs in the series will be based on themes that are current find musical
expression and cultures all over the world. Some of the motifs work religion love lullabies weddings etc.. Some programs will give examples of music illustrating a single general principle operative in many places such as the adoption of foreign influences which we mentioned earlier use of the voice or drums or flutes or other kinds of musical instruments. Each of these programs will have music from all over the world which happens to be relevant to the particular theme. Of course there are thousands of fascinating aspects of any music or culture which we could mention and which a knowledgeable person could undoubtedly speak on for hours. But for the most part I'll be letting the music speak for itself. I'll just give a few background points that I think are interesting and relevant to the theme of the program. And now with this song from Sardinia I bid you farewell till next week when the music
will all be related to that age old favorite theme. Love. LANE. I'm. We have presented music around the world with Martin Nicolas producer and commentator and we invite you to be with us again next week at the same time for music around the world. This program was produced for Michigan State University Radio
originally released in 1967. The program you've just heard is from the program library of National Public Radio.
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Music around the world
Language of music
Producing Organization
Michigan State University
WKAR (Radio/television station : East Lansing, Mich.)
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
This program seeks to expand on the clich that music is a "universal language."
Series Description
This series, hosted by Marta Nicholas, presents music from all parts of the globe.
Media type
Host: Nicholas, Marta
Producer: Parrish, Thomas (Thomas D.)
Producing Organization: Michigan State University
Producing Organization: WKAR (Radio/television station : East Lansing, Mich.)
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 67-37-2 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:48
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Chicago: “Music around the world; Language of music,” 1967-01-01, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed July 25, 2024,
MLA: “Music around the world; Language of music.” 1967-01-01. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. July 25, 2024. <>.
APA: Music around the world; Language of music. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from