[iDC] The Remix discussion

Judith Rodenbeck jrodenbe at slc.edu
Sat Apr 15 20:06:21 EDT 2006

I find this position itself weirdly Eurocentric:


Basically, I would argue  that 'theory' is itself a eurocentric construction
that expresses a state of cultural hyper-literacy.

This assumes that "theory" is.only European! The vedic tradition has a
thousand-year history of music and art theory. China, too, has an ancient
theoretical tradition as does Persia. Europe is really very new at this

Thus it is hardly surprising that our theoretical writings are eurocentric
since eurocentrism is inexplicably intertwined with literatism. (Which is
not - just for the record - to say that only white folks can/should read and
write, but rather that europe's imperalist history is deeply inscribed with
the imposition of literate systems of exchange, education, governance etc.
on non-literate or mildly literate peoples whose social character is/was
based on the very different organizational imperatives of the human voice).

What of the history of China? Egypt? Babylon? The history of writing is NOT
Eurocentric. The history of writing is the history of accounting, of
domination, of the accumulation and exchange and stockpiling of knowledge
long before anything called Europe existed. The history of writing is the
history of recording. What recording allows you to do is FORGET and use
those grey cells for something else. The history of writing is the history
of knowledge accumulation and dissemination beyond the spatial and temporal
span of the individual. Absent writing-or scriptible recording-techniques
for remembering make use of dithering processes-rythm, meter, rhyme. That's
what all the fuss is about the Illiad. And the information value of what
oral recitation shifts in relation to actual events, so that it's more
important to fill in the narrative forms and meters and rituals than it is
to maintain a strict accuracy in the account of actualities (or what a
eurocentric might call "fact"). That's what all the fuss was about I,
Rigoberta Menchu, a book that was accurate as to the general outlines of a
culturally specific experience but which wholly inaccurate when it came to
Western journalistic "fact."

Paul's right in principle when it comes to getting out of a certain
geographic parochialism. On the other hand "Eurocentrism" as an accusation
presumes that "Europe" is something homogenous, no? But "European" music now
includes rai, qawwali, blues, bhangra,.; American art music since the 1940s
has been infused with East Asian microtones and polyrhythms while one need
only listen to late Debussy to understand the fact of Modernism's own
propensity to remixing. On the flip, Ali Farka Toure played the "birth of
the blues" out of Mali--a remix; Korean bubble-gum pop arguably comes
bursting through American neo-colonial radio of the 1950s--a remix; daring
Iranians play Queen, Yo Yo Ma tours with his Silk Road show; Japanese
musicians have taken "Euro" formats (e.g., the 3-piece rock band; new-wave
staging; blues) and retooled them with traditional Japanese instruments
(e.g., shamisen, shakuhachi, koto) and musicality, at the same time
cross-pollinating Ainu, Shinto, Buddhist traditions, and that's a hell of a
remix. Of course, my references are all bound to my own immersion in
European modernism. I don't mind being here since it's a tradition includes
Beethoven, Jimi Hendrix AND an extraordinary and expansive (and, yes,
consuming) interest in the new, the different (microtones, polyrythms,
duration, harmonics, subsonics.). Yet don't we run the risk, hunting so
conscientiously for the other to our so-called eurocentrism, of recolonizing
exactly those cultures we claim to be.what? appreciating for their
authenticity? saving? (From a puff piece: "The music of the Sufi is the most
swinging religious music there is." Cool! Where can I buy some?) The
discourse of certain technologies is, yes, Northern (incl. Japan) and it
necessarily moves from object to object. The discourse(s) of process and of
medium is(are) dispersive, inversive, remixive. This kind of mixology
wouldn't exist without script. And Europe, as is now more than abundantly
clear, has been remixed way beyond any holistic, genetic, mythic fantasy
"Europe"-even if "Europeans" keep assuming the right to access everything
non-"European" as part of their "European" identity. 


On 12-Apr-06, at 4:18 PM, Paul D. Miller wrote:

hey folks - as usual, this is waaaayyyy too Eurocentric.

Arghh! When will people look at other stuff... This gets to be a drag.

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