Friday, November 03, 2017

Cultural Appropriation

According to Wikipedia:

Cultural appropriation is a concept in sociology, dealing with the adoption of the elements of one culture by members of another culture. Cultural appropriation, often framed as cultural misappropriation, is sometimes portrayed as harmful and is claimed to be a violation of the collective intellectual property rights of the originating culture.  

I would like to suggest that this is nonsense.  So according to this idea, the following things are bad:
  • All jazz because either white people appropriated African-American rhythms or African-Americans appropriated western harmonic tradition.  You pick.  Jazz is worth whatever cultures were offended in inventing the genre.
  • The Beatles because they appropriated American rock and roll.
  • All of European harmonic tradition because the continentals appropriated the triad from the British.
  • Opera because it appropriated the idea of sung drama from the Greeks.  This particular appropriation was deliberate and self-conscious.
The truth of the matter is that most of the greatest advances in human history came about because of the blending of ideas from different cultures.  Speaking as an American, we have no culture. So what are we supposed to do?  Stay indoors with a blanket over our heads?

Interesting and thought provoking art objects are the goal, and this can often be achieved by juxtaposing one culture against another.  I created a list of operas here which I was considering discussing from the point of view of this concept, but why bother.  I'd rather follow the tradition, "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery."

Small post script:  The resulting imitation never precisely duplicates the original, and the differences are what makes it art.

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