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The Horned Man and the Dragon: Holographic Replication in Musico-Cultural Transitions

23 August 2021
11:30 - 12:30 hrs (GMT+7)

Jonathan Day
Royal Birmingham Conservatoire


Since transition is change over time and tradition rests in the tension between story and dogma, we can conclude that the constant and inevitable transitions happening all the time in traditions rest heavily on story. Stories we tell ourselves about who we are, where we come from and where we are going. Stories about our identity as people and groups of people (nations, hierarchies, language groups, histories, ‘artists’). Stories that tell us what music is, who owns it, and even sometimes who is allowed to make it.

In recent years, perhaps the most strident and pressing change in most of our stories worldwide is the thunder clash of globalisation – and, as we approach the ‘post pandemic’, rumours of retrenchment and a renewed regionalism. Perhaps the greatest driver in all of this is the homogeneity of humanity — the links, similarities and kinships of all humans. As Camille Sforza discussed, the 7 billion or so living humans have so far demonstrated less genetic diversity than exists in one nuclear family of chimpanzees. We all have an extreme ‘family likeness’, and our shared genesis, according to today’s best estimate, was in a series of caves on the South African Cape, from which we spread rapidly along the littoral margins to populate the planet.

It is then perhaps unsurprising that a number of intensely interesting mysteries exist within earlyish human cultural outputs. The Horned Man occurs constantly in cultures with seemingly little or no possible contact — and across both time and space. Iconography is shared between Lascaux France and the Drakensberg in the Karoo desert, while dragon-like creatures infest the myths of peoples on most of the planet’s continents. Planetary anthropomorphisms are shared by Greek and Chinese culture. Despite intense study, no apparent mechanism has been found for the sharing of these ideas. Similar musical themes, moods and instrumental regimes also pop up across apparently dissociated cultural moments. We will explore these images and sounds and our specific responses to them.

This evidence of some kind of paleolithic cultural globalisation allows for a significant re-reading of ideas around cultural patrimony. Contemporary acts of ‘claiming’ ownership of musico-cultural traditions, while being certainly based on the innate human inclination to claim territory that is common to many large predators, also has an aroma of high capitalism — the stink of profit, the stench of money — what Marx would call ownership of the means of production. While it may be somewhat an act of location within a self and socially attributed story, examining our common, interrelated and co dependent cultural roots allows for a window opening, a celebration of co-ownership and a powerful platform for expansion. This, it seems to me, is at the heart of the PGVIM/S mission. We can together celebrate and explore ourselves by celebrating and exploring others. We become more realised, more whole by opening up and exploring those aspects of ourselves that we first find in others. By exploring and indwelling the music of the ancestors we are better equipped for the challenges of today.

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