Print of Note - Part II (more books, periodicals, etc.)
repercussions, fall 1995, v4, n2.
Music in American Cultures: an anthology of autobiographies (ed. by Mark De Witt) pp. 130-161.
These are a collection of edited essays taken from a course at UC Berkeley. De Witt taught the course with several others. They described the course (don't know if it's still being taught) this way: "When teaching the 'Music in American Cultures' course, we privilege neither assimilationist nor ethnic separatist ideologies, but we discuss a range from one to the other."
One of the class assignments was for students to write about their experiences with and relationship to music. Eight essays were chosen for publication. Here are excerpts from two that are by Asians:
Margaret Ko: "At the beginning it was hard imagine a band with all ethnic groups. In my high school, the population of every ethnic group was about the same. There were a lot of Caucasians, Latinos or Chicanos, African Americans, and Asian Americans. Students separated themselves off in school. People grouped themselves by their ethnic groups on different parts of the campus during lunch or break, and very often I saw two groups throwing stuff at each other or having fights...
...Later, in my senior year, I joined the drum line, which had mostly African American members. Many of my Asian friends who were not in the band didn't think I belonged in the drum line, but I didn't feel awkward, nor did anyone treat me differently. I admired many of my drum line colleagues for being so talented... When we performed, we created this great environment that everyone enjoyed and just forgot about who we were..."
Karen Kwong: "It was typical that the few Asian students were expected to take up the violin, piano or flute, which my siblings did. My preference, however, was for the trumpet. Ah, the trumpet; it was shiny, brassy, powerful-looking, and, best of all, it had only three keys...
I remember the first song I fell in love with on the radio: Glenn Miller's "Moonlight Serenade." I wanted to learn how to play as wonderfully as the band leaders Tommy Dorsey, Harry James, Louie Armstrong, and Count Basie...
...I was in high school by this time and, I'm ashamed to say, rock, rap, reggae, and heavy metal music came and went without my taking much notice or interest. I think my ignorance of my generation's music ruined my social life. I refused to date any fellow who didn't make some sort of effort to serenade me and croon outside my window like a Gene Kelly or Vic Damone. My twin sister, a rap, heavy metal, and classical music enthusiast, claims I missed out on a lot..."
Dragon Ladies; Asian American Feminists Breathe Fire S. Shah, ed. 1997. (pp.21-2)
Critical Visions; the representation and resistance of Asian women (Lynn Lu)
In this essay about Asian women in the media (print, broadcast, fashion and entertainment), the author takes male music critics to task for what they write about the first US album by expat-Japanese women rock duo, Cibo Matto. (The reviews were in Time, New York, Details, Billboard, and Rolling Stone):
By serving up the global residue of American cultural influence worldwide in decidedly unironic, "palatable" form, Cibo Matto is the perfect poster group for the apolitical multicultural atmosphere mainstream critics adore. Their music is thankfully "free of any overt social agenda" and "without an ounce of dogma or pretense." In fact, the critics seem to imply, it is utterly, "charmingly" vacuous, "goofy," "dorky," and "cute." Such diminishing praise is, as critic Christopher Norris acknowledges, "doubly unsavory when [it] smack[s] of racialized condescension." Yet Norris goes on to display his own backhanded and belittling compliments, gushing that Cibo Matto's debut album, Viva! La Woman, "would be one of the most sensual and transporting records I've ever heard even if I couldn't understand a single word." He goes on to praise the group's broken-English sensibility, which other critics join in calling "crazed" and "trendy" (in the best possible senses of the words, of course).
Norris practically brands Cibo Matto a pair of idiot savants, "I've never heard a learned tongue work so impressionistically in rock. I find myself wondering whether Honda and Hatori are putting us on. Are they actually native speakers, or are they pop's Joseph Conrad?" Even I'm not so cynical as to think the group could have sold out that much; and yet, if Cibo Matto were all a linguistic hoax, it would serve the critics right as they attempt to outdo each other's nonsense worship. The critical response to Cibo Matto's global, postmodern brand of music reveals the vulnerability of Asian women's cultural production to a pro-global, pomo brand of condescending criticism.
(Much food for thought. It would have been nice for the author to have further explored the complicity of Cibo Matto in pandering to the critics' imaginations. You know what they say, 'it takes two to tango.'... Cibo Matto is not the first to elicit this kind of reaction. If you scroll down this page, you'll come across an excerpt from Fabula magazine, on the Japanese female rock trio, Shonen Knife.)
Popular Music V17,N1 Jan., 98 pp. 21-43
Chutney and Indo-Trinidadian Cultural Identity (Peter Manuel)
"...chutney, a syncretic Indo-Caribbean popular music and dance idiom...[has enjoyed]...a dramatic vogue in Trinidad since the mid-1980s and [provoked] a storm of controversy within the East Indian community...
Chutney has now become an international genre in its own way, with New York City and Toronto emerging as appendages to the West Indian scene. Top singers are routinely flown up to these cities for chutney extravaganzas. These fetes are attended by primarily immigrant Trinidadians and the more numerous Guyanese, with occasional handfuls of Asian Indians -- generally young men hoping to meet women. Chutney is also the mainstay of a few small cassette companies located in New York... Chutney-soca cassettes by the Bombay-base duo of Babla & Kanchan are even marketed in India itself. Most curious is the parallel chutney vogue among East Indians in South Africa..."
(The author goes on to compare chutney with bhangra.)
paper presented at the Association of Asian Studies conference, March 98
Japanese Rap Music and Fieldwork: How can I get down (and then get it down on paper)? (Ian Condry, Yale)
Ian Condry is a doctoral student in anthro, who's researched the hippu hoppu scene in Japan...
"Let's begin with the experience of going to a Japanese hip-hop club. I'll take you there. Like most clubbers, we commute to party, usually by train... Since the action at clubs does not really get going until after 1 a.m., we meet at Shibuya train station around midnight. We move against the stream of people. Many are running for fear of missing their connections for the last train of the evening around 1 a.m. Others, like us, walk leisurely because we will be out until the trains start running again at 5 in the morning...
After paying ¥ 2000 (about $20, roughly the price of a movie) you get a drink ticket and push through the heavy entryway door. The first thing you'll notice is how loud the music is. The booming bass thuds through your body, massaging your bones to the rhythm of the beat. This is the 'huge sound' or, in Japanese, dekai oto that gives clubbing an intensity of musical experience that does not compare to listening to music at home or on headphones. The space is dark, smoky, humid. Popular club events attract between 200 and 500 people, though there are larger shows that draw upwards of 1000. Several DJs work different shifts, playing mostly American rap, but increasingly Japanese groups as well. A few DJs-in-training stand around the DJ booth to learn new records and techniques. On the dance floor, three or four breakdancers may start impromptu dance battles, taking turns hopping around, spinning on the floor and striking menacing poses while a circle of on-lookers judges with pained silence or whoops and cheers. The live show will begin around 1:30 a.m., and several rap groups will perform a few songs apiece..." (quoted with permission of the author)
Orange County Register, 1 June 98
Primed for the big time; O.C.'s Home Grown is ready for its spotlight (Ben Wener)
McClure, Steve. (1998). NIPPONPO¶. Boston: Charles Tuttle.
Washington Post, 29 June 98
Little-Stick Diplomacy; Clinton, Jiang Find Harmony (Paul Blustein)
After dining at the state dinner in Beijing, Clinton and Chinese President Jiang Zemin cajoled each other to take turns conducting the People's Liberation Army band. Jiang "was modestly declining an invitation to conduct [by the band leader], but Clinton egged him on, saying: 'You can do it, Mr. President! Go for it!' " After Jiang conducted a few bars of "Song for the Motherland", he asked Clinton to try his hand. The latter led the band in a John Philip Sousa march.
"More... followed the after-dinner entertainment, which involved a large ensemble playing Western and Chinese music on traditional Chinese instruments. Particularly striking was the [group's] rendition of Joni Mitchell's 'Chelsea Morning,' featuring a soloist on a reed instrument called a suona." (The suona sounds like a piercing, amplified kazoo. It must've sounded a bit jarring to hear it render the lilting melody of that song.)
After the finale', (Strauss' "Radetzky" March), "Clinton thanked the ensemble for playing 'Chelsea Morning,' noting that his daughter's name had been inspired by the song." Soon thereafter, Jiang played an erhu, a bowed instrument (where the bowhair lies between two strings), and a few notes on a bamboo flute. "Had a saxophone been at hand, perhaps Clinton would have joined him in a duet." (What next? A music video for PBS, a la the Three Tenors? They could record a gig at the next APEC summit. With the right marketing, you could probably sell many copies in Asia -- except Taiwan, of course.)
New York Times, 12 July 98
A Burst of Rock, Bright as the Rising Sun (Neil Strauss)
Washington Post, 3 August 98
Hanulsori's American Drumbeat (L. Peat O'Neil)
This is a review of a July 30th performance of the D.C.-based Korean percussion troupe, Hanulsori. They performed outdoors on the steps of the Freer Gallery of Art (one of the Smithsonian museums on the Washington,D.C. Mall).
The leader of the group, Woo Suk (Harry) Lee, "told the audience that Hanulsori's music evolved from Korean traveling minstrels who entertained field workers and from the shamanist's traditional summoning of ethereal forces. But he insists the group plays new American music rather than a Korean hybrid adapted for contemporary ears."
The reviewer noted that, in the middle of a piece where Lee and another drummer were trading beats, they "pulled out cell phones and punched in some numbers so the electronic ringing complemented the drumming with a tinny pulse tone."
Mole, #11 (98)
Susie Ibarra; Drumming Cosmos from an Inner Space, p.8
Interview of the highly regarded Pinay (Pilipino American female) jazz drummer.
the Wire, adventures in modern music, issue 173 - August 98
Apocalypse, Hawaiian Style (Ken Hollings), p.40
Stylized history of easy-listening exotica during the first half of the Cold War. Musicians highlighted include: Korla Pandit, Yma Sumac, Martin Denny, Arthur Lyman, and Les Baxter. Also mentioned are Frank Sinatra, Laurence Welk, Elvis, and John Cage.
In fact, the essay starts off with a description of the Pacific broadcasts of a John Cage piece: "Throughout the closing months of World War Two, John Cage's piece for two prepared pianos, A Book of Music, was broadcast by the United States Office of War Information -- otherwise known as the OWI -- on shortwave radio across the South Pacific, 'with the hope,' the composer later recalled, 'of convincing the natives that America loves the Orient'. This minor propaganda coup filled up air space whenever there was nothing more urgent to communicate... 'The absence of harmony in my music,' Cage noted with reference to the OWI's use of [the piece], ' suggests to listeners Oriental music.' In 1945, Virgil Thomson commented upon the composition's 'gamut of pings, plucks and delicate thuds' being ' slightly reminiscent on first hearing of the Balinese gamelan orchestra, although the interior structure of Mr. Cage's music is not Oriental at all.' "
invisible jukebox: Talvin Singh (Rob Young), p.46
This is the blindfold test feature of the magazine, whereby a series of records are played, unannounced, to a musician. The listener is asked to identify and comment on what they've heard.
"...London's a place where you can learn about a lot of things, and people don't take that as an advantage. I meet all these young Asian DJs, wannabe Anokha stylees, and they're just mashing up the music and not doing nothing positive with it. But they're saying, 'Oh, we don't have the opportunity to learn,' and I'm like, "Of course you do! You live in London. You can learn about Indian music in London. Maybe not as a master musician, but at least the fundamentals. If you're that interested in the music, go and take some lessons, you know?'"
Ongaku Otaku; the magazine of Japanese independent music, #3, 1998
Filled with interviews of various musicians, namely:New York Times 6 Dec 98
- Grind Orchestra
- Seiichi Yamamoto
- MSBR (Koji Tano)
- Kosokuya (Kaneko Jutoku)
- Seagull Screaming Kiss her Kiss her
- Sugar Plant
- Shonen Knife
- Moga The ¥ 5
Orpheus Chamber Orchestra: Musically, the Twain Meet, in Vietnam (Jamie James)
An aboriginal couple's fight for recognition and a piece of recording industry profits could break new legal ground (Brenda Sandburg)
Background and up-to-date coverage of a lawsuit by Taiwanese aboriginal singers (and former betel nut farmers) concerning unauthorized and uncredited sampling of their rendition of a folk song.
"By 1996, snippets of "Jubilant Drinking Song" by a husband-and-wife couple, Kuo Ying-Nan and Kuo Hsin-Chu, were being broadcast to millions as part of the theme song for the summer Olympics in Atlanta. By that time, the tune had become so famous that it even made its way back to the remote Ami village, where stunned friends heard the Kuos' digitally remastered voices on the airwaves...
...While allegations of unauthorized use frequently crop up, few native artists have the resources to mount a court challenge. As a result, the Kuos' suit could become a test case over the scope of intellectual property protection for such performances in the U.S."
- Kid Koala interview
- Ladybug article (female band from Taiwan)
Asiaweek 18 Dec 98 (p.54-6)
articles on musicals from Malaysia, the Philippines, and S. Korea, namely:
- Natra by Zulkifli Ahmad
- Aguinaldo: 1898 by Paul Dumol
- The Last Empress by Kolleen Park, Yun Ho Jin, Yi Mun Yol, Park Dong Woo, and Kim Hee Gab
Vibe February, 99 (p.28)
SoulSenseAsian; a new wave of hip hop and r&b artists prove that soul comes in many colors (Corey Takahashi)
"The Texans couldn't believe their eyes when the members of Kai took the stage for a concert at the Far West Rodeo Club in Houston. As group member AC Lorenzo recalls, "All of a sudden, you heard people going, 'That's them? That's them!? I didn't know y'all was Chinese!'
Well, not exactly...one member is Chinese. The other four are Filipino-American..."
As evident from this opening paragraph, the article is an introduction to Asian American representation in urban (or one might say, black popular) music. Other artists mentioned include the Invisibl Skratch Piklz and Jocelyn Enriquez, as well as radio dj, Theo Mizuhara (KKBT-LA).
Battling ethnic stereotypes seems to be part of the Asian American musicians' plight, as exemplified by this quote from a member of Philadelphia's hip hop trio the Mountain Brothers: "We still get people saying, 'Hey, you guys should rhyme about kung fu.'"
(Maybe Foxy Brown could learn a thing or two from these cats about representin' and keepin' it real... Meanwhile, as for the kung fu remark...it may sound like ridiculous stereotyping, but as you'll find out in the Pulse! excerpt, further down the page, there was an interesting connection between music and martial arts...)
raygun (special dj issue) Feb 99
relevant articles include:
- Land of the Rising Sping: DJ Culture in Japan
- Beat Junkies
- Mix Master Mike
- I'm with the band: DJ's in groups (includes profile of DJ Disk)
SF Chronicle 5 Feb 99
Diverse Influences Give Jazz Composer Unique Sound (Kimberly Chun)
The article profiles Anthony Brown, the drummer and music director of the Bay area's Asian American Jazz Orchestra (AAJO). It's noted that Brown is part African American and part Japanese. There's also a discussion of performances of Brown's arrangement of "Far East Suite," composed by Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn. The pieces were based on Ellington's tours of Asia and the Middle East in the early '60s and written for a 17-piece jazz orchestra. AAJO reinterprets it "using Asian instruments such as the Chinese mouth organ, or sheng, and the lap violin, or erhu, as well as Persian instruments."
When AAJO played it at Oakland High School, the reporter described parts of the suite as, "a swinging 12-bar blues section and... an ambient part with a Chinese reed trumpet, or suona, rising above the saxophones, trumpets, and trombones." Afterward, a student asks how long it took to put together this version of the composition:
" 'Thirty years,' says trombonist Wayne Wallace...
:Brown rushes to explain: 'The reason he said that is because we're drastically changing the rhythmic character of the piece,' he says. 'It took so many years to understand the concept of the piece, then the melody was placed on top in a very free way.'
Pianist Jon Jang chimes in... 'It's kind of like basketball. You have to practice and you have a playbook, but you don't use it when you play. He adds, 'You sometimes figure out new moves and it just happens.'
'We're being faithful and maintaining the integrity of the original work, but we wanted to give it the flavor of what Ellington was originally inspired by, taking it full circle,' Brown says."
Pulse! Mar 99 (p.67-8)
onscreen: Tuned to Tango; Lalo Schifrin returns to his roots (Nancy Kapitanoff)
The article profiles the famous film and tv composer, focusing on his music for a recent video (dvd?) release, Tango (written and directed by Carlos Saura). Towards the end of the article, there's this gem:
"While he was writing the score for Enter the Dragon, starring Bruce Lee, Lee asked to have lunch with him. 'I couldn't see why he wanted to have lunch with me,' Schifrin says. 'I was in a panic because I had to deliver the music and it [would take up] like three hours that I needed to write. I [thought], what am I going to talk about to this guy.
First he said that he learned 5,000 years of tradition in martial arts - because martial arts came from India to China and from China to Korea and from Korea to Japan - he learned all those techniques in order to break the rules. I said, 'It's funny because I learned 2,000 years of European music rules in order to break them.' So we found a common ground. Then he said, 'I wanted to meet you because in my dojo [martial arts gym] in Hong Kong I practice to your music of Mission: Impossible.' So that was amusing."
The article goes on to quote Schifrin on his approach to karate, which he took up after that meeting.
"It was a cultural exchange," he says. "For me it was not that hard because I've been trained since I was a child in the muscular/mental coordination... The references of piano are the fingers and wrist and elbow and arm, and here you use the whole body. You start in music with the most simple thing. And in karate you start with the simplest things, jumping a little bit and the next time a little higher. For me it was an extension of playing the piano, believe it or not. (And that's what they mean by "chops"!!)
Bamboo Girl #8 (99)
interview of Joey Ayala
Fabula vol. ii - issue iv (pp. 21-4)
Innocence or irony? Call it what you will, shonen knife just wanna have fun (Maggie Trapp)
Interview and analysis of the Japanese punk/pop/rock group, Shonen Knife, and their American fans. The article relentlessly examines the the myriad interpretations of the group's lyrics and image. Are they exotically cute? Are they parodying something? Are they subversive?
"To read the fan prose and mainstream reviews, one would think the women were virtually interchangeable, that they don't really play those instruments, that they merely dabble in music and happen on some ideas about gummi bears and jelly beans that fit catchy melodies and isn't that neat. But, to be fair, the women of Shonen Kneife aren't exactly hawking themselves otherwise. Their whole shtick rests on the idea of Hello Kitty-esque cuteness.
Dating from Madame Butterfly and even before, representations of Asian women in the West have run the risk of appearing to cater to a certain craven impulse in Western men, a dynamic that on both sides is constructed and confining. The interesting question becomes, then, are the women of Shonen Knife subtly parodying this Western image of Asian Women, are they embracing it and capitalizing on it, or are they moving beyond these expectations and framing the question in an entirely new way? How contrived is their girlie, kitschy cuteness? Is it genuine exuberance or a studied marketing ploy? Michie had this to say on the matter, "I try to sing beyond gender. I try to be more universal...It's true that we are Asian females. We like everybody who likes us, so it doesn't matter if the person has a special 'taste.' It doesn't matter. I believe that everybody loves our music, too." " (Hmmm... "Special 'taste'"?... I hate to be catty (or in this case, maybe 'kitty'), but I wouldn't be surprised if film director Woody Allen turned out to be a big fan. (Meeeow!))
Audiogliphix Vol. 4, No. 2, 99 (pp. 26-28)
Strictly Legal (Jatender S. Heer)
Profile of Panjabi MC (PMC) in this free periodical devoted to the Philly underground music scene ('specially hip hop). PMC is a producer, remixer, dj, and rapper in the UK, who combines bhangra, soul, r&b, hip hop, jungle and house. (Bhangra is described as "the traditional music of the state of Punjab, North India.") He talks about how he approaches creating music, on being more listener-friendly than other producers and re-mixers:
"This music (bhangra made outside of India) has wasted so many opportunities. It has always had great lyrics, but is often held back by the musical content. Even though I'm using modern technology, I'm employing traditional ways of moving people -- like songs and chord structures -- and a lot of it is built around what the people on the street, the people buying the music, are saying."
New York Times 7 Mar 99
Wandering with Takemitsu in his Gardens of the Mind (Paul Griffiths)
LifeSucksDie Spring 99 (pp.10-12)
interviews of QBert and Shortcut