From ca tru to the world: Understanding and facilitating musical sustainability
Thirty years into a history of deep engagement with music and musicians from other cultures, I take a taxi ride out of Hanoi which triggers a series of experiences and a train of thought. The story of the unprompted decline of ca tru, a refined song form that kept unfortunate company in its recent past, strengthens my belief that the music does not necessarily flower or disappear for musical reasons, but that the environment and particularly underlying constructs (friendly or hostile) are decisive. I realise more profoundly than ever before how some of the factors in the ecology of musical diversity are beyond our control, while others can be made to work consciously and effectively for and against survival of specific forms of music. This crystallises my thinking and beliefs on working with communities across the world on their terms. It gives rise to the idea for a major project empowering these communities to access and share online both understanding and practical tools to ensure safeguarding the traditions they hold dear in a globalised, commoditised, and mediatised world, without necessarily having to resort to white ethnomusicologists like myself. The experience in Vietnam and memories of earlier ones across the world feed into an initiative that could become one of the demanding and rewarding initiatives in my life.
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Musicology and Ethnomusicology