Strengthening the Vitality and Viability of Endangered Music Genres: The Potential of Language Maintenance to Inform Approaches to music Sustainability
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In recent decades, communities across the world have been impacted by a raft of deep economic, social and political changes within their local and global environments. For some communities, these changes have had little effect on the vitality of their music genres, or have even strengthened them. For others – especially indigenous and minority communities – the changes have threatened the viability of certain genres, often against the will of the communities concerned. This in turn holds potential repercussions for individual and social identity, social cohesion, and the strength of other forms of cultural expression within those communities, as well as holding wider repercussions for the diversity of human heritage and even potentially the adaptability of our species. Since the early 1990s, when linguists fully recognised the dire predicament of many of the world’s 6,000+ languages, the study of language endangerment and maintenance has raised general awareness of language loss, as well as increasing practical knowledge of how endangered languages might be supported. Relatively, efforts to sustain endangered music genres remain incipient. Breaking with a tradition in ethnomusicology of ethnographic and fieldwork-based studies, this dissertation theoretically investigates the ways in which research and practical experience from the field of language maintenance can inform efforts to support the sustainability of music genres. It responds to an increasing sense of urgency to address the wide-scale endangerment and loss of intangible expressions of culture, including music, as underscored by the 2003 UESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage. Drawing on literature from both language maintenance and ethnomusicology, interviews with linguists and ethnomusicologists, and a case study (in turn based on literature, interviews, and a field visit), in this dissertation I argue that the extensive experiences and discourse from language maintenance hold significant relevance to efforts that support music genres to become or remain vibrant and viable. The dissertation presents four key outcomes of the research. The first is a theoretical framework articulating the synergies and disconnects between language and music, specifically in relation to their viability. The second is a framework for assessing the level of vitality of music genres, based on an equivalent framework for languages. The third is a case study of a specific music genre demonstrating how this framework functions in practice. The fourth is a set of recommendations for progressing efforts in music sustainability. I hope these outcomes may act as points of reference and departure for researchers, policy-makers, culture-bearers themselves, and other stakeholders in cultural vitality and viability, with the overarching aim to ultimately benefit the communities whose music genres are facing challenges to their viability. In this way, this dissertation contributes to a growing body of applied ethnomusicological research on the broad topic of music sustainability.
Thesis (PhD Doctorate)
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
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