I’m currently compiling an Über-list of definitions for “music.” Big task, right? Meanwhile, ponder this observation from acoustic ecologist Bernie Krause’s wonderful book The Great Animal Orchestra.
Unlike the Ba’Aka’s music, Western song hasn’t been inspired by the biophony for thousands of years. Rather, like many of our art forms, our music is self-referential–we continuously draw on what has already been done, traversing a never-ending closed loop that turns in on itself like a snake devouring its own tail. We have thrown everything at the medium–electronics, mathematically structued scales and composition, logic, emotion, religious constraints, combinations of instruments, indiscriminate source materials (such as sound samples of birds, mammals, vacuums, cannons, city ambience, and banging trash cans)–and yet true holistic connections to the soundscapes of the wild have hardly been tapped as sources of inspiration.
As much as we’d like to believe our music continues to evolve, it is quite drunk off its own influences. Then again, art doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Just food for thought. If the topic of artistic reuse and recycle is of interest, consider reading Simon Reynolds’ Retromania–a whirlwind summation of our nostalgia fetish.