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Is what he describes above in reference to Jin Nyodo, Chikuho and Watazumido a "good" or "bad" thing? Likewise is the strict preservation model?
This is quite a complex subject matter. Talented, visionary artists will hear the potential in how their music can grow and cannot deny themselves of the investigations. This leads to the continuous growth of the collective music. There will be successes and failures. As Rick pointed out, the only barometer is time.
Additionally, all art, music, dance etc... reflects the society at that specific moment in time. Unless a performer is of that specific time and plays on a period instrument, we will only get a glimpse of what it may have been like. I agree with Jacques, it is not possible to determine authenticity without a recording. This is something that was problematic in the dance world until the invention of film. These days, even when original dancers are brought in to reconstruct pieces, they invariably end up disagreeing and someone will say, "let's look at the film".
I was on a Rockefeller research grant in China with my theater group SLANT in 2000. Our mission was to research the traditional music and dance of the minorities of Yunnan, China. There are twenty five ethnic minorities that are government recognized in the Yunnan Province. Our intention was to see how they kept their traditional arts alive against the pressures of the dominant society and modern culture. For six weeks, we traveled by foot, boat, bus and bike along the Mekong river seeking authentic cultural bearers to interview. It was quite an eye opener. The experienced showed the struggles and fragility in maintaining the form. Some of the elders stated that the modern interpretations (Hotel dinner shows, etc...) of their form was destroying it while others said that it brought attention to their culture and helped in the end (curious tourists came to see the real thing). The trip ended with us in the old walled city of Lijiang meeting with Xuan Ke, the director of the Naxi Ancient Music Ensemble. Naxi muisc is an integration of Taoist ritual music, Confucian ceremonial music and even the Ci and Qu music of the Tang, Song and Yuan Dynasties (1271 -1368). The music is mainly played for funerals and sacrificial rituals. I asked how authentic are his interpretations. He said that he uses the oldest instruments and musicians around. Aside from that, "there's no way of knowing. It's an oral tradition. The music looks like art with pictograms and drawings of animals and flowers... many of the previous generation's musicians were killed during the Cultural Revolution and the instruments destroyed".
Here's a funny twist to the story, after our interview. Xuan Ke asked to hear our music, so we played an acoustic song about the Japanese American internments camps and sang an acapella, three part harmony version of Working on the Railroad. He then invited us to perform on stage that night. It was quite an amazing experience. As hungry as we were to learn about old traditions in ancient China, Xuan Ke and his orchestra was equally curious about us - three Asian Americans who perform experimental theater in modern day New york City.
I do admire and support Justin's work though. It's great to be able to follow your bliss.
Last edited by Yungflutes (2010-09-05 19:17:29)