Friday, November 30, 2012


Bibliography 1. Lau, Frederick. Music in China. New York: Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008. 2. http// 3. Lusk, Dee. Interview by author. San Antonio, TX, November 15, 2012. 4.Titon, Jeff Todd. Sustainable Music in China. November 15, 2009. http// 5. Viswanathan, T., and Allen, Matthew Harp. Music in South India. New York: Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004 6. Wade, Bonnie C. Music in Japan. New York: Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2005.

Dee Lusk and sustainability

After submitting my blog entry on Dee Lusk and China, I was ready to complete my world music project with a conclusive entry based on Jeff Todd Titon’s Sustainable Music, the lynchpin, the motherlode, of our discourse and discussions all semester long. Predictably, my curiosity was piqued when I discovered an article entitled Sustainable Music in China in the archives. I was all set; however I wasn’t prepared for what I read. In this article I uncovered a reaction, a backlash, that occurred following the Cultural Revolution (1966-76). As I suspected, the writer spoke of the abolition of the “four olds”; that is, old customs, old culture, old habits, and old ideas. What struck me, however, was the insightful tale of Titon’s trip to the PRC in November 2009, and his eyewitness view of the “intangible cultural heritage” we recently studied in class. As directed by the UNESCO treaty, China’s cultural policy now protects certain parts of traditional heritage, namely, the indigenous instrument guqin (zither). On his journey Titon was taken to a concert given by the village music society of Quijiaying, which featured dizi and sheng among others. He also heard Chinese funeral music played by a percussion ensemble and noted in the concert program that it was because of the tremendous accolades of foreign visitors that the central government set apart Quijiaying as a cultural treasure, and poured $2 million dolloars into the village. As a part of this monumental restoration, a museum and concert hall have been built. Even though Titon expressed some reservations about the genuine nature of what he had seen and heard, and given that these events quite probably would not have come to fruition without the UNESCO treaty, nevertheless, sustainable music on some level is thriving in China. As a fitting end to my “tribute” to Dee Lusk, whom I count as a dear, personal friend, allow me to share my calculated opinion that Dee is the embodiment of what sustainability is all about. His internal gyroscope revolves around giving back whatever he has found true in his own life, whether it be thousands of concert appearances, decades of teaching young people, or cameo acting roles in local Shakespeare productions. This living, local musician, in my mind, is a legend.

Dee Lusk and China

The ways in which Chinese ideology is expressed and communicated, specifically the ideology of the CCP since the overthrow of the nationalistic government in 1949, is one of the major threads running through Frederick Lau’s treatise, Music in China . Appropriate credit at the outset of this entry must be extended to Confucian ideology, so that a meaningful comparison may be drawn between it and the radical, revolutionary ideologies that were set in place during the rise of new regimes. Amateur musicians in the era of Confucianism were highly valued in the social strata. They pursued music, in Lau’s words, “for ethical and educational functions, eschewing its sensual and emotional qualities. Their job was the propagation of morals, ethics, and empirical knowledge, and the production of music void of any social significance, sensual pleasure, or emotional gratification. Professional or court musicians were somewhat mockingly treated as “music labor” or “music craftsmen”. If you were a member of the elite literati your work was labeled acceptable; if you entertained the imperial ruling class, your work was distastefully unacceptable. According to the two primary concepts of Confucius, ren and li, music is linked to li because “proper music symbolizes the harmony between heaven and earth. All music was designed to promote this idyllic ideology in Confucian rituals and observances. If it were possible to tangibly recreate this Chinese philosophy of ren and li in an instrument, it would most assuredly be the zither guqin. Poetic in nature and contemplative in tone, it stands as the visual representation of Confucian thought in an instrument. Music and ideology in China became fundamentally different following the CCP takeover in 1949. The state’s paradigm of the power of the common people was strongly supported and encouraged, while any practices thought to refute or denigrate the authority of the state were crushed. The most prototypical approved forms of music were the revolutionary songs of the masses (such as “Dongfang Hong”) and “model opera” (yangbanxi). Both genres contained highly politicized messages that resonated with the procreation of Maoist theory and practice. Dee Lusk has continued to express his ideology through performance of his original songs in venues around town as well as the downloadable songs found on the listening page of In particular are two which I will include in my class presentation: “No Darkness” (“I wonder how it feels to touched by the light”) and “War Song” (I ain’t gonna fight your war old man”). Dee’s songwriting is his outlet, his pressure valve. More on this in class.

Dee Lusk and India

The technological changes, advances, innovations, and inventions our global community has witnessed throughout the twentieth century and the onset of the new millennium are nothing short of astounding. We read in Music of South India, by T. Vishwanathan/Matthew Allen about the manufacture and sale of gramophone recordings done on 10-inch plates in 1910; followed by 78 rpm records in the 1920s. By the 1930s, electrical recording came to India, and in the relatively short span of twenty-five years, mass production and access to performances never heard before became available. This was only the beginning of a remarkable transformation. At approximately the same time, a new world of performance, signified by concert halls, media, and audiences in the urban environment began to emerge. During this period, the development of radio spawned an enormous number of employment opportunities for musicians as staff artists, and the founding of the Madras Radio Club in 1924 led eventually to national network expansion via All-India Radio. A chain reaction had been set off. Though reluctant, resistant, and apprehensive about this fledgling arts advancement, the predominantly male keepers of knowledge and tradition gradually succumbed to the pressure of financial gain and public demand and began recording the music of their ancestors. By the 1940s males and females alike were fully engaged in the growing recording industry. Parallel to the advent of radio and records was the birth of silent cinema, which initially involved actor/singers for the songs necessary. Yet again, however, technology made it possible for audio to be recorded independent of video, and voila, the playback singer projected music onto the screen simultaneously with the action of the characters, and the outdated, obsolete mode of musical sustainability shrank into a dim and distant memory. The continuing technological breakthroughs in recording, radio, film, and ultimately TV, paved the way into the computer age, to the point where presently, free musical access in India is virtually guaranteed. In stark contrast to the miraculous metamorphosis that occurred in South India through the transcendent technologies discussed already , stands my personal choice of a living, local musician, Leonard “Dee” Lusk. To lay the groundwork for this entry and future blogs required by this assignment, I am going to, as succinctly as possible, touch on topics such as Dee’s musical inspiration, education, training, band history, memories, and motivation to continue his craft. As I interviewed Dee for this project, I got the clear sense that his family was undoubtedly the single, most influential factor in his decision to become a musician. He was blessed with talented parents and siblings. The entire family sang (Sacred Harp shaped-note gospel songs and hymns), and amazingly enough, also made “homemade” records. As he remembers it, “My mom and dad even bought one of those ‘record makers’ that came out on the market. It had blank vinyl LPs, and you just set the needle down, turned it on, and it literally cut the record as you played/recorded. That was wild!” Being close to the same age as me, I was barely surprised by Dee’s recollection of boyhood idols—Elvis, The Beatles, The Stones, your basic “British Invasion”, and later on Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith, and ZZ Top. What I didn’t see coming was his mention of Burt Bacharach, The Carpenters, and, to a lesser extent, Chicago and Blood, Sweat, and Tears. After earning All-State Band recognition in high school, Dee went on to matriculate at Texas Tech University in Lubbock. Graduating with a Bachelor of Music Education degree, he began teaching in the Edgewood school district as a band director. Subsequently, he returned to college to study English and Theater Arts, and has taught all three subjects at various stops in his professional caree r. This abundance of formal training and experience notwithstanding, Mr. Lusk is fond of saying, “Teaching just gives me the scratch to gig on the side!” His list of bands in which he has played includes Dark Star, Flying Blind, The Larrys (who toured briefly in LA), The Leans, and Big Melvis and the Fabulous Tone Daddies. Currently, Dee plays guitar and sings for two bands, one a Beatles cover group called the Blue Note Ringos; the other a variety jazz/pop group named One Minute to Midnight. In addition, he has done numerous open mic gigs as a solo artist with his acoustic; showcasing some of his original songs. Although I have digressed from the parameters of this project for this blog, I felt it necessary to frame my comments on Dee’s connections with the course material with pertinent background material in order to provide a credible comparison of such disparate genres and styles. I conclude this segment with some selected quotes as Dee shared with me a look back and a peek ahead as he pondered his journey beyond the present and his pleasures from the past…”I started with OMM when Big Melvis stopped gigging…they had been inviting me over and it gave me an outlet to keep my playing chops up…The Larrys LA trip is a special memory…we played the Palomino Club in Hollywood (George Harrison played there!)…one of my best friends, Steve Hartwell and I went to Texas Tech together, formed Dark Star together, and formed The Leans together, so I have very poignant memories of Steve and I…he’s one of the best drummers ever…I’ll never retire from playing…I long as I am able to make music, I will…I was lucky to be born with talent, I nurtured that talent, and it continues to give me great satisfaction…the stories I have entrusted to you are only the tip of the iceberg…thanks for the opportunity.” How has technology impacted and affected Lusk over his forty odd years of playing and performing? First, consider that in the early 1970s vinyl albums with psychedelic art on their covers was still the norm, and the live recording of Woodstock on 8-track was the latest craze. Then came tape cassettes you had to flip over at the end of each side. The progression slowly but steadily stumbled and bumbled along until the explosion of the internet and its resulting social networks consumed heretofore unimaginable amounts of our daily time and energies. As Dee pointed out to me during this interview, “Back in the day, unless you had the good fortune of being seen and heard live and then being offered a recording contract, you had no way of advancing or of getting your songs out there…nowadays, through my website, I can get hired, sell my tunes, and market my brand. That was never possible before.” Lest I forget, the recordings on the website, both studio cuts and live sessions, which were originally recorded in analog, have now been converted to digital, a nearly neglected benefit of technology’s powerful place. In tomorrow’s entry I will discuss the relationship of Japanese and Chinese music to my LLM.

Dee Lusk and Japan

The idea of interface refers to a multifaceted concept that is defined by, but not limited to, things like connecting to, adapting to, combining with, blending with, integrating with, meshing with, merging with, or becoming a part of, a particular entity, which may be similar to the given subject, or may be entirely foreign to it. In this blog entry, my purpose is to explain how the development of koto music in Japan became interfaced with that country’s culture, and to juxtapose the evolution of my LLM’s musical interface with South Texas/American society. Bonnie Wade, in Music in Japan, highlights several aspects of koto’s history by telling the story of Keiko Nosaka, the most famous contemporary master of the instrument’s genre. Wade believed that the gradual popularization of this ancient idiophone, championed by musicians like Nosaka, necessitated interface with the modernization occurring in all areas of Japanese life over the last century. Long standing training by an iemoto in a private home has shifted, not so recently, to institutionalized training schools and universities. Keiko’s “Special Study” degree from the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts is a prime example of interface with the educational community. Nosaka’s decision to join the Ensemble Nipponia in 1965 gave her a platform from which she furthered the elevation of the koto to even greater relevancy by increasing its strings from the original thirteen to an unheard of twenty-five by 1969. Wade delineates several instances of interface as she traces the koto’s history. She takes special care to illuminate the recurring points of group identity and repertoire, kotoists connections with other internal musical spheres, and embracing of the interface with international music. Discussed by the author are the repertoire of Tsukushi-goto, the ryu of Yatsuhashi, compositions like Rokudan, and numerous changes that came about by relentlessly challenging the status quo. Dee Lusk, whether unknowingly or deliberately, has tackled the issue of interface extremely effectively. To illustrate this fact, I will reference Dee’s bold decisions to develop original music and not remain satisfied with the humdrum existence of membership in a cover band. His success as a songwriter cannot be overlooked as he adapted his music to the changing times. His embracing of the internet that was undertaken with construction of his website was a quantum leap into modern technology. I offer as well the connection with the dramatic scene that resulted inevitably from Dee’s study and certification in theater arts. As he embarked upon his venture into teaching acting to his adolescent neophytes, he began composing much of the incidental music for his productions, and assumed the responsibility of running the soundboard for his performances. These are just three of the many circumstances I could cite as proof of Lusk’s courage to color outside the lines and transform dreams into reality; in other words, his capacity to interface.

Monday, November 12, 2012

kanqu and jingju

The main difference I found between kanqu and jingju was in the roles of the orchestra instruments. In the kanqu, the leading melody instrument was the side-blown bamboo flute, dizi, whereas in jingju it is the high-pitched lute, jinghu. I read online that the dialect used in kanqu is slightly different and more stylized version of Mandarin than is jingju. The voice roles are similar, with young male and young female voices singing in the affected falsetto range. Painted faces are also common to both, and costumes can be elaborate. While it is difficult in some ways to campare and contrast a video clip versus an audio clip, the track 26 on the CD seemed to allow the male role to sing slightly lower in pitch. As I read more background information online, I found the kanqu opera seems to date from as early as the 14th century, while the jingju began in the 1800's.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Finding the Handle

Finding the Handle

Thesis—My essay will support the argument  that heritage begat intertextuality, which begat sustainability. All three terms describe the same phenomenon. There is an evolution which takes place, sometimes an overt metamorphosis, other times a covert photosynthesis, that allows music to live and reproduce itself time after time. Heritage, intertextuality, and sustainability define that process.

Dissertation--I began this assignment by digesting all of Jeff Todd’s discourse on his research blog which outlines sustainable music and its myriad of multiple essence. I was abruptly struck by his reference to Thoreau’s “Pastoral Symphony.” Todd went on to describe how he(Thoreau) heard a symphony in sound of nature; that the esteemed poet “heard” echo and silence. Pardon my colloquial usage but, “Who does that?” I was captivated in that moment. My prosaic entry was off and running.

The term “cultural commons”  will be critical to this discussion…it represents cultural heritage, including music.

Where is the intersection of heritage and copyright? When does intellectual property become public domain? What is the difference between borrowing and copying?

Can you “have your cake and eat it too? Lewis Hyde pushed for cultural commons while copyrighting his own book; curious.

What is collective being? It’s intangible and therefore tricky. An individual claims ownership of statements, concepts, and theories that are derivative from a previous group(or person). Eliot wrote that melodies and even lyrics can be classified in terms of a mixture of individual talent and tradition handed down and internalized into one’s own conscious thought process.

The idea of sustainability encompasses the concept of composers, songwriters, performers, musicologists, and all devotees of the arts, to freely research, use historical material in whole or in part, and borrow and intertwine text (Ataka, Kanjincho, Men Who Step).

At what point is the entire argument a matter of degrees? At what point do we follow established rules versus rewriting them…to say nothing of ghost writers or author’s pen names. What is truly original and what is embellishing and improving upon tradition/heritage? To what extent do we “stand on the shoulders of our ancestors(giants)”? Ben Franklin deferred much of his credit for inventions to others, groups, entities viewed as “collective intellect”.

To what extent are Kanjincho and Men Who Step on Tiger’s Tail the result of collaborative tradition and cultural heritage? When does a composer, playwright, or director stake a personal claim to unique creativity? The dilemma of this debate rages on as concerns our true selves, our inner selves, and our personality. How much of one’s humanity is fashioned from “nothing”, mysteriously appearing out of genetically predetermined matter?  How much can be traced to a  confluence of environmental factors, philosophies and real-life chronological events?

The perpetual existence of sustainability will depend on some combination of collective being, folk traditions, cultural heritage, and individual agency. As usual, the majority will impose their will on the masses.

Intertexuality is the “living out” of sustainability/tradition/heritage…it’s the borrowing, citation, conscious or unconscious reference, and substitution that can be definitively documented as to its occurrence.  If one can conceptualize the structure of a pyramid one can imagine how “Men Who Step on the Tiger’s Tail” was based on “Kanjincho”, which was conceived out of “Ataka”, which was birthed from “Tales of the Heike”.

The no drama was an entertainment form which came about as the result of intertextualizaiton, folk tradition, cultural heritage, and the collective being of people like Motokiyo Zeami and his father Kan’ami. From the principle of “maximum effect out of a minimum of means” the facets of staging, setting, music, casting, costumes, and movement/dance came into being.

The plays themselves, like Ataka , were dependent on intertextual processes, as well as the pervasive nature of generational storytelling. Because the genre of a “living person drama” or “warrior play” was so well received, Ataka  became a staple of the repertoire of no dramas performed on stage. The dan sections and subsections of Ataka reprinted in chapter 4 of Wade come from the aesthetic principle of jo-han-kyu. Jo-han-kyu is an example of cultural heritage, and a vital segment of intertextuality.

The evolution of kabuki from no can be extracted from the text’s lengthy discussion of traditional heritage/intertextuality. Wade points out that we know from the preservation of woodblock prints that kabuki staging and performance  forces were adapted from no dramas by managers and actors who wanted to appeal to their audiences.

The playwright Namiki Gohei III and nagauta musician Rokusaburo Kineya IV together played pivotal roles in the development of kabuki, and the eventual production of Kanjincho, the kabuki form of Ataka. Other adaptations such as the expansion of the hanamichi from the original no bridge can be traced to  intertextual/traditional/sustainable influences.

More examples of intertextual heretablitiy can be seen in the role of Benkai and how his character came to be associated with the Ichikawa family, highlighted by Danjuro Ichikawa IX performance in the initial rendition of Kanjincho for the emperor in 1887.

The collective legacy of Kanjincho can be seen additionally in its inclusion into the canon of  eighteen grand spectacle plays of the 19th century…Kanjincho is now considered to be the exemplar of kabuki style in Japanese public school education.

Musically, kabuki  lent significance to the role of musicians by maintaining the traditional instrumentation of the hayashi but expanding it with singers and shamisen players. This act achieved the intended effect of popularizing kabuki and further entrenching its place in the culture. It represented another building block in the structure of sustainable music as it relates to kabuki. The intertextual references such as musical depiction of the action on stage were made possible by the introduction of the geza room. The managers and directors dedicated an area slightly offstage where the musicians were hidden from audience view, yet could still see the play unfold before them. The growth in the number of actors and musicians resulted in the advantage of allowing the reserved, understated quality of no to continue while accommodating the flashier, more outwardly emotional style of kabuki.

As I read and ponder Wade’s text in depth, I was reminded of the old rhetorical dispute of the “spirit of the law” being pitted against the “letter of the law.” What’s marvelous about embracing sustainable music and Japan’s intertextuality is that both the old and the new can thrive in a brand new setting. One is not forced to choose between either the “spirit” or the “letter”. They can coexist equally! Such is the case in the opening scenes from “Men Who Step on the Tiger’s Tail”. The story and  setting of the plays are immediately recognized, yet they are  transformed by the sounds of a male chorus. Also, the composer of the film’s score, Hattori, successfully substitutes the Western-style orchestra for the hayashi while keeping in mind the integrity of the no’s asymmetrical rhythm and speech patterns. Other compelling representations of intertextuality must not be overlooked, such as the matsuri bayashi and unmistakable Japanese  scales juxtaposed against the European instrumentarium, military band influence, and hymn-like choral music.

Jeff Todd Titon’s tradition-based writing sets the stage for an enlightening, insightful examination of sustainable music as it relates to the concept of intertextuality indigenous to Japan. Bonnie Wade illustrates and describes in rigorous detail a veritable plethora of instances where cultural commonality occurs. Ultimately we as students are left richer for our awkward, but still authentic attempt to answer the questions asked of this blog.

Here are some links to examples of sustainable music


Nippon Gakujutsu ShinkĊkai. Ataka. Japanese Noh Drama. Volume 3, t149-72. Tokyo: Nippon Gakujutsu Shinkokai, 1960.

Titon, Jeff Todd. “Thoreau’s Pastoral Symphony.” Sustainable Music, Sept. 30, 2012.

Titon, Jeff Todd. “Sustainability Unbound (3): Collective Being.” Sustainable Music, April 30, 2012.

Wade, Bonnie C. Music in Japan. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005