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.