Friday, November 30, 2012

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.

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