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a personal note 3

reading example

(excerpt from: Dieter Mack: Auf der Suche nach der eigenen Kultur – Komponieren im Spannungsfeld bi- oder multikultureller Erfahrungen, in: „Musik-Kulturen, Darmstädter Diskurse 2“, Texte der 43. Darmstädter Ferienkurse 2006, hrsg. von Jörn Peter Hiekel im Auftrag des IMD Darmstadt, Saarbrücken 2008, Pfau-Verlag


Looking back some years, it is also obvious that German critics and musicologists mainly referred positively towards foreign composers when they were talking about problems of bi-and multiculturality. This happened especially then, when there was a certain sense of "resistance" or "conflict" in those works. But these criteria had been mostly unrecognized for European composers. Even the late Peter Niklas Wilson only mentioned Vinko Globokar, Young-Hi Pagh-Paan and Mauricio Kagel as composers that have to be taken seriously in the intercultural discourse, because their music reflects the flawed nature of the discourse between cultures (Die Trommeln des Südens, DIE ZEIT, Nr. 28/1992).


Is an intercultural discourse really only justified if it reflects the flaws in the interaction of cultures? Is there only then an artistic authenticity? I am convinced that such a question may only be answered by each art work itself, because the meeting of cultures or of their representatives is as old as the human existence.

Especially in Germany any cultural meeting, exchange, involvement etc. is still quite often seen with a certain suspicious tension and the latent feeling of an "a priori guilt" – leading as far as a desire to abstain from any cultural contacts at all. There are various reasons for that attitude. It is understandable for representatives of the post-war generation, who had to suffer under the racism of the Nazi regime. Even today those people assume a potential danger of alienation or modern imperialism if intercultural contacts take place. It is understandable if one has a genuine critical position towards globalized standardizations as a contemporary renaissance of master race consciousness. It is not understandable if it is due to a nostalgic mentality of yearning for “cultural biotopes” if one talks about “untouched cultures”, a common attitude in ethnomusicology for quite a long time. Already in 1978 Edward Said in his famous book “Orientalism” pointed in that direction when he spoke about…Europe’s day-dream of the Orient…”(New York 1978, page 52). He strongly rejected the fictitious idea of cultural purity, thus neglecting the far more complex reality.


Let me please make one short remark concerning "Exotica" from Mauricio Kagel, a piece that is often praised as a good example of a critical approach in an intercultural situation. If one presents Kagel’s music to the representatives of those ethnicities to whom the instruments belong, they regard Kagel's concept as an insult towards their respective cultural forms of expression and to no degree as an artistically valuable approach.


Summarizing I would like to state that terms as Modernity, New Music or even the term avantgarde have to be reconsidered, as was suggested by Rolf Elberfeld1 and some others. We would do better speak of multiple modernities, and sometimes, in countries like Indonesia, of multiple intracultural modernities.


Please note that in regard to this statement, there is no connection to the current debate concerning a so-called “second” or “reflexive modernity”, propagated by Harry Lehmann and Claus-Steffen Mahnkopf2, referring to Ulrich Beck and Anthony Giddens3. Although one may sympathize with many of their ideas, I feel that the almost forced categorization of contemporary artistic production is questionable. No doubt that one is allowed to construct his/her own systems of coordinates. But I see a danger, if one becomes too normative at a moment when the normative should be put into question. I feel that historical processes should be better judged after a reasonable temporal distance.

1 Rolf Elberfeld: Kitaro Nishida, Das Verstehen der Kulturen, Amsterdam 1999.

2 C.S. Mahnkopf: Kritische Theorie der Musik, Weilerswist 2006; and Harry Lehmann: Avantgarde Heute, in: Musik & Ästhetik, Heft 38, April 2006.

3 Ulrich Beck, Anthony Giddens & Scott Lash: Reflexive Modernization, Stanford 1994.