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The Life and Death of Music as East Asian Intangible Cultural Heritage

Posted By admin On June 21, 2013 @ 7:54 am In Abstracts for 2013, Key Notes, Literature and the Arts | Comments Disabled

Key Note Speaker

Keith Howard, Professor

School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS)

University of London

In the last few decades, we have become accustomed to the concept of cultural heritage. We visit museums, where mausoleums of our shared social history reside. We search out World Heritage Sites – which Jansen-Verbeke (2009) labels the 936 ‘places to visit before you die’. And our gaze falls on crafts and performance arts, including music, as intangible cultural heritage. The intangible heritage has become part of the economic imperative of tourism, as well as a driver of nationalist distinction. UNESCO celebrates arts and crafts as Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity, or as ‘elements’ placed on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. States seek to re-valorize and protect local and national cultural heritage, ignoring the polemics against preservation and seemingly accepting that the past can be maintained, that it can be kept alive and venerated.

Music is a core part of the preservation systems for intangible cultural heritage that today operate throughout East Asia. Starting with pertinent legislation in Japan, Korea, Taiwan and China dating from 1950, 1962, 1982 and 2003 respectively, and noting how much of the academic community has from a position of skepticism come to embrace these preservation systems, my presentation explores what we can observe today: folk music on urban stages, sacrificial rituals broadcast on TV, ‘airport art’ for tourists, appropriation, assimilation, development and, of course, massive arguments between academics, culture bearers, and policy makers. My remarks develop themes from my recent edited book, Music as Intangible Cultural Heritage: Policy, Ideology and Practice in the Preservation of East Asian Traditions.

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