[Pt. II Proj.3] ~Research point 2.3: Globalisation

Research point 2.3 Globalisation

Globalisation is an ongoing phenomenon in today’s world affecting most aspects of our lives. In this research point, write around 500 words on globalisation with a particular focus on music. Consider the following points as well as some of your own: Where do we find globalisation? What are the different ways in which it occurs? What is its history? What are its effects? How does it happen? What does it result in?

The concept of Globalisation, or a world free of borders with ‘citizens of the world’ sharing an ethical, moral and legal foundation (i.e. basic human rights) harks all the way back to the Greek Stoics. The Greeks influenced the ideals of the European Enlightenment, where philosophers like Immanuel Kant further propagated the ideas of universality. The ideals of the Enlightenment had a profound effect on global politics, leading to international trade, facilitated by advances in technology and science. This combined with a more affluent middle to create a ‘global capitalism’ resulting in greater possibilities for both musicians and music to travel. The era of patronage was coming to an end, making it necessary for musicians to become financially self-sufficient. One of the ways to increase their revenue was to expand their audience across borders. The Romantic Era had seen a surge in nationalism in music, as a way of retaining tradition and heritage in times of colonialism, political upheaval and the redrawing of the European map. However, the ideals of the Enlightenment still persisted.

The writer Goethe expressed this duality perfectly;’   “We Germans are very likely to fall too easily into this pedantic conceit, when we do not look beyond the narrow circle that surrounds us,” and argued further that “national literature is now rather an unmeaning term; the epoch of world-literature is at hand, and everyone must strive to hasten its approach.”

Even nationalist composers wanted their music heard worldwide and toured it extensively, thus influencing people across the globe on a grand scale, spreading their own cultural heritage and contributing to the Globalisation of music. Another aspect of the Romantic composer/musician which further contributed to the globalisation was the rise of highly skilled virtuoso performers. Because of their almost supernatural skills these musicians were idolised, giving rise to the ‘cult of personality’. Composer/musicians such as Liszt and later Beethoven greatly popularized their profession- they became something like early ‘pop’ culture prototypes. The visceral and visual aspects of these performers and their life stories became universally worshipped. Fast forward to modern days and very much the same forces are in play. Advances in technology, first via various recording mediums and more recently through computers and the internet, has led to great possibilities of the dissemination of music far and wide and to new revenue avenues for musicians. Equally this has resulted in the popularisation of music predominantly from the developed Western world. Its entertainment value has, just like with Liszt and Beethoven, proven globally irresistible and coloured what people listen to, whether it is in Africa, South America or Asia. American and Northern European music has become universally popular in much the same way that the English language has. Influences from other cultures have been somewhat absorbed due to easy internet availability but this has arguably also led to a dilution of those folk traditions. A homogenisation of culture on a massive scale has occurred. Authentic native folk music is in decline and in danger of near extinction.


Lecture Series by D. R. M. Irving (Christ’s College, Cambridge)




(31) Goethe’s quotation and his ideal of a world literature is discussed in Paolo Bartoloni, “World Literatures, Comparative Literature, and Glocal Cosmopolitanism,” CLCWeb: Comparative Literature and Culture 15, no. 5 (2013): 5, http://docs.lib.purdue.edu/clcweb/vol15/iss5/8. For an analysis of Goethe’s understanding of Enlightenment cosmopolitanism, see Diane Morgan, “Goethe’s ‘Enhanced Praxis’ and the Emergence of a Cosmopolitan Future,” in Cosmopolitics and the Emergence of a Future, ed. Diane Morgan and Gary Banham (New York: Palmgrave Macmillan, 2007).