Sweet Lullaby for World Music (2003) Steven Feld. The article starts with a sharp definition of “world music” and identifies two binary trajectories (celebratory and anxious narratives) which tactically pull all music into a modern ontological understanding of what constitutes music. Then the text offers a thorough look to the notorious case of the “Pygmy Lullaby” and Felt concludes that: “Western copyright law is not comprehensive enough to equitably include indigenous cultures, creating a new kind of imperialism …”.
Celebratory narratives of world music tend to normalize and naturalize globalization, not unlike ways “modernization” narratives once naturalized other grand and sweeping currents that transformed and reconfigured intercultural histories. As with these predecessors addressing the question of what has been bought and what has been taken, celebratory narratives stress the costs to “traditions” as rather surface ones, ones that will, in the larger sweep of things, be overcome by creativity, invention and resilience.
On the anxious side we read narratives that insist on the complicity of world music in commodifying ethnicity, locating it in the “finanscapes” and “mediascapes” of global popular culture ([Arjun] Appudurai 1996) and the “noise” or “channelized violence” of music’s industrial economy ([Jacques] Attali, 1985).
The broad picture then, is that today’s world music, like globalization discourse more generally, is equally routed through the public sphere via tropes of anxiety and celebration. While sometimes quite distinct, these narrative positions on anxiety and celebration seem increasingly more intertwined, seamlessly indexing the status of world music as a tensely modern category.