Three Ways to Deal with Culture Clash

When two cultures meet, the repercussions can vary. Italian writer Umberto Eco has come up with three possibilities. When taken in the context of two musics coming together, these distinctions work quite well.

Let’s use classical music and jazz…

Conquest: Group A does not recognize the legitimacy of Group B and decides either to make them assimilate into Group A or completely destroy/ignore them. Classical music dismisses jazz in its early years as a low culture, something that isn’t to be taken as a legitimate art form.

Cultural Pillage: Group A recognizes that Group B has some wisdom unknown to them. Fascinated by the culture of Group B, Group A tries to take their features and translate them into the culture. Composer Antonin Dvorak was fascinated by the negro spiritual melodies of jazz’s ancestors, taking influence from them for his New World Symphony.

Exchange: Group A and Group B both take from each other in mutual respect. Igor Stravinsky has traded musical ideas with jazz greats, hearing with delight the beginning of his Firebird Suite in a solo of Charlie Parker and by having Benny Goodman’s orchestra record his jazz tinted Ebony Concerto.

These three means fit with how we take in and deny influence of certain artists and or genres of music.


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