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Music, Modernity, and the Global Imagination: South Africa and the West Hardcover – June 3, 1999

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (June 3, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195123670
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195123678
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.3 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,299,605 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"[The book] offers important and thoroughly detailed discussions of the movements of musics, peoples and ideologies...[It] merit[s] the seious attention of the general ethnomusicological reader."--2000 Yearbook for Traditional Music

"This is a rich, multidisciplinary work is destined to interest a broad range of scholars... A reliable survey as well as a significant contribution to the literature on trans-nationalism, modernization and globalization. In addition, this book's perspectives speak to the current academic discussion in South Africa on biography and autobiography as genres mediating national narratives of political transition." African Studies Quaterly

"An important contribution to current thinking about the place of music in cultural work, the nature of the relationship between the West and South Africa, and the prospects for making histories of Africa that look beyond Europe's long-standing and self-serving frames. Anthropologists, ethnomusicologists, historians, cultural theorists, and Africanists will find much of value in this work."--World of Music

About the Author

Veit Erlmann studied musicology, sociology, anthropology, and philosophy in Berlin and Cologne, obtaining a Ph.D. in 1978. He has since done fieldwork in several African countries, and has taught at the University of Natal, the University of Chicago, the University of Witwatersrand, and the Free University of Berlin. He is currently Professor and Endowed Chair in the School of Music at the University of Texas at Austin.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Reader on October 28, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Quite simply, I feel compelled to write a review of this book because of the rather harsh slandering it received from the previous critic. I agree that there are many academic books out there that are ultimately filled with nothing but trendy, pretentious jargon, a mere jumble of mixed and incoherent messages. To throw this book into that category means the reader simply hasn't taken the time to decipher or just doesn't understand the rather complex, and in my opinion, extremely well-thought out and important arguments made in this book. Sometimes books can be tough reading; this one deserves your patience!
I can sum up the main argument in a few sentences: globalization is typically seen as a rupture with the past, as a fundamentally new process. Authors like Arjun Appadurai tend to link this process with the rise of electronic media, which has the ability to create new kinds of communities. Erlmann, on the other hand, sees globalization as more of a continuation of the 19th-century than a fundamental break with the past. He thinks that to understand the complex layers of signification which occur in the 'global imagination' today (such as in world music), one must ultimately return to an examination of the colonial period, especially to Enlightenment thought and the constructions of identity within European culture at that time - constructions which ultimately depended on the colonizing experience itself. Thus, in my view, it is rather ingenious that the first half of the book focuses on the tours of two 19th-century African choirs, and the second half of the book on Paul Simon's Graceland - he demonstrates for us the continuity of ideas born in the modernist era (the concept of the panorama, the Great Exhibitions, biography, travel writing) with what the world music movement of the 1980s.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By morgan luker on June 29, 2000
Format: Hardcover
In what he describes as a "topography of global culture," Erlmann attempts to discet the global fictions of modern statehood, national identity, history, subjectivity, the arts etc. showing how they are not representations of fixed realities, or one sided determinations but rather processes that take form and develop through what he calls the global imagination, "the means by which people shift the contexts of their knowledge and endow phenomena with significance beyond their immediate realm of personal experience." The book examines how cross cultural interaction between different senses of modernity over the past 100 years have shaped the constitutive categories of race, class and gender. The book ultimately argues that the cultural topography of a "world that is now truly one" is based on the interdependency of people the world over. Erlmann explores the workings of this global imagination through two examples of interaction between South Africa, England, and the United States. The first of these is a tour of two African chiors in the 1890s, and the second is the work of Ladysmith Black Mambazo after 1986. Erlmann does not attempt a historical or narrative continuity between or within the two examples, but rather examines aspects of each as texts within their specific political and historical context. The author gets at the complexities of each example from many angles, examining the significance of biography, dance, composition, politics, religion etc. The diversity of focus makes the book read somewhat like a collection of articles, but Earlmann speaks authoritatively on every page.Read more ›
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2 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 2, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This is a fascinating topic and some useful data is provided, but that is all. Surprisingly, this book was given quite an appropriate review in the journal, Ethnomusicology. Its style is an example of what is wrong with academic writing today. Unfortunately, the publishing establishment tends not to notice that such books are intentionally written so as to be inpenetrable to readers. Academics write this way to avoid criticism. Since nobody can tell what exactly they mean, nobody can challenge them or prove them wrong on any points. Some readers feign complete understanding of such books in order not to seem ignorant. Presses should not exascerbate the problem further by printing such things.
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