Music 15, Alicia Mastromonaco
Professor Henry Michaels
Section Wednesday 12 PM
Pure Exoticism and the Influence of Gamelan Music
In Ralph P. Locke’s Musical Exoticism, he introduced two possibilities that exoticism are categorized in: Pure Exoticism and Transcultural Composing. Pure Exoticism is the process of evoking in or through music a place, people, or social milieu that is not entirely imaginary and differs profoundly from the home country or culture in attitudes, customs, and morals (Locke 47). Essentially, pure exoticism attempts to “other” an exotic subject by implementing other culture’s music and traditional values. Transcultural Composing, on the other hand, does not aim to “other” exotic subjects, but rather, it is a blend of Western and non-Western styles. Throughout Units 6 and 7, there were many musical pieces such as George Bizet’s Carmen, and Benjamin Britten’s Death in Venice. George Bizet’s Carmen, is a good representation of Pure Exoticism, as it successfully “others” the main character, Carmen, with its unique style of music choice and portraying of Romas in the nineteenth century. George Britten’s Death in Venice also portrays Pure Exoticism well as it “others” its main character Ascenbach as homosexual, through gamelan inspired music.
In George Bizet’s Carmen, Carmen is a foreigner, an ethnic outsider because she comes from the lower class, flouts the law, and is sexually available and promiscuous, very much similar to a prostitute. During the nineteenth century, European gypsies were called Roma, and were looked down upon. Their children were sometimes taken away and raised as Christians as orphans, and the men were excluded from government service and trade guilds and were often conscripted to row the nation’s galleys. Many Romas ended up as wanderers within the Spanish society. Rumors such as how gitanos stole Christian babies and put curses in them with one stare spread throughout the country. Overall, gypsies were viewed as subpar humans that no one should associate themselves with. In Bizet’s Carmen, a Spanish soldier, Dan Jose, was in charge of watching Carmen, a rebellious cigarette factory worker, after arresting her. Don Jose, however, falls in love with Carmen in the process and abandons his responsibilities and his hometown girlfriend, Micaela, whose visit to Don Jose had no effect to his feelings for Carmen. At the end of the opera, Carmen
In the opera, Bizet conveyed the polar opposite character types and relationships between Carmen and Micaela with musico-dramatic skill. Bizet began with spoken dialogues in his musical numbers. Furthermore, Bizet portrayed the gypsy world by instruments such as the castanets and tambourines, as well as the usage of Spanish-style dances, rhythms and melodies. The Spanish style type of music is prime example of “othering”, as sophisticated music is being played behind a character who is viewed as subpar and trash. This type of implementation well represen...