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Preserving Tibet's Endangered Music
Emily Gertz, 13 Aug 07

Via David Pescovitz on boingboing: an effort is underway to preserve Tibetan folk music from vanishing under the pressures of modernization, Chinese imperialism, and diaspora: the Tibetan Endangered Music Project (TEMP), which has already recorded over 400 songs. The field recordings are being made onto digital media by students at Qinghai Normal University. As David points out, this project echos the famous work of Alan Lomax, the musicologist whose groundbreaking field recordings of American roots music are now preserved in the Library of Congress. Click on the link above to learn more, find out how to make monetary donations to the effort, etc.

Preserving traditional music keeps open a window into how a particular culture experiences life and the land, and how they live (or lived) on it. It's like saving human diversity. (I can imagine seeing someday a Tibetan film director's adaptation of The Odyssey a la the Coen Brothers' movie Oh Brother, Where Art Thou, featuring what are sure to be amazing Tibetan folk songs.)

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The sad thing is that in the South in the early twentieth century, folk music was being driven to extinction by demographic and market forces that were often malevolent, but basically random, whereas the Chinese are here assisting with music preservation the way they try to help species when they're damming a river. They know what they're doing. That strikes me as worse. The good thing is that Lomax succeeded and this musical form is alive and thriving, hopefully will happen in Tibetan case as well.

Posted by: Anderson Brown on 14 Aug 07

Thanks Emily! Good to know someone's trying to save Tibet's musical culture. I just read about Japan trying to preserve its traditional dances by teaching them to robots. Story and cool video here:

Posted by: Marilyn Terrell on 16 Aug 07

Thanks for that link, Marilyn. I'll check it out.

Posted by: Emily Gertz on 17 Aug 07



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