The term exoticism is derived from the noun exotic. According to the English dictionary, the term exotic means something that is unusual and exciting, usually because it is related or comes from a distant country. Exoticism thus is an imitation of elements in alien cultures that obviously differ from the native traditions (Font 201). It can also be summed up as a quality of expressing unusual or interesting because of association with a distant country. Exoticism encompasses numerous genres of the period notably in music decorative art and painting. The styles blend with the newly introduced idea or novelty in culture, physical items, and more specifically music. It is from the musical perspective that the ideas of exoticism have been much exploited as the music keeps on changing from one generation to the next (Font 207). Musically, the genre exhibits rhythms, and melodies and instrumentals designed to evoke the atmosphere of novelty. Moreover, the interior decorative as used in modern architecture depicts fantasies and opulence.
Looking at the Debussys point of the definition, one would otherwise, seek to provide the exoticism in its real context. From his affinity of defying traditional Western harmonic rules, Debussy did an experimentation with unique sonorous. He instead, wanted to come up with music that could otherwise be supple to adapt to the lyrical effusion of the soul and fantasies of dreams. Thus according to Rudolph, at the tender age of seven, Debussy began his piano lessons together with an Italian violist Jean Cerutti (Herring 72). Debussy became experimental from the outset incorporating dissonances at an interval that were not often taught at the academy of his training. He grew up to a brilliant pianist with several pieces he played being sonata movements, Weber and Chopins Ballade. Moreover, by fusing Western techniques he learned in at the Paris Conservatoire and some Eastern elements, Debussy artistically introduced an exotic sample of music. From his work, musical exoticism can, therefore, be stated as borrowing or use of musical materials that evoke distant alien frame of references (Herring 79). Those otherwise calls for easy recognition of musical gestures from the foreign culture and assimilated into a more familiar style providing it with an exotic color and image.
Discussion of musical exoticism has become more varied and complex as pieces are often composed that aligns to the transcultural, which is a composing method of Western countries. The transcultural being seen as an incorporating certain stylistic and formal conventions of another cultures music (Herring 80). Pieces that relates to transcultural composing blend or merge elements of music that the composer would otherwise recognize as being own in contrast to those of distant cultures.
Considering Pour le piano, Debussy further experimented the new sonorous he learned while observing the Javanese gamelan at the Exposition. By using the newer techniques learned, and keeping in touch with some Western elements, he went on to compose a novelty to which, many argued as the most famous, efficient and exotic music (Locke 477). To expound on the novelty of the new music, Debussy extracted musical elements from the gamelan and incorporated them into his music. The items that he obtained included the pentatonic scale to mimic the gamelan scale, layering to symbolize the serene gradual addition of instruments in the gamelan, and base suspension to represent the clanging bells.
According to Debussy, exoticism is seen to be born of the age of imperialism eliciting both its aesthetic value as well as ontological values when it is blended to uncover important cultural otherness. While exoticism is linked closely to Orientalism, it is a movement not associated with a particular period or culture (Locke 482). As the theme of the otherness is explored, Carmen is flinging a rose at Don Jose portrayals of people and several places considered exotic and have been everywhere including in operas, Broadway musicals film soccer, in jazz and popular songs. When these depictions are used, they exhibit high stereotype but also powerful and touching. Ralph Locke enumerates some of the major trends in foreign representation from the Baroque era; he further illustrates these trends to be too close to impressive works such as operas and Mozart.
The French music composer Debussy, however, gives an insight into the seemingly lost way of composing a sweet music with exoticism, he asserts to despise the trouble that civilization has brought (Locke 488). However, he assumes that there are still some beautiful people who learn music as easy as one find out how to breathe. Debussy exposure to gamelan took place in the 1888 Paris Exposition which came as severe eye opener expedience for him. At the exposition, groups from around the world exhibited their native art, music and possible ways of living. The gamelan became critical of the religious and also a part of social life, and by extension a prominent display in the context of the Javanese kampong. Gamelan itself was one of the collections of musical instruments alloyed with metallic bell-like sounds that played traditional music of Java.
In gamelan, an exoticism would otherwise, in rejoinder, the music created a sensational among the European musicians (Locke 490). The music was a well developed, powerful and the most beautiful music that was completely outside the western thought of what music ought to have been. As a result, the Europeans did spend a lot of time to listen to the gamelan, transcribing its melodies as well as examining the instruments while taking a keen interest on the tuning of the novelty in music. The current musical spectrum displays newness in the making, from the vocals to the rhythm, which show an honorable of exotic style. The emergence of the gamelan showed many devotees of Benjamin Britten giving out a feeling that his final opera Death in Venice, based in Thomas Mann was so propounding, piercing, and an inexplicably neglected masterpiece in the making (Mitsui 11). At the time though, the opera seemed not to be anything and overlooked in Britten's land. A famous Germany novelist, Aschenbach, became artistic and opened the opera, bemoaning the fading of the artistic inspiration. At he was walking, he suddenly stopped to catch a sight of a traveler. Britten became amused on the strange and wondered the exotic nature of the foreign land, he however impulsively, moved to the south in the hope of refreshing his artistic imagination.
Primarily, the gamelan changed the perspective of musical theme introducing some of the masterpieces that promoted the quest of the art among the western and non-western community. Benjamin Brittens opera Death in the Venice gives a clear cut on the exoticism, which the newness can, brings a wide variety of themes in the making.
Font-Navarrete, David. "File Under Import: Musical Distortion, Exoticism, and Authenticite in Congotronics." Ethnomusicology Review 16 (2011).
Herring, S. C. (2008). Questioning the generational divide: Technological Exoticism and Adult constructions of online youth identity. Youth, identity, and digital media, 71-94
Locke, Ralph P. "A broader view of musical exoticism." The Journal of Musicology 24.4 (2007): 477-521
Locke, Ralph P. "Musical exoticism." Images and Reflections, Cambridge, Cambridge University Pres (2009).
Mitsui, Toru. "DOMESTIC EXOTICISM A recent trend in Japanese popular music." Perfect Beat 3.4 (2015): 1-12.
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