Journal / Racism

so i just read something about a debate at mt. holyoke as to whether my use of african-american vocals is racist or not.
well, for a start, i hope that it’s not. i certainly don’t think of myself as a racist. my use of these old, african-american vocals was motivated by my love of beautiful musical performances. i hope that what i’ve done is to pay homage to these vocals and to the cultural traditions that they represent. we live in a complicated world wherein everything is so very interconnected. the reason that i had access to these vocals was that alan lomax(a jewish-american from new york city)used a german microphone and a japanese tape recorder and canadian tape to record a woman in the deep south. as much as i hate to use the expression ‘post-modern’, we do essentially live in a post-modern world, wherein just about everything is devoid of inherent context. or rather, that context is determined by collective subjective assessment, and not so much by geography or history.
when people ask me about my use of african-american vocals i always ask them if it’s exploitative for a pianist to use a piano that was assembled in malaysia? by the time something reaches the ears of a listener it has been passed through the products of so many peoples labour that it’s almost impossible to point to ownership or exploitation.
we live in a very complicated world, and i think that charges of ‘racism’ can sometimes be some individuals attempts to simplify what is a phenomenally complicated world. certainly racism does exist in the world, and it’s an awful, awful thing. and i really do hope that i’m not being a racist in my use of older african-american musical traditions.
for me my quasi-exoneration came when i asked chris rock if he thought that ‘natural blues’ was racist and he said ‘no, it’s just good music’. well, that made me happy when he said that. ok, back to work. -moby