Posted in Project 3: Exploring Chromaticism

Research point 2.3 – Globalization and Music

This research point is about writing 500 words on globalization with a particular focus on music, while considering some of the key questions and issues on this subject, as proposed by the brief. I have once again went over the word count, writing double of the amount proposed. This was due to the amount of research I did, and in order to provide a historical overview of the topic.

Globalization and Music

In the 1990s, globalization as a term gained widespread usage with many interpretations, often controversial in definition. Loosely and simplistically though, it is agreed that globalization refers to the widening, deepening and speeding up of global interconnectedness, where the increasingly expansive spatial connectivity manifests itself through the growing linkage of human activity across regions and continents. (Held et al., 1999: 14-15) It expresses itself through multiple dimensions, varying in number depending on the scholars describing them. For example, Steger (2003) proposes four dimensions, including economic, cultural, political and ecological, while Friedman (2000) proposes six: politics, culture, technology, finance (and trade), national security and ecology.

In any case, traditionally, globalization is maintained to have started with the Age of Exploration, around 1500. However, there is a current of scholarly thought that believes that although there is an ‘undeniable connection’, the globalization of the Age of Exploration did not just originate from ‘a vacuum’ (Anon, 2010), but is a long-term historical process. As they suggest, while the human globalization has entered an accelerative phase around the time, the earliest, what LaBianca and Scham (2016) term the ‘original globalizing forces’ of the cultural connectivity, were already present in the ancient world. In fact, music, which has always been a mobile artistic field, as Wetzel (2012) points out, a travelling companion to the human movement, such as the tribal migrations, military conquests and campaigns, the spread of world’s religious traditions, expeditions and political conferences, might be a documentation of that.

How globalization has been a continuous historical process can be seen in the development of musical instruments, and interestingly, many of the instruments used in the modern Western classical music today have their prototypes in the instruments from the ancient empires of middle and far East, North Africa and other regions, such as Egypt, Sumer, Persia, China and etc. While the globalizing forces of ancient empires couldn’t have literally shrunk the world the way that modern technology has in the contemporary world (Anon, 2010), however, they have allowed not only the construction and function of the musical instruments to be largely shared within different ancient cultures, despite the climatic and geographic differences, multiplicity of languages, peculiarities in religion and government (Wetzel, 2012), but these forces also initiated the global and diachronic desire to increase the potential and qualities of the old instruments, establishing the centuries-long cross-cultural need for their modification, with the instruments reaching us in their contemporary orchestral versions.

Slightly forward in history, through my previous research in the Composing 1 module about the Gregorian and other plainchants (Click here to read), which surfaced with the dominance of the church music in the disintegration of the Greco-Roman epoch in the 5th century AD, I was truly surprised how multinational this tradition and its repertory were, encompassing both the Eastern and Western regions, such as Jerusalem, Antioch, Slavic countries, Rome and similar, formed as Wetzel (2012) writes: “through a globalization process over centuries of Hebrew, Greek, Byzantine, and Roman acculturation”. It also set up the foundation for the invention of musical notation, which liberated music to be stored independently from people, with performers being now able to learn not solely through direct oral means, but also without a personal, corporeal contact with another musician. (Eriksen, 2014: 26) This allowed the explorers and colonizers to bring notated Western music with them in their expeditions to expand Europe near the end of 15th century, when, as previously mentioned, the pressures of globalization began accelerating.

As Woodfield (1995: 39-99) describes, music had an important role in this process of European expansion, being present on board the ships and also at the first encounter with indigenous inhabitants, when musicians served as ‘shoreline ambassadors’. Missionary activities were also accompanied by music, with keyboard music being a particularly effective tool in conversion, serving as a type of ‘keyboard diplomacy’, as Woodfield (1995: 199) termed. In fact, there was even an instance when a missionary, Father Organtino, wrote: “if only we had more organs and other musical instruments, Japan would be converted to Christianity in less than a year.” The Western music also affected the secular life, in the form of both the concert events and the concert venues themselves, often representing the imperial and colonial hegemony to the home audience, as well as in education, through the establishment of colonial conservatoires.

With the rising costs of the empire and the increasing resistance of the colonized population, the process of decolonialization, and the independence it launched, began shaping much of the globe, now largely hybridized in identity; music has shifted from being a political tool of the colonial expression of hegemony, transforming into a multicultural stage where the national and postcolonial identity is articulated. (Anon, 2014) Under the influence of Western aesthetic values on the indigenous cultures, the hybridity became the driving force of globalization, being its ‘cultural logic’ as Kraidy (2005: xii) argued, expressed in two opposite ends, one being the desire to leave traditional cultures intact and without change, and the other being the complete Westernization. Moving towards a world sound, that is “not compartmentalized according to land, language and political borders” (Schwenz, 2014), the clash of the two extremes of hybridity resulted in modernization, in which the elements of the traditional, indigenous musical cultures became reconfigured in accordance or against the values of the adopted and adapted Western concert music (Cook, 2013: 79), which has in turn, itself been influenced by the indigenous music, with the appreciation shifting from pure exoticism to the understanding of its own inherent value. In this regard, music itself received a hyphenated identity, and in the case of classical art music, as Wetzel (2012) roughly suggested, in recognition of the rich musical traditions of all the people in the world, it started moving away from its monocultural connotations.

Reaching the contemporary era, with the invention of recording and broadcasting technologies, such as the phonograph, jukebox and radio, music was now able to travel much farther and faster than people themselves could, being separated from the confinement of human movement to circulate across the continuously more urbanized globe. With the urbanization, music largely turned into a commercial product of the transnational hegemonic forces of media conglomerates, predominantly influenced by the American business of entertainment, with the emergence of globalized popular music and its genres, such as jazz, rock, hip-hop and similar, all resulting from unique stylistic fusions of the diverse musical traditions of the world. The multiculturalism also established world music as a specific genre, highly discussed in terms of globalization. Recorded for the rapidly changing media of distribution, music now became digitalized and virtualized, available with a click or a touch on our screens to be both produced and consumed. With globalization inevitably going hand in hand with capitalism, this is where music lies today, with its genres more hastily than ever interacting and assimilating stylistically, the intensified fusing of which now characterizes it on the commercial field. To see an illustration of the genre entanglement of the popular music, take a look at this video below of the map of the genealogy of the contemporary popular music genres:

In conclusion, much like the way globalization has been “a process inherent to life, from the creation of life’s self-sustaining envelope aeons ago to the trans-migration of primitive humans that ultimately encompassed the entire planet” (Wells, 2004: 180), music had always existed with universal properties capable of uniting human species across the globe. There has always been a worldwide desire, spanning from ancient to contemporary times, to create and modify musical instruments, notate and record music, but more importantly there always lived a diachronic and ubiquitous need for music to be shared, heard socially among us, with its global reach expanding from the attachment to the human movement into the expeditious circulation across the rapidly evolving, all-encompassing technologies. In this sense, I would argue that the role of music will be eternally and inextricably bound to globalization, being one of the artistic and creative manifestations, articulations, expressions and forces of its expansive properties.


Anon. (2010) Prehistory of Globalization. [Online, creative commons] At: (Accessed on 31st July 2018)

Anon. (2014) Music, Identity, and the Postcolonial World: A Comparative Analysis. [Online] At: (Accessed on 1st August 2018)

Cook, N. (2013) ‘Western music as world music’ In: Bohlman, P. V. (ed.) The Cambridge History of World Music. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 75–100.

Eriksen, T. H. (2014) Globalization: The Key Concepts (2nd ed.) New York: Bloomsbury.

Friedman, T. L. (2000) The Lexus and the Olive Tree. (anchor ed.) Canada: Anchor Books.

Held et al. (1999) Global Transformations: Politics, Economics and Culture. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Kraidy, M. M. (2005) Hybridity, or the Cultural Logic of Globalization. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

LaBianca, O. S, and Scham, S. A. (eds.) (2016) Connectivity in Antiquity: Globalization as Long-Term Historical Process. London: Routledge. [Online] At: (Accessed on 30th July 2018)

Schwenz, C. L. (2014) Hybridity and Postcolonial Music. [Online, blog post] At: (Accessed on 29th July 2018)

Steger, M. B. (2003) Globalization: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Wells, G. J. (2004) ‘The Issue of Globalization: An Overview.’ In: Westerfield, E. R. (ed.) Current Issues in Globalization. New York: Nova Science Publishers, Inc. pp. 179-202

Wetzel, R. D. (2012) The Globalization of Music in History. New York: Routledge. [Online] At: (Accessed on 29th July 2018)

Woodfield, I. (1995) English Musicians in the Age of Exploration. Stuyvesant, New York: Pendragon Press.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s