Music Now is an informal forum series for Brown’s community of composers and music scholars. These talks are free and open to the public. This week’s speaker is our own Associate Professor of Music, Marc Perlman, who will offer a talk on the topic “‘Stealing’ Traditions: Should Cultural Appropriation Be Illegal?”
About this talk
Social media overflows with protests against appropriation of the music, language, dress, personal adornment, cuisine, and other cultural expressions of minorities. When the expression is a specific work by a known creator, such actions may constitute infringement of copyright law. But when there is no individual author—as in the case of folk songs or hoop earrings—or when what is appropriated is a style—a sound (rock ‘n’ roll) or a look (‘tribal’ multicolored prints)—there is no legal recourse. For decades some legal scholars, governments, and UN agencies have designed laws to give copyright-like protection to traditional culture, few of which have been implemented. But at the same time performers of traditional music have proposed their own visions of protection. The variety of these proposals can be illustrated by two case studies (1950s USA and 1980s Germany).
About the speaker
Marc Perlman, ethnomusicologist, received his Ph.D. from Wesleyan University. Before joining Brown University, he spent a year as a Fellow of the Society for the Humanities at Cornell University. He has also taught at Tufts University, and in Indonesia, where he was founding editor of the Journal of the Indonesian Musicological Society. His scholarly writings have appeared in the journals Ethnomusicology, Asian Music, Musical Quarterly, Postmodern Culture, Music Perception, Indonesia, Social Studies of Science, and in the revised edition of the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. He has also published in Rhythm Music Magazine and The New York Times. He is a past president of the Northeast Chapter of the Society for Ethnomusicology.