The Globalization and Localization of American Folk Music

June 9th, 2007

This is a paper I wrote in 2005 for a globalization class at Virginia Commonwealth University that basically says that globalization is a Good Thing. This class was my second favorite class in my college career. My favorite class was Buddhist Reason and Debate.

Globalization refers to the rapid dissemination of people, ideas, and goods across geographic and political borders. Critics of globalization contend that cultures and societies are becoming homogenized due to unregulated trade. They argue that only a few ideals and values will prevail in a survival of the fittest battle. What these critics overlook is that cultures are not being destroyed – they are merely evolving. In fact, globalization is contributing to the diversification of civilization.

Music has always played an important role in society. The music one listens to reflects one’s values and beliefs. The fact that so many genres of music exist reinforces the notion that cultures are represented by music. For the most part, country music is associated with the rural South, the blues are associated with African-Americans in the Mississippi delta, and punk-rock is associated with the do-it-yourself ethic that originated in the United Kingdom. The traditions and principles of a culture are revealed through its music.

In the information age, sharing music is easier than it has ever been. Many people, especially university students, disregard copyright regulations and download music via peer-to-peer file sharing software. Before this significant break in technology occurred, it was rare for a person to hear music that wasn’t played on local radio stations or through other popular media outlets. Now, people are exposed to music of different genres and origins. A broader knowledge of world music strengthens the awareness, appreciation, and tolerance of global diversity.

Music is experienced everywhere. Globalizing forces have made it possible to share ideas and styles creating not a universal genre but an amalgamation of new styles. Music becomes diversified and localized through vernacular adaptations and interpretations. For example, consider John Mayall and his band The Bluesbreakers. He pioneered the British Blues movement which was originally influenced by American blues, but by the mid-1960s had its own distinct sound. Another example of the localization phenomenon can be found in American folk music.

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Navigating the Interstate Highway System

June 6th, 2007

The Interstate Highway System, initiated by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1956, connects most major cities in the United States. Primary routes are designated by a one-digit or two-digit integer with odd numbers representing north-south routes and even numbers representing east-west routes. The origin for numbering interstate highways begins in the south-west corner of the country, meaning that the north-south interstate designated by the smallest integer is located in California with interstate numbers increasing to the east.

When I was in Jackson, MS a few weeks ago for business, I noticed that routes I-20 and I-55 intersected nearby. I remembered that routes I-64 and I-95 intersect in Richmond, VA and calculated that I was 44 routes west and 40 routes south of my home. Unfortunately, this measurement is meaningless as routes are not uniformly spaced.

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An Evolving Process

June 1st, 2007

A master plan is a written document, generally supplemented by illustrations, that documents a vision and acts as a framework for future decision-making regarding development of the physical setting. While most master plans consider long-term options for the purpose of avoiding doing something in the near-term that precludes future possibilities, master plans are usually only relevant for approximately five years, as an organization’s needs and aspirations utlimately change.

Today, I completed my very first master plan. After six months of organizing and documenting meetings, drawing thematic three-dimensional site plans, preparing presentations, collaborating with committees, writing and refining the document, coordinating more meetings, and writing until I forgot what it felt like to not be writing, the final document exceeds fifty pages. And my boss asked, are you proud?

I told him yes, but I meant no. It could be better. It can always be better. Are the illustrations too grainy? Could the writing be more succint? Is the organization clear? Does the font look professional? ARE THERE ENOUGH COMMAS?

After I sent the final document to the client, unsatisfied with my work, I adjusted the format, tested other fonts, and studied other master plans – instantly discovering ways in which I could improve my document. Initially discouraged because I had already submitted the (inadequate) master plan document to the client, I eventually realized that like master plans, my process will also evolve. With each project I complete, I will learn something new, abandon something old, and adapt my work not only for the particular client I am working with, but also as a reflection of who I am at that point in my life.

With that said, my next master plan will be perfection. I swear.

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The “Urban Turban”

May 29th, 2007

The phrase “urban turban” is from this article in The Hook.

When I attended the open house for prospective graduate students at the University of Virginia two years ago, I had the privilege of meeting Satyendra Huja, the Director of Planning and Community Development for the City of Charlottesville for 25 years. Among his substantial accomplishments, he is responsible for removing vehicles from Main Street and creating the Downtown Mall – a pedestrian mall with restaurants, shops, offices, art galleries, and even an historic theater. Unlike several other initiatives in the United States during the 1970s to create pedestrian malls, Huja’s passion and perseverence prevailed and his plan did not fail. Today, the Downtown Mall is a vibrant and memorable place.

On our drive to the mountains for a camping trip with our friends last weekend, we stopped in Charlottesville for dinner and I visited the celebrated Downtown Mall for the first time. Hundreds of people were gathered around a concert venue to listen to live music. The brick-paved street was lined with artists and vendors. Families, children, and university students crowded the sidewalk cafes. I walked in awe, understanding the importance of the presence of people in public places and why outdoor shopping malls in suburban settings will not endure.

Satyendra Huja has been integral in establishing Charlottesville as the Best Place to live in the United States (as ranked in the book Cities Ranked and Rated by Bert Sperling and Peter Sander in 2004), and yet, I will remember him most fondly for the time that his kindness influenced my life most directly when he bought me a soda at the open house for prospective graduate students at UVA.

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