The language barrier (Gluck-related)

Ken Fields has told me a thing or two about Bob Gluck‘s endeavor of writing about electronic music in some of the less-exposed areas, including China. This is exactly what GNO is up to. Please accept my apology if you find my cynicism in the previous two posts offensive.

Ken has pointed out:

1. The article is not complete open to public yet.
2. It will be an on-going archiving process, with new materials added continuously.
3. Gluck copied from GNO and paste into his article all in a hurry, shortly before he went out of town.

He also sent a few more link of Gluck’s articles on the electronic music scene in Indonesia, Israel & Turkey. Which leads to another question: to what extent shall we take these articles seriously? I’m sure that there are a lot of labor involved in information gathering, names-checking, etc. And I do appreciate there are someone like Gluck who does bother to do the work. But somehow we have under-estimated the language barrier. Native English readers of GNO do not need to be reminded how difficult it is to remember the spelling of Chinese names like Lin Zhiying, Li Jianhong, Xu Cheng or Wang Changcun. But Dear Chinese readers, how many names of Thai directors/musicians can you correctly spell? This is only a tip of the language barrier iceberg. I fully understand the frustration of finding your way out among a bunch of names of musicians whose works you have hardly listened to.
So what is the conclusion? IMHO, the conclusion is obvious: the history of Chinese sound art has to be documented and written by Chinese, same with Israel, Turkey, Indonesia et al. That’s why I launched GNO, in the hope that five years from now, when looking back to the Chinese new music scene, we won’t be embarrassed by either the absence or the bias of historical discourse.

Don’t know what is this all about? Read these 2 posts for bg information:

Bob Gluck on Chinese new music

Bob Gluck again – GNO plagiarised!

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21 Comments »

  1. zhao said

    regarding your comment that the history of chinese sound art should be “documented and written by Chinese.”

    i think that the ethnicity of the writer is not really an issue. global scholarship has taught us that the history of any event can be well written and well analysed by people of any ethnicity…

    but the most important factor is expertise, strong research and true understanding.

    at the very very least, persons writing about chinese sound art should have some basic knowledge of the language. and ideally, they should actually live here in china or visit a number of different cities often, so they can put things in perspective.

    in my mind, Gluck seems a bit too academic focused and seems to have only a slight knowledge of the people actually involved in chinese sound art… but then again, its a rapidly developing field that has changed so much in the past 6 years that it will take the efforts of many people to put it in full perspective…

  2. Lawrence said

    hi Lao Zhao:

    Thanks for the comment, generally I agree with you, maybe I didn’t make myself clear enough earlier: I’m not insisting on the ethnicity of the writer, as you said, it’s experise that matters. However, the language barrier seems to be too powerful to conquer. In the particular case of Chinese sound art, I have another reason to argue for having native people write about local scene. To put it simple: one shall never over-estimate Westerner’s interest in Chinese culture.

    I’ll start a new post to elaborate more on this later, it’s also relevant to Ken’s comment.

  3. WildDoggyDog said

    i didn’t think it was necessary to remind ourselves, but clearly now it is – remember how many Chinese writers, journalists and even the so-called “critics” and specialists (not to mention thousands and thousands of listeners) have written about or commented on the experimental music scene in china? how they were totally unable to comprehend what was going on? so, it really has nothing to do with being chinese or not.

    And, it is not the language barrier either. i don’t believe being able to spell (and pronounce!) Zhang Jun’gang correctly has anything to do with knowing what his art is about.

    i believe the author of this blog is doing an excellent job and this blog is a very important project for the advancement of new chinese music; however, i also believe that this wonderful project should not preclude others from working on their own similar, well-intentioned projects, such as Bob Gluck’s.

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