Labels & Perception

Labels are a funny thing. On one hand they can tell us something, but on the other, they tell us nothing. I’ve always been against labels, especially in music, but realize they are necessary to give some sort of short description of what something is like that people can relate to. But they can be deceiving or misunderstood.
A case in point is my music. Because I play a lot of Gongs, my music is often labeled as world music. But this generally comes from the visual aspect, not a sound one. People see the Gongs and immediately think, “Gongs are Chinese, so this music must be some sort of Chinese/Asian thing, so it’s world music.” I remember when I presented a clinic at the Percussive Arts Society International Convention (PASIC) in 2005, I was amused to find out my session had been listed under world music. I pity anyone who came to it expecting me to talk about Chinese Gong styles, or Gamelan music, as that was not the deal. Rather, I spoke about, and demonstrated, modern compositions and techniques.
For better or worse, I have always thought of my music as contemporary classical music, more in line with the percussion music by John Cage, Iannis Xenakis, Lou Harrison, James Tenney, etc. But there are also elements of jazz & improvisation, prog rock, and yes, world music. So imagine when I try to explain to a promoter what I do, “I play contemporaryclassicaljazzprogrockworldmusicsoulfunkcountrywesternswinggamelan.”
So you can call it what you want, I just call it GONGTOPIA…
~ MB


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