According to the late German philosopher named Arthur Schopenhauer, music is the highest and the best form of art. For Schopenhauer, music is the highest because it is the most dynamic among other forms of art. Painting and sculpture, for example, are static, they do not flow like music and poetry do. Although poetry is also dynamic, it is still not on the same level as music for Schopenhauer because it is less complex and its mood is predictable. We can tell from the beginning whether it’s a sad or happy poetry. Unlike it, music is more subtle, complex, and less predictable.
This dynamic character of music is one of the reasons why more, a lot more, people prefer enjoying music to poetry. Music is more powerful in its ability to touch one’s emotions. Music makes us cry, dance, happy, hopeful, or even more angry than we already are. Music, in any form or genre, is enjoyed by billions of people around the world. Through his or her music, an artist would have a better chance to cross cultural and regional and even lingual boundaries. It doesn’t matter if the language of a song is foreign to he or she who hears it, it would still be enjoyable if it could connect to his or her emotions.
Artists like Anggun from Indonesia or BoA and Rain from Korea have proven this. They all gain international success through their hard work and their musics, and, as an effect, his or her native country also get acknowledged by the rest of the world. Artists like them, who managed to cross cultural and regional boundaries, have contributed to their country, especially to its cultural development.
For example, if it’s not mistaken, sounds of Indonesian gamelan have been used by Japan’s Teriyaki Boyz and USA’s Justin Timberlake in their musics. They incorporated the etnique and traditional sounds of gamelan with the modern sounds of synthesizer and other electric musical instruments, therefore making gamelan music contemporary. The international audience may not recognize the sounds of gamelan but it makes the Indonesians proud to know that their traditional product of culture is recognized by the popular international musicians.
The sounds of gamelan in Teriyaki Boyz’s and Justin Timberlake’s musics may not retain its pure form as it was traditionally performed, but it shouldn’t matter. Music, and any other product of culture, must adapt if it wants to survive and stay popular. This adaptation and integration of traditional music to modern sounds have proven to be effective. Nowadays we can also hear the sounds of traditional Middle East and Indian musics in the musics of Caucasian artists such as Sting and Britney Spears. Those are proofs of how music can penetrate through cultural, racial, and lingual boundaries.
With Asian international artists like Rain and Anggun getting more popular, Asia now has bigger chance to promote its wider culture through its rich musical heritage. Unlike promoting traditional belief system, promoting music is much easier. People have little prejudice on music, they’ll listen to it as long as it’s enjoyable. Music would be the most effective way to promote Asian culture. Once the music is already popular then other efforts to develop and popularize Asian cultures, such as through film and travel, will have a greater chance of success. Even the success of Asian films depend, to a certain degree, on a good, unique, and enjoyable music.
For example, many Indonesian teenagers have followed American culture and style of living that represented by its musics and music videos. Nowadays many teenagers have shifted their attention to Japanese and Korean culture, style, and anything about them due to the rapid invasion of Japanese and Korean TV series and its musics. More people are interested in studying Korean and Japanese cultures because of this. The University of Indonesia has even opened a program in Korean Study, the growing interest in Korean culture must be one of the reasons.
It is evident how one culture can get instant acknowledgement once its music has been popularized. The same can happen to Asian cultural development. Asian cultures would be better acknowledged and more appreciated and no longer regarded as boring, low, and tasteless if we could draw the world’s attention to Asia. As it has been said before, promoting Asian music is the best way to do it. At first, Asian musicians might have to compromise their musical traditionality and originality by integrating it to “Western” sounds, but as it get more popular people would be more interested in the pure form of the music.
To achieve this, the governments in Asia must pay more attention to the development of their music industry. They must help the music industry to get more and better talents, explore the country’s musical heritage, and, of course, promote their music to the international community.