So here we are… ladies and gentlemen everyone vs. everyone else in the world series of, let me get somewhat series for a minute. This idea has been ruminating within me for a little while now, this whole idea of culture. You don’t have to travel very far on these internet streets to hear various forms of(what’s quickly becoming a tired trope) “Do it for the culture” “The culture needs” etc., etc., with the usual qualifier of Hip Hop as the focus of said culture. Nothing wrong with that on the surface but as someone who loves to read between the lines and provide context, I really want to explore what culture is and through the process help to define what the culture is here on this site and for the often bandied about term “Grown Folks Music”.

Today as we begin our series I simply want to posit for your consideration a definition of the world culture and present a few question to ponder that we will unpack in the next series entry.

Banks, J.A., Banks, & McGee, C. A. (1989). Multicultural education. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

“Most social scientists today view culture as consisting primarily of the symbolic, ideational, and intangible aspects of human societies. The essence of a culture is not its artifacts, tools, or other tangible cultural elements but how the members of the group interpret, use, and perceive them. It is the values, symbols, interpretations, and perspectives that distinguish one people from another in modernized societies; it is not material objects and other tangible aspects of human societies. People within a culture usually interpret the meaning of symbols, artifacts, and behaviors in the same or in similar ways.”

Everything in the above definition has been bolded for emphasis. As we look at the first line we can surmise that culture is in the mind – symbols, ideas and the intangible. As we proceed further through this definition we come to understand what culture is not. Culture is not artifacts(products), tools(more products) or tangible elements(more, more products) see where I’m headed? In other words I (like probably a lot of other folks’ )understanding of culture was based around the products of culture not the culture itself. So in other words I was looking at the art, the fashion, the music and the representative products thereof as the culture. I did not understand that all those artifacts are just the outgrowth of the ideas and intangible aspects of that particular culture serving as symbolism realized but not the culture itself. What we must really wrestle with to have a grasp on culture are these questions:

       What are the values of this culture?

       What symbols are used amongst its members?

       How do members of this culture interpret a particular scenario?

       What is the perspective of these cultural members when confronted with x

       as opposed to the y perspective of another group?

 

Over the coming weeks I will seek to unpack each one of these questions and superimpose our discoveries over the framework of Grown Folks Music as a culture. I hope that you all are open to idea of joining me in this process and that you would invite other persons who you feel might be interested in this discussion to join us as well. Please feel from to weigh-in on this discussion in the comments we’d love to hear from you!

Ivan Orr is a multi-instrumentalist, composer, performer, and writer. A native of Charlottesville, Virginia Ivan was involved with the forming and nascent days of The Music Resource Center as its first Program Director. A graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University’s Department of Music, Ivan currently resides in Richmond, VA where he maintains an active performance and production schedule while serving as the Music Editor for Grown Folks Music, a position he has held since 2010.