Review | Music Glocalization: Heritage and Innovation in a Digital Age

Music Glocalization: Heritage and Innovation in a Digital Age, edited by David Hebert and Mikolaj Rykowski. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Press, 2018, hd, 375 pp. + index. ISBN: 1-5275-0393-3 

Reviewed by Victor Roudometof / University of Cyprus

Based on two conferences, this volume brings together the work of a diverse group of musicologists and music theorists. While Poland is overrepresented, contributors also come from Norway, Estonia, Austria, Italy and France. The volume’s focus on glocalization is timely and relevant, especially in light of recent publications (Roudometof 2016). Glocalization is a concept that enables researchers to go beyond the simplistic opposition between global and local and to explore the creation of new cultural fusions in a multitude of different areas of social life. In its many related social functions, music serves as a nexus where one can observe the interactions among different constituencies that are continuously involved in an on-going production and renegotiation of a multitude of social and cultural meanings. The volume displays remarkable thematic coherence, which allows the editors to use the material presented within individual chapters in order to build broader theoretical arguments. In its conception and execution, this volume is a noteworthy effort to insert the problematic of glocalization into the disciplines of musicology and ethnomusicology.  

As the editors state in their introduction, the book’s topic is twofold: while it concerns the “glocalization in music,” it also involves considerations of the “glocalization on music,” which entails the examination of the ways in which globalization has affected the changing interpretations of music, especially in terms of aesthetics. The volume is divided into three parts: Part One consists of five chapters engaged in mostly theoretical perspectives on glocality and music; Part Two consists of four chapters addressing the problematic of music composition in conditions of digitality; Part Three consists of three chapters addressing glocalization in non-European contexts; and Part Four is focused on glocalized music professions, but it also includes the editors’ concluding chapter, where they spell out their own theoretical model of music glocalization. 

In Part One, Herbert’s chapter is by far the most theoretically focused discussion. The author advances the notion of being “glocalimbodied” (2018:6), a neologism that combines “glocal” with “limbo” in order to make sense of an unbalanced condition attributed to glocal forces as well as the necessity of situating the body within the newfound condition of personalized branding strategies. Of the other chapters, one should mention Moraczewski’s analysis of the consequences of sound recording on musical performance over the last 150 years, suggesting that cultures might have shifted from a condition of orality to a condition of post-orality. Also, Kozel’s chapter features a sophisticated argument about the significance and re-appropriation of myths, as well as globalization’s own status as a contemporary myth. 

In Parts Two and Three, most chapters involve discussions of musical hybridity in several different contexts. In the non-European cases examined in detail in Part Three, there are some insightful anthropological musings—such as the global-local linkages and cultural shifts observed in the music of West Sumatra as well as the re-deployment of the didjeridu, an instrument of indigenous Australian peoples, into new formats and cultural contexts far removed from its original uses. These cases highlight the significance of re-appropriation and re-contextualization of music, musical instruments, and performances, which is a theme that runs throughout the volume’s chapters. In Part Four, these themes are explored further through an analysis of the careers of various European composers, an anthropological study of the varied repertoires of street musicians, and a discussion of the glocalized nature of Italian opera. 

Part Four’s concluding chapter, authored by the volume’s editors, outlines the editors’ own theoretical model of glocalization. Their model relies on the material analyzed in the previous chapters, and the editors are quite correct in pointing out that several of the volume’s chapters employ strategies elsewhere described as falling under the rubric of glocal methods (Roudometof 2016). The editors’ synthesis of the volume’s research is highly original and represents a good point of departure for thinking further about the uses of glocalization in musicology. It is in this concluding chapter that explicit consideration is given to the themes of heritage and innovation. One cannot fail but notice that these terms are part of the volume’s subtitle, whereby readers might have the reasonable expectation that these concepts would have played a more visible role within the majority of individual chapters. 

Given the strong presence of Polish authors among the volume’s list of contributors it is hardly surprising that the editors’ approach (but also the approaches of some individual authors) appear to have been decisively influenced by Bauman’s (2013) approach to glocalization. That might be a double-edged sword, though, for Bauman’s approach is far from neutral: he has compared glocalization to forced cohabitation, implicitly suggesting that it is a rather “unnatural” phenomenon of our times. That sort of attitude, which I have described as “negative glocalism,” makes it harder for academics to approach glocalization in an unbiased fashion. 

As a social scientist, I have read this volume with great interest, which was somewhat diminished once discussion within individual chapters settled into the specifics. Perhaps that is my own fault: my grasp of several topics is not that of a musicologist or ethnomusicologist, and music scholars might have a radically different sensibility. Still, I believe it is fair to say that the volume is decisively shaped by concerns specific to musicology as such. In terms of articulating a more trans-disciplinary stance, the volume might be a missed opportunity. The reader gets the impression that work was rigorously pursued within the scope of the discipline itself and whatever connections were established with research done outside the discipline’s boundaries is either incorporated in a post hoc fashion or it is dealt with as inspiration for the development of theoretical models that remain highly specific to musicology as such. The more sociological or anthropological problematic (which usually involves considerations on the themes of youth culture, trans-local music cultures, glocal meaning construction in reference to racial, ethnic, or other subaltern groups, and so on) is far less visible – although Part Three is a brilliant effort to explicitly address such concerns. But regardless of these aforementioned reservations (which themselves could be charged with the sin of disciplinarity), the volume’s problematic should be seen on par with similar trans-disciplinary efforts to use the notions of globalization and glocalization onto fields seemingly far removed from the social sciences (for example the case of archaeology, see Hodos 2019). Therefore, this volume is a praiseworthy effort, but of course it does not exhaust the topic; I believe there is still a considerable untapped potential that future research might be able to capitalize upon. 



Bauman, Zygmunt. 2013. “Glocalization and Hybridity.” Glocalism: Journal of Culture, Politics and Innovation 1: 1-5.

Hodos, Tamar. 2019. The Routledge Handbook of Archaeology and Globalization. London: Routledge.

Roudometof, Victor. 2016. Glocalization: A Critical Introduction. London: Routledge.

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