“A perfectly normal orchestra? That was not what he wanted. Ever. In fact, the young Iván Fischer found the notion radically impossible, was already fed up with his international career almost before it had begun. Aloof, austere and proud was how he came across to the established orchestras – worse even, they thought him listless and officious. And so he formed an orchestra of his own. Nearly 35 years later, the Budapest Festival Orchestra counts among the best in the world – a small miracle.”
So, what is cultural appropriation and why has it become such a contentious issue? Susan Scafidi, professor of law at Fordham University, defines it as ‘taking intellectual property, traditional knowledge, cultural expressions, or artefacts from someone else’s culture without permission’. This can include the ‘unauthorized use of another culture’s dance, dress, music, language, folklore, cuisine, traditional medicine, religious symbols, etc.’ But what is it for knowledge or expression or a cuisine to ‘belong’ to a culture? And who gives permission for someone from another culture to use such knowledge or forms?
“To understand the danger Spotify poses to the music industry—and to music itself—you first have to dig beneath the “user experience” and examine its algorithmic schemes. Spotify’s front page “Browse” screen presents a classic illusion of choice, a stream of genre and mood playlists, charts, new releases, and now podcasts and video. It all appears limitless, a function of the platform’s infinite supply, but in reality it is tightly controlled by Spotify’s staff and dictated by the interests of major labels, brands, and other cash-rich businesses who have gamed the system.”
The optimum complexity principle is just one of many examples that Wilson rallies in The Origins of Creativity, his latest plea for the grand unification of the sciences and the humanities. The two camps are often viewed as enemy combatants, or at least paisley and plaid—best kept apart—but Wilson is deeply impatient with academic partitioning. Artists, he argues, should have a grasp of basic neuroscience and how the brain evolved. Scientists must appreciate the humanities for infusing human life with meaning.
Leslie Jamison: “In the years since [the user-generated virtual world’s] peak in the mid 2000s, Second Life has become something more like a magnet for mockery. When I told friends that I was working on a story about it, their faces almost always followed the same trajectory of reactions: a blank expression, a brief flash of recognition, and then a mildly bemused look. Is that still around?” Yet in these crazy days, writes Leslie Jamison, who talks to the platform’s creator and some still-devoted users, “the appeal of that alternate world keeps deepening, along with our doubts about what it means to find ourselves drawn to it.”