How much "world" should there be in art?

This forum is for discussing tournament formats, question styles, strategy, and such.
Post Reply
User avatar
benchapman
Lulu
Posts: 26
Joined: Thu Mar 22, 2018 9:17 pm
Location: Toronto, Ontario

How much "world" should there be in art?

Post by benchapman »

Recently in the Discord, there was a discussion about the recent move in the high school FA distribution to ask less about Euro-centric topics (such as opera) and more about "world art". As an attempt to move discussion on this topic to the forums (in the spirit of Joe Kammann's excellent post on the topic) and answer the question "What should the balance be between Western and non-Western art in the distribution?", I have a few questions to propose:

1. How much should this split be informed by quiz bowl being played primarily in Western society?

2. Branching off from [1], how closely should what quiz bowl asks about in the art distribution be informed by what a high schooler would learn in a typical art history/music class? What should the balance be between that form of learning (which will skew white/Euro) and what an intellectually curious high schooler will learn on their own (which could be much more diverse)?

An assertion made during the Discord discussion was that certain Euro-based topics (like Italian opera) were easier for the high school player body to buzz on versus "world art" and more diverse content. This leads to two more questions:

3. How true is this premise?

4. In general, what should the balance be between "playability" (i.e. having questions that are more "canonical" and players will, on the whole, buzz on earlier) and including other topics that are equally as important in a vacuum, but the player pool knows less about on the whole?
Benjamin Chapman
Hunter College High School '21
University of Toronto '25
User avatar
csa2125
Lulu
Posts: 48
Joined: Tue Feb 21, 2017 9:49 pm

Re: How much "world" should there be in art?

Post by csa2125 »

In memoriam of a well-thought-out post lost to a disconnect (if only we had auto-drafts or auto-saves of some sort...), here are two very relevant and apt comments from the Discord (credit Erik Christensen):
i. "I think writers worried about pushback from "expanding the canon" should keep in mind that tournaments get criticized and complained about for all sorts of reasons. I think the advice of Just Do It isn't bad if what you want to write about will still be converted, but for stuff that is might be too hard I'd suggest being less stringent about keeping questions purely about western or nonwestern things."

ii. "Also worth keeping in mind that most posts about "world" questions being too hard or not important comes from people expecting points, it's usually people expecting points from certain categories and worried they aren't getting points anymore. I don't think most newer players are going to think a question on the sitar or tabla is more unfair or unimportant than an opera they also haven't heard of."

My dearly departed post answered all 4 queries, with the gist that playability, convertibility, accessibility, and inclusivity (with respect to question content) are all related to and deeply entangled with each other, and needn't be opposed, but when made to oppose each other, playability/convertibility/accessibility should be at a minimum 85% level on a per-question basis (i.e., at least roughly 85% of a field should be able to "get" [possibly even "fail to get but fully understand 'what's going on'"] the average TU correct by the end, with a rough analogue of the same sort of "conversion" on bonuses' easy parts and reasonable equivalents on medium and hard parts).

Whereas, inclusivity's "lower bound" should be at 85% of "the absolute Platonic ideal" of a very broad-sense ("diversity within" and "diversity without" what counts as "Western" "canonical" material) inclusivity on a (note:) per question set basis (that is, not every question must be "diverse" / "inclusive" / "expansive," but the question set on the whole should have such qualities).

Additionally, the following important terms were invoked:
"Encapsulation": the embedding of a relatively easier "substantive" clue within the context of a relatively harder clue; e.g., for "In Neo-Riemannian Theory, the R transformation exchanges the tonic for this scale degree, since R stands for Relative" the italicized clue is the "context," where the unitalicized clue constitutes the "substantive." **
"Decolonizing" / "Anti-Imperial-izing the Canon": essentially what the combination of the terms suggests, with credit to discussions with Jakob Boeye for the concept, and an open invitation for him to make good on a promise to post on the forum and provide a better elaboration of this goal, its operational details, and its benefits much better than I may be able to provide.

Thanks were given to the original poster. I would like to thank other posters on Discord, as well as to encourage tangent conversations on the defining and usage of terminology invoked throughout my post, and caveats thereof.

**ANSWER: sixth (Neo-Riemannian theory is considered abstruse and difficult for quizbowl, as-is; knowing the relationship between the tonics of relative keys, less so); I additionally promised an example of the power of encapsulation w.r.t. writing about Neo-Riemannian theory or Carnatic theory in a high-school appropriate question, perhaps, in the morning instead of at such a late hour.
Last edited by csa2125 on Fri Dec 24, 2021 9:22 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Clark Smith
Scioto HS '18
Ohio State
amundhe
Lulu
Posts: 13
Joined: Sun Jul 28, 2019 10:08 pm

Re: How much "world" should there be in art?

Post by amundhe »

In regards to point #3, I'm not sure that this is necessarily the case, or at least as black-and-white as I'm interpreting the question to be. The player base is pretty diverse and as such many people may have differing knowledge bases. Obviously I'm one person, but as an Indian person who hasn't studied Indian classical music, I can still find myself buzzing on clues regarding Indian music due to a general exposure due to my upbringing. I'm not sure that it may be "easier" more than more study-able for the general populace for whom the same types of composers who show up in "other music" and "classical music."

Also, I think that "world art" doesn't necessarily have to be different from normal fine arts. There are examples of Western composers being inspired by non-Western art forms. I think acknowledgement of this in questions is also a pretty valid way of representing the influence of "world music." This could potentially be a way to represent world music AND create tossups (that aren't the stereotypical "an instrument of this type" that seem commonplace in HS sets) that are generally answerable by people, especially those who gain their knowledge from classes focus. In response to #4, I think that playability should be important especially at a regular difficulty level where players with lots of differing degrees of experience are playing; I think fine arts is already a category that people tend to not know as much in and that answerability is good for tossups. Maybe "vacuum" things may be better for bonuses where hard parts could be done.
Aum Mundhe
Ridgewood HS '21
Rutgers '25
A Dim-Witted Saboteur
Yuna
Posts: 967
Joined: Tue Aug 02, 2016 12:31 pm
Location: Chicago

Re: How much "world" should there be in art?

Post by A Dim-Witted Saboteur »

I want to argue that the non-presence of world art in some high school curricula (although that may not be as much of a thing as quiz bowl distros assume: I never took a high school art class but when I self-studied AP Art History, at least, a good part of the curriculum covered African, Islamicate, Latin American, and South and East Asian art) should not be an excuse to stymie efforts at diversifying the canon. The high school quiz bowl canon already covers a lot of things that are very seldom brought up in high school-level coursework, and asking about things makes them more askable in future tournaments. African authors such as Nadine Gordimer and Wole Soyinka, for example, came up more seldom and at far higher difficulties at the beginning of this past decade than more recently without much of a corresponding shift in their "real-world" fame and curricularity (I found that Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie also underwent such a shift in canonicity, although this case is not as clear-cut given the fame of some of her newer work). While groundedness in high school curricula is an admirable goal especially for mass-market sets, it should not be allowed to serve as a complete block on other worthwhile goals. An ideal non-Western art distribution should fill at least 1/4, and possibly up to 1/3, of art questions in general.

Quiz bowl is, of course, a game best equipped to handle European canons of art, in which works are almost always identified with a single known creator and a strong dividing line exists between high and "folk" art exists. This leads to non-Western art often being asked about in "group of instruments" ways that players rightly sense are a maladaptation of subject matter to question. I do not have a good solution to this problem, but in the interim non-Western modern art usually follows these conventions, as does non-Western pre-modern art in rare cases such as those of Zhang Zeduan in China and Olowe of Ise in Nigeria. Quite a lot of conceptually low-hanging fruit exists, and nearly every museum of note in the United States has, for example, El Anatsui tapestries or Ai Weiwei pieces. My advice to writers just starting out or with less familiarity with non-Western art is to prioritize questions about easily-parseable material like this over attempting a more temporally and subject-matter-wise complete but harder to "quizbowlify" representation of non-Western artistic traditions (this is, in a sense, already what happens with Western art, where medieval and Roman art is asked about dramatically less than art after the rise of the two conventions that I mention above).
Jakob M. (they/them)
MSU '21, Indiana '2?
"No one has ever organized a greater effort to get people interested in pretending to play quiz bowl"
-Ankit Aggarwal
retired
User avatar
csa2125
Lulu
Posts: 48
Joined: Tue Feb 21, 2017 9:49 pm

Re: How much "world" should there be in art?

Post by csa2125 »

A Dim-Witted Saboteur wrote: Fri Dec 24, 2021 5:28 pm Quiz bowl is, of course, a game best equipped to handle European canons of art, in which works are almost always identified with a single known creator and a strong dividing line exists between high and "folk" art exists. This leads to non-Western art often being asked about in "group of instruments" ways that players rightly sense are a maladaptation of subject matter to question.
I drafted, a while ago, a resource outlining a better approach to "things" in "pronoun phrases" ("this X"), delineating "things general, tangible, written, heard, seen, smelled, tasted, thought, believed, which happen, which happened, which will happen, etc." due to such issues as the "entity" problem, the "region" problem, the "polity" problem, the "work" problem, and the "fire is not a substance" or "unpaid work situations (i.e., for a nun or volunteer firefighter) are not professions" problem; in the first four cases, such terms are usually needlessly vague and misled players trying to answer the question, while the latter two introduce wrong or confusing information that misled players who know the relevant clues but second-guess their answers because of the flawed "pronoun."

On a similar note, I believe we, as a community, should create a more general "types of answerline" list linked to appropriate "pronoun phrases." This would help with world art, where, instead of the standard "groups of instruments" questions, we could ask about:

pieces, songs, composers, songwriters, lyricists, performers, conductors, bandleaders, instruments, combinations of instruments (e.g., "guitar and banjo" or the "two violins" concept attempted in a Regionals TU one year), ensembles, genres, time periods, cities, countries, locations, ethnicities, nationalities, characters, lyrics, effects, techniques, organizations, collections, albums, venues, tastemakers, popularizers, taskmasters, rules, curators, critics, concepts, art forms, body parts, languages, movements, collectives, adjectives, animals, performances, awards, costumes, paraphernalia, theories, chords, processes, scholars, editors...

(with a similar list that could be made for visual arts, and every other conceivable type of answerline).

Thoughts? Anyone else want to help create such a resource?
Clark Smith
Scioto HS '18
Ohio State
Subotai the Valiant, Final Dog of War
Wakka
Posts: 168
Joined: Tue Aug 08, 2017 6:12 pm

Re: How much "world" should there be in art?

Post by Subotai the Valiant, Final Dog of War »

On a similar note, I believe we, as a community, should create a more general "types of answerline" list linked to appropriate "pronoun phrases." This would help with world art, where, instead of the standard "groups of instruments" questions, we could ask about:

pieces, songs, composers, songwriters, lyricists, performers, conductors, bandleaders, instruments, combinations of instruments (e.g., "guitar and banjo" or the "two violins" concept attempted in a Regionals TU one year), ensembles, genres, time periods, cities, countries, locations, ethnicities, nationalities, characters, lyrics, effects, techniques, organizations, collections, albums, venues, tastemakers, popularizers, taskmasters, rules, curators, critics, concepts, art forms, body parts, languages, movements, collectives, adjectives, animals, performances, awards, costumes, paraphernalia, theories, chords, processes, scholars, editors...

(with a similar list that could be made for visual arts, and every other conceivable type of answerline).

Thoughts? Anyone else want to help create such a resource?
I recall one Ophir posted on Discord about things one can ask about music that was so memorable that I actually copied it and saved it. From Ophir:
An unsorted list of some music clue types: instrument mechanism · extended techniques · treatise · pedagogy · acoustics · pure theory · music notation · music publishers · music history · ethnomusicology · musicology/analysis · original analysis · arrangements/quotations · sounds similar · composition inception · composer quip · composer style · composer biography · composer relationships · musician biography · writings on composers · score clue · performance practice · performance/recording history · conductors · programmatic music · commonality (e.g. something depicted by music) · catalog numerology · term or coinage · literary basis

There are also dozens of possible music answer types, a large portion of which may not need to clue details of any musical compositions: composer (creator) · piece (creation) · movement or excerpt · genre · genre+composer · geography (country, city) · instrument · instrument mechanism · technique · dance · album/track · famous ensemble · musician (conductor, musicologist) · surname · key/pitch · language · ethnic group · style or era · theory concept · number · noun · something depicted by music · book or article about music · event · concept related to music (e.g. "conductor" or "music publisher" or "record label")
Daniel, Hunter College High School '19, Yale '23
Subotai the Valiant, Final Dog of War
Wakka
Posts: 168
Joined: Tue Aug 08, 2017 6:12 pm

Re: How much "world" should there be in art?

Post by Subotai the Valiant, Final Dog of War »

As someone who's both made strides in increasing inclusion in the HS sets and dislikes how this is done in many sets, I'll offer my input:

1. Quiz bowl is played in a western society, and that is okay. Sets that are written for audiences in other regions should 100% cater to the local histories, cultures, literary traditions, etc of those regions, as I believe they do (take a look at IHBB Asia for publicly available history sets written for other regions; they still have too much US content since they're recycled sets... but they also have what to an American would be absurdly hard 20th Century Asia content). Sets written for an American audience should focus on what the American tradition and modern American society have primarily focused on: Music from America, and music that directly influenced large generations of Americans historically. The question is now how much we should skew in the "Western" direction, not that there should be a substantial skew.

Also, the western musical tradition has actually been hugely influential on musicians from all backgrounds around the world, including myself, in positive ways. I find it puzzling why it is "imperialist" to acknowledge that western music has indeed been the most globally influential musical tradition for the past several centuries. As the world's cultural sphere slowly responds to the decolonization process, we Americans and quiz bowlers will evolve in turn. And we have; the late 20th century auditory fine arts that we ask about is overwhelmingly non classical, when you consider jazz, 20th century classical, 20th century popular music, world music, etc as a pool. [Side note: Please ask fewer questions about late 20th century classical music, considering its much lesser impact in even the western world; don't ask questions about it just because it's in the classical tradition.]

2. The distribution should always somewhat start with classes, but it doesn't have to end there. The existence of primarily Western music groups/classes in school shouldn't necessarily change how we ask about music beyond the easiest of levels. It doesn't for other categories, and it shouldn't here.

3. I agree with Clark that opera is not easier than world music as currently written. Opera is also probably more inaccessible than most other areas of western music, from my experience, since a lot more people play instruments than watch opera, so this was an especially bad comparison. However, this is equally due to the nature of many world music questions as currently written, which I will get to, which makes this not actually very helpful of a comparison.

4. In terms of the player pool, I think that anecdotes about people's interactions with particular cultures of world music, while certainly relevant, miss the point. Do they interact with multiple cultures in that way? Do they have close to the same amount of knowledge of the entire body of reasonably asked-on world music as the entire body of classical music of the same level? I think that applies to many fewer people. I have general understandings of Chinese music theory and some instruments, but I am far more clueless about, say, Indian music than about jazz, simply because I have grown up in a society where certain parts of jazz have been vaguely part of my world (I have a lot of classical but no jazz training whatsoever and do not really listen to jazz). It is not helpful to generalize the experiences of myself or other specific people growing up in dual cultures to a general person.

I also think that the canon can be stretched in a way that creates questions that are aesthetically good, playable, and inclusive. These questions will require a lot of work, and their introduction into the distribution will be slow and piecemeal by necessity. Good, canon-expanding questions will take extra work (work that I sometimes didn't do in my younger days, but I've learned since then). When we normalize n world music questions, soon we will be at n + 1, then n + 2, until we reach a point where we finally believe that world music has the right balance with Western music in both quantity and quality of questions.

Problems with World Music as Often Written
What I take the complaints to have been was this: World music as currently written (in HS sets and probably anything below ACF Regs or so) is not a fun experience to play.

A lot of world music questions are on instrument families, materials, etc and turn into games of fraud based on answerline space. A lot of other ones are basically history/ethnography/culture questions that restrict themselves unnecessarily by only talking about music and turn into lingfraud contests. Almost none of them really engage with the actual music in a deep manner.

While yes, this drives up conversion, it also makes the questions profoundly unfun to actually play, because the way you get the question produces no feeling that the content actually coheres or matters in a deeper sense as music.
"Encapsulation": the embedding of a relatively easier "substantive" clue within the context of a relatively harder clue; e.g., for "In Neo-Riemannian Theory, the R transformation exchanges the tonic for this scale degree, since R stands for Relative" the italicized clue is the "context," where the unitalicized clue constitutes the "substantive." **
Encapsulation is an excellent way to expand the canon but must be done with care and sparingly. The most draining type of set to play is the type where most of the words are not actually buzzable but are clearly put there just to talk about certain things. People cannot parse or remember that many clues at game speed, so if done in excess, encapsulation often just wastes people's time (since they don't actually remember or even pick up on the content) and results in questions that feel unsatisfyingly elementary once you think past the encapsulation. A set with a good amount of encapsulation is the best way to introduce topics; a set with too much is the best way to make people dismiss the topics as unimportant or dislike them.


Suggestions
Not at all exhaustive, but things that we can do:

"World music" need not only refer to music from outside of Europe and America; folk music and non-classical traditions within this region are also sorely lacking in content and seamlessly fit into the classical distribution as is, considering how many classical composers were influenced by it. Go into detail on Bach's quodlibet from the Goldbergs and his use of basically pop songs. Write about the Norwegian folk music that inspired Grieg, or what Bartok actually found and learned as a musicologist (more than him just being a musicologist). For examples from the great writers of LONE STAR (only HS regs!) on non-classical Western music, we included a bonus on Stephen Foster and a tossup on Eurovision.

As Aum said, cross-cultural interaction between classical and world music can also be done, and more easily than other world music due to named pieces and composers and coexistence with more "familiar" forms of music. Talk about transcriptions of classical pieces and performances by Lang Lang (who, for all his faults, has indeed made a modern form of classical music popular). Have a question about elements of the Yellow River Concerto in common with the great western Romantic composers. Or, on the other side of the world, clue some Piazzolla, who is amazingly popular and again bridges this gap, or the non-classical albums of Yo-Yo Ma. In the west itself, one could clue some notable traditional dances... flamenco and West Side Story, jigs/gigues and Scottish folk music (someone write that bagpipes question!), polkas and Strauss. There are surely many more possible examples. This is NOT to say that we should only ask about world music as it relates to western music, merely that that is one of the easiest places to introduce it.

When we do, often out of necessity, ask about world music in contexts outside of simply music (more in the history/culture world in general), we can simply classify these in the history distribution, feel more free to ask non-musical clues, and not feel constrained or artificial. Same goes for world art. Historians study material and artistic culture; there's no reason quiz bowl history can't have it too.

Do the most creative things in bonuses. Encapsulation, in particular, works much better when done as a common link in a bonus than when done in tossup clues (or even bonus clues). First of all, it forces the common link to actually be important to the player in some way, if only by repetition and prominence in the question. Since encapsulation by definition means the content does not affect how you answer the question unless you are that very rare player who actually knows the clue, we must make the content important in other ways. Second of all, taking away clue space by using up a leadin + giving hints to the player is much less annoying for the player than taking away clue space in places that are expected to be clue-dense.

Above all, we must make our questions interesting in themselves, not simply for being "world music." I think a lot of the pushback on "diversity" in sets in all categories is actually a pushback on misguided question writing. I firmly believe that these topics that we are trying to add to the canon can be asked about in important ways. We should not expand the canon just for diversity; we should do it because we are convinced we should include certain topics, independent of the diversity, and celebrate the inevitable diversity that results from the opening of our minds to the entire world. And we should write our questions accordingly.

Note: I talk about classical music a lot here. This is purely due to my familiarity with it. I'm sure that plenty of the same can be said about jazz, the other pillar of the canonical auditory fine arts distribution. Suggestions for expanding the jazz canon to be more diverse can largely mirror those for classical: bossa nova, Afro-Cuban jazz for "world music" that is cross-cultural with jazz, for example.
Daniel, Hunter College High School '19, Yale '23
User avatar
etotheipi
Lulu
Posts: 56
Joined: Thu Jun 13, 2019 9:13 pm

Re: How much "world" should there be in art?

Post by etotheipi »

Subotai the Valiant, Final Dog of War wrote: Fri Dec 24, 2021 8:44 pm 4. In terms of the player pool, I think that anecdotes about people's interactions with particular cultures of world music, while certainly relevant, miss the point. Do they interact with multiple cultures in that way? Do they have close to the same amount of knowledge of the entire body of reasonably asked-on world music as the entire body of classical music of the same level? I think that applies to many fewer people. I have general understandings of Chinese music theory and some instruments, but I am far more clueless about, say, Indian music than about jazz, simply because I have grown up in a society where certain parts of jazz have been vaguely part of my world (I have a lot of classical but no jazz training whatsoever and do not really listen to jazz). It is not helpful to generalize the experiences of myself or other specific people growing up in dual cultures to a general person.
I don't think this is at all a fair comparison to make.

Imagine if I were arguing that, say, Carnatic music should be the predominant topic asked about in the auditory fine arts distribution. You bring up the fact that plenty of people interact with non-Carnatic music on a daily basis. In response, I say, "Well, all your anecdotes point to the fact that people are engaged with a particular tradition of non-Carnatic music. But are people really engaged with the entire body of non-Carnatic music?"

Of course people won't be engaged with all of "world music," since it consists of many, many disparate threads. Of course, people will be engaged with all of Western classical music, precisely because it is pretty unified in comparison. The only reason this argument works is that we have a pithy word for "non-(Western classical music)" and not for "non-(Carnatic music)," or "non-(Hindustani music)," you get the point.

I'll add that it's not a crime for the distribution to overrepresent non-(Western classical music). At least from what I've observed, quizbowl is overwhelmingly played by white/some Asian people. I do not wish to speak for other people, but the fact that quizbowl is experiencing a sort of shift towards asking more on Indian culture/ritual has definitely increased my enthusiasm for the game - I get that this is a bit of a "stop whining about the canon and start learning things" moment but I think we can consider overrepresenting in questions demographics that are underrepresented in players, simply so we can make quizbowl possibly more attractive to those demographics. I'm not a history player nor have I been involved in writing history for any sets recently, but I've noticed a shift in the distribution towards questions focusing on notable accomplishments of non-males in history, or just questions on basic answerlines themed around non-males in history (like the "Communards" tossup in NASAT) - I think it's perfectly fine to sacrifice a question or two "too many" on Western culture to clue non-Western things.

Lastly, I'll say that people devote a lot more attention to the quality of non-Western questions than the quality of questions on "normal," Western things. There have definitely been some bad non-Western fine arts questions I've seen in my career, but there have also been opera tossups that are just lists of arias, classical music tossups that are a couple of score clues followed by endless title-drops, et cetera. What I'm trying to say here is that there might not actually be a problem with non-Western content - people just seem to want to criticize it more. [not trying to slyly accuse people of racism here, of course - it's part of a more general trend where people - me included - look for the faults in "innovative" question topics/styles, like non-Western content or social history or even just description acceptable tossups, while we look for the positives in "traditional" question styles]

Sidenote: I think we should retire the word "world" from quizbowl distributions - to me, at least, it has a bit of a pejorative connotation, sort of like "ethnic" (in the context of the phrase "ethnic music") but obviously quite a lot less problematic. "Non-Western" seems like it would work just as well, or maybe "music/literature from other traditions" - anything that doesn't imply that all "world music" or "world literature" fits into a cohesive tradition like Western music or literature, to some extent, does. I don't know - this could just be a weird hang-up I have.
Aadi Karthik (he/him/his)

Lambert High School (2022)

Groger Ranks
Subotai the Valiant, Final Dog of War
Wakka
Posts: 168
Joined: Tue Aug 08, 2017 6:12 pm

Re: How much "world" should there be in art?

Post by Subotai the Valiant, Final Dog of War »

etotheipi wrote: Fri Dec 24, 2021 9:54 pm
Subotai the Valiant, Final Dog of War wrote: Fri Dec 24, 2021 8:44 pm 4. In terms of the player pool, I think that anecdotes about people's interactions with particular cultures of world music, while certainly relevant, miss the point. Do they interact with multiple cultures in that way? Do they have close to the same amount of knowledge of the entire body of reasonably asked-on world music as the entire body of classical music of the same level? I think that applies to many fewer people. I have general understandings of Chinese music theory and some instruments, but I am far more clueless about, say, Indian music than about jazz, simply because I have grown up in a society where certain parts of jazz have been vaguely part of my world (I have a lot of classical but no jazz training whatsoever and do not really listen to jazz). It is not helpful to generalize the experiences of myself or other specific people growing up in dual cultures to a general person.
I don't think this is at all a fair comparison to make.

Imagine if I were arguing that, say, Carnatic music should be the predominant topic asked about in the auditory fine arts distribution. You bring up the fact that plenty of people interact with non-Carnatic music on a daily basis. In response, I say, "Well, all your anecdotes point to the fact that people are engaged with a particular tradition of non-Carnatic music. But are people really engaged with the entire body of non-Carnatic music?"

Of course people won't be engaged with all of "world music," since it consists of many, many disparate threads. Of course, people will be engaged with all of Western classical music, precisely because it is pretty unified in comparison. The only reason this argument works is that we have a pithy word for "non-(Western classical music)" and not for "non-(Carnatic music)," or "non-(Hindustani music)," you get the point.
I realize I made this point quite incoherently. My point was to convey how "world music" is different in terms of its overall cohesion as a category from "world history" (or "global history" if you want to include Europe + the US in that) in that it is fundamentally a large number of separate traditions that are very difficult to grasp in totality compared to a global history that threads many cultures together repeatedly. This is not to say that musical traditions don't interact, only that the interaction is much smaller. I also meant this to partially contrast it with world literature; to my knowledge, most people read a much larger variety of historical works of foreign literature in translation, on average, than listen to music of other regions. The separateness of the different traditions makes it very hard to write world music as a category that is not too hard, because very, very few players will have interacted with any given tradition at all (unless a huge proportion of your field has a single ethnic background, but that's not something we're aiming for). I really should have made my point clearer; my apologies.

I also want to make clear that I don't think that the minimal amount of world music today is an overrepresentation of the category. This purpose of my point 4 was not meant to say there shouldn't be more, well-written world music; it was that I strongly disagreed with the particular point that people were making that the average player would know about any given non-western tradition of world music remotely as much as that of western classical music.

Also yes, let's get rid of "world music" as a label; I certainly have used it to include US and European non-classical music, and I imagine others have too.
Daniel, Hunter College High School '19, Yale '23
User avatar
ErikC
Rikku
Posts: 250
Joined: Sat Sep 24, 2016 12:44 pm

Re: How much "world" should there be in art?

Post by ErikC »

I think another challenge with music outside of Western tradition is that, for many traditions, there's isn't the same depth of recordings available, like western classical music, or the same depth of famous, easy to find albums like jazz music. Of course, there's some exceptions to this, with famous bossa nova and afrobeat records, but for the potential new writer looking to find music to listen to it can be much higher to begin with some non-western traditions. Some of these traditions that are worth asking about won't really have standout works or artists to clue; many of the traditions that do often rely on one or two artists that have reached levels of fame in North America in popular music.

I think this is something that experienced writers have been able to navigate around but might hold back the broader adoption of better inclusion. I think the abundance of gamelan questions that were written last decade were sort of a self-fulfilling prophecy - writers played other people's gamelan questions, and those then inspired more. I think an encouraging trend is when newer writers or submitted questions can write fresh and well-constructed questions (I think Indian music has began to have this happen). I don't think we should dismiss criticism of non-western music questions for playability reasons if these questions aren't succeeding to be fun for some people or aren't really engaging based on the music itself (I do see what some people are saying).

The "world" music pack at Festivus (Eric Gunter, Ashish Subramanian, Vincent Du, Ian He) was really interesting and fun to play, and had some fresh ways of cluing things, but it's waaay harder than the questions needed for standard tournaments for the non-western FA we're talking about here. Some of the ideas should be transferable though.

Also, I'll quickly add that making more room for this content in the distro to avoid cutting the western content people enjoy would be cool, perhaps by cutting other cats that I won't name in this thread.
Erik Christensen
University of Waterloo - School of Planning Class of '18
I write trash
Defending VETO top scorer
User avatar
Gerald Ford's Economics
Lulu
Posts: 13
Joined: Sun Oct 06, 2019 11:43 am

Re: How much "world" should there be in art?

Post by Gerald Ford's Economics »

I think another challenge with music outside of Western tradition is that, for many traditions, there's isn't the same depth of recordings available, like western classical music, or the same depth of famous, easy to find albums like jazz music. Of course, there's some exceptions to this, with famous bossa nova and afrobeat records, but for the potential new writer looking to find music to listen to it can be much higher to begin with some non-western traditions. Some of these traditions that are worth asking about won't really have standout works or artists to clue; many of the traditions that do often rely on one or two artists that have reached levels of fame in North America in popular music.
I think this and other posts raise an interesting question: When asking about foreign music, where should we draw the line between something that should go in the FA distribution and something that should go in the pop-culture distribution? There are some foreign (by which I mean more particularly non-English-speaking) artists who most people would agree fall cleanly in one or the other. BTS or Nena are obviously pop culture, for example, while (in my opinion, which seems to be mostly borne out by past question writers) Django Reinhardt is obviously fine arts. (Side note: I was surprised to learn that there has never been an Asha Bhosle question, at least per QuizDB and Aseems; she hasn't even featured as a clue. I don't know much about Bollywood and Indian pop music in general as I should; is this as surprising as it seems?)

But what distinguishes, say, a Fela Kuti (about whom, according to QuizDB, there have been three questions, two of them categorized as trash and one as literature within CO Trash 2018) from a Louis Armstrong (whose questions are almost always categorized as part of the FA distribution)? To take another foreign example, what about Kuti and Tom Jobim (three questions, all FA)? Of course, Louis Armstrong is much more famous to the median American than Fela Kuti or Tom Jobim, and I'm not arguing that they should be asked about in anywhere near the same volume or at the same difficulty. There's no systematic way of doing categorizing them — it'll always have to be done on a case-by-case basis. Still, how we categorize these foreign artists can feel a little haphazard, and as more foreign music seeps into the canon, which seems likely, we're going to be faced with these questions more and more.
Pedro Juan Orduz
HCHS '21 Boston University '25
User avatar
Krik? Krik?! KRIIIIK!!!
Wakka
Posts: 169
Joined: Wed Aug 02, 2017 9:17 pm

Re: How much "world" should there be in art?

Post by Krik? Krik?! KRIIIIK!!! »

I'll go ahead and jump in here to discuss the visual side of the world art discussion as I feel the above conversation does a good job discussing the auditory component.

In my opinion, I don't think it's hard to include world visual art and do it justice in a set - whether its at a high school regs level or a collegiate tournament. There's a couple reasons for this:
1. Art is a product and a symbol of culture. Art accompanies the way that many people in the West learn about the history or culture of other places around the world. Quizbowl sometimes is less of a game of "remember this exact thing cold" and more of "here is a bunch of reminders/clues to bring this thing out of your memory."

For instance, if someone asked me to give them a 5 sentence description of what a kimono is, I could give a sentence or two about what it is, but I don't think I could do more. Let's say I'm now playing a tossup where the answerline is "kimono." I couldn't buzz early, but based on what I know about Japan and my general idea of what a kimono is, with the information I'm given, I could make a good guess and buzz. Likewise, I could probably piece together "kimono" based on a description in a bonus. Once you factor in difficulty, you have a multitude of different ways you could approach this and have it work out.

2. There is a large variety of answerlines you can use to ask about world art. As mentioned above, the standards for artistic attribution is different around the world when compared to how the strong "artist ---> work" relation emerged in the West. There are plenty of things you can used as either an answerline or as clues on a world visual arts questions. Some of them include:

-country of origin -materials used in creation -location (city, region, etc) -culture of origin -common motifs/subjects -techniques in creation (for instance, there's plenty of questions talking about stucco or tempura paint, etc - similar traditions evolved in different parts of the world) -dance -religious art -film -artifacts/cultural relics -modern artists from around the world (though some are able to be in the answerspace on their own, oftentimes at lower difficulties, a world artist can be a cool way to link a bonus or provide a first line from "art inspired/responding to this painter" or the like) -civilizations/empires that produced art -world leaders who financed or inspired art pieces -events or other things that commonly inspired world art -traditional architecture

I may add more to this, but I really do want to nail the point home again that often times the ideas for world visual questions are just waiting there. Let's say I want to write a VFA question around India or Indian culture, but I'm not sure what I can write it about. When I think of "India," the first thing that pops into my mind is the Taj Mahal - boom, that can be a standard tossup I think any room could convert at a high school level tournament. Next think to come to mind is stuff like henna - this is actually how I came up with my tossup on "hands" from this past year's NASAT, clueing different world art traditions that used hands (like henna, hamsa amulets in the Middle East, etc).

3. This is a specific point, but I like to think about writing about art from a certain community has the same nuts and bolts whether its in the West or not: you clue perhaps specific influences, the most famous artworks, common motifs, etc. I think a tossup whose answerline is "Spain" and clues the techniques (but not necessarily the specific works or artists) that developed around still-lifes versus a tossup whose answerline is the "Aztecs" and clues the materials and techniques used to create their unique artform is stylistically pretty similar.

I made this point in another thread, but I want to make it again: it's super easy to put in diverse or worldly content into a question even if its a topic that you normally wouldn't expect it to be there. A big reason why I enjoy quiz bowl is because I learn about new people, places, and things that bring new meaning to things in my life. Folding in world content helps keep the canon exciting and people learning and can be done with relative ease at any level.
Ganon Evans
ACF Treasurer 2021-2023, MOQBA
Francis Howell High School 2018, University of Iowa 2021
User avatar
Zealots of Stockholm
Tidus
Posts: 585
Joined: Fri Jul 10, 2015 3:28 am
Location: Nashville, TN

Re: How much "world" should there be in art?

Post by Zealots of Stockholm »

A Dim-Witted Saboteur wrote: Fri Dec 24, 2021 5:28 pm I want to argue that the non-presence of world art in some high school curricula (although that may not be as much of a thing as quiz bowl distros assume: I never took a high school art class but when I self-studied AP Art History, at least, a good part of the curriculum covered African, Islamicate, Latin American, and South and East Asian art) should not be an excuse to stymie efforts at diversifying the canon. The high school quiz bowl canon already covers a lot of things that are very seldom brought up in high school-level coursework, and asking about things makes them more askable in future tournaments. African authors such as Nadine Gordimer and Wole Soyinka, for example, came up more seldom and at far higher difficulties at the beginning of this past decade than more recently without much of a corresponding shift in their "real-world" fame and curricularity (I found that Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie also underwent such a shift in canonicity, although this case is not as clear-cut given the fame of some of her newer work). While groundedness in high school curricula is an admirable goal especially for mass-market sets, it should not be allowed to serve as a complete block on other worthwhile goals. An ideal non-Western art distribution should fill at least 1/4, and possibly up to 1/3, of art questions in general.
I feel at some level compelled to respond to this thread since I write a fair amount of painting/sculpture/visual arts questions each year. Jakob's post stood out to me as a highlight of the thread and I wanted to reply to it. They're absolutely right here, and I'm remembering back to my time at Auburn when I had a teammate who reliably scooped up an art question or two per tournament thanks to the nonwestern content they learned in APAH (which I never had the opportunity to take). I do think Jakob's stated goal here of 1/4 of art questions being nonwestern is a bit lofty, as its probably double (or even more than double in some sets) of the current amount.

Now I would like to talk about difficulty a bit. I'm of the opinion that high schools sets (especially regular difficulty and below) should emphasize playability and accessibility above all else. Ultimately, those sets are played by lots of teams that are new, don't play that often, etc., and we must make sure the sets are an enjoyable experience for those teams. With that being said, Jakob, Ganon, and others in this thread have made good points about accessible ways to ask world art at that level. At two dots an above collegiate difficulty, there's plenty of room for world art (particularly in Other Arts imo). I do personally find asking about more classical art traditions from nonwestern countries more difficult than contemporary artists from those countries, who are often more influenced by western styles and tradition. There are also plenty of ways to include nonwestern clues in questions primarily clueing from western traditions.

Another point I'd like to address: While "de-colonizing the canon" is an admirable goal, and I'm all for writing more questions on diverse perspectives/populations/etc., I don't think its something that we as quizbowl writers can actually do. A "canon" exists in the academic world beyond quizbowl, and it's quite Eurocentric. I would actually argue quizbowl's canon is already much more diverse than a standard academic one. Ultimately I do think that having the majority of questions fall within an academic canon is a positive for the game, but there's plenty of room to include world art content while working with that premise.

(editing in a sidenote to say that I think Adichie coming up more isn't quite comparable to Soyinka/Gordimer since qb tends to lag behind contemporary literature by about 5 years or so, and I think we saw a spike in Adichie questions around ~2017, 4 years since her last novel.)
Chandler West
Vanderbilt University '22
Auburn University '20
Good Hope High School (Cullman, AL) '16
Full Member, ACF; Member, PACE
Post Reply