This playlist is dedicated to the analytical and artistic lens of “Fourth World Music”, a term coined by Jon Hassell around 1980, with the purpose of developing not only an aesthetic language and approach for music making but a way of engaging with the diverse cultures and contexts from which discrete musical and cultural elements come.
While Hassell and other FWM figures have since acknowledged the problematic language and limitations of the “first-” and “third”- world (which, when combined, give way to the “fourth”), one could consider the approach a way of critically engaging with the complex realities of cultural and musical exchange that result from such dichotomies. By using and processing different source materials and integrating various scales, modalities, tonalities and rhythmic structures, Fourth World Music can be a way to push against and blur the boundaries between musical genres, influences and styles. Nowadays, the integration of disparate musical elements is common practice across nearly every genre of music.
Upon brief reflection, one realises the potential pitfalls of the Fourth World Music approach: north/south power imbalances, gender parity issues, and cultural and material appropriation, just to name a few. But if done in a careful and considered fashion, Fourth World Music also carries with it the potential to tip the scales, bridge gaps, forge collaboration, elevate artists and cultures and challenge how we make, experience and (re)contextualise music. Thanks to the advent of cheaper, more accessible music technologies and publishing platforms, artists now have easier access to content and audiences.
The playlist is ordered chronologically, starting with what one could call “Proto-FWM”, moving to classical interpretations of the genre and into more modern and less ostensibly related implementations of the approach.