Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Music Media

Old and New Technology in the Land of None 227

Posted by michael
from the mosquito-coast dept.
ninthwave writes "The Guardian has this article on the adventures of piano tuners in the Amazon. I think it is a nice lesson in the age of technology to see the perceived hardships of using technology in areas where the natives are quite happy without. More impressive is the old wooden piano seems to survive better than the new synth but that is horse of a different colour."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Old and New Technology in the Land of None

Comments Filter:
  • by itallushrt (148885) on Friday December 13, 2002 @01:50PM (#4881899) Homepage
    Who in their right mind needs a piano in the amazon? I'd be concerned with bug repellant than hearing Mozarts 5th.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      amazingly, the people who LIVE THERE, seem to be able to deal with the mosquitos, and can move on to things to occupy their time.

      Go figure.
  • phew (Score:4, Funny)

    by grub (11606) <slashdot@grub.net> on Friday December 13, 2002 @01:51PM (#4881907) Homepage Journal

    I almost didn't get to read this story on old technology, one of the tubes in my computer died.
  • by craenor (623901) on Friday December 13, 2002 @01:51PM (#4881909) Homepage
    The piano? Or the guy who delivers a baby grand piano into the Amazon...
  • by Anonvmous Coward (589068) on Friday December 13, 2002 @01:53PM (#4881928)
    "More impressive is the old wooden piano seems to survive better than the new synth but that is horse of a different colour."

    I found this statement a little lacking in depth. The 'synth' isn't there to replace the piano specifically, it's there to provide a wide range of sounds. The keyboard interface is a very practical one for a classically trained musician to pick up and play. If it were here to replace the piano, it would have to not only faithfully recreate the sound, but it'd also have to provide the same feedback a piano does. When you play a piano, you can feel the hammers hitting the strings. This kind of feedback make it more natural to play. That's why it still has it's place.

    Sorry for the rant, I just found the comparison a little silly. Kind of like comparing an alarm clock to the clock in Windows.

    My comment about the 'keyboard interface that any musician can pick up' reminded me of something kind of interesting. Have any of you seen how the sound for the Simpsons is mastered? The sound guy has a guitar hooked up to a computer. He uses it to time when sounds take place. I thought that was a very unusual use for a guitar, but that's what he could play! I thought that was pretty cool.
    • The sound guy has a guitar hooked up to a computer. He uses it to time when sounds take place. I thought that was a very unusual use for a guitar...

      Not at all. I have a guitar synth myself, a Roland GR-50. It has a special pickup that you can attach to pretty much any steel-string guitar; it figures out what string and note is being play and uses that to control the synth and to generate MIDI events.

      I've also seen a MIDI "wind controller" that played like a saxaphone, and MIDI "drums" - both standard kit and hand-drums. Each of these input methods has different nuances - for example. with the guitar synth you can only play 6 notes at a time, as opposed to 10 for a keyboard, but bending notes is much easier.

      • "Not at all. I have a guitar synth myself, a Roland GR-50. It has a special pickup that you can attach to pretty much any steel-string guitar; it figures out what string and note is being play and uses that to control the synth and to generate MIDI events. "

        That's pretty cool! Wish I had something more insightful to say than that, but I don't. It's starting to become clear that musicians have a broader toolset on the PC than most people are aware of.

        Anybody else know of some cool input stuff like that? I've been looking for cheap ways to capture data like that (such as a music keyboard), I want to do a form of motion capture so I can animate stuff in Lightwave more naturally. It beats manually creating keyframes!
      • that played like a saxaphone

        Sweet! But, ehm, it's Saxophone.

        Each of these input methods has different nuances [..]

        What are the nuances of the "wind controller" then? Only 1 note a time thus no cords...hmmm
    • by fireboy1919 (257783) <rustyp.freeshell@org> on Friday December 13, 2002 @02:14PM (#4882110) Homepage Journal
      People want PIANOs that can produce a wide range of sounds. That's why synths exist. Here are some features on modern day keyboard that prove my point:
      weighted keys: so that it feels the same as a piano. You can't feel the hammers hitting the strings, you can only feel how hard it is to press the keys. Modern synths have this.
      touch sensitivity:Harder hit means more sound...like a piano.
      88 keys:There's no reason that a synth should have so many keys, since it is usually portable, and thre isn't a lot of synth-only music (meaning that the range could be dictated by the instrument). Unless, of course, its a replacement for the piano.

      This doesn't apply to all keyboards because all of these features are rather expensive. But most good keyboard players get their keyboards with all of these features. Saying they're not the same is like saying that a piano wasn't a replacement for the harpsichord (which could only play one volume).

      Interesting how we name our keyed instruments - based upon whatever feature they have that the previous instrument didn't. Pianos where originally called "forte-pianos," and synths...
      • by callipygian-showsyst (631222) on Friday December 13, 2002 @04:47PM (#4883312) Homepage
        I'm a professional pianist [robert.to] and I can tell you that you're all wrong.

        • On a real piano, you don't "feel the hammers hitting the strings". There's an "escapement mechanism" that releases the hammer before it hits the strings. There's no mechanical linkage between key and hammer at the actual moment of impact. Inertia carries it there.
        • Harder hit doesn't mean more sound. FASTER hit does. This is how a concert pianist can play for hours without killing his hands and wrists. Want more sound? Lift your fingers higher so they press the keys faster.
        • A synth is not a piano. It's an instument--usually contolled by a keyboard--that can produce a wide range of sounds.
        I cannot perform on a fake piano. It has to be real. No "good keyboard player" has ever learned to play on anything but a real piano. At least none that I ever met.
        • How long have good synths been around? Most "good" piano players I know started as children, so likely good synth players will as well. Anyone older than 25 couldn't really have grown up with a synth the way most piano players grew up with a piano.

          Eventually synths will take over. There's no sound difference some good DSP code can't fix and they're much more than just a piano.
      • I was actually commenting not on the difference between synths and piano's as instruments. I play both and understand a good synth's design but commenting on the durability of a 70 year old piano and a few year old synth. The cult of plastic in instruments does worry me and that was the horse of the different colour.
    • feedback (Score:5, Interesting)

      by carlcmc (322350) on Friday December 13, 2002 @02:17PM (#4882140)
      I'm sorry, but you are mistaken in saying that the feedback of hammers hitting the strings cannot be reproduced. While I might be healthcare, i also play classical music on the piano, and for 2500 you can get a digital piano that has as good if not better feedback as your standard uprights in the same price range. Granted a grand piano is better, but what percentage of people are able to afford a 15k to 20k grand piano?. A digital piano such as a korg for instance never requires tuning, has excellent feed back and record and play back. I suppose you may have been talking just about synths that have keys but no feed back, but i wanted to respond to the misconeption that you can't get great feed back with digital.
      • Re:feedback (Score:4, Informative)

        by Gsus411 (544087) on Friday December 13, 2002 @02:33PM (#4882274) Homepage
        I would love to see some of these digital pianos you speak of. I have played on just about every piano possible, from Steinway grands to no-name uprights from 100 years ago to the most elaborate digital pianos available. A good digital piano may have a better response than a cheap $700 dollar throwaway. But for the $2,500 you mention, you can get a decent upright with better response than any digital piano you can find for any price.

        My $0.02.....
    • by pogen (303331) on Friday December 13, 2002 @02:30PM (#4882257) Homepage
      When you play a piano, you can feel the hammers hitting the strings.

      Actually, you can't. The hammer loses contact with the rest of the action before it hits the strings so that it can bounce back and allow the strings to resonate. Otherwise, by holding the key down, you would also be holding the hammer against the strings, giving you a nice "thud" sound.

      But I'm just being pedantic. Yes, the action has a certain feel that is lacking in most synthesizers. There are a few, though, that have come reasonably close.

  • In other news... (Score:3, Flamebait)

    by EvilAlien (133134) on Friday December 13, 2002 @01:53PM (#4881929) Journal
    ... cameras steal your soul.

    Anyways, I might as well try to say something half-ways intelligent...

    We often take technology for granted, assuming that lack of understanding is some sort of mental or cultural deficiency, whereas our general and almost complete in ability to survive if left in the middle of a rain forest without help is somehow a noble mark of civilization. Those who hunt and provide for their own food are somehow throwbacks in a technological society.

    To ensure that this ties into News for Nerds, I'd like to point out that the juxtaposition of high and low technology is one of the central concepts to Firefly [fox.com]. I find it funny when people complain about the rediculousness of low-tech firearms on a spaceship... on the frontiers of civilization.

    • by swm (171547)
      I find it funny when people complain about the rediculousness of low-tech firearms on a spaceship

      OK, I'll bite.

      I used to watch Lost In Space when I was a kid. I knew it was hokey, but as long as I accepted it on its own terms, it was good enought for TV.

      Then one year I came home from college, and I was channel surfing, and I stumbled across an old episode. The Robinsons were trapped on some alien space craft, and they were shooting their way out, firing those laser pistols they always carried, and then one of them starts lobbing grenades...and I'm just sitting there thinking...
      ...yeah, that's the ticket. Whenever
      I'm on board a strange spacecraft, I always lob a few fragmentation grenades around. If their containment vessel can't handle the shock, that's their problem.

      Hissing noise? What hissing noise? Hey...does the air in here seem little thin?
    • by tomhudson (43916) <.barbara.hudson. ... bara-hudson.com.> on Friday December 13, 2002 @02:41PM (#4882330) Journal
      <quote>I find it funny when people complain about the rediculousness of low-tech firearms on a spaceship</quote>

      Low-tech or not, it'll kill ya, and dead is dead.

      Lets face it, we're still dependent upon the 7 "low-tech" discoveries/inventions of the Neanderthals:

      1. Fire
      2. Farming
      3. Art
      4. Weaponry
      5. Animal Husbandry
      6. Clothing
      7. vi and unix (well, religion, and holy wars in general)
      • Lets face it, we're still dependent upon the 7 "low-tech" discoveries/inventions of the Neanderthals
        I don't know if the Neandies had this one, but the sine-qua-non of our existence that didn't make your list is:

        CONTAINERS!

        Yes, the lowly BAG. Hunting and gathering really, really sucked when you had to jam those tubers up your ass in order to free your hands to pick more.

        The mighty BAG made it possible to carry your stuff around. Unfortunately, it made warfare and plunder possible, as it made it possible for other people to carry your stuff around, too. ;)

        Forget this fancy-schmancy "fire" stuff. BAG all the way!
        • You know, you're right. And it's interesting that much of our knowledge of past times comes from pot-shards (containers). Son-of-a-bitch! :-)

          Mind you, this might come under the heading of "tools" in general, oh, wft.

        • Yep. Containers or ways to carry stuff. I bet some tribes never really needed fire, but the ability to carry things whilst leaving your hands free was ever important. I'm sure many moms invented a multitude of ways to carry their babies whilst leaving their hands free.

          Still, fire enabled a wider range of cooking/food processing. And that leads to wider types and varieties of food. Mmmmm :).

  • What, Amazon needs piano tuners? I know they've got a big line of products, but shipping on pianos has goto to be expensive!

    Oh, we're not talking about Amazon.com?
  • Eww... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Wampus Aurelius (627669) on Friday December 13, 2002 @01:57PM (#4881968)
    The case was full of insect eggs; she thought that perhaps cockroaches had done the damage and spent a few minutes chasing one adult through the innards.

    Can you imagine when someone plays Beethoven's 5th?

    DONG DONG DONG (squish)
    • Re:Eww... (Score:3, Funny)

      by JJAnon (180699)
      I can see you do not have a classical education :P. The accepted transliteration of Beethoven's Fifth is

      Da Da Da DUM

      So that should read:
      Da Da Da (SQUISH)

      Note the careful use of CAPITALS to emphasize changes in volume.
  • by Pig Hogger (10379) <pig.hogger@NoSpAM.gmail.com> on Friday December 13, 2002 @01:58PM (#4881977) Journal
    Engineering DOESN'T HAVE TO BE high-tech.

    It only has to WORK WELL, with whatever is at hand.

    Inuktitut writing [halfmoon.org] looks cryptic. Yet it was devised by whites, and designed to work well with the writing implements available to the inuit: bones and stones. They weren't forced to use the roman alphabet which they could not transcribe properly.

    Good design and engineering works by using what's available, not shoving down foreign and/or scarce technologies.

    • I tried to write something in Inuktitut on that page you linked, but I couldn't write "Hello World!" because there is no h!
    • Agreed. The problem with things today is that people thingk that things have to be "thhe latest" or "the highest tech" in order to work well. Case in point: calssrooms could have high tech whiteboards that wirelessly update notes to everyones laptop. Cost tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars, not to mention the cost of the laptops for the students. Or you could use a black board with chalk and have the students take notes. Educational value is higher when people have to write things down themselves, plus you dont have to spend 50000 on a chalkboard.
  • by gosand (234100) on Friday December 13, 2002 @02:01PM (#4882012)
    An interesting read I guess, but I never really got the point of the story except that it was a heck of a challenge to get that piano delivered. I found this part of the story to be particularly sad though:

    But if any of us had been expecting half-naked, blowpipe-wielding savages, we were disappointed. The American missionaries who converted the tribe in the 1950s taught them Christian modesty, and they now favour shorts and T-shirts, largely supplied by visitors and aid agencies. The footwear of choice is the plastic flip-flop.

    A tribe that small, in that remote of a location, and Christians still feel the need to impose their religion on them. Quite sad.

    • Did you miss the part about how the piano was requested by the tribe for their Sunday church services?
    • Though I am more specifically Catholic than Christian and I have barely been to church in years and thus non practicing, I feel I should mention that no one MADE them accept a religious doctrine. Also, no one made them accept flip flops, t-shirts, ect. They have survived for hundreds of years without Christianity, flip flops and the Simpsons. Though I hear they can't understand why they get to only see the Simpsons once a day and not 4.

      :P

      • by Greedo (304385) on Friday December 13, 2002 @02:35PM (#4882298) Homepage Journal
        I don't mean this confrontationally, but how do you know no one "made" them accept Christianity?

        The fact that someone even attempted to convert them, let alone that they succeeded, is bad enough. What was wrong with their belief system before that some missionary felt it their duty to "save" these "savages"? The history of missionary work is rife with "forced" conversions (Inquisition, anyone?). I realize this probably wasn't the case in the 1950's, but who knows.

        Those American missionaries also taught them "Christian modesty", which could be a thin disguise (in my tin-foil hat world) for "American hegemonic consumerism". Why else would they favour shorts and T-shirts, or ask for an electric keyboard.

        Again, missionary work isn't always about spreading the Good Word. In fact, it is based on the assumption that the indigenous Good Word wasn't Good Enough to start with.

        • What was wrong with their belief system before that some missionary felt it their duty to "save" these "savages"? The history of missionary work is rife with "forced" conversions (Inquisition, anyone?).

          Mmmm. Hmmm....

          I realize this probably wasn't the case in the 1950's, but who knows.

          Ah, right. So you knew your statement was misleading, and inflammatory, but you provided it anyway. And nice use of 'who knows'! After all, perhaps the inquisition *was* in the 1950's! Or, maybe they were whipped with noodles!

          Those American missionaries also taught them "Christian modesty", which could be a thin disguise (in my tin-foil hat world) for "American hegemonic consumerism". Why else would they favour shorts and T-shirts[...?]

          Too right! Why else indeed. Only Americans wear shorts and T-shirts!

          In fact, it is based on the assumption that the indigenous Good Word[...]

          Er. What? The indigenous... oh, forget it.
          • Ah, right. So you knew your statement was misleading, and inflammatory, but you provided it anyway. And nice use of 'who knows'!

            Hey, this *is* Slashdot ... not the Harvard debating team. :)

            Too right! Why else indeed. Only Americans wear shorts and T-shirts!

            Okay, let's try that again ... "American-style hegemonic consumerism" would've been fairer. Heck, I wear tshirts! But mostly because I was born in a culture where they were readily available ... the "native dress", if you will.
            • Hey, this *is* Slashdot ... not the Harvard debating team. :)

              Oh, but if only it were! I won't sit around holding my breath, though.

              As for American-(style/wise/ish) hegemonic consumerism, there's something in that statement that makes me want to hit you about the head and shoulders with a club, but you're too nice a person! Dammit. I can't tolerate niceness in response to a good, solid flame. It makes some of my wiring go all wonky. =p

              Anyway, I'll express my origional opinion, like some other people said - even if you hear the pitch, you don't have to buy. It holds true for DVD players, and religion! So uh... I dunno. I can't feel bad for the natives, especially when they sit on their rears, and make the Brits carry the piano. =)
        • Well, I guess what I meant is that no one held a gun to their head and said believe or die. I am with you that I don't like someone's beliefs pushed on me, but I can say no, even if I listen to the whole pitch.

          My wife went on a "mission" when she was a teen. (again, though I was raised catholic, I am not a practicing one at this point - just a disclaimer) They built playgrounds for kids, taught them about oral hygiene, and brought them stuff similar to tee shirts and flip flops. Granted this was Yougoslavia (I know I butchered the spelling) and not somewhere in the Amazon, so their cultural influence was less prominant than if she had done the same in the Amazon.

          Though they were also willing to talk about Christianity to anyone who would listen, that wasn't actually their prime directive while there. They just wanted to help.

          Granted everyone's idea of helping isn't the same.

          But they really did go there with higher priorities than converting heathens.

    • A tribe that small, in that remote of a location, and Christians still feel the need to impose their religion on them. Quite sad.

      Hardly.

      Let's assume, for the sake of understanding the Christian missionaries, that they ARE right, and that life now and hereafter DOES get better if you're a Christian.

      Given _just that_, it makes sense to want to expose as many people as possible to their religion.

      Now, if we discard the "the Christians are right" assumption and simply look at it from a general standpoint, it STILL isn't "sad." It's not like they're requiring them to make pilgrimages to Rome (Muslim tradition) or give up temporal desires (Bhuddism).

      It's a form of charity, which, seeing as most of humanity thinks that clothing is a good thing, can be concluded as more than cultural self-interest and being real honest charity.

      Please, drop your anti-Christian/anti-religion bias. If everyone in the world had computers, you wouldn't call Linux (over BSD or the existing-and-never-upgraded-DOS) advocates "sad" now, would you?
      • Let's assume, for the sake of understanding the Christian missionaries, that they ARE right, and that life now and hereafter DOES get better if you're a Christian.

        Let's assume that the missionaries are wrong. Let's assume that the local beliefs are right. Let's further assume that the locals' conversion to Christianity angers their gods and causes those gods to put a curse on the village and the crops. Let's assume that the villagers then starve to death.

        You are going on the assumption that there is some reason to believe that Christianity is "right" and that local belief systems are "wrong." That's simply not the case.

        Now, if we discard the "the Christians are right" assumption and simply look at it from a general standpoint, it STILL isn't "sad."

        Yes, it is. These people probably had a rich cultural heritage and religious views that were passed down from generation to generation in stories. Losing that so that they can be added to the Catholic Church's list of conquests is very sad.
        • You are going on the assumption that there is some reason to believe that Christianity is "right" and that local belief systems are "wrong." That's simply not the case.

          In that case, the neighboring locals can laugh at the misconduct of this small tribe.

          Yes, it is. These people probably had a rich cultural heritage and religious views that were passed down from generation to generation in stories. Losing that so that they can be added to the Catholic Church's list of conquests is very sad.

          Bullocks. If there's anything worth keeping, it'll be kept.

          Look how well the native americans lost their culture and heritage to the converting of the colonists. (What? They're still around? Gosh!)

          The fact is, if it wasn't missionaries--who, for the ignorant, aren't all catholic--it would be some other entity with a use for the land. Missionares actually care about the people, even if they have a nonscientific judge of it.

          Let's compare the morality of the missionary to that of the exploratory scientist, who only wants them for personal or ethnocentric scientific gain, or the businessman, who only wants them for their market / land.

          Nope, not "sad" at all.
      • When did Muslims start making pilgramages to Rome? I thought it was Mecca. Silly me...

        The point is that an otherwise prospering culture has been given the shiny beads treatment. A couple simple rules to life: Diversity = good, Homogenity = death.
        • The point is that an otherwise prospering culture has been given the shiny beads treatment. A couple simple rules to life: Diversity = good, Homogenity = death.
          How insultingly patronizing can you get? The Wai Wai are just as intelligent as we are; they are capable of picking parts of Western culture they want to adopt, and leaving the rest behind. Just like the Japanese. Hell, just like the West.

          Would you be so concerned if some people in, say, California became Buddhist? Aren't you sad that they've been hoodwinked by the mysteries of the East, and their diversity reduced? Give it a break.

          You seem to be laboring under the misapprehension that "all cultures are equal" and should be cherished equally. Forget it. These people's precious culture didn't invent writing for them, or medicine, or clothing, or Christianity, but guess what? They like all that stuff. They want it. Don't ghettoize these poor folks into a nice little illiterate culture zoo just so you can be happy that "diversity is being protected". Fuck that. I say offer every last fucking tribe on Earth a refrigerator, some good shoes with arch support, and a writing system if they don't have one.

          Stop treating the Wai Wai as children that you have to protect from our poisonous culture. Give them the respect and dignity that they deserve, and let them make their own choices.

          One last thing... you say "Diversity = good, Homogenity = death". Please clarify. I understand how that works out in agriculture, or heck, even population genetics, but I don't see the relevance to cultural choices. Not trying to troll here, I'm trying to understand what you're getting at.
      • "Hardly."

        Hear, hear. Whenever people start shouting how Christians shouldn't convert people to their religion, and that it's wrong for them to do so, I'm always amazed that they are forgetting the central tenet of Christianity: only Christians go to Heaven. Everyone else, no matter how nice you are, goes to Hell. Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Wiccans, they're all bound for eternal damnation according to us Christians, because they reject the divinity of Christ.

        Given all that, it can only be considered cruel to not attempt to convert people (though I'll grant there are better, more civilized, ways of doing it than others...conversion at the point of a sword isn't quite what Jesus had in mind, I'm sure).
        • Well, that's their point of view, but just because you can understand someone's point of view doesn't mean you have to excuse it. Christians can think whatever they want; I think they have no place meddling about in other people's business and ought to leave well enough alone. Of course I understand why they do it: but it's still obnoxious and unhelpful. Why should the rest of us care what Christians think about their mythical "heaven" and "hell"? That's their problem.

          -Mars
          • How do you propose to help people by leaving them well enough alone? Or are you saying it's fine for others to help but not Christians?

            Maybe you think the tribes don't need help? Or they don't need more friends in the world? Demonstrate your love for those people, then I will believe that you have their interests at heart if you tell me they don't need our help. I may not agree with you, but at least I will respect you.

            Christians preach love. If we do not show love how can we be Christians? Christianity is about love - God so loved the world that he sent his beloved Son down to die for us.

            If there are tribes turning to Christianity in the Amazon that's usually because Christians are helping them. They aren't stupid, they know a good tree bears good fruit. A useless tree that looks good but bears no fruit or bad fruit is often chopped down and burnt for firewood.

            As far as I see, most missionaries are far from unhelpful or obnoxious. In fact the people they try to help may be unhelpful:
            http://www.hillsdale.edu/dept/Phil&Rel /Biography/0 1/08.html

            As far as I know, it's the missionaries that build schools, hospitals and educate people. It's the secular commercial traders etc who come bearing cannons and opium. You rather the traders reach the natives first?

            In many countries including mine the elite schools are the missionary/christian schools, due to the legacy the "foreigners" laid down. Even the non-christian rich battle to send their children to those schools.
          • "Of course I understand why they do it: but it's still obnoxious and unhelpful."

            Suppose you found someone on the side of the road, beaten and bloody, dying of their wounds. In their blood-loss driven dementia, they claim they need no help. Would you leave them to die, or help them get medical attention anyway? If you called 911 for an ambulance, wouldn't that be "meddling"? Sometimes you have to meddle in other people's business for their own good, it's called being part of a community and sharing social responsibility.
      • Sad why?

        Because it supplants the tribe's own belief systems, losing that part of their culture and making the world poorer for the loss. You may feel that teaching primitive, innocent people to feel shame about their own bodies is good. I, and others, do not.
        • It seems your premise is that people shouldn't pollute each other's minds by communicating with each other.
          • It seems your premise is that people shouldn't pollute each other's minds by communicating with each other.

            Not at all. When two equals communicate, that's great. But when a group of missionaries ties assistance, education, and religious teachings together in one lump package, it does a terrible disservice to less-advanced peoples (who may not be able to separate facts -- about, say, food safety -- from religious beliefs).
        • Sad why?

          Because it supplants the tribe's own belief systems, losing that part of their culture and making the world poorer for the loss. You may feel that teaching primitive, innocent people to feel shame about their own bodies is good. I, and others, do not.
          What about teaching them to read? Are you against that too?

          What really saddens me is that you, presumably a Westerner, seem to believe that all cultures are equally valid, and that the only reason you have the ideals and lifestyle you have is that you were born here (for some value of here).

          I like to think that universal literacy, the scientific method, freedom of (lots of things), not getting shot with arrows, etc, are great things, not just my particular tribal taboos. I am genuinely sad for people who don't have these things, and would like to offer them the benefits of our culture.

          They don't have to accept, that's certainly their right, but I think they'll be silly to turn down the things the West has to offer. Doubtless they'll take the parts they like, and skip the rest. What's wrong with that?

          One more thing here, and I want a sincere answer. Why is the world poorer for the loss of cultural diversity? Are you worried about a particular dance no longer being performed? The loss of some pagan religion? The loss of a language (I'll admit, as a linguist that one gives me the heebie-jeebies)? The loss of wearing loincloths? Please tell.
          • What about teaching them to read? Are you against that too?

            No. I am in favor of education -- just not religious indoctrination.

            I like to think that universal literacy, the scientific method, freedom of (lots of things), not getting shot with arrows, etc, are great things, not just my particular tribal taboos. I am genuinely sad for people who don't have these things, and would like to offer them the benefits of our culture.

            I agree. And I would add farming techniques, medicine, and birth control to that list of valuable things we can teach.

            They don't have to accept, that's certainly their right, but I think they'll be silly to turn down the things the West has to offer. Doubtless they'll take the parts they like, and skip the rest. What's wrong with that?

            I don't know why you think that they will "skip" anything. Think about this hypothetical situation: Primitive villagers are confronted by people exiting a helicopter carrying walkie-talkies, radios, and computers. The people teach the primitive villagers about irrigation, treating wounds, safely storing food, etc. In with all this, presented as fact, is that there is a "God" that is invisible, all-powerful, created man, and that does battle with Satan. You know the story. The primitive villagers are going to accept that the wise and powerful westerners that arrived there know that this God exists -- probably without question. It's the same phenomenon that allows parents to convince children that Santa Claus exists.

            Why is the world poorer for the loss of cultural diversity? Are you worried about a particular dance no longer being performed? The loss of some pagan religion? The loss of a language (I'll admit, as a linguist that one gives me the heebie-jeebies)? The loss of wearing loincloths?

            I am worried about all of that. And I am worried about the loss of history. Oral traditions tell us much about a culture. When those oral traditions are abandoned because missionaries have "taught" the "Word of God", that's a horrible loss. Yes, I'm worried about dances, religions, languages, and native garb being tossed aside.

            Imagine National Geographic if every person they profiled was basically the same.

            I find it interesting to note your use of the terms "some pagan religion" and "loincloths" rather than simply "their religion" and "native clothing." Were those terms meant to be pejoritive, either consciously or subconsciously?
            • Doubtless they'll take the parts they like, and skip the rest. What's wrong with that?

              I don't know why you think that they will "skip" anything. Think about this hypothetical situation: Primitive villagers are confronted by people exiting a helicopter carrying walkie-talkies, radios, and computers. The people teach the primitive villagers about irrigation, treating wounds, safely storing food, etc. In with all this, presented as fact, is that there is a "God" that is invisible, all-powerful, created man, and that does battle with Satan. You know the story. The primitive villagers are going to accept that the wise and powerful westerners that arrived there know that this God exists -- probably without question. It's the same phenomenon that allows parents to convince children that Santa Claus exists.
              Well ... here's the thing. This scenario has been played out many times, especially in Africa. Native cultures do adapt and survive, and they do end up taking what they want of modernity/westernity. There are still scads of traditional religions in Africa (their adherents are referred to in the news as "animists"), coexisting more or less uneasily with Islam and Christianity. I don't think you're giving these guys enough credit; they are NOT children, they are quite as smart as you or me. If they are not coerced, some of them may convert, and some will not.

              (Sigh) I note you don't have any problem teaching them about the scientific method, or "freedom of (lots of things)", which are just as much a cultural construct as Christianity, and whose adoption would change their society. It seems your objection is not so much to changing the natives' society, as teaching them Christianity. Once you concede you want to change their society, the rest is just a matter of taste, isn't it? My mision civilatrice will include free Bibles, yours likely won't.
              Why is the world poorer for the loss of cultural diversity? Are you worried about a particular dance no longer being performed? The loss of some pagan religion? The loss of a language (I'll admit, as a linguist that one gives me the heebie-jeebies)? The loss of wearing loincloths?

              I am worried about all of that. And I am worried about the loss of history. Oral traditions tell us much about a culture. When those oral traditions are abandoned because missionaries have "taught" the "Word of God", that's a horrible loss. Yes, I'm worried about dances, religions, languages, and native garb being tossed aside.

              Imagine National Geographic if every person they profiled was basically the same.
              Let's be careful here ... are you in favor of preserving culture for their sake, or for yours? What's it to you that they become Christian, or do the Tango instead of (insert-native-dance)? Is this just voyeurism at work?

              (As a side note, it is not Christianity that will destroy the locals' oral tradition, but literacy. But I don't want to go there now.)
              I find it interesting to note your use of the terms "some pagan religion" and "loincloths" rather than simply "their religion" and "native clothing." Were those terms meant to be pejoritive, either consciously or subconsciously?
              Loincloths were cited in the original article. Actually, fairly sensible for the climate of the Amazon, if you don't have modern-weave "breathable" clothing.

              And "some pagan religion" means just that ... pagan means non-Christian. "Heathen" is a pejorative. ;) I find it equally ... odd ... that you seem happy that the natives keep any religion *but* Christianity; it sounds like you have some particular animus against that religion. ... Interestingly, this little disagreement of ours does speak to the fact that "Western Culture" is not so monolithic as at first glance.
              • I don't think you're giving these guys enough credit; they are NOT children, they are quite as smart as you or me. If they are not coerced, some of them may convert, and some will not.

                Intelligence and knowledge are not the same. When primitive people are in awe of modern visitors, they are very likely to believe what these people tell them -- especially if the tangible part proves true.

                I note you don't have any problem teaching them about the scientific method, or "freedom of (lots of things)", which are just as much a cultural construct as Christianity, and whose adoption would change their society. It seems your objection is not so much to changing the natives' society, as teaching them Christianity.

                Science is not a cultural construct and comparing it to the blind-faith that is Christianity debases it. Teaching primitive cultures about medicine, food safety, irrigation, and so forth improves their lives. Teaching them about Christianity denigrates their religious belief systems for no valid purpose.

                I find it equally ... odd ... that you seem happy that the natives keep any religion *but* Christianity;

                I don't want them to continue any belief in the supernatural, whether it is their native belief system or Christianity. I want them to accept the scientific method and logical thinking so that they question any religion that has them worshipping invisible dieties.

                it sounds like you have some particular animus against that religion.

                Yes, I do. Christianity is why we have a President holding back federal funding for stem cell research that could save countless victims of everything from Parkinson's Disease to spinal cord injuries. It's a major cause of people not understanding science. We have religious zealots fighting against schools teaching evolution. Christianity is responsible for the Crusades and countless atrocities throughout history. I could go on and on, but, frankly, that's off-topic.
                • I note you don't have any problem teaching them about the scientific method, or "freedom of (lots of things)", which are just as much a cultural construct as Christianity, and whose adoption would change their society. It seems your objection is not so much to changing the natives' society, as teaching them Christianity.

                  Science is not a cultural construct and comparing it to the blind-faith that is Christianity debases it. Teaching primitive cultures about medicine, food safety, irrigation, and so forth improves their lives. Teaching them about Christianity denigrates their religious belief systems for no valid purpose.
                  Do be aware of your own biases. The scientific method is an invention. The idea of "1/2 proof + 1/2 proof = zero proof" (gauss who said that?) came very late in history. The idea of "radical doubt" is a recent invention. You are trying to press your rational atheism on these people just as much as I'm trying to push my own religion on them.

                  Hopefully, they (random tribesmen) will enjoy the material improvements to life that Westernity has to offer until we finish arguing over philosophy... ;)
                  • The scientific method is an invention.

                    Critical thinking and reasoned thought is not an invention.

                    You are trying to press your rational atheism on these people just as much as I'm trying to push my own religion on them.

                    Far from it. I don't feel that I have a moral right to go into their village and tell them that their religious beliefs are wrong. I can give them logical tools and they can come to their own decisions about religion should they wish to consider it. What you want to do is to tell them that their non-Christian religious beliefs are wrong, that, if they continue to worship a God other than the Christian God that they will burn for all eternity in Hell, etc. I do not believe in mixing fact and faith when teaching people. If they want to ask you about your beliefs, then answer them. But don't pass off your beliefs as "the gospel truth" {snicker}.

                    Hopefully, they (random tribesmen) will enjoy the material improvements to life that Westernity has to offer until we finish arguing over philosophy... ;)

                    Amen to that. ;-)
  • by saskboy (600063) on Friday December 13, 2002 @02:02PM (#4882014) Homepage Journal
    I wonder about people when they consider a people who care for music, and treat an instrument properly "savages", yet the piano in my college residence is ruined with misuse and ugly graphiti carving.

    Who are the savages? Do people in the Amazon write on public pianos too? "For a good time call Zanthia." --- "Hey Zanthia, wanna have a good time!"

    --"NO. And stop calling for me!"
    • yet the piano in my college residence is ruined with misuse and ugly graphiti carving.

      You didn't read the part of the article about where they carved graffiti into their piano:

      'Wai Wai Rulez!'

      'For a good time dial Bong Bong Bing Bong Bong'

      'Tinkatu is a Fag'

  • How sad... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tswinzig (210999) on Friday December 13, 2002 @02:03PM (#4882021) Journal
    The American missionaries who converted the tribe in the 1950s taught them Christian modesty, and they now favour shorts and T-shirts, largely supplied by visitors and aid agencies. The footwear of choice is the plastic flip-flop.

    No comment necessary?
    • "The footwear of choice is the plastic flip-flop.

      No comment necessary?"

      Hey, if the flip-flop is good enough for Jimmy Buffett, it's good enough for the Amazons!
  • by frotty (586379)
    You're supposed to put a STARBUCKS in a neighborhood when you want to increase the TIF funding attractiveness, not a piano!

    Why does this remind me of some sort of
    "Catholocism spreading to the brutes" scenario of a few centuries ago? Oh, wait, because it is that.

    I guess them savage folks needed to understand the Word of God, I mean, it's our duty to inform them that they're going about living all wrong.
  • Pianos and humidity (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ThinkingGuy (551764) on Friday December 13, 2002 @02:11PM (#4882083) Homepage
    I remember reading an article years ago about people in Japan donating old pianos, mostly to southeast Asia (There had been a boom in piano sales in Japan a while back, when many parents were signing their kids up for piano lessons, but with the boom over, most of these pianos sat unused in Japanese homes).
    The problem was that pianos made for sale in Japan didn't handle the humid climate of southeast Asia and often became warped, as the one in the Amazon did.
    I think it also mentioned some kind of treatment that can be done to the pianos at the manufacture time, to help strengthen them in humid climates.
  • by Ooblek (544753) on Friday December 13, 2002 @02:20PM (#4882158)
    A set of hearty do-gooders get this warm, tingly feeling when a bunch of savages want a grand piano of their very own in the middle of the Amazon. These heros set out with visions of a next renaissance in music as these villagers are left with a musical instrument and a desire to learn. Documenting their great struggle in taking this behemoth from the civilzed world to the uncivilized world. Overcoming obstacles like raging rivers and dense tropical jungles, they finally deliver this prize. They leave, intending to come back a few years later. In this time, they expect the musical capabilities of these primitives to mature beyond belief - much like leaving a batch of wine to ferment to perfection in an old oak barrel.

    So our intrepid travelers return and are greeted be the villagers that have apparently just been shopping at Target. Flip-flops, shorts, and even the occasional T-Shirt that has the phrase, "I'm a lion hunter. If you see me running, try to keep up," on the back.

    The cheap-clothing aside, the veteran piano-tuning-commando-squad makes the exhausting 8-mile trek through the jungle to finally visit the prize instrument and to taste the sweetness of the evolved musical talent that should have developed over these past years.

    What they found is that the piano that was donated has almost cracked in half due to the fact the generous donation turned out to be little more than someone deciding not to sell the thing for $5 at a garage sale. (They must have decided they didn't want to move the thing out the front door every Saturday for a month while trying to get rid of it.) The instrument itself was infested with insects and their eggs, probably due to the fact that they generally kept the piano in a storage shed until visitors with cameras decided to show up. This explains all the Target type clothes since it appears that they are really cannibals that would eat visitors without cameras and take their clothes.

    In the end, the savages did learn how to belt out a few Bach and Beetles tunes, but then just wanted a fricking Korg keyboard, "Like we asked for in the first place." I don't see why they didn't just ask for a PC and a net connection so they could just use Kazaa and download all the Bach and Beetles MP3s they wanted!

  • in the jungle. I can tell you that. I live in the jungle and I work with electronics, and the humidity is hell on them, it's no surprise the new synth didn't work out very well.

    Trying to use computers here is a joke, they break amazingly fast. The trick is to use it all the time, so the circuits stay warm.

  • by the cobaltsixty (210695) on Friday December 13, 2002 @02:40PM (#4882321) Homepage Journal
    I live in Belem, the largest city within the Amazon Rainforest, with two million inhabitants. For about nine years, i also played piano and almost became a classical pianist. But then i left in order to have more time to spend at the computer.

    There are two piano tuners in my city. One has serious hearing problems, which is weird. The other one looks weird, because hes not brazilian, but russian. But i heard hes a good tuner.

    Keeping a piano is a challenging task. The climate has much air humidity, the wood helps changing its sounds. Also, we have problems with the extreme heat... But anyway, thats not impossible.

    There were two piano factories in brazil, and the most popular, Essenfelder, got bankrupt. The remaing, Fritz Dobbert, still exists. There are in my city two music schools, Carlos Gomes and the Federal University of Para Music School (EMUFPA) [www.ufpa.br]. I used to study at the later one. They still have a really beautiful Yamaha piano there. When they were about to buy, i've heart they had to make a poll to choose whether to buy a white or a wooden one. Thank god, the wooden is there.

    Disclaimer: I have nothing against people who think theyre trendy about white pianos, but sure Def Leppard making a Video with a white piano is a shame
    • I'm in a hot and humid country (Malaysia) and in many pianos you put a electric piano heater in to help keep the temperature right.

      Might help in your case.

      Not a bar heater - it's kind of specific for pianos.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    "But I could never track down the fault, let alone fix it. I wrestled with the Korg on and off for more than a fortnight, right until the eve of the fundraising concert, when one of the Wai Wai somehow got it working."

    Hmm, all these uber-geeks and no one else found it curious that an unknowledgable aboriginal fixes an electronic device that they couldn't possible understand? Anyone care to explain? Btw, no, I don't buy the "gave it a good whack" excuse.

    yet another x-file ...
    • No, it was all part of the great Wai Wai:

      "Lets see how far we can string these stupid brits along for great comedy".

      Which of course started with:

      "I bet you can't get them to bring a piano out here."
      "Bet you I can!"
      "Nah, no way."
      "Yeah I can! And I'll even up that, I'll get them to bring a GRANDE Piano, AND we'll tell them our village is flooded!"
      "Hahaha, there's no way they'd be that dumb."

      But of course, my favorite part of the whole story is where all they thought they would have to do is "shout at them" to move the piano.

      "Wai Wai strong, British Weak!"
  • Ah hell, I'll just link to it: "Missionary: Impossible" [snpp.com]
  • Opporknockety strings.





    Why?





    Opporknockety only tunes once.
  • But what of the prime directive, man!?

Genius is ten percent inspiration and fifty percent capital gains.

Working...