ABSTRACTS

NIAGARA CHAPTER

SOCIETY FOR ETHNOMUSICOLOGY

Eastman School of Music, Rochester, NY March 9, 2002

 

 

SESSION I      Chair:  Carl Rahkonen (Indiana University of PA)

 

8:30 AM          Ethical Considerations in the Research of Asante Sacred Music

Joseph Kaminski.  (Kent State University)

 

Asante sacred music comprises that music which is performed at the Asante court by ivory trumpet ensembles, praise singers, percussion ensembles, and flute soloists. Much of it dates in oral history to the founding of the Asante kingdom three hundred years ago. The music is not merely representative of Asante spirituality, but is the essence of spirit in itself.  Because of its nexus with Asante history and religion, being a connection to the ancestral world, it is so highly protected that no outsider has been able to study it until now. The presenter conducted field research in Asante court music in Kumasi, Ghana in the fall of 2001, having been given permission by the Asantehene, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II. The permission was granted in ethical trust as the researcher was invited to study the topic by the ArchBishop of Kumasi, the Rt. Rev. Peter Akwasi Sarpong, himself a cultural anthropologist and commentator on Asante religious issues. The trust may have been based on what the Ghanaian philosopher and statesman J.B. Danquah stated to be the definition of “ethics”: the science of conduct, religion its aesthetics, and mysticism its logic. The field of the court was opened to the researcher and ethical issues on his part seldom arose; however, the researcher had first hand experience with unethical behaviors ranging from “roving, pseudo-, quasi-ethnomusicologists” to dishonest informants. The research illuminates the fundamentals of ethical fieldwork as proposed by the Society for Ethnomusicology, for the many anecdotes from the field can serve as “textbook” examples. Much of the researcher’s experience in data collecting came from his participant-observation as an assigned court musician to the Ntahera trumpet ensemble.

 

 

9:00 AM          Brazil and Beyond:  The Technical and Timbral Expansion of the Berimbau in Popular Musics. 

N. Scott Robinson (Kent State University)

 

The berimbau, a musical bow of Brazil with origins in central Africa, has been traditionally used in the musical accompaniment of the Bahian wrestling-game known as capoeira.  As a result of innovative Brazilian musical movements in the 1960s, including bossa nova, afro-samba, and tropacalismo, the berimbau began to be heard outside of the traditional cultural context of capoeira.  Expatriate percussionists from Brazil who were associated with jazz and other creative popular musics, such as Dom um Romão, Airto Moreira, Naná Vasconcelos, and others, expanded the techniques and performance practice of the berimbau far beyond capoeira.  In the new cultural context of 1970s jazz and other popular musics, the berimbau diffused to a number of cultures outside of Brazil including Turkey, Italy, Germany, Argentina, USA, Australia, and Japan.  New and unusual performance techniques came about that expanded the sonic and expressive capabilities of the instrument.  Subsequently, the creative possibilities of the berimbau were taken further by the innovations of non-Brazilians in non-Brazilian contexts.  The internationalization of the berimbau has escalated so that today we find the instrument used in a variety of social and musical contexts both inside and outside of Brazil.  In this paper, I will discuss new techniques, timbres, and uses of the berimbau in popular musics and demonstrate them with audio and visual examples.

 

 

9:30 AM          An Insider’s Reflexive View of the Globalization of Bulgarian Traditional Music and Musicians in the Canadian Diaspora:  Transnationalism Reconsidered.  Irene Markoff (York University)

 

As the child of Bulgarian immigrants, I have had the opportunity of participating in and investigating cultural expression in the Toronto-based community for almost 5 decades.  Until the late 1980’s, the ethnic subsystem established during periods of substantial influx before and just after the Second World War supported a highly fragmented socio-political group that mirrored former economic realities and political affiliations. Divergent ideologies notwithstanding, the immigrants shared a commonality of heritage through cultural activities supported by ethnic institutions.  Although traditional dancing was featured at those events, grassroots vocal and instrumental ensemble music was lacking.  Instead, the continuum of Old World musical behavior was limited to the pan-Bulgarian repertoire of urban songs that functioned as stabilizing and binding forces.

 

Since 1989 and the collapse of socialism, a rather sizable group of highly-educated and technologically-literate immigrants has created new institutions of an apolitical nature

that celebrate the multi-faceted nature of contemporary Bulgarian identity, still struggling to overcome the alienation and instability experienced in the new democratic Bulgaria.

 

This paper will explore the changing nature of Bulgarian traditional diasporic music-making as evidenced by the recent arrival of institutionally-trained professionals and  wedding musicians. Mobile and entrepreneurial in spirit, they quickly reconfigure themselves through the reworking of traditional repertoire, the appropriation of a pan-Balkan sound and new fusion-bound musical collaborations, thus positioning themselves as more marketable commodities.  The study will also explore how I have chosen to configure myself as an insider/outsider performer within and without the Bulgarian community.  Recorded examples will accompany the presentation.

 

 

SESSION II    CANADIAN MUSIC: MUSIC AND POLITICS

Chair:  Beverly Diamond (York University)

 

 

10:15 AM        Producing Censorship: Music Events for the Summit of
the Americas in Quebec City.  Klisala Harrison (York University)

 

As we increasingly experience censorship in the late capitalist world, there is a growing need to understand better how it functions. In ethnomusicology, the production of censorship largely has been assumed to be incompatible with political agency and to promote only one sector of society's feelings on the organization of the society, particularly its power relations -- what Raymond Williams would call one "structure of feeling."

In this paper, I argue that the possibility for such agency does exist in the production of music performances with goals of censorship because performances can articulate more than one structure of feeling. To do this, I examine feeling structure in the creation of four music events that happened in Quebec City, during its 2001 Summit of the Americas: a meeting of leaders of 34 nation-states in the American hemisphere on the FTAA. The events were officially intended to prevent people from interfering with the meeting's proceedings. I draw on substantive interviews and fieldwork to reveal that despite these clear-set goals, political agency was exercised in the events' production so that they simultaneously enforced the Summit sentiments and communicated alternate visions of globalization. In light of these findings, I consider social and theoretical implications of the concurrence of various structures of feeling in music events and contexts of censorship, with special attention to cultural minorities.

 

10:45 AM        Is it a Question of Nationalism or Socialism? The Changing Values of Political Identity in Québecois Popular Music During the 1995 Referendum. Meg Kwasnicki (York University)

 

With a referendum at hand, nineteen ninety-five marked a politically charged year for Canadians and Quebecers.  This referendum posed the question: Should Québec become a sovereign nation?  Leaving the people of Québec to make the decision- oui- yes, or, non-no. For over thirty years, the Francophone singer/songwriter tradition has participated in this debate for sovereignty, reflecting and inspiring Francophone ideals. The 1995 Québecois popular music scene presented interesting dynamics in the role it played with regard to political identity. This paper looks at how certain Québecois popular music groups and artists reflect a changing political identity in Québec, both through musical style and lyrics.

I consider the music of Beau Dommage,  Paul Piché, and Les Colocs, who all have made public statements and/or been active in the political movement for sovereignty. Individually, these groups represent different musical styles and generations of listeners, demonstrating a shift from a national sovereigntist identity to a social sovereigntist identity.  Looking at the historical context of the singer/songwriter tradition, the media reception of the above artists, and interpretations of their songs, I will discuss how these artists reflect a shift in political values through musical style, and song lyrics.

 

11:15 AM        Transmission of Cultural Identity and Practice:  A Study of a Japanese Dance Group of Toronto

Alison Footz (York University)

 

The Hi Fu Mi Steppers are a dance group composed of senior citizens from the Japanese Canadian community in Toronto.  Many of the participants are Nisei, second-generation Japanese Canadians who during and following World War II were subject to internment and forced relocation by the Canadian government.  As a result, many Nisei  felt pressure to assimilate into Canadian society and were reluctant to outwardly express their cultural identity.  The establishment of the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre in the mid-1960s, played a significant role in encouraging social and cultural activities and preserving a sense of community for all generations of Japanese Canadians.  The informality of the dance lessons bears little resemblance to traditional schools of dance in Japan, where cultivation of skill and technique take precedence over social interaction.  The repertoire of the Hi Fu Mi Steppers consists primarily of folk dances.  Aside from practical considerations - namely that the dances are fairly simple to learn - these songs tap into a collective memory of shared experience for the group.  Based in part on ethnography conducted with the group, this paper explores the ways in which the dance experience contributes to the creation and maintenance of cultural identity: both within the group, where technique and gestural meaning are transmitted from teacher to student, and for the audience, who must translate, respond to and interpret these meanings.

11:45 AM        Rural Utopia? An Exploration of Nostalgia, Space and Identity in the Manitoba Prairies as Pictured in the Music of Greg MacPherson.  Judith Klassen (York University)

 

The Canadian Prairies have come to be identified with a myriad of images.  Flat expanses of agricultural land, snow storms and the grain elevator are recognized as emblems of an agrarian lifestyle, characterized by simplicity, isolation, and a particular sense of nostalgia.  In looking at the music of Greg MacPherson - a Cape Breton-born songwriter now living in Manitoba - we find that while such prominent images as cold winters and ice rinks exist in his musical narratives about the Manitoba Prairies, they are not the Prairies themselves.  MacPherson reveals many perspectives on these images both in his poetry and musical settings, making us aware that the assumptions of identity which we may associate with metonymy paint a picture vastly incomplete.  By means of interviews with the song-writer and close readings of his songs, I will explore how one local space is integrally linked to identity, experience, and to our own imagining thereof.

 

 

SESSION III   Chair: Ellen Koskoff (Eastman School of Music)

 

 

2:00 PM           Going to Great Lengths to Find the Right Tempo:  J. P. Powell and the Pocket Metronome.  Melva Huebert (Kent State University)

 

This paper examines the pocket metronome, J. P. Powell, and the tempo indications in the New Christian Hymn and Tune Book (Fillmore, 1883).

Between 1850 and 1900, Filmore Bros. of Cincinnati published many books for use in the singing-school movement, which still retained its popularity in the mid-western states.  Singing-school books contain a collection of songs as well as introductory chapters on vocal technique, rudiments of reading music, and aspects of music theory.  Reading rhythm is included in most books, and beat patterns and meters are often mentioned.  Discussions concerning choosing and maintaining tempo are rare.

In the teacher's edition of the New Christian Hymn and Tune-Book, a unique method of indicating tempo is described along with a discussion of the "pocket metronome."  The relative nature of terms such as allegro, andante, etc., is disparaged in favor of the reliability of the pocket metronome.

After a brief description of the traditional "clock-like" metronome, the instrument is dismissed for its limited practicality, as it is too large to be carried in the pocket. The pocket metronome, a simple invention of everyday materials easily available to students in the singing-schools, is then introduced and described in favorable terms. Indications for the pocket metronome in the New Christian Hymn and Tune-book in the form of "tape marks" given for each song are the work of J. P. Powell, "whose long experience and observation in this line, gives him rare qualifications for the task."

 

2:30 PM           What Does "Gei" Have to Do with It?  Relationships Between Music, Patronage, Liminality and Geisha Identity.  Kelly Foreman (Kent State University)

 

Geisha belong to a long history of female musicians in Japan, and traditional music comprises a central focus in their daily lives.  According to common beliefs worldwide, the purpose of geisha's diligent study of several genres of music and dance is vocational training for entertaining wealthy customers.  On the contrary, however, geisha view art as their
raison d'etre, with banquet performances as the only means for financing the exorbitant costs of arts study and membership in artistic guilds (ryu) within a male-dominated performing arts society.  The geisha life engenders various liminal identities social as well as artistic, and this research explores the ways in which music shapes these identities, the important of geisha in the development of Edo-period musical genres, the unique system of patronage which centers upon shared musical experiences, and the powerful web of liminality, play and the erotic.

 

 

3:00 PM           Chinese Funeral Music Among the Chaozhou Community in Los Angeles. 

Wah-Chiu Lai (Kent State University)

 

Chinese funeral music was imported by refugees from Southeast Asia and continues to exist in the Chaozhou community in Los Angeles.  Three different style of Chinese funeral music are maintained by different organizations.  The
Chaozhou style funeral music preserved by the "Gong De Zu" (Kindness Group/ritual group) of the Xian Wu Shan Charity is most active, musical and significant in United States.  This style of funeral music keeps the rituals and music that were once banned and then declined among the mainland Chinese in Chaozhou.  It is a hybrid of Buddhist and Dao rituals and music.  It contains different kind of music that reflects and proves a close relationship between religious music and folk music.  It also shows the flexibility and popularity of folk music.  Most of the grieving families that patronize this funeral music are Chinese Cambodians.  These funeral rituals lasting about two and a half hours, can cost over two thousand dollars.  Financial help provided by different organizations in the Chaozhou community encourage these religious activities.  My participation, observations and study of this music also raise some theoretical issues in fieldwork, such as the necessity of long-term fieldwork and penetration into the research organization.

 

 

SESSION IV   Chair: Terry Miller (Kent State University)

 

3:45 PM           The 1952-53 Gerry Mulligan Quartet: Originality Through Limitation.

Patrick Boyle (York University)

 

Gerry Mulligan is an integral figure in jazz, and his influence pervades the genre. The post-Birth of the Cool recordings in a pianoless quartet with Chet Baker stand alone as an example of dynamic creativity within a comparatively refined timbral palette. The group was not propelled by the strength of the all-star front line, but instead it was the communal active listening process and innovative arrangements that generated momentum. The small-group bop of the day primarily served the soloist, whereas the Mulligan quartet implemented a brand of collective improvisation that had gone unheard since the 1920s. Though this group was together for less than a year, this fusion of Dixieland and good counterpoint helped inaugurate the West Coast sound and in the process, single-handedly put Pacific Records on the map.

With the use of detailed paradigmatic transcriptions and analysis, I will expand upon the salient features identified by Ted Gioia (1992) -  those being a) the effective use of counterpoint; b) its understated rhythm section; c) its melodic clarity; and d) the willingness to take chances. In addition, the group will be placed historically both within the careers of Mulligan and Baker as well as alongside other performance practices it coexisted with. Finally, I will show how the neoclassical stylistic features Mulligan employed are exploited through a fairly rigorous economy of means.

Citations:  Gioia, Ted. 1992. West Coast Jazz. New York: Oxford UP.

 

 

4:15 PM           Not the Ivory Tower: A Gramscian perspective on Jazz History

Jonathon Bakan (York University)

 

This paper discusses a number of analytical concepts developed by political philosopher and activist Antonio Gramsci and explores their application for the investigation of jazz history. It argues that jazz musicians of the 1930s and 1940s can be understood as "organic intellectuals," a group of highly skilled craftspeople whose work, working conditions, and creative sensibilities were intimately wound up with the fate of the urban and Black working class communities from which they emerged.  Attempts during the "crisis of hegemony" of the 1930s-1940s to re-articulate jazz's status from a
localized form of vernacular entertainment into a respected "high art"expression are interpreted as an assertion by jazz musicians of the universality of their contributions to intellectual life. While the discourse around aesthetic and artistic issues is usually connected to questions of political and economic power only in a tenuous or highly mediated fashion, during the 1930s and 1940s jazz musicians represented an intellectual tradition with strong organic roots in the American working class, which, alongside a broader economic and cultural offensive on the part of that class, began to assert itself as having artistic relevance for the whole of society.  After emerging from localized and vernacular roots, jazz music was advanced during this period as a universal artistic expression, and the increasing social and artistic prominence of jazz musicians during the Depression years can be understood as a reflection of the maturation of the American working class, its developing self-consciousness and social assertiveness.

 

4:45 PM           Ethnomusicology in Higher Education: Current Faculty Concerns. 

Panel Discussion organized by Terry Miller (Kent State University)