Niagara Chapter SEM Annual Meeting
March 13, 2004
State University College of New York, Fredonia
(Fenton Hall, Room 105) Program
I: Changing Circumstances
Wah-Chiu Lai (Kent State University), “The Chaozhou (Chinese) Xianshi in Shantou, Bangkok, and Los Angeles: Questions of Authenticity and Representation.”
Chaozhou xianshi/Chaozhou string music is among the most popular music activities and entertainments among the Chaozhou Chinese. Two or three amateur musicians can enjoy playing the xianshi together. In the past it was monopolized by male musicians and now remains primarily male. The Chaozhou xianshi that originated from Chaozhou/Shantou was distributed to Southeast Asia as the Chaozhou people emigrated to this area, and then it was also brought by refugees and immigrants from Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia to North America after the end of Vietnam War (1954-1975). After 1950, Chaozhou xianshi in Shantou, China, adopted the elements of contemporary national music, modifying them to suit their needs and desires. These included a new instrumentation, the use of harmony in arrangements, and the composition of new pieces. This new professional style became the mainstream of xianshi in Shantou. After 1980, the Chaozhou xianshi of Bangkok, during a period of cultural exchanges with Shantou, also absorbed some new developments in Shantou. But the Chaozhou xianshi that exists in Los Angeles still preserves the older style of the 1950s. The contrasting Chaozhou xianshi style in Shantou, Bangkok, and Los Angeles reflect the different styles of Chaozhou xianshi of different periods and raise questions of authenticity and representation. In this paper, I describe the different instrumentations, performing practices, repertories, and arrangements of the Chaozhou xianshi in Shantou, Bangkok, and Los Angeles. It further discusses the issues of authenticity and representation in Chaozhou xianshi, attempting an answer to the questions of which city has the greater authenticity and representation.
Jeff Cupchik (York University), “’What Language is This In’? Reading
Subjectivity: Debates on Song Text amid the Transcultural Translation of Tibetan
Buddhist Musical Ritual Practices into Western Buddhist Communities.”
From a phenomenological perspective, the Chod ritual is perhaps the most mutlifaceted musical tradition practiced in Western dharma centres today. Its performance involves playing the damaru drum and Tibetan bell while singing a ritual text and, most importantly, maintaining a cognitive attentivenss while inwardly performing detailed mental-imagery and visualisations described in each syllable during an hour-long musical-meditation performance. The few Tibetan Lamas who still carry and teach the Chod lineages are now in their sixties and seventies. Because of this, it is now a critical temporal juncture during which Western Buddhist disciples are energized with the commitment to keep their teachers' traditional lineages and legacy. But questions arise as to how best to "preserve" the Chod lineage tradition. Some Chod practitioners (Tibetan and Western) have invigorating ideas about how to maintain the tradition in the West, such as translating the song texts into English; others are concerned with preserving the aesthetic aspects of the thousand year-old tradition, and maintain it is therefore more appropriate to learn the (phoenetically rendered) Tibetan that they received from their Tibetan Lamas. Yet is it possible that singing from a romanised phoenticised version of Tibetan, with varying levels of comprehension into the words, may be the unfortunate methodology by which the efficaciousness of the spiritual practice becomes ultimately diminished? If, as Tibetan Lamas contend, comprehension of the song text's meaning is considered essential for the efficaciousness of the spiritual practice, and the lengthy preliminary study and memorization of the text prior to practice is the main endeavor for effecting appropriate meditational experiences, then an examination about how the language of song text is negotiated and what kind of decisions impact upon the performance practice of ritual song texts seems vital. With an interest in the dynamic process of transcultural transmission and translation of musically-oriented Tibetan Buddhist practices, I make a critical survey of these and related issues, and compare interventions undertaken by Western Chod practitioners.
Priwan Nanongkham (Kent State University), “Pong Lang Music: A Northeast Thai Music as an Expression of Ethnic Identity in the Lao-American Community in Washington, D.C.”
Issues of identity and ethnicity are important in the United States where the society is comprised of numerous ethnic minorities. While influenced by the dominant culture, many ethnic groups maintain their unique identities by drawing on their cultural heritage. The cohesive power of establishing such identities enables the community more opportunities to achieve equal footing with other ethnic groups in the United States. Music/dance is considered a means of reinforcing ethnic identity. Ethnic identities in the United States often use music and dance to unify and project their ethnic identity. The Lao refugee community of Washington D.C. struggles to find resources such as teachers and instruments to maintain their Lao ethnic identity due to political conflicts with the current government of Laos. As a result, pong lang music, typically identified with the Isan community (Northeast Thai culture) has also come to serve the Lao refugee community as an expression of their ethnic identity. This paper examines how the pong lang music is being accepted, adjusted, and represented in this cultural context.
II: Genre Studies
Milagros Quesada (Kent State University), “Appropriation of Cuban Music by Puerto Rican Musicians: An Emic View.”
Establishing ownership of Spanish Caribbean genres such as salsa, and Puerto Rican national musics such as danza, bomba, plena and a repertoire of boleros, has become contradictory as expressed in the works of Berrios-Miranda (1990), Duany (1984), Dufrasne-Gonzalez (1994), Manuel (1994), and Rondon (1980). Particularly in the case of salsa, establishing ownership is also almost a futile process due to changing positions and meanings within Hispanic communities (Aparicio,1998). Issues of appropriation, particularly of Cuban music by Puerto Rican musicians (and Puerto Ricans in general) have been raised by tracing the stylistic roots and history of salsa and the above mentioned styles (Manuel, 1994). It is my contention that while accurate and comprehensive in his analysis of the styles, issues of transmission that may point toward a symbiotic relationship between the musics, rather than the parasitical one which the article seems to imply at some points, have been ignored. Moreover, as an insider I fail to feel the "Cubanness" with which Manuel describes almost all musical production coming from Puerto Rico. In this paper I will address both contentions and others referring to historic interpretation concerning the origin of the Puerto Rican danza.
Hanita Blair (Syracuse University), “Something to Sing About: Choosing Music for the Jewish High Holydays.”
Responsibility for choosing the music for Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, the High Holydays, lies with the cantor, but these choices are in continuous negotiation with rabhinic law and congregational preiérence and expectation. The cantor’s training, sense of aesthetics and religiosity all play a part. Some of the music is fixed. some improvised, and some is open to seemingly endless variations. New music is continually composed, and performance practice has for centuries included customs which are in conflict with Jewish law. For a cantor, determining how to decide which among the various traditions and customs to follow, even when there is no contradiction, can be more problematic than choosing the actual melodies. In this paper, I discuss the decision making process I used when I recently served as the High Holyday cantor at Temple Brith Sholorn in Cortland, New York, where I had already led sabbath services for five years. I will also provide sonic musical examples which follow from my immersion in traditional folk music and the oral process rather than classical music. and my own family traditions.
(Kent State University), “Spontaneity and Improvisation in Kpanlogo, A Ghanaian
Drumming and Dance Genre.”
In this paper I will look at the process of improvisation and the role of spontaneity within Kpanlogo performances in Ghanaian Ga communities. I will show how improvisation results from musical learning processes, musical structure, and performance context. Communication is an essential part of Kpanlogo that master drummers explore through spontaneous improvisations.
III: Local Musics
Carl Rahkonen (Indiana University of Pennsylvania), “Amateur and Professional: A Tale of Two ‘Irish’ Bands.”
This is the story of two “Irish” bands from rural Western Pennsylvania. The “Lads of Leith” is a group of professional musicians who perform each year on St. Patrick’s Day at Coynes Pub in Indiana, Pennsylvania. The “Aran Band” is an amateur group with members from a wide area, but centered around Johnstown, Pennsylvania, 35 miles east of Indiana.
Although both bands perform “Irish” music and are from the same region, they take an almost opposite approach to rehearsal, performance and social interaction. These differences stem from the fact that one group sees performance as a professional activity (performing for income) and the other as an amateur pastime (performing for the love of the music).
The intent of the musicians, leaning either towards amateur or professional performance, shapes almost everything about their performances and the behaviors that surround them. This is borne out in some of the interesting dichotomies that arise in comparing these two “Irish” bands. Undoubtedly similar dichotomies exist between amateur and professional performers in many other music cultures around the world.
Joshua Tucker (University of Michigan), “Musical Mestizaje and Social Change: Marketing, Migrants, and the Uses of música ayacuchana in Contemporary Peru.”
Over the last twenty years, Lima has swollen with indigenous and mestizo migrants from the highlands of Peru. As cultural categories have been remapped in a changing social context, where the Andean majority increasingly dictates the terms and character of capitaline life, ethnic, class and regional identities are being redefined in complex ways.
Andean symbolic and artistic practices have played a major role in registering this shift, and in making it intelligible to the Peruvian populace at large. Among these practices, the group of musical genres currently labeled “música ayacuchana” has risen to prominence. Composers, musicians, and especially producers and DJs whose work underwrites their success have lifted it from relative obscurity, as a regionally limited urban mestizo genre, to become one of the most influential Andean styles in the country. With an expanded musical vocabulary that draws Euroamerican pop idioms and international Latin American genres, it has moved beyond its original class and ethnic base, to become the signal artistic expression of a new and previously unthinkable subject position that is at once limeño, Andean and middle class.
In this presentation, I draw on two years of fieldwork in Ayacucho and Lima to outline some of the reasons why this is so. I discuss how musicians and mediators have drawn upon preexisting esthetic and social values associated with the genre, at the same time as they have infused it with new elements in order to effectively market it as the music of choice for Lima’s Andean middle class.
Mitzie Collins (Eastman School of Music) and Jim Kimball (State University College of New York, Geneseo), “Old Time Tunes from Western New York Played on Hammered Dulcimer and Fiddle”
SESSION IV: Changing Perceptions
Stephanie Webster-Cheng (University of Pittsburgh), “The Politics of Representation: Discourse of the ‘Experimental Trend’ in Ethnomusicology.”
Since the beginning of the field, representation has been implicit in one of the central tasks of ethnomusicology, ethnographic writing. During approximately the last twenty years, however, ethnomusicologists have shown a greater concern with the politics involved in fieldwork and the degree to which these politics are represented in our professional writing and discourse. As part of this concern, scholars have investigated the researcher’s role in fieldwork, including the ways they impact, constrain, and affect research. Ethnomusicologists additionally have demonstrated increased sensitivity towards how they represent those they research, and specifically a concern for representing research subjects in terms of their relationships to the researcher and also in terms of their constantly changing connections to the larger systems of world political economy around them. A further avenue of inquiry has been into epistemology and how the construction and mediation of knowledge affects representation. This interest, while uniquely defined and articulated by ethnomusicologists, has largely stemmed from similar discussions in anthropology about representation during the 1980s (often referred to as the “experimental moment”).
This essay takes a comparative focus, outlining the politics that lie at the crux of the problem of representation as discussed in ethnomusicology and anthropology throughout the past twenty years. It also examines how scholars in both fields have approached these issues (and formed critiques of approaches) in their attempts towards more informed, nuanced, and holistic representation.
Phong Nguyen (Kent State University), “’Our Song Can Drown Out the Bomb’: Musical Change since the War in Vietnam.”
I will discuss the change since the foundation of the conservatory system in Hanoi. This movement ("Our Song Can Drown Out the Bomb") was at the climax of political mobilization of all forces and pushed the institutionalization of music toward a firm existence--which separated the modern from the traditional.
You will see the 'shock-and-awe' bombing footage from both the VN National Archive (i.e., learning music at the 'underground' conservatory) and the US documentary. I will sing those songs to demonstrate which include the National Award winning song 'Ha Noi Niem Tin Va Hy Vong' (Hanoi, Confidence and Hope) written right after the Christmas time bombing in 1972.
Dennis Cole (Kent State University), “’I’m Looking Through You’: A Brief Glimpse Through Musical Bifocals at the Historical Significance of the Beatles and the Aesthetic Qualities Inside their Music.”
February 7th, 2004 marked the 40th anniversary of the Beatles’ official arrival into the United States. The recent commemoration served as a great reminder of the Beatles’ undiminished, universal appeal. Although marketing and nostalgia may account for some of the band’s interest, the majority of the continuing popularity centers largely and rightly on the Beatles’ music. In fact, much of today’s youth and popular cultures continue to be impacted from the Beatles and their music.
This discussion will present an analysis on how the Beatles’ legacy and impact on today’s youth and popular music cultures is directly influencing the perception of the group amongst scholars in the field of music. Divided into two main sections, this discussion focuses on individuals born after 1970, individuals with no recollection of the 1960s or the original ‘Beatlemania’, and determines how much of their lives have been impacted from the Beatles’ legacy.
The study’s first section briefly examines the historical significance of the Beatles and its relationship with today’s youth and popular music cultures in the United States. This section discusses the chronology of popular music, in light of the Beatles’ accomplishments, and analyzes the reception of the Beatles’ music and career on today’s youth.
Popular music has always been described as music typically of lower value and less complex than art music, and which is readily available to large numbers of musically uneducated listeners instead of an elite. Yet, many scholars of musicology and music education are reevaluating their opinions of value and aesthetics within the Beatles’ music due, in part, to the band’s ongoing appeal from today’s youth. The second section of the study examines the manner in which the Beatles have impacted the field of music (particularly musicology and ethnomusicology), and discusses several examples of how educators, from elementary schools to universities, are incorporating the Beatles in their teaching methods.
Several aspects of the study are justified through the results of surveys, distributed to over 100 radio disc jockeys in south Texas, professors at Southwest Texas State University, and to over 400 Southwest Texas State University students. Musical examples will be played to further justify the extent of the Beatles’ influence. The goal of this study is to determine what effects, if any, the Beatles’ music has on today’s youth, as well as the study of music as a whole.
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