ABSTRACTS (chronologically)

SEM Niagara Chapter Meeting

Friday March 28 - Sunday March 30, 2008

Accolade East Building, York University, Toronto

 

 

SATURDAY, MARCH 29TH

 

9:00-10:30            SESSION 1A (Rm 241): PERFORMING THE COMMUNITY

 

1. Two Transcriptions, One Community, and a Multitude of Heritages: An Analysis of the Adhān at the Islamic Center of Rochester, New York (Tanya Sermer, Eastman School of Music)

 

In this paper, I discuss the place of the adhān (the call to worship) at the Islamic Center of Rochester (ICR), a community whose stated objectives are “to promote, propagate, and facilitate the practice of Islam in the United States” and to spark “the emergence of an American Muslim identity.” As an institution with a membership comprising of Sunnis as well as Shi’ites, of long-time American residents as well as recent immigrants from all over the world, and of individuals whose levels of observance vary along a wide spectrum, study of practices at the ICR provides fascinating insights into the dynamics of Muslim identity formation in the United States. Elements of recitation of the adhān manifest the creation of a uniquely American Muslim practice at the ICR, and certain social aspects of the call reveal larger processes of community-building; this includes the choice of caller, the way the adhān frames the cycle of time within the Center, and the repercussions of giving the call indoors only.  My presentation will center on transcriptions of two renditions of the adhān heard at the ICR. These transcriptions represent one adhān given by the regular mu’adhdhin and one by another member of the congregation. Discussing these calls illuminates the range of style that exists in this multi-ethnic, multi-denominational community. I provide musical analysis of each, and discuss the role of affective idioms and non-melodic elements of recitation.

 

 

2. Roughing It in the Woods: Community Experience and Performance in Patria Production Sites (Kate Galloway, University of Toronto.  

 

                Since 2005 I have been involved in the performance and workshopping of R. Murray Schafer’s outdoor Patria compositions. During the weeks preceding the performance, the creative team, production crew and artists work in an isolated and insular locale, often camping in unpalatable conditions and working odd hours of the day and night. At the same time, they are trying to realize an intricate theatrical performance to a professional standard. For many Patria works, Schafer draws on the local amateur and professional communities for his performance forces because of their geographical and personal association with his works. Similarly, a mutually cooperative community also forms onsite among the crew and performers. In the case of recent Patria performances, the social and geographical location of these communities has impacted their formation, interaction, and existence. An ethnographic study of the communities that form around theatre performance and the ways in which communities function is an undertheorized area in both musicological and ethnomusicological discourse.   

                Based on fieldwork from 2007, this paper examines both how Schafer draws upon amateur and professional performance communities to realize his extensive works and also how communities form onsite in a symbiotic partnership directed towards a shared goal. This presentation focuses on the types of bonds that are formed between community members, the impact of space upon the community, the community’s goals, communal music making practices, and the types of interaction that occur based on spoken and unspoken expectations of the members of the performance community.

 

 

3. The Afro-Trinidadian Steelband: Musical Ensemble, Community Group or Street Gang? (Chris Wilson, York University)

 

The steelband’s roots can be traced through three overlapping and interconnected narratives: as musical ensemble, community group and organized fighting unit or street gang.  I will explore each of these aspects of the steelband historically, yet it is my contention that all three are foundational and played a crucial role in the steelband’s evolution.

There remains a popular perception that the Trinidadian Carnival is somehow descended from European Catholic Carnival. Recent scholarship, however, strongly supports the notion that modern Carnival is descended from emancipation celebrations the former slaves in Trinidad celebrated called cannes brulees (later canboulay).  The connection with the European celebration represents an attempt to hide the true nature of these rituals from unsuspecting whites, thus avoiding persecution. It is these canboulay revelers and their evolving practices, celebrated for close to a century by the time the steelbands emerged beginning in the 1920’s, who have provided the substance of modern Carnival: its music, its organizational structure, and its text.

I will allude to some of steelbands’ later developments throughout my description of the early bands and their activities, showing how each of my title’s characteristics of early steel bands changed over time. While some aspects of modern steelbands have remained unchanged since the beginning, other changes have crucially affected how modern steelbands function and are constituted.

 

 

(9:00-10:30)         SESSION 1B (Rm 237): TECHNOLOGY, INSTITUTIONS AND MUSICAL EXPERIENCE

 

1. Micah Records: A Case Study of Gospel Music-making in Canada and the Reconciliation of Spiritual, Community-building, and Commercial Enterprises (Jesse Feyen, York University)

 

The rise in academic publications on African American gospel music in recent decades has increased awareness and understanding of this neglected yet important art form; however, gospel music-making in Canada has been largely ignored.  Furthermore, the paradoxical relationship of gospel music simultaneously functioning as a spiritual, community-building, and commercial enterprise is rarely discussed.  I will address this lacuna by examining Micah Records, a Toronto-based Christian record label that was founded in 1983 by Oswald Burke.  Through an investigation of the history, artists, albums, and activities of Micah, I will pursue the following two aims.  First, I will use Micah as a fulcrum through which to gain insight into the contemporary gospel music scene in Toronto.  Second, I will demonstrate that Micah has played a key role in the dissemination of Canadian gospel music and in the creation and reinforcement of the notion of a gospel music community in the Greater Toronto Area.  The accomplishment of the first goal will reveal that the contemporary gospel music scene in Toronto has experienced exponential growth since the early 1980s to include a large number and variety of gospel artists and styles.  The second aim will use Micah as a case study of an organization that is able to reconcile the paradoxical use of gospel music for spiritual, community-building, and commercial purposes.

 

2. The Reality of Illusion: On the Value of Technological Processes in the Making of Popular Music (Sheena Hyndman, York University)

 

                In his study of the producer’s ever-expanding role in music making, Virgil Moorefield states that one of the most influential changes to result from technological improvements in the recording studio is the shift from presenting “the illusion of reality” to “the reality of illusion” (2005). No truer is this idea than within the realm of performance practices that are primarily defined by mediation, specifically where disc jockeys (DJs) and producers of various electronic musics are concerned. Once limited to the realm of traditional musical instruments, the idea of performance has expanded to include so-called “non-musicians” who perform “non-instruments” such as turntables and laptops. Further, with the proliferation of mash-ups and remixes, the DJ/producer is also in a position to lay claim to musical authorship, albeit of a more social and collaborative nature.

                This paper marks the beginning of an examination of the remix as a form of collaborative authorship in popular music. In considering how the reception of mediated performance and composition informs value judgments regarding the validity and acceptability of technological processes in music making, we can begin to understand the extent to which the “reality” of technology informs the “illusion” of music making within the context of technological mediation.

 

3. Music as Entertainment (Lauren Acton, York University)

 

               One of the underlying motives for making, purchasing, and/or listening to music has always been to entertain. From Verdi's operas to children's playground songs to West Side Story to a U2 stadium concert, various musical forms attempt to engage the audience by entertaining. Many types of popular music, in fact, are dismissed as "only entertainment"; they are disdained for not aspiring to the loftier ideals of "art." The art/entertainment dichotomy (or continuum?) has often been obliquely referred to in studies addressing the commercial nature of music, yet entertainment as a term has avoided definition in musicological studies. In contrast to the term "popular," "entertainment" is seldom defined in musicology, instead it is often used as a synonym for popular (or sometimes media or culture) but it is clear if you consider the phrases "popular entertainment" and "entertainment media" that entertainment needs its own working definition for musicologists.

               This paper will address the under-examined field of entertainment theory as it applies to music. Exploring issues of pleasure, play, Mikhail Bakhtin's concept of the "carnivalesque," and Roland Barthes' separation of the plaisir of order from the jouissance of abandon, this study of music as entertainment will also question the aesthetic value judgements we make about music when labeling it "art" or "entertainment."

 

 

10:30-10:45         BREAK

 

 

10:45-12:15         SESSION 2A (Rm 241): RE-DEFINING THE “TRADITIONAL”

 

1. Pennsylvania Fiddling: A View from the Middle (Carl Rahkonen, Indiana University of Pennsylvania)

 

What is traditional fiddling in Pennsylvania?  Situated in the very middle of the Atlantic east coast states, Pennsylvania lies directly between two very strong fiddling regions.  To the north, New York and New England have a strong tradition of northern fiddling used particularly for contra dancing.  The Appalachian states to the south have a strong southern fiddling tradition, especially with the string band that has fiddle and banjo at its core.   Western Pennsylvania is actually considered a part of Northern Appalachia.  We know about Pennsylvania fiddling largely through the work of Samuel P. Bayard, who left his collection of field recordings to the Pennsylvania State University Libraries. Using Bayard’s materials, as well as my own field recordings, I will play representative examples of northern, southern and Pennsylvania fiddling for comparison.   Pennsylvania fiddling reflects elements from both northern and southern traditions and as such it is “a view from the middle.”

 

2. Electric Picking, Ethnic Spinning: Defining the ‘Folk’ at the Winnipeg Folk Festival (Sija Tsai, York University)

 

“What is folk music?” This question may scream “cliché!” to many music scholars, who have struggled for decades to define the “folk” (Cherbuliez et al. 1955, Keil 1978, Spalding et al. 1988). Some have examined its complicated relationship with popular music (Blacking 1981, Middleton 1981, Redhead and Street 1989), while others have referred to its collisions with “world” music (Frith 2000, Gruning 2006, Guilbault 2006). The blurred generic lines implied by these studies highlight a timeworn theme in folk music scholarship, namely that of folk music as a “process.”

The study of Canadian folk festivals, however, provides a new lens through which to view the “what is folk music” question. The relationship between folk and popular music displays a fresh face at these events, particularly as it reflects the economic considerations of festival programming. The collision of folk with world music takes on a distinctly “Canadian” character, as the growing plurality of musical traditions presented at folk festivals is often linked to a national preoccupation with cultural diversity. Meanwhile, the notion of “process” is heightened to extravagant dimensions at folk festivals, where music exists not only on the concert stage, but also as a temporary way of life.

This paper will trace the usage of the term “folk music” in thirty-four years of discourse generated by the Winnipeg Folk Festival. Using media coverage and ethnography, this discussion will examine early definitions of the term, followed by its re-conceptualization with regards to popular music, world music, and the notion of “process.”

 

3. Tradition vs. Dynamism: Assimilation and the Reinterpretation of Ideology within the Drum & Bugle Corps Community (Dennis Cole, Kent State University)

 

Historically, drum and bugle corps have existed for nearly a century, developing their distinctive identity by being defined not by their instrumentation, but rather through their ideology – as musical ensembles centered on youth education and self-discipline. During the second half of the twentieth century, the activity transformed from local, community-based ensembles into large-scale, corporate-endorsed non-profit organizations. Over the years, this metamorphosis has contributed to the drastic decline of actively competing corps, specifically within the junior drum corps activity.

Cultural anthropologist Melville Herskovits coined the term reinterpretation after recognizing how, over time, cultures inevitably exhibit this unique process, in which old meanings are ascribed to new elements or by which new values change the cultural significance of old forms. How has the assimilation of people, competition, technology and business opened the drum and bugle corps activity to reinterpretation?

This study is a comprehensive analysis of the factors contributing to the ongoing cultural dynamism within the musical community. Several issues to be explored include:1) Cultural shifts: a) from traditional militaristic roots to innovative artistic endeavors, and b) from grass-roots participation to multi-national corporate sponsorship – both which reflect recent transferences in social capital within the United States; and 2) Technological advancements: resulting in the current modifications of musical instruments and the subsequent changes in participant behavioral patterns.

As a result, this study will investigate the reinterpretation of ideology, specifically the very concept of “community,” in light of the activity’s evolution.

 

 

(10:45-12:15)       SESSION 2B (Rm 237): MUSIC AS LOCAL AND TRANSNATIONAL PRACTICE

 

1. The Embodiment of Parallax: Ritual and Site in the Kyoto Avant Garde (Daniel Schnee, York University)

 

                Satsuki Kawano states that, rather than being self evident analytical categories, belief and action in Japan must be investigated as culturally constructed and socially created. Common ritual actions can engage ritual actors in special contexts set apart from daily life (Kawano 2005: 2). In a culturally homogenous society such as Japan, ritual and site still play an important part of daily life whether or not recognized as such. But in the context of the jazz avant garde can this be said to be so? Is participation in 'free' forms of expression as free as the name suggests? Or is participation regulated within some form of structural activity occurring at specific sites within the social milieu of interacting artists?

By comparing traditional Shinto music and ritual with the various activities of the free improvisation scene in Kyoto, several organizing activities establishing ritual authority and symbolic models for participation within and without the musical event are vital in understanding the socio-psychological nature of sites of improvised music in Kyoto. Through these activities, participation is ritualized to ease negotiations of position and prominence. Sites connote particular rituals, and ritual places things in order, an unquestioned order which eases decision making / problematic activity through tradition.

 

2. Latin Jazz, Improvisation, and Transnational Flow: Hal Crook’s Performance of “Brazil(Jamie Stager, York University)

 

The flow of musical styles and texts between cultural groups has long been one of the defining features of the Americas, both within the borders of a country as well as between nations. In particular, the cross-pollination of Latin American music with jazz has provided especially fertile ground for transnational musical dialogue and artistic expression, creating an additional layer of cultural meaning as jazz engages the syncretic character of Latin American music.

The particularly strong musical affect found in Ary Barroso’s “Aquarela do Brasil” has made it attractive not only to Brazilian performers of samba, but also to musicians throughout the world working in a wide variety of other genres ranging from light classical to alternative rock, and from easy listening to jazz. Perhaps one of the most striking features of Barroso’s composition lies in the fact that, despite being originally conceived as a union of words and music, “Aquarela do Brasil” retains its emotional affect in instrumental versions in which the lyrics are absent. An examination of Hal Crook’s jazz recording of this work will show that the spatial, rhythmic, and ludic elements of Barroso’s original composition not only survive the change in genre, but inform Crook’s spontaneous improvisation on the tune’s structure.

 

3. Música de Gaita in Bogotá, Colombia: Integration and Cultural Exchange (Ruben Esguerra, York University)

 

This work is a study of musica de gaita and its manifestations in Bogotá, Colombia. Música de gaita has roots in former maroon comunities of the Atlantic-coast of Colombia and the ensemble consists of vocals, percussion and two wind instruments called gaitas (List 1983). Based on fieldwork undertaken in Bogotá in December 2002, 2003 and 2007, this study considers how this music has contributed to the continuation of a process that Peter Wade has called the costeñización of Bogotá, making reference to the gradual process of appropriation of this regional culture (Wade 2002). This work also contributes to the notion that traditional music possesses unifying elements which serve to mediate social integration (Merriam 2001) as well as social participation (Nettl 1985). The study adds to an explanation of: (i) Why Bogotá is witnessing the daily practices of musics of the Atlantic-coast region of the country like never before, and; (ii) How música de gaita has brought together young musicians from different music scenes creating a new form of cultural exchange.

 

 

12:15-1:30            LUNCH

 

 

1:30-3:00              SESSION 3A (Rm 241): ETHNOGRAPHY AND ETHNOMUSICOLOGY AS INTERVENTION

 

1. "Oh Lord, Why Me?" Religious Discourse in HIV/AIDS Outreach by the TASO, Mulago Performance Group (Rachel Muehrer, York University)

 

       Can musical performance effectively destabilize dominant discourses of health, healing and morality that mediate local and international understandings of HIV and AIDS in Africa? Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working on the front lines of the AIDS epidemic in Uganda have been using music and performance to educate and sensitize their communities about the AIDS pandemic. The performance groups in these organizations, largely composed of HIV-positive individuals, participate in, and in many cases lead, the HIV/AIDS education mandate and sensitization efforts. Members in the performance group take part in, and are affected by these negotiations, and their messages ultimately inform the public understanding of HIV/AIDS. This paper builds upon work with the performance group at The AIDS Support Organization (TASO) in Kampala, Uganda, and the religious and moral meanings constructed through their musical performances.

      Because HIV and AIDS evoke concepts of death, sexuality, and moral impropriety, they are readily linked to the purview of religion in the public imagination. Additionally problematic are Western constructions of African sexuality that have doubled back onto African consciousness, contributing to moral and religious causation models that tend to advance a discourse of culpable agency and social stigma. HIV-positive members of the performance group must frame their own personal message within these moral limitations while struggling to share their experience. My goal in this paper is to examine these performance contexts, strategies, and messages of HIV/AIDS NGOs’ performing groups and the manifestation of the converging religious discourses found in these performances.

 

2. Teaching Music Composition in a Multicultural Setting (Nicole Marchesseau, York University)

 

            How does one teach music composition to children in a multicultural, multi-vocal setting?  In an ever changing, complex web of culture found in urban environments, each child brings to the music classroom an individual and ever changing perception of what is defined as music.  It is this web which informs and is informed by the child, influencing decisions made, influencing of the child’s compositional voice, also ever changing.

            While each student brings with them a different cultural fingerprint, should the goal of learning music composition be to extend this fingerprint through music or to learn a specific craft?  Joyce Eastland Gromko, one of the authors in Why and How to Teach Music Composition: A New Horizon for Music Education, values diversity in learning. Gromko also realizes that teaching the music of non-western traditions can pull music from its cultural context and disenfranchise the student from the learning environment.  A method which is aimed at having the student express their own voice is preferable in the case of the multicultural classroom because it allows for diverse influences to be introduced into the compositional curriculum and does not favor a specific voice. No one voice is privileged. However, it is still the role of the instructor to guide the student in discovering that voice.  This paper will draw from experiences in the classroom and from the theories of authors such as Gromko to both explore the challenges of the composition instructor and recommend improvements to face those challenges.

 

3. The Best of Both Worlds: The Unification of Ethnomusicology and Music Education in a Middle School Music Program (Mary Jane Jones, Kent State University)

 

All too often, music education and ethnomusicology operate as separate disciplines with little regard for each other’s potential contributions to musical knowledge and understanding.  At best, the practitioners of these disciplines may fail to communicate or keep abreast of each other’s research and findings.  At worst, rifts may develop between these areas of study within university music departments and elsewhere, giving rise to discord and disrespect.

Although the basic philosophies of these disciplines may differ, elements of both can be combined to increase knowledge of the world’s cultures through the study of music.  This presentation will examine the inherent differences between the two approaches, and will illustrate how ethnomusicology and music education can be successfully combined as illustrated by an Ohio middle school general music program.  Information about the curriculum will be presented along with photo documentation showing the students studying and participating in ethnic musical traditions.

The goals of this presentation are to examine the philosophies underlying ethnomusicology and music education, to increase mutual understanding and appreciation of each discipline’s value, and to demonstrate ways that both approaches can be utilized together to teach children about world cultures through music.

 

 

(1:30-3:00)           SESSION 3B (Rm 237): LOCAL PERSPECTIVES ON POPULAR MUSIC

 

1. A Brief Introduction to Popular Music in Yangon, Burma (Heather MacLachlan, Cornell University)

 

Musicians began recording Western popular music in Burma in the late 1960's, when they came into contact with recordings which originated in America and Britain.  During the ensuing decades, a significant popular music industry developed in Yangon, the largest city in the country.  Western music now constitutes the most widely-popular form of music-making there.  Despite this, Yangon's popular music scene has never been studied in depth.  The reasons (other than difficulty of access) for this are straightforward:  many of the compositions which form the core of the repertoire are self-conscious copies of Western hits, and the government rigorously censors all popular music performances (both recorded and live).  Yangon's popular music is, therefore, seemingly neither unique nor capable of expressing resistance to Burma'sthe brutal military regime.  The presentation, which is based on dissertation research conducted in 2007 and 2008, will suggest however that a finely-grained ethnographic look at this music and its creators can furnish significant commentary on important theories in the disciplines of popular music studies and ethnomusicology.  These preliminary conclusions are based on data culled from interviews with composers and performers who work full-time in the popular music industry in Yangon.

 

2. Caught in a Lift: Festival of Megrelian Song and Contextualizing Georgian Popular Music (Andrea Kuzmich, York University)

 

The popular music of Georgia, a small country located in the southern Caucasus, may have a wide appeal among the Georgian population but, as a cultural form, the music is stagnating under a legacy of corruption and elite nationalism the country inherited as a post-Soviet state. According to one native music historian, Georgian pop music is “caught in a lift.” While background accompaniments have evolved, vocal stylistic developments have hardly changed since the 1960s and are institutionalized in American-Idol-styled television shows, children’s music studios, and commemorative events, where musical success is correlated to the financial backing of well-to-do parents. Failure for Georgia’s popular culture to transcend the economic nepotism of the music industry is also due to a heightened national sentiment that feeds the cultural successes of the traditional music scene in the capital city of Tbilisi. Urban youth gain a sense of empowerment through their reclamation of traditional music, which is vocal-based and often involves complex harmonies and improvisation within an iconic polyphonic structure – a feature nationally distinct from Georgia’s neighbouring musical traditions.

This paper will examine the dynamic between these two musical streams through a review of the activities surrounding the 2007 annual Festival of Megrelian Song, which featured both popular and traditional Georgian music. Stage presence, performance, and repertoire, as well the many social and musical activities that surrounded the event, will be discussed in order to contextualize the two streams within the country’s musical culture and lead to a better understanding of how Georgian’s popular music is caught in a lift.

 

 

 

3. Voicing Alternatives: Nelly Furtado, Divine Brown and Canadian Popular Music (Jennifer Taylor, York University)

 

While musicological research has explored the relationships between hegemony and Canadian music, especially as they relate to the “local” and “regional”, the cultural production of Canadian female popular musicians has typically been overlooked as an important site of identity construction in discussions of “Canadian” music.  Canadian women may be recognized in studies of particular compositional practices or regions, but these pockets of research do not deal with larger issues of female Canadian popular musicians.   As a result, Canadian women are relegated to more general discussions of gender and popular music that ignore how the politics of gender, race and sexuality vary across space.  Moreover, when the repeated and sustained positioning of white, male, heterosexual rock as a signifier of “Canadian” popular music is considered, as played out in recent nationally televised benefit concerts such as Live 8: Barrie, the image of “nationhood” Canada is projecting outwardly, and where “minority” musicians are being positioned, is called into question.  Thus, when that which signifies “Canadianness” in popular music is white, male and rock, how do Canadian women in popular music carve a space for themselves?  This paper will explore how female Canadian popular musicians navigate these politics through an examination of Nelly Furtado and Divine Brown.  In particular, investing the narrative of Canadian popular music with new female voices through the medium of cover songs, and negotiating the “whiteness” of this narrative through the articulation of more pluralistic identities will be addressed.

 

 

3:15-5:00              SESSION 4 PLENARY (Rm 235): RESEARCH IN ACTION: ETHNOMUSICOLOGY BEYOND THE ACADEMY

 

 

 

SUNDAY, MARCH 30TH

 

 

10:00-11:30         SESSION 5A (Rm 241): REVISITING THE DANCE

 

1. Hog-Rassle:  Impromptu Fun At Old-Time Square Dances (James Kimball, SUNY Geneseo)

 

“Hog-Rassle” is a term used by some old timers in rural areas to describe a kind of square dance evening where the participants behave in a disorderly or rough manner.  The term seems generally to be used by those who disapprove of dancers who don’t go by the rules.  The participants, on the other hand, see themselves as interjecting fun into an otherwise repetitive, predictable tradition.  By doing the unexpected, adding one’s own moves or pranks, going the wrong direction,  or just dancing in an extra exuberant manner, a dancer can bring laughter to the whole set.   Such behavior is strongly discouraged in carefully regulated versions of square dance, as found in organized club and school settings; but in the rural dances, watching and experiencing the unexpected is not only tolerated, it is enjoyed by most as part of the fun. Moreover the rural caller and musicians often add their own version of fun: a call which will deliberately mix everyone up or a humorous little musical reference which will make the dancers smile.

The author will discuss and illustrate this aspect of rural entertainment based on thirty years of observing traditional dances in rural New York State and on historical accounts reaching back to the early 19th century.

 

2. Whose Tango is it Anyway? The Non-Traditional Constituents of Current Tango (Alberto Munarriz, York University)

 

Over the course of the last decade, tango has shown an impetuous resurgence. Beyond its native Argentina, the style is now both consumed and produced worldwide. The cultural dialogues that define this heterogeneous context have set the stage for an unprecedented period marked by collaboration, experimentation, and hybridization. Interestingly enough, Argentine musicians have remained, with some notable exceptions, somewhat reticent, unable or overtly unwilling to depart from traditional stylistic formulas. In fact, Tango’s most influential contemporary contributions have come from Argentine exiles whose artistic curiosity has, since the 1970’s, evolved highly sensitized by tango but unaffected by the recurrently stifling weight of Argentina’s idolized traditions. In almost all cases, these musics have not been defined as having been influenced by, or possessing a taste of tango; for composers, musicians and audiences alike, these are clearly the main exponents of modern tango.

Focusing primarily on the music as the central text, this paper attempts to understand how these works, syntheses of varied styles, influences and aesthetic conceptions, may still be understood as tangos. More that ever before, composers have exploited the style’s remarkable malleability; however, despite the highly diverse elements that these compositions have set into harmonious coexistence, tango’s characteristic nature remains seemingly unperturbed. Beyond the notes, the rhythms and composer’s intentions, this paper will study the contexts surrounding the production of these tangos in order to understand what socio-cultural elements influence our current interpretation of what is tango.

 

3. Swingin' Out Into Society: An Examination of Swing Music and Dance and the Social Impact of their Evolution (Alcina Chiu, University of Toronto)

 

"The toe-tapping rhythms of swing music and exuberant movements of swing dancing provided just the right social restorative for Americans in need of escape from the miseries of the depression and World War II."

 --Cynthia R. Millman, Frankie Manning: Ambassador of Lindy Hop

The first half of the twentieth century was socio-economically a time of drastic change and turmoil.  This period of transformation is reflected in the development of new musical styles and popular tastes.  With the proliferation of jazz music in the musical mainstream, swing dances such as the Lindy Hop emerged through the efforts of characters such as Herbert "Whitey" White and Frankie Manning.  These exhilarating dancers from Harlem's Savoy Ballroom soon gained recognition, leading to a spread of swing music and dance from salons and local jazz clubs to international ballrooms and cinema.  In the 1950s, these arts declined with the beginning of rock 'n' roll and gave way to non-partner dances such as the twist.  Today, Lindy Hop has seen a renewed universal interest after being revived over two decades ago by a new generation of inspired dancers.

Through personal interviews and my own dance experiences, I will explore the world of swing: the evolution of the musical style and the reactive invention of a dance form; the growth in popularity of Lindy Hop and the impact of African American entertainment on social boundaries; the desire for an escape from the hardships of the 1930s and 40s; and the rebirth of swing in the new millennium.

 

 

(10:00-11:30)       SESSION 5B (Rm 237): INTERROGATING SCHOLARSHIP

 

1. Guru Trouble: Hagiography, History, and Historiography in North India (Mark Laver, University of Toronto)

 

                Ethnomusicologists and musicologists have long railed against uncritical music histories and biographies and the role that they play in the mythologization of great musicians and the reification of historical canons. This problem is particularly acute in North India, where hagiographies regularly accord the constituents of the Hindustani music canon virtual (or even literal) godhead. Though this sort of hyperbolic encomium is enormously problematic, it can also be highly revealing if it is considered critically and reflexively. It is significant, for instance, that most biographies of great Hindustani musicians are authored by their erstwhile students. A close reading of autochthonous hagiographies of North Indian musicians thus offers a useful lens through which to explore the religiosity that subtends the Hindustani system of musical transmission.

The terminology operative in this system – the guru-shishya parampara - is drawn directly and deliberately from the Hindu religion. I therefore contend that this religious subtext works in the biographical literature to transform biography into hagiography and transmogrify men into demigods. In this paper, I first explore the foundation of the guru-shishya parampara – the chain of teachers (gurus)and students (shishyas) that is the basis of Indian notions of musical pedigree – in the Hindu religion.  Secondly, I contend that the hagiographical nature of most autochthonous musical biographies and histories is a consequence of the perceived godhead of the guru. Thirdly, I explore the occasionally problematic impact of the guru-shishya relationship on the work of Western scholars. 

 

2. Old Lao Musicians Never Die; They Just Fade Away (Terry E. Miller, Kent State University)

 

This paper combines an assessment of the state of research on music in Laos with a critique of the field of Ethnomusicology, as currently practiced.  Laos, a mainland Southeast Asian nation with a mere 5 million inhabitants, is nonetheless home to an amazing variety of music, both lowland Lao and upland non-Lao minorities.  It is also one of the most under-researched nations in the world, lacking any native scholars and having few interested foreign scholars.  Currently the only scholar making regular trips to Laos, although for short time periods only, is this paper’s author.  The few younger scholars who began research in Lao music have fallen into inactivity.  This situation stems from two factors.  First, not only does Laos lack the infrastructure that makes music more accessible to outsiders, but it was virtually closed to outsiders from 1975 until restrictions were gradually lifted during the later 1990s.  Second, fewer and fewer ethnomusicologists devote themselves to the field-based study of “traditional” music, preferring instead to focus on transnational, diasporic, and popular musical styles.  As a result, it is unlikely that young ethnomusicologists will chose to study the musics of Laos.  In the meantime the surviving and increasingly elderly Lao and minority musicians remain forgotten, and as they slip away, so do their arts. 

 

3. “Shall We Talk?” Dialogue, Power, and Representation (Nan Coolsma, York University)

 

The question of how to represent the Other in writing has troubled many ethnomusicologists such as Beverley Diamond. In the past, positivistic methods to transcribe field experience into writing created a number of difficulties, the most problematic being “asymmetrical power relationships” (James et al. 1) between subject and object, since the ethnographer assumed the position of observer, interpreter, and the one who represents the culture under study. Ethnography of First Nations communities has been especially problematized by histories of colonisation and appropriation, which tended to ignore the needs and rights of the Other, a relationship which has further often been replicated in scholarly writing on First Nations communities. Finding methods of music ethnography that present a more equal power distribution thus becomes imperative.

This paper will examine the ways that dialogue can break through dualities and empower the Other. Elvira Pulitano’s Toward a Native American Critical Theory explores how “dialogue within and between people [can] expose boundaries that shape and constitute different cultural and personal worlds ...[and can read] across lines of cultural identity, overcoming rigid binary oppositions between Western and Native perspectives.”  Although Pulitano is explaining how dialogue is employed in literature, this statement also provides a framework for examining music ethnography’s use of dialogue. As well, it can be applied to how within contemporary First Nations music, elements of traditional and contemporary can engage in a meaningful dialogue.

 

 

11:30-11:45         BREAK

 

 

11:45-1:15            SESSION 6A (Rm 241): GENDER, POLITICS AND MEDIA IN CONTEMPORARY COUNTRY MUSIC

 

Country music scholarship has traditionally lagged behind popular music studies and ethnomusicology at large for a variety of reasons.  Among these reasons may be an unwillingness to examine music that appears to be simplistic and unworthy of concerted attention on the surface; more likely it may be the fact that until recently, anthropological trends have directed research away from one’s own culture and toward less familiar musics.  However, North American scholarship is beginning to embrace the study of country music, finding within it fascinating and revealing aspects of western culture, and recognizing the connections it fosters between popular culture, media theories, gender studies, and geographical studies. 

This panel will begin to examine some of these approaches, providing a variety of perspectives on both mainstream and independent country music.  While all papers in the panel are linked by a common thread of country music video (or film) and recording analysis, they differ greatly in terms of analytic approaches and subject matter.  Issues of gender representation, politics, place imagery, and visual techniques will be discussed, alongside the influence that production aesthetics and media portrayal have on music and video reception.  It is hoped that by drawing connections between these varying methods that a continued conversation on country video production can emerge.

 

1. (Re)Constructing Gender: Taking the Long Way with the Dixie Chicks (Monique Giroux, York University)

 

In 2006, the Dixie Chicks released their fifth album entitled Taking the Long Way. The release of this album followed almost three years of harassment, hate-mail, and threats against their lives—all the result of an off-hand political statement made by their lead singer, Natalie Maines, in 2003. Despite the hatred that the statement garnered the group, their latest release has been phenomenally successful. In addition to winning Grammy Awards for Album of the Year, Song of the Year, and Record of the Year, the Dixie Chicks have also made a substantial mark on the Canadian market, winning a Juno for international album of the year and achieving the number one spot of 2006 on Country Music Television (CMT) Canada for their music video “Not Ready To Make Nice.” Because of this widespread success, the images and themes presented on this album have reached (and are reaching) a large number of people. Although atypical of the genre, the ideals presented by the Dixie Chicks point to an exciting possibility for change in the Country idiom that would ultimately provide women artists and fans with a positive and realistic view of womanhood. This paper will therefore explore how the album Taking the Long Way, through the use of sound, image, and word, mediates issues of gender, including age, power, and representation. This case study will thus illustrate ways in which music and music videos can contribute to a (re)gendering of culture.

 

2. “Land of the In Between”: Independent Film in Alternative Country (Gillian Turnbull, York University)

 

It is common practice for popular music artists to produce videos as a promotional tool for singles and albums.  In an age of do-it-yourself recording and marketing, even independent artists have found ways to create music videos that have a promotional function as well as serving an additional creative outlet to recording.  In the realm of alternative country music, where few videos are seen on national broadcasters such as CMT, videos are relegated to the realm of specialized DVDs or internet broadcast on websites such as YouTube.  With limited opportunities for airplay, alt-country artists have pushed the traditional boundaries of video production, creating short films and concept videos that are connected by visual leitmotifs.  This paper will explore the DVD release of Albertan artist Steve Coffey, whose collection of short films to accompany his CD, SameBoy (2007) was broadcast on the national Bravo network in Canada.  Coffey uses the imagery of the prairies and Rocky Mountains to augment his lyrical themes of isolation, despair, and nostalgia, which are common to alt-country.  His approach to film production upends conventional connections of locale and sound, until recently conceived of as a unidirectional flow where music reflects place.  The visuals he uses suggest a particular way of viewing land and its soundscape, seen in the cyclic undercurrent in the films, which serve to add a new layer of interpretive possibilities.  This analysis will be connected to a broader movement of creative filmmaking in alt-country, which highlights the independent approach to music-making across the genre.

 

 

3. Navigating Backlash: The Dixie Chicks and the Politics of the Entertainment Media (Kirsten Dyck, York University)

 

The all-female country music group The Dixie Chicks incurred a costly right-wing backlash when, on the eve of the second Iraq War in early 2003, lead singer Natalie Maines told a British audience that she was ashamed that President Bush was from Texas. This paper will explore a number of potential reasons for this backlash, including media politics, country music fan culture, and gender constructs within country music. It will also discuss the Dixie Chicks' reaction to the backlash, focusing on their 2006 album Taking The Long Way. Ultimately, it will raise questions about the role of the media industry in contemporary society.

 

 

(11:45-1:15)         SESSION 6B (Rm 237): MUSIC AS THE SITE OF TRANCE, RITUAL AND MEMORY

 

1. Lullabies, Crackpots, and Woody Allen: Music and Hypnotherapy as Trance in the West (Lauren E. Sweetman, University of Toronto)

 

As Judith Becker concisely asserts, we in the West have historically “written off trance” (2004:13). It is not surprising, then, that our scholarship has followed suit, viewing Western trance practices like hypnotherapy as somehow less valid, involved, or important to ethnomusicology. Framed historically, socially, and academically as ‘psychobabble’ at best, ‘new age’ at worst, hypnotherapy and consequently its music have long fallen outside of our academic purview. To move towards a more holistic view of music and trance, we must first debunk the myths of our perceptions. Our experience of music in a Western healing context is usually based on a Western, clinical experience, and consequently taken as superficial, purely aesthetic, simplistic, and trivial; far from the deliberately functional place of hypnotherapeutic music. As such, hypnotherapy’s alternative methods are often subject to inquiry only when larger issues of its validity arise. This ‘efficacy-based’ research thus leaves hypnotherapy, as a cultural practice, largely ignored. This paper, stemming from research in Toronto with the Ontario Hypnosis Centre, interrogates our attitudes towards music, trance, and healing in a Western context. Here, I examine the use and function of music in hypnotherapy through institutional or practitioner-based ethnography, demonstrating how we can and should consider Western medical trance practices like hypnotherapy as a social phenomenon, ritualized healing, and musical context whose limits we have yet to traverse.

 

2. Ritual Anamnesis: Music and Memory in Orisha Possession Trance (David Font, York University)

 

                In the Lucumi religious tradition which traveled from West Africa to Cuba during the transatlantic slave trade, rituals most often revolve around the worship of divinities known collectively as orisha. These rich expressive traditions have been the focus of much scholarly attention. The texts of Lucumi liturgical music are often obscure in meaning, and knowledge of the textual and esoteric content of ritual music is regarded highly among devotees. While individual devotees may have very limited knowledge of the Lucumi music and language, it is understood that initiate's tutelary orisha respond to the mystical potency of words and music, especially if they flow from experts' command of literal and symbolic meaning. Among scholars of Lucumi musical and religious traditions, particular attention has been paid to ritual music and dance, often placing possession trance at the center of Lucumi ritual narratives or the dramatic apex of the affecting presence of orisha. In this paper, I propose a framework for understanding orisha possession trance that focuses on devotion and continuity rather than trauma, victimization, or theatrical spectacle. As an alternative to both of the analytical models most prevalent in existing scholarly literature on possession trance (possession trance as pathology or performance), I suggest that orisha possession activates a vast individual and communal memory, arguing that music and dance are crucial components in this anamnesis (loss of forgetfulness) which complements the amnesia of individuals who experience possession trance

                                                                               

3. Visualizing Music in the Tibetan Buddhist Tantric Chöd Ritual Meditation Practice (Jeff Cupchik, York University)

 

Tibet’s most renowned female ascetic, Machig Labdrön (1055-1153), is revered for having developed the radical meditation method called “Chöd” (Tib. gcod, “cutting”) and associated ritual practices as a means of eliminating the “demon” of “self-grasping” which is defined as the mistaken instinct of believing in the intrinsic independent existence of one’s Self. Her chöd ritual meditation practice operationalises the heightened emotions roused from the experience of fear in order to “cut off” the instinctual grasping to the Self. Performed in frightening places, the ritual that effects this mental transformation is liturgically based upon poetic texts drawn from the Tibetan mgur tradition of “songs of meditative experience,” which is in turn drawn from the Indian doha of meditative poetry. The ritualised meditation experience of chöd is inhabited musically by a series of mgur styled song-poem melodies that are performed in accordance with the liturgy over an underlying and potentially trance-inducing rhythmic theme. With the ritual instruments and melodies, and even the body of the practitioner having layers of symbolic meaning, performing the chöd ritual becomes a “test” of the practitioner’s altruistic intentionality or bodhicitta and wisdom realization of emptiness. Drawing upon my ethnographic research, musical analysis and textual translation in my presentation I will show evidence that the music has been composed in specific ways to complement the liturgical text and enhance the meditative experience of the chöd adept. The implications of this finding are significant since music-text concordances in the chöd or mgur have not yet been researched.

 


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