ABSTRACTS:
NIAGARA CHAPTER CONFERENCE

Friday April 3 to Sunday April 5, 2009

Cornell University

 “Teaching and Performing ‘Traditional’ Musics in Contemporary’ America”

 

ABSTRACT #1:  Dustin Wiebe (University of Toronto)

Title: Good, Fast, and Cheap: My North American Gamelan Experience

The popularity of gamelan ensembles has increased immensely since Mantle Hood first began to incorporate them into Western university curriculums over fifty years ago.  Today, gamelan is an ensemble offering at many music faculties and conservatories throughout the world and is considered by some to be a part of a newly immerging cannon of world music ensembles. This presentation focuses on a growing body literature and research that examines the challenges of teaching gamelan (primarily Balinese and Javanese) in the “abstract” socio-cultural context of Western, university-based ensembles.  Cultural representation is one such challenge and is perhaps most poignantly realized through the frequent and seemingly necessary act of public performance.  Of simultaneous concern are questions of pedagogical methodology.  A variety of pedagogical approaches are common within North America, most notable among them are the use of recording technology, guru/student oral teaching, and the use of notation.  This paper will explore not only the interconnectedness of representation and pedagogy within some North American gamelans but also ways in which these relationships can frequently work in fundamental opposition to one another. 

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ABSTRACT #2: Eric Murray (Kent State)

Title: Learning, Teaching, and Performing Brazilian choro in Kent, Ohio

Choro, a Brazilian music style originating in the 1870's, is a hybrid product, being a mixture of European and African musical aspects. Often compared to jazz because of similar harmonic progressions and collective improvisation, experienced players have a high level of technical facility and expansive song repertoire. Although learning this music has always been a combination of both written and oral practices, emphasis is placed on oral transmission, specifically in the roda de choro (choro circle). The roda de choro provides a unique environment in which musicians of all levels experience music together-simultaneously learning, practicing and performing the music. Beginning with my experiences learning choro in Brazil, this paper discusses the pedagogical issues I face in the Ohio Choro Club, a choro quartet as well as once a month roda de choro, in Kent, Ohio.

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ABSTRACT #3: Louise Wrazen (York University, Toronto)

Title: Daughters of tradition or mothers of invention?: music, gender, and teaching in diaspora

This paper considers the transmission of traditional expressive culture in contemporary contexts. It focuses specifically on including a discussion of gender in this process and elaborates on new performative possibilities as both traditions and learning methods change under new circumstances. Although numerous studies explore performance opportunities for traditional or world musics in contemporary community-based and institutional settings, and others consider the role of expressive culture in structuring experiential space within the contingencies of displacement, few reflect on processes of transmission as a gendered construct under new and variable circumstances. This paper draws on research from the Polish-Górale community of Toronto to support an elaboration of the variety of ways that gender and teaching intersect within a discourse embodied in performance. How is teaching gender, or gendered teaching, implicated in music and dance learning? Through a playful reordering of key words, this discussion considers how they can correlate within diasporic contexts of identity formation. In so doing, it also elaborates on some of the implications of resituating a paradigmatic gendered music performance style to a new setting.

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ABSTRACT #4 (paper by one presenter and workshop by 3 presenters on South Asian music)

Paper: Barbara C. Johnson (Ithaca College)

Title:   Indian Cinema Songs and Kerala Jewish Women’s Music

Among more than 300 Malayalam-language songs recovered from the repertoire of Cochini Jewish women in Kerala (South India) and Israel, a small set of mid-20th century songs with “Zionist” themes reveals the influence of Indian cinema songs of that era. Fieldwork with a group of elder women from the Kerala community in Israel (a little-known corner of the South Asian diaspora) has led me to identify the cinematic and theater sources of several song melodies.  In this paper I will briefly describe the political-cultural context in which these Jewish songs were created and first performed in India in the early 1950s, shortly before most of the Kerala Jews emigrated to Israel.  In addition to discussing the particular film and theater sources for the melodies, I will explore the abiding nostalgia for the popular songs of their youth that I have found among the Cochini singers in Israel, who are now engaged in a performance revival of their traditional music.  The revival includes songs that are many centuries old as well as those of the 1950s.   Whereas “Zionist” song lyrics affirm the patriotic Israeli credentials of these immigrants, the old cinema melodies play an important role in their enthusiasm for the current performance revival and in a new affirmation of their own Indian identity within the multiethnic society of Israel.

Workshop: Carol Babiracki, Associate Professor, Department of Fine Arts, Syracuse University; Denise Nuttall, Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology, Ithaca College & Visiting Scholar, South Asia Program, Cornell University; Stefan Fiol, Assistant Professor, Department of Musicology, Eastman School of Music, University of Rochester

Title: A Workshop on South Asian Music and Dance: Tribal/Folk/Classical Hindustani

The workshop will consist of three sections, each presenting distinct musical styles and relating these to a community’s social organization and cultural values:  the first section, led by Carol Babiracki, will introduce the music and dance of the Munda community of Jharkhand; the second, led by Stefan Fiol, will introduce the music and dance of the Garhwali region of the Uttarakhand Himalayas; and the third, led by Denise Nuttall (tabla) and Stefan Fiol (sitar), will introduce Hindustani music (raga and tala).  This workshop can only offer a brief glimpse into each of these rich musical systems, but by juxtaposing them it is hoped that participants will come away with a sense of the diversity of social and musical organization in North India.  The workshop will then segway into a roundtable discussion in which the presenters and the participants discuss the pedagogical benefits and challenges of teaching South Asian music and dance in the American academy.  Themes that will be discussed in the roundtable include the effects of reifying categories such as tribal, folk, classical, and music, new ways of conceptualizing and using the body, and new ways of thinking about the self, the community, and the world.

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ABSTRACT #5: Jeremy Leong (University of Wisconsin-Madison)

Title: Refashioning Republican China's "national music": the fallacies in Wang Guangqi's musical thoughts

Hailed as the founder of musicology in China by the Garland Encyclopedia of World Music, Wang Guangqi was a patriot of the Republican era (1911-49) who was influenced by the progressive spirit of the May 4th movement of 1919 that supported a scientific approach to the study of music based on Western practices. His writings, which included topics on Western music and on comparative analysis of Western and non-Western music, were widely circulated in the Chinese public sphere. Although trained as a musicologist, he had a profound interest in comparative musicology and had studied with Erich Moritz von Hornbostel and Curt Sachs. Wang's disdain for ancient Chinese music had resulted in his effort to formulate a new paradigm for the Republic's "national music." He looked to the West for inspiration and guidance, and the "Berlin school" of comparative musicological methods became a vital part in his research and studies in Germany. Yet a critical evaluation of his works and the impact they had on the public have never been thoroughly investigated. Based on my doctoral research, this paper seeks to do that by deconstructing his writings on comparative musicology in an attempt to unveil his underlying flawed analysis of (1) non-Western scale systems, (2) the compatibility of Chinese and Western tone systems, and (3) the adoption of Western staff notation and equal temperament in Chinese music. Finally, despite his questionable approaches to the construction of the Republic's "national music," I will reveal how his writings on comparative musicology had a profound influence on the Chinese.

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ABSTRACT #6:  Priwan Nanongkham (Kent State University)

Title: Music and Buddhism: Philosophical Perspectives and Practices in Thai Society

Within Thai musical perspectives, none of the sonic qualities occurring in Buddhist practices are thought of as "music." In addition in Theravada practice, "music" is not theoretically admitted as a part of the methodology. However, music has actually functioned in certain roles in Thai Buddhists. Among the Buddhist monks, who are considered to be those in Thailand most serious in Buddhist study and practice, heighten speech patterns are used in the form of suat and thet, which we music scholars would actually consider music. According to Buddhist philosophy, music can be a kind of obstruction that can hold one back from reaching nirvana. In some respects, music provides negative references that can stimulate a human's kleshas or "negative desire," leading to suffering. Of course, music has an integral role in Thai culture although Thai culture is so intensely Buddhist, that involvement in music seems to contradict philosophical study and practice. Thus, in this paper, I will discuss Thai Buddhist perspectives on music and the ways that Thai Buddhists are involved in their musical culture as it is associated with the belief system and philosophy. I will examine the factors which make music legitimate and/or illegitimate in Thailand based on the Buddhist point of view.

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ABSTRACT #7: Sija Tsai (York University)

Title: The Erhu in Toronto

The erhu has come to be associated with numerous performance contexts, notably regional opera accompaniment, solo recitals, recreational ensembles, and informal street-corner performances. However, much of the English-language literature on the Chinese two-stringed fiddle (e.g., Stock 1992 & 1993, Liu 1988) focuses on its development within China. A consideration of the erhu’s role in transnational settings would shed light on further backdrops for its performance and pedagogy, as well as its appearances in non-Chinese musical genres. In a Canadian context, the erhu has indeed been mentioned in literature about the Chinese music scenes of Toronto (Li 1987), Vancouver (Chow-Morris 2004), and Calgary (Thrasher 2000). However, there are no studies devoted exclusively to this instrument and the contexts for its usage in Canada. In a step towards filling this gap, the following paper will trace the development of erhu performance in Toronto, where the instrument’s shifting social significance can be observed in Cantonese opera ensembles, university settings, and rock bands, to name a few. The discussion will begin with a brief summary of the instrument’s history in China, followed by its arrival in Canada and its history in Toronto. This will be followed by an overview of the current conditions in which it is taught and performed, and its forays into various musical genres.

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ABSTRACT #8: Noah Dreiblatt (SUNY Geneseo)

Title: The Modern House Show

Fueled by recent expansions of communication and social networking, house shows are an emerging and important trend in modern music. At once, they represent new venues for musicians who wish to tour, but have not been able to previously; new sources of entertainment in small towns (as well as larger urban centers); a focus of identifiable social subcultures; and contemporary (albeit disguised) continuations of older folk traditions-traditions that can be traced back to at least the 19th century. Walking into a modern house show, an observer may not have rigid expectations, other than that there will be touring musicians, and a jar into which he or she is encouraged to put any spare money. The musicians, who typically operate on a shoestring with minimum equipment, are normatively expected to improvise based on their surroundings: to play on children's toy pianos, to play floor tom parts on cardboard boxes, and to use suitcases simultaneously as stools for cellists and as bass drums in makeshift drum kits. The modern house show is an amalgamation of punk rock attitudes, Anglo-American folk aesthetics and musical practices reflecting influences from around the world. Drawing primarily on typical college town settings, as well as interviews with musicians, hosts and audience members, this paper will examine several aspects of this growing musical phenomenon.

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ABSTRACT #9: Julie Beauregard and Brent C. Talbot (University of Rochester Eastman School of Music)

Title: DJ and Dancers As Performers of Electronic Dance Music In A Night Club

Multiple parties contribute to musical performance in nightclubs. The producers, DJ, and dancers all participate in a triangulation of music production. In this emergent study, we specifically examine the reciprocal relationship between the DJ (who chooses and manipulates what musical media to perform) and dancers (who interact with and respond to the musical media's performance). This study takes place on Saturday nights in a city in western New York at an 18 and over nightclub whose clientele is predominantly gay. Our research is based in ethnography, in which researchers disturb a setting as little as possible through the collection of first-hand accounts. A variety of research techniques, including participant observation, video/audio recordings, field notes, and interviews were employed to amass data. Each researcher respectively adopted the perspective of the DJ or the dancer, subsequently combining data to uncover unifying themes. We used a holistic approach to describe complex interrelationships of human behaviors and interactions during this musical performance, providing illumination of their interdependence. In exploring the relationship between the DJ and dancers and how each participating party influences the other during a musical performance, the following two guiding questions were posited: 1. How do the DJ's musical selections impact dancers' performances? 2. What impact do dancers' performances have on the DJ's decision-making processes?

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ABSTRACT #10:  Carl Rahkonen (Indiana University of Pennsylvania)

Title:  “Scandinavian Immigrant Fiddling in the United States”

This presentation describes fiddling traditions among Scandinavian immigrants and their descendents in the United States.  My research is based on fieldwork done at the Nisswa Stämman, a “fiddler’s gathering” held in the village of Nisswa, Minnesota every summer, the Swedish Weekend at the Folklore Village in Dodgeville, Wisconsin, and also from participating for many years in the national FinnFest.  It is also based on study of archival collections at the Gordon Ekvall Tracie Music Library of the Nordic Heritage Museum in Seattle, providing valuable information on immigrant fiddlers of the Northwest, and the Robert Andresen Collection at the Mills Music Library, University of Wisconsin, Madison, and the Immigration History Research Center at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, documenting many of the important Scandinavian fiddlers of the upper Midwest. Scandinavian immigrant fiddlers play tunes and styles of music that the original immigrants brought from Scandinavia.  They represent a rural and ethnic tradition, rather than the largely urban and hobbyist tradition of fiddlers at the national Scandinavian music and dance camps.  They gather in two Scandinavian music societies: the Hardanger Fiddle Association of American (HFAA) and the American Nyckelharpa Association (ANA).   They also have a surprisingly close connection with American old-time fiddling, both in their playing style and in their participation in main stream fiddle events.

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ABSTRACT #11. Vivia Kieswetter (York University, Toronto)

Title: "Lifting Up To The Throne of Grace": the Phenomenology of the Church Organist's Performance as Worship

Utilizing primary fieldwork interviews, this research examines "performance as worship" experiences among church organists. Dealing particularly with improvising musicians in a traditional liturgical setting (All subjects were drawn from liturgy-based North American congregations.) individual experiences of performing are investigated. It is a phenomenological exploration of the church musician experience, exploring the intricate differences between music as performance and music as worship. The interviews explore issues of musical identity, music as a means to establish community, and music as a way of both expressing and evoking emotion. Special focus is given to the idea that idea that a musician’s intent is a component of sacred aesthetics. Drawing heavily from the research of psychologist Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi, it examines the act of music as worship as an altered state brought on by the creative experience: which is indicated by a dissolution of clock time and a falling away of the ego. Efforts are made to draw conclusions between this mental state and the "god experience" as outlined in current neuro-psychology literature, as well as descriptions from the musicians themselves.


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