2001 Niagara Chapter Meeting Abstracts

SESSION I Chair:  Kay Stonefelt (SUCNY Fredonia)

This Building is Going to Fly: Halim El-Dabh and the Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center
Denise Seachrist (Kent State University, Trumbull Campus)

Egyptian-born, American composer, Halim El-Dabh (b. 1921) has studied with several giants of twentieth-century musical composition and conducting: Leopold Stokowsky, Irving Fine, Leonard Bernstein, and Aaron Copland, to name just these few. A recipient of numerous honors, awards, and grants including a Rockefeller fellowship (1962), two Fulbright awards (1950, 1967), and two Guggenheim fellowships (1959, 1961), his "Sound and Lights of the Pyramids of Giza," a spectacle that captures the mystery of the ancient structures in narration, lights, and music, is performed daily at the pyramids. He achieved fame and success when he was commissioned by choreographer and modern dance innovator, Martha Graham, to write the music for Clytemnestra (1958), One More Gaudy Night (1961), A Look at Lightning (1962), and Lucifer (1975).  In 1959, El-Dabh received his first Guggenheim fellowship which enabled him to work with electronic music pioneers Otto Luening and Vladimir Ussachevsky at the Columbia/Princeton Electronic Music Center. This paper addresses his early approach working with magnetic tape in which he conceived noise as a piece of sculpture from which he could chisel the sound. El-Dabh, becoming obsessed with the realization that the human range of hearing is limited, was overwhelmed by a strange and disturbing thought that although the sound frequencies are there, humans are not capable to perceive them. El-Dabh's three electronic music compositions "Elements, Beings and Primevals,” Leiyla and the Poet,” and "Meditation on White Noise,” which were all composed in 1959 are compared and contrasted as the composer envisioned the interconnection with the sounds, and perceived that through this force, the building housing the Columbia/Princeton Electronic Music Center was capable of flying into space.

Simplicity and Amish School Singing: Resisting Assimilation
D. Elder Stewart (Ohio State University A.T.I.)

Simplicity, conformity, mutuality, tradition. Children in an Amish school “catch” these values through daily performance of Amish religious songs. Amish school culture reflects the homogeneity of beliefs of the children, their families and communities by placing an emphasis on learning that is practical, leading to “a disciplined life on earth, concern for others and eternity in heaven” (Hostetler and Huntington 1971).  Singing in the Amish school mirrors the singing of Amish worship.  However, there is more latitude in the choice of songs, and songs from sources other than the Ausbund are sung. Amish singing both reflects and reinforces cultural values. This study describes and analyzes the performance practices of Amish school singing, investigates its role in Amish socialization and evaluates its influence on the continuation of the Amish tradition.

The Bauls of Bengal: Cultural Resilience in Globalization
Eric Murray (Kent State University)

I spent several months recording and researching the Bauls in West Bengal, India.  The Bauls are a music/religious cult found in the Bengal region of India.  Their unique style of performance and religious practices make a tradition so special that is resilient to the effects of globalization.

Chair:  Beverly Diamond (York University)

These papers were developed in a York University seminar on "Gender and Performance" in the fall term 2000.  The seminar seeks to cross the traditional boundaries between the musicologies. The four papers group around two themes. The first two papers focus on how we theorize the voice, drawing on case studies of artists who are usually represented as "extreme" in various regards. The third and fourth papers, on the other hand, look at contemporary popular music performance, examining specific instances of musicians who defy the gendered patterns of instrument choice by negotiating their way as female bass players.

Classically-Trained Gender-Benders?  The Construction and the Rise of the Castrati
Eric Wood (York University)

Historically, the castrati have often been misunderstood by many, even within the musical world.  Called capricious, prima-donnas, musical superstars, and despicable, degenerate creatures, one of the few constants in the public's perception and reception of the castrati over the centuries has been the sheer diversity and lack of consistency in their opinions. This paper intends to explore several questions.  First of all, who really were these misunderstood figures?  Can available historical evidence accurately ascertain who these men were and how they were received and perceived throughout their time?  Lastly, can castrati be considered "gender-benders" of their times, or were they just simply men with high voices?  Through the examination of historical evidence detailing their social reception, the prevailing social conditions, their training, physical and behavioral characteristics, other notable facts, and relevant modern gender and sex theories, I will uncover why there has been such diversity in the public's reception and perception of the castrati and also why the castrati can in many regards, be considered "gender-benders" of their times.  Furthermore, I intend to display how the castrati ironically re-enforced the binary gender system in place in their times, even whilst breaking it themselves in multiple regards.

Women Bass Players: Who's on the Bottom?
Tammy Gutnik (York University)

Through an examination of the lives of two female bass players, I will address issues of gender and sexuality in relation to their work as performers.  The construction and negotiation of  their identities will be foregrounded in order to fully understand  the social conditions of women  bass players.  In this way, I hope to explore the roles of gender and sexuality in musical lives. Furthermore, aspects of performativity will be discussed, to take into account the relationship between performance, gender and social context.

"Women and Guitars (Part III): Playing the Field"
Simon Wood (York University)

In her book Frock Rock (1998), Mavis Bayton offers a detailed account of the experiences of numerous British female rock musicians.  While Bayton does an admirable job of outlining the numerous ways in which female musicians are marginalized in the male-dominated field of rock musicianship, she fails to theorize her findings beyond general observations of how the assumed roles of male and female within rock music echo those same roles as they are played out within a hegemonic society.  In particular, her discussion of the relationship between women and the electric guitar never seems to go beyond the obvious essentialisms of the connection (or lack there of) between women and technology.   Based in part on Bayton's work, and in part on my own ethnography andobservations of both male and female musicians, this paper will reconsider what I believe is a dynamic relationship between female musicians and the electric guitar, and attempt to place this relationship within a theoretical frame. Drawing primarily on Pierre Bourdieu's concepts of 'habitus' and 'field,' I will suggest that, rather than continuing to exist on the musical margin, women are slowly but steadily negotiating the role of rock musician, simultaneously creating a space for self-expression, while redefining the rules that govern the field as a whole.

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

The Nettl Connection:  Detroit’s Folk Music Archive
Terese M Volk (Wayne State University)

Early in his career, Bruno Nettl taught at Wayne State University, Detroit, MI.  One of his projects with his classes at the time was to gather folk music from Detroit’s neighborhoods.  WSU holds this material in archives;  it has only now begun to be catalogued.  This paper will discuss the archive, and the possibilities it presents for SEM and SEM/education researchers.

From Country Hick to Rural Hip: Reconstructing Identity Through Music in Northeast Thailand
Terry E. Miller (Kent State University)

When I began research on Northeast Thai music in 1973, the region's reputation was entirely negative: the people are poor, uneducated, and lazy, the food smells bad, nobody can understand their mawlam singing, the khaen is a quaint and simple instrument, it is the region from which all our gardeners, taxi drivers, and maids come.  During the 1990s all that changed, primarily as a result of musical developments in the region.  First, the development of luk thung pop songs since the 1960s was dominated by Northeastern artists, and when luk thung became the rage in the 1980s, the Northeast was in the forefront.  Second, the development of lam sing, an updated vocal repartee genre derived from the old-fashioned lam klawn, around 1990 swept first the Northeast, then the rest of the country by storm.  Numerous imitations cropped up; many genres changed into some kind of sing ("racing") form.  Third, the development of the pong lang ensemble mainly featuring khaen, phin, and pong lang, dancing girls, and consciously created costumes gave the Northeast its own "traditional" ensemble, which soon became standard in schools around the country.  This paper will trace the change of identity from negative to positive and popular through the development of new kinds of music which, although they depart from tradition, derive from it too.

On the Origin of Chinese Guchuiyue
Min Wang (Kent State University)

In China guchuiyue, or "drumming-and-blowing music,"refers to a variety of musical ensembles involving idiophones, membranophones, aerophones, and chordophones.  Through an extensive pursuit of historical sources related to and on the origins of guchuiyue and comparing the emergence of these guchuiyue uses, the writer thus ventures this conclusion: the creative period of guchuiyue must have begun eight-hundred years earlier than a statement of guchuiyue being created during the Qin-Han era (221 B.C.-24 A.D.) which has been asserted by Chinese scholars for many years.

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

“A Love Supreme”: John Coltrane’s Journey From Jazz Legend to Religious Icon in San Francisco
Neil R. Coulter  (Kent State University)

When jazz saxophonist John Coltrane was asked, near the end of his life, where he saw himself in ten years, he replied that he would like to be a saint.  Closer to twenty years after that interview, Coltrane had become just that.  From the 1970's to the present, a group of jazz aficionados and Coltrane admirers in San Francisco have been incorporating the compositions of Coltrane into their worship ceremony.  In 1982, the church, then known as the One Mind Temple Evolutionary Transitional Body of Christ, was brought into the African Orthodox Church, and Coltrane was officially made a saint; two years later, the founder of the church, Franzo Wayne King, was consecrated Bishop.  The church worships Christ, not Coltrane, but the music in the ceremony is all Coltrane; the album "A Love Supreme" holds the highest place of prestige among the congregation.

In the church of St. John Coltrane, we see a unique syncretism of orthodox religious tradition and popular culture.  An idea that may sound absurd to an outside observer is treated with utmost earnestness by the members of the church.  There is no kitsch here; there is only devotion to Jesus and sincerest love for a messiah-like musician.  St. John's is a distinct American model of church tradition accommodating "real life."  This paper explores the social factors involved in the creation and sustaining of such a syncretism.

Extreme Aesthetic Trends in Japanese Rock Music
Tim Ellison (Kent State University)

This paper provides an overview of Japanese underground rock music during the period spanning from the mid-1980s through the decade of the 1990s. The trends discussed in he paper are identified as the first Asian popular music forms to have had a sustained (albeit subterranean) success in North America and Europe. The paper begins with a discussion of Japanese Noise, a genre dating back to the mid-1980s. Noise is identified as an innovative trend emerging from a lineage traced back through European industrial music, post-punk, and punk rock. The discussion involvesissues of organological reinterpretation, innovations in ensemble make up, and the sociological implications of these factors with regard to a sense of artistic egalitarianism. Noise is identified as a modernist trend. Modernism is discussed as a finite aesthetic trajectory, and its finite nature is suggested as a factor behind the subsequent development of a distinctly postmodernist Japanese rock music in the 1990s. The paper concludes with an examination of postmodernist trends in Japanese rock, focusing primarily on issues of identity and the heightened role of identity in the postmodernist methods of musical creation utilized by these artists.

From Resistance to Renaissance -- South African Women Musicians’ Voices in a New Millennium
Carol Ann Weaver (Conrad Grebel College, University of Waterloo, Ontario)

Women's jazz and popular music is becoming an increasingly important voice within contemporary South Africa, which is emerging from an era of resisting colonialism and apartheid towards an "African Renaissance," a time of reclaiming African values.  Women are challenging traditionally gendered roles within African music as they create music informed by new combinations of ethnic styles, American jazz which has been both liberating and colonizing, and various contemporary influences.   Their rediscovery of queen/diva/matriarch images in different musical contexts is creating new meanings in a music long dominated by men's work and by Western influences.

Specifically, I will discuss two representative musicians from different ethnicities, musical expressions, and career streams who are creating new musical fusions in relation to their cultural and gendered contexts.  Internationally acclaimed Zulu singer Busi Mhlongo is breaking ground both as the first woman to champion Zulu maskanda music and as a mature artist who endorses contemporary groove and kwaito (rap) styles.  Natalie Rungan demonstrates cultural dexterity typical of East Indian South Africans, choosing to transcend her own roots in order to develop a universal jazz language within a largely male-dominated field, giving room for various diversities in her music.

My main premise is that as South African women are creating different musical roles for themselves and allowing for new cultural fusions within their music they are providing  vital, innovative, distinctive facets of South Africa's renaissance.

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