Voices from the past

jesseajohnston:

Read about the recent Macarthur award winner and pioneer in recorded sound preservation!

Originally posted on Bibliolore:

Carl Haber, 2013 MacArthur Fellow

While he was stuck in traffic in early 2000, the physicist Carl Haber heard the drummer and world music enthusiast Mickey Hart on the radio talking about the dire need for preserving early recordings of indigenous peoples.

Haber had been working with SmartScope, a machine that analyzes visual information, and his work had been going so well that he had started brainstorming for further uses of this machine. It occurred to him that SmartScope might be able to read these old recordings without touching them, thereby removing the likelihood of irrevocably damaging them by playing them.

The idea worked, and Haber went on to facilitate the preservation of recordings in repositories such as the Library of Congress, and to participate in the repatriation of historical recordings to Native Americans and other ethnic groups, allowing them to hear the voices of their ancestors.

This according to “A voice…

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Shaker dance spaces

Originally posted on Bibliolore:

Shakers

The Shakers built their first framed meetinghouse near New Lebanon, New York, along the Massachusetts border, in 1785; this structure assumed the central authority over the Shaker domain and became the architectural prototype for eleven other late–18th-century meetinghouses in New England.

The design of these structures had several distinctive elements, including a heavy timber frame, a sturdy wood-plank floor, double façade doors for separate male and female entry, leadership apartments above the private gable-end door and stairs, carefully gendered spaces throughout, a gambrel roof, and a singular unobstructed ground-floor space to accommodate dynamic communal dancing during worship.

The dance ritual influenced Shaker meetinghouse design and construction in two key ways: it required the adaptation of a mascular timber-frame technology that allowed a broad, uninterrupted floor space; and it necessitated substantial reinforcement of the flooring to safely meet the demands of the large, live weight loads of many worshipers moving rhythmically…

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Bhāgavata purāṇa as performance

jesseajohnston:

Bibliolore reports on how a local, week-long Bhāgavata purāṇa festival performance mediates between the local saptāh (“centered on stories about the deity Kṛṣṇa” as held in the hamlet of Naluna, Garhwal district, Northern India) and the ritual text. Read the whole below:

Originally posted on Bibliolore:

Bhagavatapurana

A week-long festival centered on stories about the deity Kṛṣṇa is held in the hamlet of Naluna, Garhwal district, Northern India; this practice (known as a saptāh) is primarily a product of an elite Hindu community of the North Indian Plain.

Two loci of power are salient: the village deity representing local authority, and the text-as-artifact of the Bhāgavata purāa, the metonymy of the authority of the recently imported cultural practice.

The local community comprises modern subjects and empowered agents, accounting for the nature of the interaction between the village deity and the sacred text, and the new cultural synthesis that emerges.

This according to “Village deity and sacred text: Power relations and cultural synthesis as an oral performance of the Bhāgavatapurāa in a Garhwal community” by McComas Taylor (Asian ethnology LXX [2011] pp. 197–221).

Above and below, the saptāh in Naluna.

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From Bollywood to fusion

jesseajohnston:

Recent article on music and dance in the South Asian diaspora from Bibliolore:

Originally posted on Bibliolore:

dola re dola

Performances of Bollywood dances among Indian diasporic populations are sites of Hindi film reception, and part of understanding this involves analyzing the dances as they exist in the films and the processes surrounding their transformation into performed works.

A comparison of the choreography of the song Dola re dola in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Devdas (2002) with a newly choreographed version by the U.S. fusion dance troupe Chamak demonstrates how the latter dispensed with the former’s plot-driven elements and Bollywood glitz to become a display of the troupe’s perceptions of both their Indian-American identities and their cultural heritage.

This according to “Swaying to an Indian beat: Dola goes my diasporic heart—Exploring Hindi film dance” by Sangita Shresthova (Dance research journal XXXVI/2 [winter 2004] pp. 91–101.

Above and below, the Bollywood version; further below, Chamak’s version (performance begins around 0:25).

Related article: Globalized Bollywood

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Why Michigan’s Gamelan Matters

You may remember that in February, graduate students at University of Michigan began a social media campaign to raise awareness about the impending closure and potentially unsure future of the Javanese gamelan at the university’s School of Music, Theatre, and Dance. Along with a social media hashtag, #saveUMgamelan, the students organized an online petition that within a month has garnered over 2,500 signatures from concerned students and faculty at Michigan, as well as educators, students, and artists from around the world who care for the gamelan’s future and its significance for the study of ethnomusicology in the United States. (For a fuller recapping, check out a collection of related social media items here.)

I have sent a letter to the Dean of music and since I see it as an important testimonial to the importance of the ensemble, I will share part of it here. Most of the letter is devoted to my personal experiences playing in and teaching the gamelan ensemble while I myself was a student in Ann Arbor. However, I have also made some clear suggestions to the Dean about how the situation might be addressed:

Let me thank you for your recent statement that made clear your support for the gamelan. I was pleased to hear that the ensemble will remain a part of the academic and performance schedules at the university for the next academic year. In your “greetings” on the school’s website, you suggest that Michigan is a place where students (and audiences) will have “unparalleled opportunities to intersect with the whole world of the arts.” The gamelan has been a primary vehicle for such artistic intersections as well as global arts opportunities on the Michigan campus for nearly 50 years, and I presume that it is one of the many paths that you see converging at this “intersection” of the world of the arts. . . .

[Unfortunately] your actions and those of the school over the years throw into doubt the school’s long-term commitments to the gamelan. During my time as a student, the gamelan faced previous semesters when the instruments were placed in temporary storage with no clear strategic plans for the ensemble’s future. As a GSI, I was directly involved in responding to these situations. (The past few years, which have witnessed the instruments being moved out of their permanent rehearsal room at various times, confirm that you either do not understand the importance of or do not value a permanent space for the ensemble. In contrast, ensembles at UCLA, UT–Austin, and Wesleyan have dedicated spaces.) Moreover, your failure to appoint a full-time, tenured faculty member who will shepherd, if not teach, the ensemble, shows a true disregard for the importance of the gamelan to the school and the university. To indicate that the gamelan ensemble is a serious priority, you need to make a clear commitment to a permanent space and provide clear faculty support through a full-time faculty member of the school for the UM Javanese gamelan. Without those clear steps, the school’s commitment to the ensemble remains doubtful.

My full letter is online at http://goo.gl/4rMaef. Even though a month has passed since the announcement, it is still important to let the school know about your concerns. If you support the continuation of gamelan in any form at the university, make sure that you show your support by getting in touch with the school administrators. Share your concerns with the hashtag campaign.

Related
Save the UMich Gamelan
UMich Gamelan Update

Sound Matters Debut

The Society for Ethnomusicology announced today the inauguration of its official blog, Sound Matters. I guess that ethnomusicology has reached 2005? But seriously, it’s great to see a more quick-moving, vibrant, and publicly-accessible avenue for publishing engaging materials about music in all its forms. We’re seeing more public, digital music projects like this that have scholarly imprimatur but lean to the accessible, like “From the Field” and “Blogging Ethnomusicology.” I’m glad to see SEM’s continuing support for this sort of work.

Music word cloud by EJ Poselius, generated by Wordle

Here’s the announcement circulated on the SEM listservs:

The Society for Ethnomusicology is pleased to announce the launch of Sound Matters: The SEM Blog. Hosted on the SEM website, the blog offers content on a variety of subjects related to music, sound, and ethnomusicology. SEM seeks lively and accessible posts that provide both stimulating short-form reading for ethnomusicologists and outreach to readers beyond the academy. We encourage authors to consider this forum a unique opportunity to transcend the boundaries of traditional print journals with brief works that integrate hyperlinks and multimedia examples. All content will be peer-reviewed.

The inaugural post for Sound Matters is “From Scholarship to Activism in Zimbabwe,” by Jennifer Kyker of the University of Rochester. In this multimedia document, Professor Kyker examines how music and dance are critical to the work of a non-profit organization in Zimbabwe called Tariro, which supports education for teenaged girls and HIV/AIDS prevention.

One can’t help a very brief review: they could have devised a prettier URL pattern, I don’t see any prominent space to track pingbacks or other sharing (though comments appear to be allowed), and the ShareThis widget’s buttons at the bottom of the posts could use a bit of tweaking (currently no tumblr, wordpress, or other share options appear immediately when I viewed the page, but this could be influenced by my cookies). Otherwise, this looks like a great project off to an auspicious start under the able advisement of a great team of editorial advisors including a representative from RILM’s Bibliolore.

Bon voyage!