Ethnomusicology Forum Volume 26, Issue 2, August 2017
Lonán Ó Briain, Shzr Ee Tan & Abigail Wood
This issue of the journal includes five varied articles, which together demonstrate the breadth of methodological and theoretical interests and broad geographical and historical span addressed by today’s ethnomusicologists. The first two articles deal broadly with the relationship between music and place, albeit from very different angles. Alessandra Ciucci takes us to rural Morocco, considering a popular Sufi song whose text recounts the pilgrimage journey to a specific plot of land representing a saint’s shrine—L-ʿalwa, in the Casablanca region—conveying in words and music the experience of visiting this and other shrines.
Performed by female musicians, the song illustrates the porosity of local conceptions of the sacred and secular, as well as the central role played by eroticism in negotiating these fields in performance.
Welcome to 26.2, the second issue of Ethnomusicology Forum for 2017. With the summer rush of conferences now over, it is time to look forward to the British Forum for Ethnomusicology’s events for the coming academic year: a one-day conference on ‘“Listening to Difference”: Music and Multiculturalism’ in Cambridge on 21 October 2017 and the Annual Conference, ‘Europe and post-Brexit Ethnomusicologies’, to be held at Newcastle University on 12–15 April 2018. We are also happy to report around a 10% increase in British Forum for Ethnomusicology membership this year, which means that more ethnomusicologists than ever before are receiving print copies of Ethnomusicology Forum.
This issue of the journal includes five varied articles, which together demonstrate the breadth of methodological and theoretical interests and broad geographical and historical span addressed by today’s ethnomusicologists. The first two articles deal broadly with the relationship between music and place, albeit from very different angles. Alessandra Ciucci takes us to rural Morocco, considering a popular Sufi song whose text recounts the pilgrimage journey to a specific plot of land representing a saint’s shrine—L-ʿalwa, in the Casablanca region—conveying in words and music the experience of visiting this and other shrines. Performed by female musicians, the song illustrates the porosity of local conceptions of the sacred and secular, as well as the central role played by eroticism in negotiating these fields in performance.
Joe Browning explores a very different connection between music and place, considering nature mimesis in new compositions for shakuhachi. He explores how sensitivity towards nature is reconfigured as the shakuhachi travels between places far from rural Japan, sounding out ‘some of the many stories we tell about nature in modernity’, and re-creating both the ecological sensitivities of the composer and the sonic world of the instrument.
Both Chris McDonald and Kwok-Wai Ng argue for the importance of accompaniment studies in understanding the evolution of musical style. Chris McDonald brings us to the soundworlds of Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, where a distinctive form of piano accompaniment has emerged to Scottish-based Canadian fiddling. Based on extensive contemporary fieldwork and historical research, McDonald outlines the basis and development of Cape Breton piano accompaniment style, exploring local discourses about internal and external influences on the tradition. Likewise, Ng considers historical sources for a contemporary accompaniment practice: here, the practice of adding orally transmitted arpeggio-like figures to lute melodies in Japanese tōgaku. He argues that while such figures have historical precedents, modern use of these figures is a reinvention in which the purpose of these figures changed from phrase and cadence markers to a more general signification of metre.
Finally, Sagnik Atarthi explores amateur music writing in nineteenth-century Bengal, deconstructing the interplay between local nationalisms, class hierarchies and knowledge production in the making of musicological canons in Bengal.
The reviews section of this issue begins with a review by Andrew Eisenberg of two volumes on Ugandan music edited by Thomas Solomon in collaboration with Sylvia Nannyonga-Tamusuza and other scholars based in Africa and Europe. Together, these books provide an excellent example of some meaningful ways in which we can enhance dialogue between scholars in the Global North and Global South and also across traditional disciplinary and institutional boundaries.
The next three reviews are of monographs published in the United Kingdom. Deirdre Morgan, a recent PhD graduate from SOAS (School of Oriental and African Studies) and accomplished Jew’s harp performer, reviews Michael Wright’s The Jews-Harp in Britain and Ireland. Another PhD graduate from SOAS also publishing in the SOAS Musicology Series is Matthew Machin-Autenrieth. His book Flamenco, Regionalism and Musical Heritage in Southern Spain is reviewed by flamenco practitioner and scholar Bernat Jiménez de Cisneros Puig. The third book in this trio of monographs is a historical study of Burma, Kipling and western music by Andrew Selth. Friedlind Riedel writes a critical yet thought-provoking review of Sieth’s study, which will be of interest to scholars of historical ethnomusicology.
This issue includes two reviews of books on music in Ireland. Susan Motherway reviews a collection of essays edited by Sandra Joyce and Helen Lawlor on the Irish harp, an instrument that featured prominently in the centenary celebrations of the 1916 Easter Rising. Shifting emphasis from a musical instrument to groups of people, Kate Walker reviews Ailbhe Kenny’s monograph, Communities of Musical Practice, which draws on Etienne Wenger’s communities of practice to examine three case studies on communities formed around the process of learning how to make music.
This issue concludes with two reviews of edited volumes. The first, edited by Liz Mellish and Selena Rakočević and reviewed by Colin Quigley, reports on a joint fieldwork project by the ICTM (International Council for Traditional Music) Study Group on Ethnochoreology led by a Sub-Study Group on Field Research Theory and Methods in Svinița, a Serbian commune situated on the Romanian bank of the Danube. Finally, Férdia Stone-Davis reviews Resounding Transcendence: Transitions in Music, Religion, and Ritual edited by Jeffers Engelhardt and Philip V. Bohlman. This volume includes 12 chapters that will appeal to readers of this journal through their consistent emphasis on the ethnomusicology or musical ethnography of religion and ritual.
Performing ‘L-ʿalwa’: a sacred and erotic journey in Morocco
L-ʿalwa’, a sung poem whose text recounts the pilgrimage to a saint’s shrine in Morocco, is celebrated for its ability to convey images and emotions stirred up by the sacred journey. As part of the repertory of ʿaiṭa—a genre of sung poetry from the Moroccan plains and plateaus traditionally performed by professional female singer-dancers [shikhat] and nowadays categorised as popular music [shʿabi]—‘L-ʿalwa’ presents an interesting case study through which it is possible to analyse the porosity between local constructions of the sacred and the secular in relation to a genre which is not explicitly associated with the sacred or with sacred performances. My analysis of salient moments of a performance of ‘L-ʿalwa’ at a wedding celebration in Morocco explores how the shikhat move across the sacred and the secular, and the central role that eroticism [ghram or mshka] plays in the porosity between these categories in performance.
Mimesis stories: composing new nature music for the shakuhachi
Nature is a widespread theme in much new music for the shakuhachi (Japanese bamboo flute). This article explores the significance of such music within the contemporary shakuhachi scene, as the instrument travels internationally and so becomes rooted in landscapes outside Japan, taking on the voices of new creatures and natural phenomena. The article tells the stories of five compositions and one arrangement by non-Japanese composers, first to credit composers’ varied and personal responses to this common concern and, second, to discern broad, culturally syncretic traditions of nature mimesis and other, more abstract, ideas about the naturalness of sounds and creative processes (which I call musical naturalism). Setting these personal stories and longer histories side by side reveals that composition creates composers (as much as the other way around). Thus it hints at much broader terrain: the refashioning of human nature at the confluence between cosmopolitan cultural circulations and contemporary encounters with the more-than-human world.
From stride to regional pride? Cape Breton piano accompaniment as musical and cultural process
The emergence of chordal accretions in the lute melodies of tōgaku and its implications for the historical development of the repertory
Whither musicology? Amateur musicologists and music writing in Bengal
African musics in context: institutions, culture, identity; Ethnomusicology in East Africa: perspectives from Uganda and beyond
Andrew J. Eisenberg
The Jews-Harp in Britain and Ireland
Flamenco, regionalism and musical heritage in Southern Spain
Bernat Jiménez de Cisneros Puig
Burma, Kipling and western music: the riff from Mandalay
Harp studies: perspectives on the Irish harp
Communities of musical practice
Kate E. Walker
Dance, field research, and intercultural perspectives: the Easter customs in the village of Svinița