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- Author: Nicola Scaldaferri x
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This chapter introduces the concept of soundmask, that is, the temporary taking up of a sonic identity, a disguise that is perceived aurally, superseding the visual one, with reference to the ritual of the Campanaccio in the village of San Mauro Forte. Here, the participants in this ritual opening of the Carnival period do not wear face masks and do not use the giant animal bells they carry to create sonic chaos, unlike many other Carnival occasions involving bells. The chapter investigates the role of sound in creating a sense of community beyond its symbolic functions, the function of rhythm and bodily involvement in the creation of a group identity, and the relationship between sound and the space of the village. It suggests that soundmasks create a form of group identity that is played out as synchronicity and as sonic duels between teams of bell carriers, in a nocturnal setting in which the acoustic dimension acquires more importance over the visual. Starting from previous studies of the symbolic role of the playing of bells in the same period as the seasonal slaughter of domestic pigs, the chapter suggests that the original function of the ritual was to cleanse the village through acoustic means, washing it in soundwaves. Finally, it analyses the role of the institutionalisation of anthropological interpretations and of the insertion of the festival in a circuit of cultural tourism. The textual component of the chapter is followed by a photographic sequence that dialogues with the related sound recordings.
This chapter deals with the analysis of an archival body, and in particular with the sound recordings made by Giuseppe Chiaffitella, an emigrant from San Costantino Albanese who moved to New York during the 1910s. In the central part of the twentieth century, every time Chiaffitella crossed the Atlantic he would carry recorded messages, music, soundscapes and soundmarks. His use of the sound recorder to create ‘sound souvenirs’ played a role in keeping alive the connections between the people of the village and their relatives in the USA. The chapter argues that the mediatisation of sound, and especially voice, can be a powerful way to increase its affective value and lead to the creation of transnational listening communities. This is especially true in the case of a second-stage diaspora such as that of the Arbëresh (Italians of Albanian origin) who moved to the USA, for whom linguistic identity and oral tradition form additional layers of complexity. Chiaffitella’s sensitivity to the emotional value of sound makes his recordings pioneering in their attention to the context and the diachronic dimension, especially compared with recordings by professional researchers of his time. The chapter also includes photographs from the research stage and a selection of images from Chiaffitella’s vast photographic archive.
This chapter reflects on Scaldaferri’s research experience in Basilicata over a period of thirty years, examining in particular the role of his music-making activity as a form research in sound. Scaldaferri’s activity as a zampogna player represented a constant opportunity to interact and dialogue with local musicians and, through them, with local communities. Both within the Arbëresh minority from which the author originates and in the wider context of the region, research took the form of constant participation in religious festivals, pilgrimages and collective rituals. The chapter problematises performance-based research by a native researcher, describing his shifting positionality and interventionist approach to musical traditions often undergoing marked decline. Performed sound has not just been the medium in which the research was carried out, but became a form of representation that went beyond traditional textual formats through collaborations with local performers or international artists and composers. Some of these collaborations, with local institutions, resulted in forms of repatriation of the outcomes of the research, which often were integrated in the local politics of heritage.
Sonic ethnography explores the role of sound-making and listening practices in the formation of local identities in the southern Italian region of Basilicata. The book uses a combination of text, photography and sound recording to investigate soundful cultural performances such as tree rituals, carnivals, pilgrimages, events promoting cultural heritage and more informal musical performances. Its approach demonstrates how in the acoustic domain tradition is made and disrupted, power struggles take place and acoustic communities are momentarily brought together in shared temporality and space. This book underlines how an attention to sound-making, recording and listening practices can bring innovative contributions to the ethnography of an area that has been studied by Italian and foreign scholars since the 1950s. The approaches of the classic anthropological scholarship on the region have become one of the forces at play in a complex field where discourses on a traditional past, politics of heritage and transnational diasporic communities interact. The book’s argument is carried forward not just by textual means, but also through the inclusion of six ‘sound-chapters’, that is, compositions of sound recordings themed so as to interact with the topic of the corresponding textual chapter, and through a large number of colour photographs. Two methodological chapters, respectively about doing research in sound and on photo-ethnography, explain the authors’ approach to field research and to the making of the book.
The introduction delineates the main approach of the book to the relationship between sound and local identities, building on classic studies on sound and society and on the latest perspectives on acoustemology, place and relatedness. It starts from Murray Schafer’s approach to soundscapes and Steven Feld’s anthropology of sound to state the fundamental premise that in a soundscape both resonate and are shaped social practices, ideologies and politics. The introduction also provides a basic presentation of Basilicata, its history of social research and the ways this has shaped imaginaries on the region on a national level. Fundamental to the creation of these imaginaries were works in literature, film and photography that often took inspiration from ethnographic research. In particular, a body of anthropological research developed mostly during the 1950s, especially that produced by Ernesto De Martino and his school, today has created a canon and a lexicon that are used commonly in the region’s cultural initiatives, on both an institutional and a local level. Through brief examples the introduction describes how anthropological knowledge has gone through processes of re-signification and is used for promotion of tourism and local identities. Finally, the introduction describes how the book combines text, the images and the sound recordings, and guides the reader in approaching these components.
This chapter outlines the concept of sonic ethnography and applies it to the Maggio festival in Accettura, the most impressive tree ritual in Italy. Sonic ethnography puts sound at its centre by taking it seriously and listening critically during fieldwork. It also uses sound as a medium in which to do research, and as a way to represent its outcomes. Our approach revealed how classic analyses of the festival downplayed its acoustic component and the role of musical performances in governing the collective labour necessary for the festival to succeed. Highly complex, entailing multiple manoeuvres taking place simultaneously and often very dangerous, the transport and raising of a massive tree in the main square represents the core of the ritual, and takes place in a sonic stream made of loud wind bands, animal calls and drunken singing. We highlight how governing sound allows a safe and successful festival. The textual component of the chapter is followed by a photographic sequence that dialogues with the related sound recordings.