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.
Notes on developing a photo-ethnographic practice in Basilicata
There are a number of reasons why photo-ethnography, understood as ‘the use of still photography as a means of … presenting ethnographic information and insight’ (Wright 2018 : 1), is not nearly as developed in both practice and theoretical reflection as ethnographic documentary (Edwards 1997 : 53). As remarked by Wright, while most ethnographers carry and use a camera during fieldwork, the production of photo-ethnographies is very limited. A few ethnographers have, in the past, tried to develop arguments visually by making extensive use of photographs in
Towards a sonic ethnography of the Maggio festival in Accettura
Lorenzo Ferrarini and Nicola Scaldaferri
such event in Italy.
Over many years, scholars, photographers and filmmakers have provided a number of perspectives on the festival. However, in this chapter, which is based on long-term team research led by Scaldaferri since 2002 (Scaldaferri and Feld 2019 ), we argue that the sonic aspect of the festival has often been overlooked – perhaps precisely because of its striking visual characteristics. A sonic ethnography, on the other hand, allows the detection of mechanisms at work during the festival that were previously unnoticed. Importantly, it also highlights
, organise action, take control of festivals or reaffirm local identities. Our approach, which we term ‘sonic ethnography’ and describe in chapter 1 , is based on thirty years of fieldwork by a researcher native to the region (Scaldaferri), and on research combined with a work of photographic interpretation which has developed over two decades (by Ferrarini). It reveals how during such sound events tradition is made and disrupted, power struggles take place, and communities are momentarily brought together in shared temporality and space.
Our more general objective is
repression can be seen to continue in the policies of noise abatement in urban spaces. However, it is important to remark how noise also has a history of being used to repress deviance, for example in rituals of charivari, when noise or rough music is used to target ‘wrong marriages’. A striking example is described by Pitt-Rivers in his ethnography of a Spanish Sierra village, where a man who had left his wife and children for a woman much younger than him was tormented every night by two hundred people armed with bells and horns, until after three months he died (Pitt
sophisticated ethnographer who is also artistically accomplished as a photographer and filmmaker; the other, a theoretically sophisticated ethnomusicologist who is also artistically accomplished as a musical performer.
A second reason is that this kind of scholar-artist collaboration doubly extends the multiple, collective and emergent forms of knowledge production of the newest trends in both sonic and visual ethnography. The first of these extensions is in the interplay of materials and media, that is, the opportunities offered to an open-minded public willing to take the
This chapter is entirely composed of a photo essay, which includes photographs made between 2005 and 2020. It focusses on the revival of wheat rituals, which often involve offerings of ears of wheat dedicated to a saint or the Madonna. The photo essay connects this phenomenon with, on the one hand, processes of touristic promotion and heritagisation, and, on the other, with the shifting meanings acquired by the agricultural past in Basilicata, which give wheat festivals an aura of authenticity and nostalgia. The text and images go behind the scenes of the preparation of these rituals, tracing the way that past ethnographic research can be mobilised in a local context to validate the authenticity of a festival, or showing how people experience the emotional power of their association with the agricultural past through activities, skills and sensations that evoke it directly. This chapter, in addition to underlining the social functions of identity- and community-making that wheat festivals still perform, suggests that their protagonists have taken up a conscious and active role in representing their heritage, often appropriating stereotypes and exoticist depictions.
underlined by Turner ( 1986 ). At the same time, it fits within recent debates on the interpenetration between artistic and ethnographic practices. The reasons for this convergence arose as anthropologists redefined their research methods, experimenting with forms of ethnographic representation and abandoning the myth of the ethnographic encounter as the foundational moment of the discipline; at the same time, on the other front, many artists expressed a need for detailed studies, field research and interdisciplinary dialogue on methods and content (Foster 1995 ; Marcus
during Carnival, as is the case in a number of situations in Italy, Greece and Slovenia. While Carnivals have long been the subject of ethnographic inquiry with regard to their performative and symbolic aspects, only recently has the sonic dimension become the subject of scholarly attention. These studies have often revolved around the role of bells (Blau et al. 2010 ; Corbin 1998 ; Frank 2008 ; Harlov 2016 ; Panopoulos 2003 ; Price 1983 ). Particularly important was the publication of Steven Feld’s multisited ethnography of bells in the form of a series of CDs
Recorded memories and diasporic identity in the archive of Giuseppe Chiaffitella
sound is separated from its original source, to ‘focus the listener on some intrinsic feature of the sound’ (Kane 2014 : 29). In this case, the sound itself, now separated from its source and confined to a new magnetic support, becomes more powerful and evocative, with an emotional charge which sometimes can be even stronger than its live performance.
Listening to the tapes was the first stage of this research, which became an archival sonic ethnography that revealed the role of the recordings in sustaining a network of relationships. Dealing with these recordings