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
the Society for Cultural Anthropology launched a platform for photo essays which has already created a significant corpus of work. 1 A somewhat more established practice has involved collaborations in which an anthropologist writes a text that is accompanied by images taken by a photographer – often on the basis of the anthropologist’s research and personal contacts (e.g. Blau et al. 2010 ; Bourgois and Schonberg 2009 ; Keil et al. 2002 ; Meintjes 2017 ). Indeed, this way of working has had an important role in the history of ethnographic research in Basilicata
During the month of August, in the southern part of Basilicata, a number of events involving wheat offerings take place during religious festivals dedicated to local patronal saints or to the Madonna. Traditionally, August was the time when most of the main agricultural work would be finished, and people had time and resources to dedicate to religious festivals. Wheat, once the main staple crop of the region, would be harvested in June–July and people would set aside bundles of ears of wheat to carry in procession on saints’ days. Although many people in
In this work, we focus our attention on the role of sound in the formation of local identities in the southern Italian region of Basilicata. Through a combination of text, photographs and sound recordings, we will concentrate on soundful cultural performances, including religious festivals and collective events meant to promote cultural heritage, as well as more informal musical performances. Throughout the book we will listen to tree rituals, carnivals, pilgrimages and archival sound recordings, to understand how in the acoustic dimension people mark space
This chapter is centred on my research into sound identities and musical practices in Basilicata, which started at the end of the 1980s. Ever since, I have used performing music as a form of research by way of active participation as a musician in the local scene. Performance-based research has a long history within ethnomusicology (Cottrell 2007 ). One of its most famous formulations is found in the concept of bimusicality proposed by Mantle Hood, who considered musical practice a privileged way to approach a foreign musical culture ( 1960 ). As a native
time to juxtapose listening, viewing and reading experiences and grapple with both the depth and comprehensiveness afforded, as well as newly critical questions raised about ethnographic authority and representation. The second of these extensions is a further dialogue on the nature of media and mediation, particularly surrounding sound and image technologies and how they operate in histories of memory circulation. In effect, this positions the ethnography of Basilicata as the production of multilayered archives whose mediated materials must be considered
(Feld 2002 , 2004a , 2004b , 2005 , 2006 ).
In Basilicata there are a number of masked parades that feature animal bells. They happen for the most part on the day dedicated to St Anthony the Abbot, on 17 January, a date that conventionally marks the beginning of Carnival. In addition to being celebrated with masks and sonic rituals, this festivity is marked by nocturnal bonfires. In the rich repertoire of symbols attached to St Anthony the Abbot in folk Christianity, he is the guardian of the fire and protector of domestic animals. He often appears in images
steps in front, where the music continues with fast tarantella dances that involve both men and women.
This episode, as Scaldaferri and I witnessed it during the festival of the Madonna del Pollino, was a particularly conflictual expression of tensions that can be identified in a number of religious situations with a mass participation, in Basilicata and beyond. The tensions are in large part over the legitimacy of certain forms of devotion, and specifically those that are expressed as sound. These are what we call sonic devotion : the production and listening
Towards a sonic ethnography of the Maggio festival in Accettura
Lorenzo Ferrarini and Nicola Scaldaferri
In the village of Accettura, a settlement of less than two thousand residents in central Basilicata, every year around Pentecost the festival of St Julian culminates in the raising of a massive tree in the main square by means of a system of manually operated winches. The process of carrying large oak trees from the nearby woods – with ox-teams – and a holly tree – borne on the shoulders of teams of men – as well as the mass participation of the village population, have resulted in the festival achieving widespread renown as the most impressive and spectacular
Recorded memories and diasporic identity in the archive of Giuseppe
On the other hand, the ethnomusicologists who worked in Basilicata at the time would instead focus on the capture of a ‘musical document’, almost removed from its context, in order to analyse its stylistic and structural characteristics. This process of removal is evident in the comparison between the records published alongside their research, and their unedited tapes, which often preserve traces of the context and of the interaction between musicians and researchers (Agamennone 2015 ).
Chiaffitella is motivated by different aims, and he conceives of the