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.
church bells in nineteenth-century rural France, provides another example of sound governance enforced through dissymmetrical sound production (1998). Village bells mark time and put the acoustic space they cover under the spiritual and political authority of the powers that ring them. They impose a structure on the days of the peasants, calling them to activities determined by those powers. The way bells contribute to building an acousticcommunity also applies to the Islamic call to prayer (Eisenberg 2013 ; Khan 2011 ), which like bells these days is most of the
music: the tune is not tuneful.
The soundscape of early modern London was made up of a number of overlapping, shifting acousticcommunities, centered on different soundmarks: parish
bells, the speech of different nationalities, the sounds of trades, open-air markets,
the noises of public gathering places. Moving among these soundmarks – indeed,
making these soundmarks in the process – Londoners in their daily lives followed
their own discursive logic.56
But if trades are ‘soundmarked’, and thereby have specificity in this acoustic form
are sometimes limited spatially and temporarily to the performance, that is, they are acousticcommunities (Truax 1984 : 65–66) or communities of (sonic) practice that come together around a given event and might separate after its conclusion.
In this introduction we unpack how we interpret the connection between sound and the formation of local identities, starting with some clarifications on these two key terms. Subsequently, we trace the main steps in the entanglements of ethnographic research, creative practice and cultural heritage in Basilicata, providing