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.
, 2018. Painter Vincenzo Blumetti at work on a mural based on one of Franco Pinna’s photographs.
At the same time as these institutional and artistic attentions concentrate on the game of the sickle, though, the existence of wheat festivals is always in danger due to the loss of specialised knowledge connected with agricultural practices of the past. One of the paradoxes of heritagisation is that, while it generally attracts attention and resources on a cultural phenomenon, it often severs the last remaining links with its original social functions, and in doing
Towards a sonic ethnography of the Maggio festival in Accettura
Lorenzo Ferrarini and Nicola Scaldaferri
the experiential dimension for the participants, which has been neglected because of the way an abstract symbolic interpretation has become officially institutionalised as a result of processes of heritagisation. The intersection between sound and the experiential dimension of the festival, we argue, remains the central aspect for the participants despite the increasing relevance of cultural tourism and heritage politics.
By ‘sonic ethnography’ we refer to an approach to ethnographic fieldwork that puts sound at its centre, beyond its definition as ‘the sounded
occurrence over time of processes of heritagisation. In response to the primarily sonorous qualities of this event, listening has been a principal research method.
In contrast to what usually happens in other rituals involving bells around the period of Carnival in Europe, in San Mauro the cowbells are not used to create a clash of chaotic clangs but rather a series of regular rhythmic sequences. The participants wear a costume but do not mask their faces. In existing research on festivals involving humans and animal bells, the role of face masks and of sonic chaos has
’s role as soundscape manager makes it clear that the monopoly of the festival belongs to the Church. As the performers enter a pact of mutual non-aggression that avoids duels similar to that between the zampogna players at the Pollino sanctuary, their sounds become institutionalised. It is not by chance that in Episcopia forms of sonic devotion are present side by side with the heritagisation of cultural performances, evident for example in the ‘peasant’ uniforms of folkloric dancers with wooden sickles – an aspect totally absent in the Madonna del Pollino pilgrimage
Notes on developing a photo-ethnographic practice in Basilicata
details such as some children and an overhead power line, through cropping and darkroom techniques, made this woman the icon of the ominous fame of the village of Colobraro that De Martino had contributed to amplifying on a national scale through his writing.
This photograph can be encountered time and again across a variety of cultural initiatives throughout Basilicata, from institutional posters to theatre pieces ( image 7.2 ) to works of artists, where it seems to represent an ancestral identity to promote proudly. In the current processes of heritagisation that
which represents more than twice the number of permanent residents in the village ( image 0.3 ). A similar festival was started in 2012 in Albano di Lucania, another key destination of De Martino’s expeditions. This is explicitly entitled The Nights of Magic – a Journey in the Footsteps of De Martino .
Since the early years of the twenty-first century, processes of ‘heritagisation’ of tradition (Harrison 2013 ; Walsh 1992 ), and in particular of its documentary traces in the form of audiovisual media, have become ever more frequent and visible in Basilicata. The
Recorded memories and diasporic identity in the archive of Giuseppe
, was in fact the last performance in its itinerant format, as a ritual in which the inhabitants took to the streets to reinforce their ties with the place, in the name of besa . The village, struck by poverty, was in the midst of different forms of emigration, this time towards Europe and northern Italy, and was abandoning many of its cultural practices. These would be recovered decades later, in decontextualised and spectacularised forms, in the frame of folkloric festivals with a nostalgic angle, as part of processes of heritagisation.
A loyal companion
, artefact and ancient monument, memory, site of memory and politics of memory, monument, monumentalise and memorial, museum, musealisation and museology, heritage, heritagisation, use of heritage, politics of heritage, and heritage process.
Just as the terms are numerous, many reasons are quoted for studying, retelling, remembering, protecting, preserving, or using remains of the past. These reasons may be in the nature of arguments for a particular perspective, for the existence of an academic discipline, or for the activities of an institution: Why the disciplines of
, school, science, settlement, society, sustainable development, tourism, use, use of history, values, and world.
And as has happened with “history”, “historicise”, and “historisation”, as well as with “museum”, “musealise”, and “musealisation”, new words have been formed from “heritage” – words that mark a process and suggest a new disciplinary designation: “heritagisation” and “heritology” (e.g. Walsh 1992 : 135ff; Sola 2005 ).
The thesis according to which there has been an inflation in heritage largely rests on an impressionistic experience that calls for