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Listening and Recording Vienna “Super Librum”

October 17, 2019

As part of the II Historical Soundscapes Meeting – Évora 2019, Giovanni Cestino (LEAV) will present a paper on his Evening in the Old Town (2019), an audiovisual soundwalk of the Vienna city center based on European Sound Diary (1977). The presentation will take place at Auditório of Colégio Mateus de Aranda of the University of Évora, at 3:20pm.

Abstract

In 1975, Raymond Murray Schafer and his research group, the World Soundscape Project, toured in Northern Europe to study different rural and city soundscapes. A narrative account of the trip entitled European Sound Diary was among the results of that trip. The book combined excerpts from diaries by Schafer’s collaborators with city soundwalks to be performed by future readers. The soundwalk is an «excursion whose main purpose is listening to the environment» (Westerkamp), «a form of active participation in the soundscape» (Truax) introduced by the World Soundscape Project to promote critical listening. A soundwalk often comes, in its written form, as a map with verbal instructions, and may also prescribe soundmaking practice.
Nearly 45 years after the World Soundscape Project trip, I performed the Vienna soundwalk again, documenting my experience in a 17’ video realized with the support of the LEAV (Ethnomusicology and Visual Anthropology Lab, University of Milan). To enhance a first-person perspective, I shot a video with an action camera fastened on my head, and also wore DSM microphones as earphones. Subtitles, elicited from the original soundwalk, have been added in post-production as a step-by-step commentary, and serve as a touchstone of how the Vienna soundscape transformed through time. The result is an audiovisual product which works on multiple levels: while the audiovisual level mediates the researcher’s experience, subtitles stimulate the audience’s response to what they see/hear and what they read.
In this paper I will illustrate the case study, touching on the technical choices and narrative strategies I adopted. Particularly, I will dwell on how certain concrete problems – which arose in the making of – prompted a reflection on some theoretical concerns. This audiovisual soundwalk, based on a previous experience, revealed how the 1977 text can not only work as a prescriptive device, but also as an historical source and a script. Moreover, this multimedia product might provide an additional educational practice in acoustic ecology which joins Schafer’s historical ones. Lastly, this case study contributes to the discussion on the authenticity of documentary practice, and links with the actual debate on the concept of soundscape.

Music and Genocides

September 10, 2019

As part of an event organized by the association Nomus, Nicola Scaldaferri will held a conference on the relationship between music and genocides in the Ottoman Empire area. The conference will delve into some lesser-known (or completely unknown) cases, in which tragical historical events affected entire populations, discriminated against religious or ethnic basis. Musical practices bear traces of those stories, still echoing over the centuries in diasporic contexts. Visual and audio documentation – partly from the LEAV archives –  will help contextualising those cultural phenomena.
During the conference, an excerpt of Radio Genocide by Yuval Avital will be presented for the first time. In this work, the composer reworked archival sound and visual materials and propaganda broadcastings related to cases of genocide.

The event will take place in the Sala Conferenze of the Museo del Novecento at 5pm. A concert of rebetiko music will follow, featuring Emanuele Skoufas (tsouras, voice), Laura Pronestì (guitar), and Matteo Concina (percussions).

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The Craft of an Affective Space

March 19, 2019

As part of the course in Anthropology of Music, Giulia Accornero (Harvard University) will hold a lecture on the effects of certain audio-visual stimuli as perceived and shaped both by the web community and by the academic discourse. The lecture will take place at the Department of Cultural Heritage and Environment, University of Milan (via Noto 8, aula K32), at 16:30.

Abstract

Search for “ASMR” on Google Videos right now and you will get an astonishing forty million results; check again a minute from now, and you may get even more. ASMR, or Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, labels the effect that a certain category of audio-visual stimuli produces on their listeners: a “pleasurable, tingly sensation that begins in the head and scalp and moves throughout the limbs of the body, causing them to relax” (Young, 2015.)
An international, internet-based community meets and grows mainly around You Tube videos whose audio-visual content is designed to trigger the ASMR. But Wikipedia pages, websites, blogs, Facebook groups, podcasts, and iPhone applications also proliferate, sustaining a community that is not only ‘consuming’ but also inquiring, giving feedback, learning, and promoting. They provide us with what I would call a ‘vernacular theory’ of its peculiar sounds.
At the same time, the ASMR community has triggered an academic response, particularly in neuropsychology. The focus of this field on the mind-body effects that audio-visual stimuli can elicit ultimately narrows down a complex phenomenon to an automatic bodily response.
In this paper I focus primarily on the community and the academic response, concentrating on their agency in shaping this phenomenon. I ask: is ASMR a truly new feeling? How can the discourse and vocabulary around a certain sensation determines it? How has the online content given rise to a particular ASMR aesthetic that is now characteristic of a certain sonic quality? How do the visual and auditory components work together to determine how we hear?
I argue that we cannot fully account for the affective space crafted around the ASMR, as both a bodily sensation and sonic quality—and how the two might interact, unless we reconsider how the community “vernacular theories” work with academic discourse to inform the ways in which we hear and feel sound.

 

Born in 1987, Giulia Accornero graduated in Economics (BA, Università “L. Bocconi”, Milano, 2010),  Musicology (BA, Conservatorio “G. Verdi”, Milano, 2013), and Discipline Storiche Critiche e Analitiche della Musica (MA, Conservatorio “G. Verdi”, Milano 2016). She is a doctoral candidate in Music Theory at Harvard University. Her dissertation situates the developments in measured music witnessed in Italy and France in the late Middle Ages within the broader history of mathematics. Her secondary research area focuses on the technology and aesthetics of sound amplification in ASMR and Contemporary Music. Her articles are published by Pisa University Press (forthcoming), Edizioni ETS and Edizioni del Teatro alla Scala. In 2014 she founded Sound of Wander, a contemporary music season in Milan. In 2018 she founded the GEM Lab, a workshop in which Harvard GSAS students meet regularly to sing and study early musical notations.

Gestualità, sapori, suoni e sentimenti

May 3, 2018

As part of the course in Anthropology of Music, prof. Michael Herzfeld (Harvard University) will hold a lecture with screening of some excerpts of his film Roman Restaurant Rhythms. The lecture will take place at the Department of Cultural Heritage and Environment, University of Milan (via Noto 8, aula K32), at 16:30.

Poster

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Michael Herzfeld is Ernest E. Monrad Professor of the Social Sciences in the Department of Anthropology at Harvard University, where has taught since 1991, and is Director of the Asia Center’s Thai Studies Program at Harvard.  He is also Honorary Professorial Fellow in the Faculty of Arts, University of Melbourne; IIAS Visiting Professor of Critical Heritage Studies, Leiden University; Senior Advisor, Critical Heritage Studies Initiative, International Institute of Asian Studies, Leiden; and Chang Jiang Scholar, Shanghai International Studies University.  He is the author of eleven books (most recently Siege of the Spirits: Community and Polity in Bangkok, 2016), two films (Monti Moments, 2007, and Roman Restaurant Rhythms, 2011), and numerous articles and reviews, and his honors include the J.I. Staley Prize and the Rivers Memorial Medal (both in 1994).  In addition to a D.Phil. from Oxford University (1976) and a D.Litt. from the University of Birmingham (1989), he holds honorary doctorates from the Université Libre de Bruxelles (2005), the University of Macedonia, Thessaloniki (2011), and the University of Crete (2013), and has been named an Honorary Professor of Shandong University (P.R.C.) for 2013-2018 and of the Southwestern University of Nationalities (Chengdu, P.R. China) for 2014-17.  In the autumn of 2013 held a Visiting Fellowship at King’s College, Cambridge, and served as Visiting William Wyse Professor at Cambridge University. A former president of the Modern Greek Studies Association and of the Society for the Anthropology of Europe, he is affiliated with the anthropology programs at Thammasat University, Bangkok and Università “La Sapienza,” Rome, and has held various visiting appointments at the universities of Manchester, Paris-X (Nanterre), Ecole des Hautes Etudes (Paris), Melbourne, Padova, Cagliari, Messina, and Malta.  A member of the editorial boards of American Ethnologist,Ethnologie Française, and International Journal of Heritage Studies and several other journals, he has served as editor of American Ethnologist(1995-98) and is currently editor-at-large (responsible for “Polyglot Perspectives”) at Anthropological Quarterly.  His research in Greece, Italy, and Thailand has most recently addressed the social and political impact of historic conservation and gentrification, the dynamics of nationalism and bureaucracy, and the ethnography of knowledge among artisans and intellectuals. 

The Aesthetic of the Unexpected and the Politics of Recognition in Jazz History

March 20, 2018

As part of the course in Anthropology of Music, prof. Alessandro Duranti (UCLA, Los Angeles) will hold a lecture on jazz history and aesthetics. The lecture will take place at the Department of Cultural Heritage and Environment, University of Milan (via Noto 8, aula K32), at 16:30.

Poster

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Alessandro Duranti is Distinguished Professor of Anthropology and former Dean of Social Sciences at UCLA (2009-2016). His research projects have focused on the distinctive role of verbal, visual, and aural communication in political arenas, everyday life, and jazz performance. Theoretically, he has been interested in agency, intentionality, and intersubjectivity, with a special attention given to the tension between plans and improvisation. Methodologically, he has favored participant-observation and audio-visual recordings of spontaneous interaction in Samoa, the US, France, and Italy. His books include The Samoan Fono: A Sociolinguistic Study (Pacific Linguistics Monographs, 1981), Rethinking Context: Language as an Interactive Phenomenon (co-edited with C. Goodwin, Cambridge 1992), From Grammar to Politics: Linguistic Anthropology in a Western Samoan Village (University of California Press, 1994), Linguistic Anthropology (Cambridge University Press, 1997), A Companion to Linguistic Anthropology (Blackwell, 2004), Handbook of Language Socialization (co-edited with E. Ochs and B.B. Schieffelin, Wiley-Blackwell 2012), and The Anthropology of Intentions: Language in a World of Others (Cambridge University Press, 2015). Duranti is co-founder (with Bambi B. Schieffelin) of the journal Pragmatics (formerly IPrA Papers in Pragmatics), former editor of the Journal of Linguistic Anthropology (1999-2001), and past President of the Society of Linguistic Anthropology (1997-1999). In 1999, he received the John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, the UCLA Alumni Distinguished Teaching Award, and the American Anthropological Association/Mayfield Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching. In 2008 he was elected Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. 

Female Voices in Indian Music Culture and Literature

March 8, 2018

As part of the course in Ethnomusicology, Prof. Francesca Cassio (Hofstra University, NY) will hold a lecture on the female presence in Indian musical culture and literature. The lecture will take place at the Department of Cultural Heritage and Environment, University of Milan (via Noto 8, aula K02), at 12:30.

Abstract

Based on iconographic, literary and oral sources, this lecture discusses the repertoires performed by women in private and public settings, from the temple to the court. In particular, the presenter debates the ambiguity of the musical texts, swinging between the categories of sacred and secular music in relation to the context of the performance. The lecture offers a reflection on the impact of gender ideologies on female music makers in North India, ranging from early music to pre-Partition era, with focus on the case study of the medieval poetess Mirabai and the 18th-19th century courtesans’ tradition. The event showcases original audio-visual materials from Prof. Cassio’s archive, and it is enriched with live examples of traditional compositions sung by the presenter.

Poster

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Francesca Cassio on Academia.edu

Francesca Cassio is Full Professor of Music at Hofstra University (NY), and since 2011 holds the first endowed chair in Sikh Musicology established in the United States.

Since 1994, Dr. Cassio has conducted extensive research in India, where she lived and has been professionally trained in classical vocal music and in the Sikh kirtan repertoire, according to the Guru-Shishya Parampara (“teacher-student”) tradition.

She is disciple of legendary masters of the 20th century: the dhrupad singer Ustad Rahim Fahimuddin Khan Dagar, the thumri singer Vidushi Girija Devi, the temple musician Hazoori Ragi Bhai Gurcharan Singh. Dr. Cassio also received extensive vocal training in vocal by Bhai Baldeep Singh, the 13th generation exponent of Gurbānī kirtan maryada, and by Professor Ritwik Sanyal (Benares Hindu University).

Prior to joining the Hofstra faculty, she served as a visiting professor in musicology at Visva Bharati University in Shantiniketan, India; lecturer of ethnomusicology at the University of Trento, Italy; lecturer of anthropology of music at the Conservatory of Adria, Italy; and lecturer of ethnomusicology and Indian music at the Conservatory of Vicenza, Italy.

Accomplished performer and scholar, Dr. Cassio is the author of several publications, including a monograph on dhrupad (Percorsi della voce. Ut Orpheus: Bologna, 2000). In 2015 she was awarded the Stessin Prize for outstanding scholarly publication, with the article “Female Voices in Gurbānī Sangīand the Role of the Media in Promoting Female Kīrtanīe.