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the world of music 42, 2000-2

Spirit Practices in a Global Ecumene

Guest Editor: Ron Emoff

 

Content

Articles

The Guest Editor
Preface

Daniel Avorgbedor
Dee Hoo! Sonic Articulations in Healing and Exorcism Practices of the Anlo-Ewe

Judith Becker
Listening Selves and Spirit Possession

Ron Emoff
Clinton, Bush, and Hussein in Madagascar

Barley Norton
Vietnamese Mediumship Rituals: The Musical Construction of the Spirits

Katherine J. Hagedorn
Bringing Down the Santo: An Analysis of Possession Performance in Afro-Cuban Santería

Marina Roseman
The Canned Sardine Spirit Takes the Mic


Book Reviews (Jonathan Stock, ed.)

Gregory F. Barz
Musicking the World's Religions: Whose Music? Whose Religion? A Review Essay:
Lawrence E. Sullivan, ed. Enchanting Powers: Music in the World's Religions

Eric Charry
Michelle Kisliuk, Seize the Dance! BaAka Musical Life and the Ethnography of Performance

Giovanni Giuriati
Adelaida Reyes, Songs of the Caged, Songs of the Free: Music and the Vietnamese Refugee Experience

Mareia Quintero Rivera
Paul Austerlitz, Merengue: Dominican Music and Dominican Identity

Stephanie E. Pitts
Patricia Shehan Campbell, Songs in Their Heads: Music and Its Meaning in Children's Lives

Books briefly mentioned, compiled by Jonathan Stock


CD Reviews (Janet Sturman, ed.)

Janet Sturman
Music of Indonesia 19 - Music of Maluku: Halmahera, Buru Kei

Bamboo on the Mountains. Kmhmu Highlanders from Southeast Asia and the U.S.

Global Voices (A Vox Set)

Max Peter Baumann
CDs received


About the Authors

 

Abstracts

Dee Hoo! Sonic Articulations in Healing and Exorcism Practices of the Anlo-Ewe
Daniel Avorgbedor

The Anlo-Ewe frequently employ the “hidden” and manifest properties of a variety of sound forms in their ritual performances that seek to restore balance or health in individual biophysiologies or in an entire village community.  It is within these contexts of ritual performances that the Anlo-Ewe ritual experts and participants exhibit their extended notions and skills about sound. Evidence from healing and exorcism practices shows a wide range of sound types that vary in meaning and affect, according to their specific contexts of employment. This essay explores a selection of these unique sound types along their acoustic traits, instruments and means of production, contexts, and the general local conceptual framework guiding the production and use of these sounds. A central focus is to explain the supra-human properties of sound that are thought to be capable of engaging the “hidden” forces in order to effect physical and spiritual well-being in individuals and communities. This investigation of sound forms will elucidate also the conception and articulation of sound as an extension of the general aesthetic domain of musical activities, and how musical meaning is constituted variously, from culture to culture, and from one context to another within the same culture.

Listening Selves and Spirit Possession
Judith Becker

This essay explores the idea that certain senses of personhood or styles of subjectivity preclude the experience of spirit possession, while certain others may encourage it. Notably, the Cartesian 'self, the rational, self-controlled, disengaged self tends to hold in contempt those who practice spirit possession, with its surrender of control and lack of ironic distance. Conversely, those who tend to have strong emotional reactions to musical stimuli and those who do not maintain “aesthetic distance” or an ironic stance toward experience. are more likely to be involved in spirit possession ceremonies. The listening subject in a spirit possession ceremony is ever alert to musical signals that indicate the presence of divine beings and the possibility of personal transformation. Drawing upon materials from evangelicals in colonial Virginia and contemporary U.S. Pentecostals. the author contrasts the non-ironic, engaged selves who may be involved with experiences of transcendent unity with holy beings and the Cartesian selves whose sense of an appropriate style of selfhood centers more on self-control and ‘rationality’. These two American styles of self are then compared with trancers and those who do not trance among the Bugis peoples in South Sulawesi. Indonesia. The Bugis believe that one's vital spirit, sumange’, may diminish if one's bodily integrity is penetrated. Spirit possession is feIt to be a kind of invasion of the body by outside forces. One group of transvestite priests. called bissu. are able to transcend this cultural injunction and allow the penetration of spirit possession and to t1irt with a second penetration, i.e. self-stabbing. The special powers of the bissu that permit transgression of cultural norms of sensible behavior also allow them to be the intermediaries between the world of humankind and the spirits of the upper realm. The author concludes that more than one style of selfhood may be available even within societies with a preferred, hegemonic style of self, and that only the listening self susceptible to the transport of musically-driven holy narratives, will accept spirit possession.

Clinton, Bush, and Hussein in Madagascar
Ron Emoff

In the Tamatave region on the east coast of Madagascar, musical performance commonly is a powerful medium for bringing spirits of ancient Malagasy royalty into the present ceremonial moment. Newer spirits from yet distant places sometimes take visceral shape alongside these royal Malagasy spirit personalities. Thus varying epochs become conflated one into the other. Musical performance not only mediates the political, the historical, the memorable among Malagasy in spirit-related ceremonies–it is an expressive embodiment of these realms of experience. Through music-dependent performance Malagasy can recall their pasts while imagining and commenting upon the present.

Vietnamese Mediumship Rituals: The Musical Construction of the Spirits
Barley Norton

In this article, I examine the role of music during Vietnamese mediumship rituals, len dong. After providing a brief introduction to len dong and the music performed during rituals, chau van, I address the importance of music for possession through a discussion of len dong putatively without music. This is followed by a more detailed investigation into how the aural invocation of the spirits relates to possession experiences and how chau van facilitates bodily engagement with the spirits by creating a sense of ritual time, animating possession and inciting dance. In the final sections of the article I argue that music plays a vital role in the construction of the spirits through various imaginings that relate to place, gender and ethnicity. I also consider how these imaginings relate to nationalist discourse on ‘ethnic minority’ groups in Vietnam. I will argue that chau van does more than simply ‘identify’ possession (see Rouget 1985 [1980]). Rather, chau van is constitutive of spiritual presence: music enables mediums to assume new identities and to engage with places and people beyond their local worlds.

Bringing Down the Santo: An Analysis of Possession Performance in Afro-Cuban Santería
Katherine J. Hagedorn

This article offers a performative analysis of oricha possession performance in Afro-Cuban Santería. Although the article stems from ten years of fieldwork, it focuses on a particular instance of oricha possession that occurred at a toque de santo (public ritual drumming ceremony) in July 1997. In Santería, the possession of a religious devotee by an oricha, or deity, is an important and powerful event because it is a clearly visible manifestation of the convergence between humanness and divine potential. In this piece, I examine the relationship between “appropriate” and “inappropriate” behavior at a toque de santo, which leads to a related discussion of some of the criteria for determining “real” versus “folkloric” possession performances.

The Canned Sardine Spirit Takes the Mic
Marina Roseman

The Temiars of peninsular Malaysia have long lived at the nexus of the local and the global, responding to interactions ranging from those with precolonial Malay lowland court cultures, to the British colonialists, to the Japanese Occupation during World War II and its postcolonial aftermath.  In this article, I suggest that Temiar spirit mediums are mediators and song ceremonies are sites for mediating social change.  Songs, received during dreams from the animated spirits of entities with whom Temiars have interacted during daily life, encapsulate and reproduce both the continuity of a cosmological system and incorporate the radical social, environmental, and political changes that Temiars have undergone from precolonial times through to the present global economy. From songs received from fresh river fish spirits to those from canned sardines, I trace a trajectory of musical and religious vitality amidst environmental devastation and social reorganization in the Malaysian rainforest.  Through their musical and spiritual practices, I suggest, Temiars craft their dance of survival as they grapple with displacement and stake their place in the nation-state.

 

 

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