Audiovisual Ethnomusicology, whose subject is the ethnomusicological film, is being con-figured as a new branch of Ethnomusicology. The main aim of this book is to outline its history, the diverse theoretical and methodological approaches adopted by the ethno-film-makers, as well as the different ways to use the visual medium in the “re-presentation” of musical cultures.
Table Of Content
- About the author
- About the book
- This eBook can be cited
- Notes, Audiovisual Ethnomusicology
- Preface to Audiovisual Ethnomusicology
- I. Framing Sounds. The Audiovisual Representation of Music
- II. The Ethnomusicological film
- II.1 Research film and documentary film
- II.2 The world-music film and the ethnomusicological film
- II.3 Typology and modes of filmic representation of music
- II.3.a. Expository
- II.3.b. Observational
- II.3.c. Impressionistic
- II.3.d. Reflexive
- II.4 Taxonomy of filmic content
- II.4.a Thematic world-music/ethnomusicological film
- II.4.b Organological world-music/ethnomusicological documentaries.
- II.4.c Biographical world-music/ethnomusicological film
- II.5 Fiction, docu-fiction, ethno-clip and experimental documentary
- II.6 Ethics and representation in the ethnomusicological film
- II.7 The ethnomusicologist, the filmmaker and the ethno-filmmaker
- II.8 Uses and functions of the ethnomusicological film
- II.8.a. Scientific documentaries: The ethnomusicological films as a research tool
- II.8.b. Educational documentaries: The ethnomusicological film with didactic purposes.
- II.8.c. Informative documentaries: The ethnomusicological films oriented to dissemination
- II.9 Audiovisuals as sound footprints
- II.9.a. Audiovisual media as a tool for preservation of musical systems and musical cultures
- II.9.b. Audiovisual media as a means of cultural transmission
- II.9.c. Audiovisual media as a record of musical change
- II.9.d. Audiovisual media as a multimedia tool in museums and exhibitions.
- II.10 Audiovisual archives: preserving sounding images
- II.11 Technological developments of audiovisual recording in fieldwork
- III. The Styles of the Ethnomusicological Film
- III.1 The IWF style
- III.2 The CNRS style
- III.3 The NFTS style
- III.4 Hugo Zemp
- IV. Filming Sounds around the World
- IV.1 Filming music in sub-Saharan Africa
- IV.2 Filming music in India
- IV.3 Filming music in China
- IV.4 Filming music in the United States
- IV.5 Filming music in Latin America
- IV.6 Filming music in Australia and Papua New Guinea
- IV.7 Filming music in Southern Europe (Italy, Spain and Portugal)
- V. Analysis of Sounding Images
- V.1 Visualizing music
- V.2 Kubik and the frame-by-frame transcription
- V.3 Qureshi and the videographic method
- V.4 Zemp and the animation techniques
- V.5 Lomax and the choreometrics project
- VI. Filming Music in Action
- VI.1 Filming musical instruments: an ethno-organological comparative study
- VI.2 Filming the musical performance: the processes of musical interaction
- VI.3 Filming the transmission of musical knowledge: the oral-aural-visual communication process
- VII. Music on Screen
- VII.1 The audiovisual representation of music on big and small screens
- VII.2 Broadcast media and World Music
- VII.3 The routes of music: musical road movies and travelogues
- VII.4 Sounds of memory: The reunion-style music documentaries
- VII.5 Visualizing expats’ music: The transnational music documentaries
- VII.6 Back home: The “repatriation” music documentaries
- VII.7 “Music is the weapon”: the politically engaged music documentaries
- VII.8 “Music for social change”: The socially engaged music documentaries
- VII.9 The filmed ethnomusicologists
- List of Figures
- Appendix: Ethnomusicological films listed by content categories.
By Timothy Rice
During the two decades following the first published appearance in 1950 of the word “ethno-musicology,” the new field’s newsletter and journal were filled with articles attempting to define it.1 When I entered the field as a graduate student toward the end of the second decade, I found one definition oddly tautological and oddly attractive: ethnomusicology is what ethnomusicologists do.2 This definition seemed to be throwing up its hands in frustration at the difficulty of finding a more satisfactory definition that all ethnomusicologists could agree on, one that would avoid limiting the range of the field to certain types of music (what Jaap Kunst called its “study-object”) or a certain methodology or theory. At the time the field was split between advocates for anthropological versus musicological approaches, and some were fending off performers of “non-Western” music who dubbed themselves ethnomusicologists.3 Defining ethnomusicology all those years ago was complicated by how varied the study of ethnomusicology was.
The problem has only gotten worse during the seventy years since 1950. The field consists of a relatively small number of researchers who have dedicated themselves to the idiographic study of every musical culture and musical genre in the world. Each of these cultures and genres seems to demand its own set of questions, methods and theories. In addition, each research project requires intensive, long-term study based on sometimes not-easily-acquired linguistic and cultural fluency. Furthermore, no single or even small number of research paradigms, problems, or issues guide our research. As a result, it can seem as though there is little or no coherence to the range of research projects we engage in. Also, both the musical cultures ←15 | 16→and genres we study and the methods and theories we bring to bear on them are in constant flux. The result is a scholarly literature that seems to suggest that ethnomusicologists spend so much time preparing for and engaging in their particular, local studies that they have little or no time to step back and review the whole, or even a small segment, of the academic discipline to which they have dedicated their careers. It is in this context that a book like this one from Leonardo D’Amico, which surveys and critiques the history of filmmaking in ethnomusicology, is so rare and so welcome.
Given the difficult and time-consuming nature of the task of summarizing all or a small part of what ethnomusicologists do, most such surveys have taken the form of edited collections of essays in which each author displays their specialized knowledge. Some classic examples, one from each of the last five decades, are Bruno Nettl’s Eight Urban Musical Cultures (1978); Ellen Koskoff’s Women and Music in Cross-Cultural Perspective (1987); Helen Meyer’s Ethnomusicology: An Introduction (1992); Gregory Barz and Timothy Cooley’s Shadows in the Field: New Perspectives for Fieldwork in Ethnomusicology, Second Edition (2008); and Harris M. Berger and Ruth M. Stone’s Theory for Ethnomusicology: Histories, Conversations, Insights, Second Edition (2019).4 These five edited collections of essays represent a much larger set of similar books that attempt a collective representation of the field of ethnomusicology or some aspect of it. These books are now so numerous that the Society for Ethnomusicology recently established a prize, named for Ellen Koskoff, for the best book each year in this category.
On the contrary, only a few authors have ever attempted to survey the entire field on their own, including early examples by the field’s pioneers: Alan Merriam’s The Anthropology of Music (1964), Mantle Hood’s The Ethnomusicologist (1971), and Bruno Nettl’s The Study of Ethnomusicology: Twenty-Nine Issues and Concepts (1983).5 Very few authors have ever examined a particular theme or issue facing the field. ←16 | 17→Among the few are Gilbert Rouget’s Music and Trance: A Theory of the Relations between Music and Possession (1983); Judith Becker’s Deep Listeners: Music, Emotion, and Trancing (2004), and Thomas Turino’s Music as Social Life: The Politics of Participation (2008).6 Unlike edited collections, these single-authored books are not representative of a much larger set of similar works. Rather, they are almost the only examples of their kind. Audiovisual Ethnomusicology will surely take its place alongside these rare but much appreciated single-authored surveys of the field of ethnomusicology or one of its theoretical, methodological, or thematic subfields.
In my own attempts to come to grips with what ethnomusicologists do, I have mainly been concerned with reports about the results of our research in written form, that is, in scholarly articles and books.7 I have focused, in other words, on the “-ology” part of the discipline’s name and suggested that ethnomusicologists mainly do, and therefore ethnomusicology is, “word-based, reasoned discourse about all music.”8 That discourse begins with written fieldnotes and goes through many iterations until it finally arrives in printed form in a polished doctoral dissertation, book, or scholarly article.
Audiovisual Ethnomusicology takes us along a parallel path, one that has received too little attention in my own and most other writing about ethnomusicology.9 This path begins with documentation in nonwritten forms (audio recordings, photographs and film/video) and goes through ←17 | 18→many iterations until it appears as carefully edited research and documentary “ethnomusicological films.” These means of documentation and their final appearance in films with synchronized sound and images constitute D’Amico’s audiovisual ethnomusicology. His survey and history of ethnomusicological filmmaking is breathtakingly broad and deep. Audiovisual Ethnomusicology is a revelation, an inspiration and an important new story about what ethnomusicologists do and therefore what ethnomusicology is.←18 | 19→
1 Jaap Kunst, Musicologica: A Study of the Nature of Ethno-musicology, Its Problems, Methods, and Representative Personalities (Amsterdam: Royal Tropical Institute, 1950).
2 I have not been able to find a contemporaneous written source for this definition, so it may have circulated mainly in oral tradition. In any case, it has been mentioned in print a few times since the 1960s, without attribution, to my knowledge.
3 Bruno Nettl, in a personal communication, suggested to me that this definition was David McAllester’s response to Alan Merriam’s opposition to those, particularly at UCLA, who were studying musical performance of Asian, African and Latin American traditions. McAllester and Merriam, along with Willard Rhodes and Charles Seeger, were the founders of the Society for Ethnomusicology in the United States.
4 Bruno Nettl, Eight Urban Musical Cultures (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1978); Ellen Koskoff, Women and Music in Cross-Cultural Perspective (Urbana: University of Illinois Press 1987); Helen Meyer, Ethnomusicology: An Introduction (New York: W.W. Norton, 1992); Gregory Barz and Timothy Cooley, Shadows in the Field: New Perspectives for Fieldwork in Ethnomusicology, Second Edition (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008); Harris M. Berger and Ruth M. Stone, Theory for Ethnomusicology: Histories, Conversations, Insights, Second Edition (New York: Routledge, 2019).
5 Alan Merriam, The Anthropology of Music (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press,1964); Mantle Hood, The Ethnomusicologist (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1971); Bruno Nettl, The Study of Ethnomusicology: Twenty-nine Issues and Concepts (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1983).
6 Gilbert Rouget, Music and Trance: A Theory of the Relations between Music and Possession (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983); Judith Becker, Deep Listeners: Music, Emotion, and Trancing (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2004); Thomas Turino, Music as Social Life: The Politics of Participation (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008).
7 Timothy Rice, Ethnomusicology: A Very Short Introduction (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014); Timothy Rice, Modeling Ethnomusicology (New York: Oxford University Press, 2017).
8 Rice, 2014, p. 10.
9 Audiovisual ethnomusicology has received some institutional support, however. In the early 1980s, the journal Ethnomusicology began running regular film reviews, published a series of retrospective film reviews by world region, and added “current filmography” to its listings of current bibliography and discography. In 2016, the International Council for Traditional Music held the first symposium of its new Study Group on Audiovisual Ethnomusicology. At the 2019 annual meeting of the Society for Ethnomusicology, Rebecca Dirksen ((Indiana University) and Jennie Gubner (University of Arizona) organized a pre-conference symposium, “Film as Ethnography, Activism, and Public Work in Ethnomusicology,” which examined a wide range of topics, including the role of women and people of color in ethnomusicological filmmaking, experimental film formats and the utility of films in activism and public work.
A word evokes ten thousand images
and a picture is worth ten thousand words
(supposed to be a Chinese proverb)
But not any picture, and not any words
Visualizing music, and not just listening to it, is one of the fundamental principles for deepening the knowledge of music in its cultural context. Music is not limited to its mere acoustic dimension, although sound is an essential part of it, and ethnomusicological research does not study only sound structures abstract from their cultural and natural context. According to the “culturalist” or anthropological perspective, the object of analysis and investigation of ethnomusicology is not, or should be not limited to, music as a sonic object. On the contrary, it should be focused mainly upon people and their musical practices and processes. As Henry Kingsbury points out, music is a cultural system, not an a priori phenomenon of the natural world (Kingsbury 1987). Ethnomusicology as the study of music as a form of social behavior and as a cultural expression offers extensive scope to enrich the study of musical cultures through audiovisual media.
Ethnomusicology has been defined by John Baily as “the study of human beings as music makers and music users” (1992:142) and by Jeff Todd Titon, as “the study of music in the context of human life” or simply as “the study of people making music” (1992b: xxi). Rice (1997) suggested that ethnomusicologists had a long history of foregrounding individual musical creativity as well as the historical construction and the social maintenance of music, which he claimed were the principal “formative processes” of human music making. Later, Rice (2003a) proposed a model for a “subject-centered musical ethnography.” If we adopt these “anthropocentric” definitions of our discipline as a theoretical framework, and the concept of music—all music—in terms of human experience, it is evident, from the phenomenological point of view, the methodological importance of audiovisual communication in documenting musical practices and experiences in all cultures.10←19 | 20→
The ethnomusicological film is able to record the “sound space” (as a physical-acoustic space and as sociocultural space) in which music makers and music users act and interact as actors of the musical communication in a particular sociocultural context. In the early stages of the discipline, only a few renowned ethnomusicologists advocated the importance of studying the visual dimension of music making. In his book Chopi Musicians (1948), Hugh Tracey highlighted the great potential of film in ethnomusicology: “only motion pictures with simultaneous sound track will in any degree substitute for the experience of the Chopi ngodo as performed in its proper setting, under the big shade-trees of the village of Zavala” (1948:88). Twenty years later, Mantle Hood—who was the author of one of the earliest ethnomusicological films (Atumpan: The Talking Drums of Ghana, 1964)—was echoing Tracey. In The Ethnomusicologist (1971/1982), he advocates the use of film as an indispensable tool in fieldwork: “the motion picture constitutes a unique and perhaps the most important form of documentation available to the ethnomusicologist” (Hood 1982:269).
The high value of the visual tools for enhancing and communicating ethnomusicological knowledge is nowadays widely acknowledged. One of the most important characteristics of ethnomusicology is the fact that its study objects are mainly musical traditions that have no written form within their own traditions and, above all, that are living traditions.
We all know that—unlike historical musicologists—ethnomusicologists have so far been characterized by a prevalent interest in living music and in the music-making processes rather than specific artefacts. (Giannattasio 2017:18)
Nevertheless, as Andrew Killick observed in his chapter “Visual Evidence in Ethnomusicology,” in spite of the relevance given by ethnomusicologists to “visual evidence” in their research, documenting musical events with still and video recordings, the literature on the use of audiovisual means as methodological tools is still scarce:
What might be surprising, given the vital importance of visual evidence to their work, is that so few ethnomusicologists have tried to formulate any general principles for working with it. The standard texts on ethnomusicology might include sections on iconography, notation, transcription, and the use of photography and film as research techniques, but not on visual evidence in general as a methodological issue. (Killick 2013:75)←20 | 21→
Killick claims that “while ethnomusicology has spawned a number of specialist sub-fields such as historical ethnomusicology, cognitive ethnomusicology, and applied ethnomusicology, no one appears to have proposed a ‘visual ethnomusicology’ to correspond to the long-established equivalent in one of ethnomusicologist’s parent disciplines, ‘visual anthropology’ ” (2013:76). On the contrary, the term “visual ethnomusicology” was introduced by Italian ethnomusicologist Diego Carpitella (1985; 1989) and was intended mainly in connection with the use of film11 as a way to represent the most significant aspects of a musical culture, in particular performances in context in their audio and visual dimension. Film can document both the aural and visual dimensions of musical performance—both participatory and presentational performance (Turino 2008)12—and has the capability to show things, people and events in their physical and temporal context; all features related to contextualization that can best be communicated and represented by audiovisual means. The expression audiovisual—preferred to that of visual—is intended to integrate completely two components: aural perception and visual communication. The term audio beside visual is a significant factor that discriminates and differentiates the domain of what we can define as “audiovisual ethnomusicology”13 from other scientific domains related to visualizing music, such as musical notation and musical iconography. In fact, while musical notation and musical pictures (including both pictorial images and still photographs) are silent or mute representations of a musical experience, the sounding image, as a moving picture with synchronous sound,14 allows us to document and convey a significant amount of useful information related to a musical performance and its context that, in many cases, becomes essential to achieving in-depth knowledge of music in traditional cultures, as well as in contemporary societies.15←21 | 22→
Most of the literature about filmmaking in ethnomusicology seems to dwell solely on its potential to support research, but audiovisual technology can be employed in several ways, including documentation, but also encompass the transmission, preservation and diffusion of music cultures. Nevertheless, audiovisual communication is still considered less effective compared to the descriptive approach of the written text and the analysis of musical transcriptions based on sound recordings. At the 2015 world conference of the ICTM in Astana, British ethnomusicologist and filmmaker Barley Norton raised the question of whether a film could communicate “theory” in a way similar to or different from writing: “Film in ethnomusicology is still typically thought of as supplementary supporting data, rather than as a medium for argument or as a stimulus for theoretical discourse in words” (Norton 2015:1).
In the last decades, a subdiscipline of ethnomusicology has emerged, a new field of study that can be defined as audiovisual ethnomusicology, in which ethnomusicology and visual anthropology tend to converge, sharing most of their theoretical models, concepts and methodologies, but at the same time standing out for their own specificities. As Nick Poulakis claimed: “At the present moment, ethnomusicology has the chance to draw a straight line on the groundwork generated by the anthropology of visual communication” (2016:164). The subject of audiovisual ethnomusicology is the ethnomusicological film, which is a concept still in progress, even if it is accepted by scholars as a very efficient way to represent music in its own environment—through audiovisual means—to depict the lives of musicians, to analyze musical structures and to have an ethnographic approach to musical performance. Defining a canon of ethnomusicological film that would be universally accepted is virtually impossible. Ethnomusicological films produced in the last 50 years show different methods and styles of audiovisual representation of a musical culture, since each ethnomusicologist-filmmaker adopts different strategies to represent them: different choices in shooting and editing techniques, different methods to collect and analyze visual data, different ways to use the visual tools in field research, different ways to communicate information to the viewers, different aims and objectives. Above all, ethnomusicological films have a wide range of means for treating a musical reality.←22 | 23→
Ethnomusicological film and ethnographic film have areas of overlap, but also occupy different domains, considering that the main subject of the first one is music-making and musical performances in context.
The growing interest in the visual dimension of musical performance practice and the use of film as a medium of presentation and research in ethnomusicology is related to the increasingly wide use of visual ethnographic methods of research and representation, and the technological development of modern visual tools used today in field research. At the same time, postmodern ethnomusicology is oriented mainly toward studying the process of music-making through musical performance. For this reason, Howard Mayer Brown recognizes that “performance practice is an inseparable part of the central concerns of ethnomusicologists who work with orally transmitted repertories” (1980:371).The use of the camera in fieldwork was long been overlooked by most ethnomusicologists, until the advent of the video camera, when many ethnomusicologists took them into the field along with audio recorders as an important means of documentation. This gap is due either to a lack of specific skills for filming, or to technical and logistical difficulties, mostly related to the use and transport of the camera on fieldwork. In the first half of the twentieth century, only a few filmmakers-ethnologists were equipped with heavy 35 mm cameras. The ethnographic films were at first silent, then accompanied by a didactic expository narration16 describing exotic scenes with “strange people wearing strange clothing doing strange things” (Heider 2006:54).
The use of film in ethnomusicology dates back to the 1930s. Dutch ethnomusicologist Arnold Adriaan Bake in India and Nepal, and British ethnomusicologist Hugh Tracey in Zululand in 1939 were among the first ethnomusicologists to shoot films during fieldwork. Nevertheless, it is not easy to draw a historical outline of the ethnomusicological film, identifying its origins and founders, because it is strongly interrelated with the origin and development of the ethnographic film. Many early ethnographic films provide data and information of ethnomusicological interest, so they may also be considered ethnomusicological films. As Diego Carpitella wrote, “Visual Ethnomusicology is an integral part of the ethnographic documentary, it can be said that it is implied, since most of the anthropological film and video production is based on ceremonies and rites belonging to cultures of mentality and oral transmission, in which music and body have a prominent and conspicuous role” (1985; translation by the author).
Some anthropologists, seeing the innovative potential of motion picture technology, have used film to record and analyze body movement or ←23 | 24→nonverbal behavior related to music. Ethnographic films have shown a strong interest in dance, body language, kinesics and proxemics,17 and all visual aspects of music embodiment. The beginnings of visual anthropology are placed in the 1930s with the studies of Franz Boas on the Kwakiutl (1930); Melville Herskovits on African cultures and African Americans in Suriname (1929), West Africa (1931) and Haiti (1934); Marcel Griaule on Dogon masks in Mali (1935, 1938); and Gregory Bateson and Margaret Mead in Bali and New Guinea (1936–1938). The common links of these early ethnologists and their studies were the “multimedia approach” to field research, and dance and motor behavior as a primary interest of their investigations.
In fact, the first ethnographic film dates back to 1898; it was made by Alfred Cort Haddon during a British ethnographic expedition to the Torres Straits where he pioneered the use of film. An outstanding contribution that he made was to pioneer the use of wax-cylinder phonographs to record music, cameras for still photographs and a Lumiére motion camera that he used to record short films for documenting dance sequences performed as reenactments of the Malu-Bomai ceremonies from the Murray Island and the island of Mabuiag. This film is considered the first ethnographic film made in the field (De Brigard 1975; MacDougall 1978; Philip 1999; El Guindi 2004).
In his holistic view of culture, Franz Boas has dedicated specific attention to music and dance, considered as an integral part of human culture. In his last ethnographic expedition to Fort Rupert in 1930–1931 among the Kwakiutl (Kwakwaka’wakw) in British Columbia (Canada), he brought with him a phonograph and a 16 mm film camera to film music, dance and other aspects of social life.The footage was meant to be for research and archiving, but Boas did not complete the analysis of the data he collected, nor did he publish the results (Ruby 1980).18
After World War II, different styles of making ethnographic and ethnomusicological films emerged in Europe: the “concept-film” style of the Institut für den Wissenschaftlichen Film (IWF) in Germany, the “participatory camera” approach by Jean Rouch and his epigones of the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) in France, the “biographical” style of John Baily and the National Film and Television School (NFTS) in England.
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- 2020 (June)
- Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2020. 302 pp., 213 fig. b/w.