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Title:Singing knowledge: aesthetics, authority and gender in Skyrian music (Greece)
Author(s):Glaros, Angela C.
Director of Research:Gottlieb, Alma J.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Gottlieb, Alma J.
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Buchanan, Donna A.; Desmond, Jane; Herzfeld, Michael
Department / Program:Anthropology
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Abstract:Based on ethnographic fieldwork conducted in 2007-08 in Skyros, Greece, this dissertation examines the gendered tensions at the heart of performances of Skyrian vocal music. A small Aegean island with approximately 3,000 inhabitants, Skyros prides itself on a distinctive expressive culture that prominently features the masquerading and satirical performances of the pre-Lenten Carnival, for which the island is well known beyond Greece, as well as the less famous a cappella “table songs” (traghoudhia tis tavlas) performed at religious festivals and other celebrations. Because such modes of music-making on Skyros engage local history, memory and identity, singers use their performances at Carnival, festivals, and other events as metaperformative commentaries on the nature of community belonging, such that singing constitutes a claim to social, political, and musical knowledge, even as it provides the grounds on which such claims may be contested. I approach “singing knowledge,” along two intersecting axes: the sensual, embodied aesthetics of singing and of listening to song—and the relations of power that suffuse people’s judgments not only about a singer’s musical expertise but also about a singer’s authority to represent the community. Approaching musical performances as embodied enactments of social personhood in meaning-laden spaces, my research resonates with recent calls for a “vocal anthropology” that considers the voice as “the material embodiment of social ideology and experience” (Feld et al. 2004:332). I frame my examination of aesthetics, authority and gender in vocal music on Skyros both in relation to the largely antiphonal musical texture of Skyrian songs, in which singers alternate verses in a call-and-response fashion, and to the social aesthetic of reciprocity and commensality that Skyrians identified as crucial to the highly local knowledge embedded in their musical forms. I consider “singing knowledge” across a range of performative sites, including Carnival, Greek Orthodox Christian liturgical chanting, and Skyrian religious festivals. While performances in each of these sites enact gendered conceptions of space as well as of sound, each scenario also exceeds its spatial and temporal bounds such that they index and inform one another in individual performances. The seemingly disparate arenas of “secular” and “sacred” vocal music share not only a musical and social aesthetic but also a set of gendered tensions that animates musical performances in each site. Addressing questions of emotion, aesthetics, authority and gender in the performance of both religious and secular musical knowledge on Skyros, this project contributes to the global study of music, embodiment and social relations.
Issue Date:2011-08-26
Rights Information:Copyright 2011 Angela Glaros
Date Available in IDEALS:2013-08-27
Date Deposited:2011-08

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