“Can Spaces Speak, Sing, or Dance? The Search for Ethnomusicological Pasts in African Slave Dungeons”
Historical ethnomusicologists investigate “ethnomusicological pasts” by analyzing performances, recordings, music manuscripts, musical instruments, and oral histories. None of these artifacts were available when I studied how enslaved Africans used music and dance to cope, resist, and survive in the slave dungeons. Elmina Castle, my field, was odorous “empty “black and green algae-covered chambers enclosing damp, bumpy floors caked with ancient human waste and blood. There were no documented histories about human activities or witnesses. I did not observe, participate, or immense myself in any performances. Tour guides did not mention music. Should we conclude with this ‘absence and silence’ that the Africans for whom music had been an integral part of life, did not sing or dance in the dungeons? Could it be an indication that such performances were overlooked and/or omitted from accounts? How could one fill these “gaps” that history’s silence has caused?
In this talk, I reflect on how we might investigate ethnomusicological pasts in historic spaces for which there are no recorded histories, artifacts, witnesses. I employ different modalities of interpretation to explore musical pasts of people whose experiences have been neglected. The approach moves us beyond traditional ways of interpreting histories, music, performance, spaces, and the lives of people in distant times. It advances an important paradigm for how historic studies can be effectually tied to ethnographic analysis. Ultimately, it contributes to new perspectives in field methods in ethnomusicology, anthropology, sociology, other ethnographic disciplines, and the production of texts.
Presenter: Prof. Ama Oforiwaa Aduonum, Visiting Professor, Department of Music and Dance
Presentation Chair: Dr. Florian Carl, Department of Music and Dance
Date: Tuesday, November 29, 2016