Tuesday, June 12, 2007

29. 000000 to 000001 part 2

Can what I've been calling "Shouted Hocket" be legitimately considered a musical "haplogroup" (style family)? As a first step in the systematic investigation of this question, I've done a Cantometric query based on four characteristic traits (see previous post). The query produced a list of cultures, almost all indigenous tribal groups, many from Africa. Ideally the next step would be to listen systematically to each recording to be sure it really fits. Unfortunately I don't currently have access to most of the recordings represented in the sample, though all are presently being archived by the Association for Cultural Equity (the organization Lomax founded, now directed by his daughter, Dr. Anna Lomax Wood). The presence of so many African groups is to be expected if the style did in fact originate in Africa as I've postulated. Not every group may actually be performing in true "shouted hocket" style, however, so it's best to defer judgment until the recordings can be checked.

We can add to the list the groups I included in my examples (see post 22) that weren't found by the query. The Aka Pygmy esime is almost always performed as an interlude between songs. This would have complicated the Cantometric coding, which might not have picked up on the salient characteristics of that one segment. The Balinese "Monkey Chant" also involves a mix of performance types that would have made the coding more tricky than usual. The Mehinacu recording is new and not yet coded. The Mikea example came up positive for three of the four traits in our search, but should clearly be included on the basis of its overall sound. The Ainu example also posted three out of four and does, in fact, sound a bit different from the others -- nevertheless in my opinion it should still be included. Clearly the Cantometric results work best as a provisional overview and should be supplemented whenever possible with a close analysis of whatever recordings are available.

We must now ask ourselves if there are other aspects of any or all of these performances that could give us some clue to their meaning, cultural, historical or both. We can begin with Nattiez' conclusion that Inuit throat singing was in all likelihood, along with the Siberian and Ainu variants he cites, part of a circumpolar shamanic tradition originating, by his estimate, 4,000 to 5,000 years ago. The Balinese "Monkey Chant" is also thought to have originally been part of a shamanic ritual. The Bisorio example is described as a "house building," which might imply that it was some sort of work song. Since house building in Melanesia is often accompanied by shamanic rituals, however, we can't be sure. Since music among groups like the Dani and Huli is so often associated with ritual, it seems quite likely the hocketing we hear in those examples also has shamanic associations.

The Aka Pygmy "Mokondi" ceremony, a ritual involving a masked dancer who, in all likelihood, goes into trance, may or may not be associated with shamanism. The Ju'hoansi Tcoqma unquestionably is shamanic, associated with an all night initiation ceremony for young boys, in which many men go into trance and perform healing rituals. Among the Ju'hoansi, the great majority of males are considered shamans, with healing powers.

While shamanism was for many years thought to have originated among the Paleosiberians, the "Out of Africa" model may force anthropologists to rethink that hypothesis. The fact that shamanism plays so important a role in Bushmen culture suggests that it may have originated in Africa, making its way to the rest of the world via the initial "Out of Africa" migrations and their post-bottleneck aftermath.

According to Nattiez, a pervasive characteristic of throat-singing is the production of a continual stream of sound through rapid alternations of audible exhaling and inhaling, "which create what can be called a 'panting style' . . . the main feature common to the three cultures under consideration." [p. 401] In a remarkable essay currently available on the Internet, Triinu Ojamaa and Jaak Aru demonstrate the relation between hyperventilation and trance in the Nganasan Bear Dance, yet another example of the shamanic circumpolar tradition explored by Nattiez. According to Ojamaa and Aru, "Inspiration and expiration alternate in a certain rhythm. We can characterize the accompaniment as rhythmically organized panting." Their essay presents convincing evidence, both musical and biological, of the relationship between hyperventilating and trance, a pervasive feature of shamanism.
Signs of a somewhat similar type of "panting" suggestive of hyperventilation, can be found in our examples from Kamchatka, the Inuit, Ainu and Hupa, as might be expected, but also the Ju'hoansi -- while there are strong indications of something similar going on in the uncannily rapid, trance inducing, interlocking of the "Monkey Chant."

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