Sunday, June 10, 2007

28. From 000000 to 000001

We are now in a better position to appreciate the value of performance style per se, which may indeed be taken out of its immediate setting to be recontextualized as part of larger, more broadly applicable, contexts. As Nattiez' paper illustrates, a number of different research methods can be applied to the evaluation of performance style, including direct observation, filming, photography, audio recording, musical (as well as verbal) transcription, consultation with local informants, and the study of first-hand reports and analyses, both musicological and anthropological. Cantometrics was designed to take advantage of certain properties of recorded performances that make them especially amenable to comparative research: repeatability, consistency, availability, ease of storage, replicability, and, above all, comprehensiveness, as there now exists a wealth of recordings of traditional music from almost every corner of the world. While Cantometrics, with its database of roughly 5,500 encoded performances, can indeed provide a broadly representative, consistent and systematic set of research tools, it is essentially a heuristic approach which should be supplemented wherever possible by some or all of the other methods listed above.

Now that certain basic methodological issues have, hopefully, been clarified, we may return to the issue at hand, which can be summarized thus: 1. can style area A1 on my phylogenetic map, i.e., "Shouted Hocket," be regarded as a genuinely meaningful musical "haplogroup," or is it simply a collection of different practices with unrelated histories that happen to sound alike? 2. can certain aspects of any or all of the practices I've called "Shouted Hocket," be understood as survivals of some form of "duetting" or "chorusing" as practiced by our pre-human ancestors? 3. can "Shouted Hocket" be regarded as prototypical for more elaborate types of interlocked vocalising (and instrumental performance) as found among the Pygmies and Bushmen and other indigenous groups in various parts of the world? In other words, could style area A1 really be the "missing link" that can take us from 000000 to 000001 on my musical calendar?

Let's begin by consulting the Cantometric database. While I didn't define "Shouted Hocket" (or any of the the other style families) exclusively in Cantometric terms, we can get a rough approximation by looking for four specific traits: interlocked vocal organization; short or very short phrase lengths; one or two repeated phrases; and forceful to very forceful accent. A query for all performances exhibiting all four traits produces the following set of hits: the Ju'hoansi Bushmen tcoqma ritual we've already heard; 3 Mbuti Pygmy performances; 5 Inuit performances; 1 from Kamchatka (Siberia); 2 Yukaghir (Siberia); 1 Hupa (North American); 1 Motilon (South American); 1 Amahuaca (S. American); 1 Shuar (Jivaro, S. Amer.) 2 Ata Krowe (Flores, Indonesia); 1 Ajie (Melanesia); 2 Biami (New Guinea); the Bisorio performance we've heard (N. Guinea); 4 Dani, including the example we've heard (N. Guinea); 2 Huli, including he example we've heard (N. Guinea); 1 Yali (N. Guinea); 1 Hanunoo (Phillipines); 1 Georgian (Caucasus, Asia); 1 Russian; 1 Hungarian Gypsy; 1 Village India; and several African groups: Bundo, Mbala, Ndongo, Lese, Anaguta, Forest Bira, Toma, Meru, Tandroy, Masai, Samburu, Pondo, Wodabe Fulani, Hamar, Tuareg, Ajuran, Dorze, Gamo, Konso and Gio.

Aside from the Russian, Gypsy and Village Indian examples, which apparently don't fit, all the others could in fact be good candidates for the style area in question, which, according to the phylogenetic map, would be very broadly distributed among tribal groups in Africa, Melanesia, New Guinea, Siberia, and the Americas, notably Inuit and California. The South American examples may also be meaningful, as I explain in my essay, though the connection is by no means obvious. The Balinese Monkey Chant is not on the list, probably because the elements of shouted hocket are embedded in a more complex structure.

The above query is comprehensive, in other words it is as significant for the very large number of groups not represented as those which are, telling us, in fact, that the great majority of the worlds peoples very likely do not have musical traditions characterized by shouted hocket. Which makes those who do all the more interesting. Examination of the list gives us, I would think, a pretty good sense of both the strengths and weaknesses of the Cantometric approach. A well designed query, based on a good sense of what to look for, can provide a very useful overview of the stylistic terrain, an excellent starting point for further investigation. It will almost always, however, contain certain things that probably don't fit and omit others that do. This is to be expected from a heuristic system, necessarily provisional and preparatory.

No comments: