Less loud sounds can still damage ears
From the New Scientist: http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20427344.900-less-loud-sounds-can-still-damage-ears.html
Somewhat interesting to think about considering how most noise abatement laws seem to focus mostly on sounds deemed loud enough to damage hearing.
soundwalk.com and blog
Singing and Polishing in Mater Dolorosa parish
I. Finnegan's questions in her final chapter seem to be directly pertinent to my work among the choirs of Mater Dolorosa and Holy Cross. She asks: "But perhaps music is also in some sense 'special'? Can we speculate that there may be something unique or additional about music-making which also gives it an additional quality beyond those it shares with other minority pursuits?" And it seems that the Catholic Church's answer to this question is a definitive "yes".
The hour-long service is broken into sections of singing, of praying, and of listening and watching. These different sections can be organized by the position of a churchgoer's body. That is, the division of the hour-long ritual into parts is emphasized by shifts to standing to sing hymns, kneeling to recite the Eucharistic prayer, and walking towards the altar to receive communion (pre-Vatican II, you would go so far as to kneel at the altar while receiving the host). These changes in physical position -- which can be seen as more "special" than simply sitting in the pews -- are accompanied by sonic changes as well. In this way, the specialness of a change in physical state synergizes with a sonic specialness. By "special" here I mean not transcendently special, like Finnegan asks, but merely differing from a normal, mundane state of sitting/listening.
In my interview with him, Leo Morowski referred to music as being more "reverent" and "mystical". Stephen Tracy recounted an old Catholic saying that "He who sings, prays twice" (which Finnegan also mentions, and attributes to St. Augustine). My feeling is, if the people musicking feel that they are producing transcendently special works, then they are -- no matter what the dispassionate anthropologists' views. The question we fall back to then, is why these sounds and utterances are perceived as transcendently special. I think that the sitting/standing/kneeling thing in the above paragraph has to do with it. I would also hypothesize that the traditions and memories associated with particular hymns give them added emotional weight to those who have known those melodies their entire lives.
NB: In my view, “transcendentally special” works can be identified by an otherwise inexplicable emotional reaction to the work by those involved. Because of the specialness of the music, the participant feels more elated, more somber, or whatever.
Are traditional hymns more special than traditional prayers? Both are utterances that have the potential to lodge themselves in memory to elicit emotional reactions. But I posit that because music carries more information than spoken prayer (ie, in addition to its text, a hymn has a melody and rhythm and harmony and instrumentation), it more easily carries emotional connotations. The effect of sung Gregorian chant right after a long murmured prayer is like a shaft of light through cloudy skies. It stands out in its clarity, its beauty, and its simplicity, and evokes, to me and presumably to other parishioners, a brief soaring sensation of the “heart” that we can call “special.”
II. The most outstanding thing about, and the reason for my being at Mater Dolorosa parish is its Polishness. This Polishness is manifested in the way it is described to strangers (it is referred to as either an “ethnic” or “Polish” parish). It is manifested thoroughly during the 9:00 mass, which is entirely in Polish (with its own musical tradition of Polish hymns), and is led by a near-unilingual Father Stanley Sobiech. It manifests itself in the Polish names and backgrounds of many of the parishioners. It manifests itself in the grilled kielbasa-and-cheese sandwiches they serve at weekly bingo (Although NB, I jokingly asked Helen, who works in the kitchen, if she felt obligated to serve kielbasa because of MD’s Polishness and received a knowing laugh in response. Here is an example distinction between things that make MD Polish, and things we do because MD is Polish, and how they form a feedback loop.)
Many of the parishioners I’ve talked to have gone to Mater Dolorosa their whole lives, or else married into the parish. There is a really big family element here. So many parishioners have family connections to Poland that are just as important as their religious connection with a Polish parish – it’s not at all uncommon to hear of vacations taken to Poland among the senior parishioners.
Much mention has been made of the services around Christmas and Easter, and there is a great deal of pride in the quality of these events. They tend to come up in conversations about uniquely Polish features of Mater Dolorosa. At Eastertime during Holy Week there are regular blessings of food (during which, according to Barbara R., the whole church smells of kielbasa, ham, and eggs), which is a Polish tradition. Mater Dolorosa’s Midnight Mass is also a source of pride, although it in and of itself is not distinctly Polish. However, it is another opportunity for Polish identity to be expressed in the form of hymns. It is not surprising that the general quality of that service is used to bolster claims of strong Polish identity, despite the fact that superb Midnight Masses occur in Catholic churches all over Holyoke (and beyond).
However, it is important to remember that parishioners do not choose to go to Mater Dolorosa in order to claim or bolster their Polishness. Their choice of religious institution is motivated fundamentally by family traditions — and this is reflected most obviously to the outsider as a choice for an “ethnic” parish. It would be easy, for instance, to explain that Leo Morowski attends MD because he is himself Polish. But from his perspective, he attends it because it is his family’s church. The links between ethnicity and family are thus strengthened by conscious adherence to traditions, and the role that the church plays in Mr. Morowski’s life becomes more than that of a religious institution.
Where the Organ Meets the Outside World
Sacred Harp and Society
Within the Western Massachusetts Sacred Harp singing community, we have lawyers, teachers, musicians, massage therapists, counselors, sound engineers, and almost ever other occupation one could imagine. But, perhaps most importantly, we also have students. And many of those students love to sing, and have already come to know that though many things in their lives will change, they will likely strive to sing wherever the go for the rest of their lives. They will perform Sacred Harp songs and explain what they are and what the tradition is; they will use The Sacred Harp to teach music, they will lobby to protect singings; they will start up singings on their campuses and wherever they relocate after college; they will encourage the people they love to sing with them; they will raise their children singing.
The Five College Consortium serves as a feeder for the Western Massachusetts community in numerous capacities. Students who learn about Sacred Harp tell their friends and bring them along, and this cycle continues ad infinitum. Students can then return to their homes and interact with the Sacred Harp communities there and inspire their friends from home to become part of those communities.
Individual members of the community are often asked to assemble groups of singers to sing at benefits and other, similarly structured events. And in that capacity, we are often seen as a performance group, though we try to explain otherwise. It is also interesting to discover that most of my Sacred Harp friends are somehow related to some people with whom I have developed relationships completely separate from Sacred Harp.
For example, the vice chair of last year’s annual convention in Northampton has a husband is a professional sound engineer, who often does work at the Iron Horse, at Amherst College, and all over the northeast and a sister who is married to the man who owns the People’s Pint in Greenfield. And the owner attended Amherst College and has a daughter who does the same. Tim Eriksen, musician, educator, and Amherst College alumnus, takes Sacred Harp wherever he goes. As an Amherst College student, I was first introduced to Sacred Harp in a class co-taught by Eriksen and the late Mirjana Lausevic. It is because of Eriksen and Lausevic that I sing and (I say this somewhat reluctantly) through me that many of my friends have been introduced to singing in a capacity that was more than passive or peripheral.
I have found a great overlap between the Sacred Harp singing and contra dance communities in Western Massachusetts. Both communities provide locations and circumstances in which the young and old can interact as equals.
Sacred Harp singers of Western Massachusetts do not appear to fit into a single demographic, despite some obvious constants. One can be a board member or convention officer regardless of age. The same applies to keying and leading. This community provides youths with a situation in which they can place themselves within leadership roles and take on responsibilities whenever they would like, and be highly respected by those earlier than them. And they can take the skills that they learn through taking leaderships roles in the Sacred Harp community and use them elsewhere.
Reggaes Hidden Musicians
The most prominent concepts from Finnegan, The Hidden Musicians, that I have encountered in my documentation are the differences between amateur and professional musicians, the relationships of the product to the process, and the pathways and relationships that are created through the use of Reggae music.
While interacting with many different bands and artist of the Pioneer Valley Reggae community I have observed that most of them consider themselves to be Musicians. Some of the rappers from the Alchemystics and other fusion Reggae bands do not consider themselves musicians because they don't play a instrument. I disagree because these vocalist are creating complex pieces of sound through their most natural instruments, their voices. These musicians can be considered professional or amateur depending on the situation. Garrett can be considered a professional musician because his job as a audio engineering actively involves music and he is trained as a musician that has studied at many different schools and in the Caribbean. Music is his profession and his career. Garrett is also a member of a independent band. Does being independent mean you are a amateur. Gillie on the other hand is a independent musician that can be considered a professional because he eats, sleeps and breaths his music. His relationship to his music is professional and the reason why he is in Shuttsbury today. Gillie has played in many different states and countries with many different musicians. Gillie is a professional musician, but music is not Gillies profession. By this I mean that Gillie is a very talented musician that performs and records his music professionally, but he does not use music as his only means of survival.
The relationship of product and the process is also a concept that was involved in my fieldwork. Gillie is involved in many different processes involving his music as the product. While Gillie was recording his album at Northfire recording studio he was interacting in a process of creating his album. Each song had a unique processes that involved Garrett as the engineer and other musicians for the instrumentation. This process ended with a product that was the album Drifting Away. Another process and product relationship that involves Gillie is the process of booking a venue and marketing the show with the final product being the performance. Gillie also encounters the concept of process and product when he is building new songs. He has to compose each instrument and write lyrics. Then he must find musicians or play the instruments himself. Then he must record the song. Finally the song is record and becomes the product. This product then undergoes another process to create a whole new product. And this goes on and on with music.
The last concept that I observed in my documentation is the pathways that are created through the music. Gillie followed a path to the Pioneer Valley because of Reggae music. Gillies decided to travel north to the Pioneer Valley from New York because his friend had a Reggae band that needed musicians. Gillie followed the pathway created by music to the Pioneer Valley. Once in the Pioneer Valley, Gillie followed other pathways that lead him to the different venues, bars, and cafes that fully accepted Reggae music. These pathways also allowed Gillie to connect with people that shared a similar love for the music that Gillie had. These pathways lead to new relationships that were built through the use of Reggae music.
The Reggae community in the Pioneer Valley is a very diverse community that interacts with each other through music, culture and shared values. It seems that everybody knows each other and have had musical experiences with each other. Many of the bands have played at shows together, toured together, and recorded together. Working at Northfire has truly allowed me to witness the many different relationships and connections between the members of Pioneer Valleys Reggae community. Members of the community are many different races, religions, and backgrounds. This community is connected through many small local businesses, farms, festivals, and lifestyles. Some of the local businesses are North Fire recording studio and Trade Roots. Northfire records a large amount of the Reggae music in the Pioneer Valley and helps to promote the sounds of these musicians. Trade Roots helps to promote and distribute the material of these artist to the members of the Pioneer valley society. Witnessing these relationships and connections allowed me to understand how the community functions and impacts the rest of society.
I first meet Gillie when I was interning at Northfire recording studios. Gillie was recording with Garrett who is the owner of the studio and a bass player for the Alchemystics. Gillie also brought in other musicians that are actively involved in the Reggae culture of the Valley. Gillie is a Rastafarian and is connected through his Rasta beliefs with many other musicians in the Valley. Ras Janh Bullock is a Rasta, as well as members of the Black Rebels, the Equalites and many more. Rastafarian's are vegans and connect to other members of the community through a shared valley for life. This means that the majority of the community that are vegans have a shared respect for all of the creators of the earth and only eat vegetables and fruits. This creates a connection amongst the members of the community that can be demonstrated in the many different organ vegan friendly restaurants and cafe's throughout the Pioneer Valley. Many of the members of the Reggae community are farmers that harvest crops that are usually traded amongst the community. Gillie told me of a couple of his friends that own a farm and how they trade crops and are both members of the Reggae community and they used to perform together. Another connect I just learned about is with Gillie and Jaya of Trade Roots. While talking to Jaya the other day he told me that Gillie used to live with him while he was in College and that they are close friends. Jaya also offered his help to contact many of the other members of the community that could be of use to my project. This shows the web of connections that are built through the pathways of Reggae music.
There are also many different events and festivals that are created through the Reggae community of the Pioneer Valley. Every year Ras Jahn holds the Charlmont Reggae Festival in respect to Bob Marley. This festival features many different performances from local Reggae bands. The festival is also a way for the Reggae community to be heard and come together in celebration. These festivals help to alert the rest of society to the presence of a strong Reggae community in the Valley.
When I first arrived in Amherst I was oblivious to the amount of Reggae that was here. I encountered a band here and there. Once I started interning at Northfire I realized that there was a large community that was closely connect together through music and values. Once I found this out I was extremely interested in finding out how this community started and how it grew.
I believe that the Reggae community of the Pioneer Valley has a positive impact on society, the economy, politics, and education. The members of the community are positive people that are educated and aware of the knowledge of self. This community allows helps to promote local economy but supporting the local businesses and farms. The community is growing and passing on the culture and values to the future generations. This will help for the community to expand and for more people looking for a close knitted Reggae community to migrate to.
Montgomery - Finnegan Response
In New England and therefore in Western Massachusetts, a large percentage of Sacred Harp singers were either raised in or currently reside within middle-class households. Most are attending or have attended some institution of higher education. Many New Englanders have a tendency to view participation within the Sacred Harp community as an academic endeavor as much as a means of catharsis or whatever else they may get out of it. In choosing to study Sacred Harp, I have revealed myself as taking an academic interest in it, myself. Even those who try to compose songs in the style of the Sacred Harp must study the songs that already exist within the book and attempt to emulate them, while being innovative.
For the most part, Sacred Harp singers are Caucasian. Out of all of the singers who regularly attend singings in Western Massachusetts, all but two of us are white. This is probably rather consistent around the country. In the past, there existed separate groups, composed of “colored Sacred Harp singers,” who mostly sang from the Cooper editions of the Sacred Harp (as opposed to the Denson editions, which have become most popular) and a songbook called the Colored Sacred Harp was published. But most of the descendants of the original “colored Sacred Harp singers” did not become singers, and that tradition has almost died out completely. So most of those of us who sing now stumbled upon Sacred Harp singing in some other way.
Additionally, obsession with authenticity and tradition (the latter usually out of respect for it) can be dangerous in that it can lead us to subconsciously attempt to recreate singings rather than having our own. We must remember that these events are about being in the now and not about historical reenactment, which really happens to the smallest of degrees. We do not know how William Walker sang the sixth degree in the minor scale in the early 1800s, so we can only sing the way people sing it now in whatever place we may be singing it. This, too, applies to pronunciation. On the opposite side of the people who want to recreate what they imagine to be the singing styles of nineteenth-century New England, there are the people who sing with a Southern accent, because that is the way they believe the music should be sung. In the rural South, they sing with a southern accent, because they speak with that accent. Up north, we stress consonants and pronounce words the way that we do because of our upbringing, having grown up with Western classical music, even if only peripherally.
But when we get together, we are all singers. We are perhaps by the length we have been singing and our philosophies around Sacred Harp, but we really are family. Socio-economic status seldom arises. We pass the basket and give anonymous donations. Most wear his or her Sunday best to all-day singings and conventions, and what one chooses to wear my be telling of where he or she is from (many traditional southern ladies will never wear pants to an all-day singing, especially on a Sunday; there are gentleman who will come to singings in their “good overalls,” which they will only wear on special occasions) but not of assets. And if one can travel to a singing, that likely means that one has made the arrangements and perhaps has made Sacred Harp and traveling to far-off singings among the most important activities and expenditures in his life, despite his job or other expenses.
Walking down the street, asked what he does, forced to identify himself in one word, Peter Irvine is a lawyer, I imagine, or a percussionist. I am a student. Tim Eriksen is a musician, a student, a professor. In Sacred Harp, we are all singers. When we get together, we think of ourselves as singers. I doubt that I have ever even heard someone describe himself as a singing master. We are singers; we are equal; we are family. There are therefore no amateurs or professionals within the singing community. Singing-school teachers can no longer earn money teaching singing schools and selling song books, so having what can be a primary occupation, or a primary source of income, is a necessity.
There are, however, varying levels of experience. But there is a good amount of grey area, even there, deciding whether amount of time singing, frequency of singing within a given amount of time, aptitude, or some other element decides how experienced a singer is in general or how experienced he is as compared to another singer (though we seldom compare ourselves to others, save in regards to likenesses).
Situating Puerto Rican music in the Valley
Everyone seems to know everyone else in the Puerto Rican musical community here in the
Pioneer Valley. Or at least it seems that way so far from everyone we’ve talked to. Our internet
research and search for potential interviewees yielded a lovely number of leads, but there was
no indication of the web of friendships—personal and professional—we’d find connecting all of
The Santiago family, headed by Ismael, and William Cumpiano, a master luthier, were
our first two contacts. It turned out that they not only knew each other but were good friends!
The restaurant displays a blueprint of a cuatro drafted by Cumpiano, and Ismael told us that
William common fixes the band’s instruments. While interviewing him at his workshop,
Cumpiano told us that he loves the food and the music down at the restaurant in Westfield and
that he goes periodically. He, in turn, led us to Victor Rios, a close friend and Puerto Rican
musician on the other side of the river in Holyoke. Victor, of course, also knows the Santiagos
and introduced us to another Puerto Rican restaurant owner in Holyoke. In mid-October, the
Santiago’s held a street festival where they invited Criollo Clasico, an Amherst-based Puerto
Rican group, to perform. With each new contact the web of connections links back to itself and
also grows outwards to more leads than we have time to follow up. William Cumpiano, it
seems, is in the center of much of it because he is one of the only luthiers in the greater Boston
area who can work on Caribbean instruments and speak Spanish with his customers. Like
many of Finnegan’s observations within musical scenes, the musicians playing Puerto Rican
music all seem to know of, if not know personally, one another.
As a newcomer or anyone unfamiliar with the Pioneer Valley (this includes many of the
five-college students), it might seem odd that so many musicians playing Puerto Rican folk
music could survive. But the large Puerto Rican populations from Hartford to Holyoke support
many local musicians playing traditional Puerto Rican melodies. Victor Rios made his living for
years playing Puerto Rican music as a full-time musician in the Valley. But it’s not just the local
Puerto Rican communities which support the music. People of all backgrounds are exposed to
and enjoy it. Criollo Clasico plays at the popular Veracruzana restaurant in Northampton. If
you sit at the Santiago Family Restaurant on a Friday night, you’ll see people of all backgrounds
enjoying the traditional food and music. The street festival thrown by the Santiagos to celebrate
a decade in business was attended and enjoyed by more than just the Puerto Rican community.
For the short time we were in the Fernandez Family Restaurant, it served members of many
cultural contingents in the Holyoke community. Perhaps it is the hand-in-hand relationship of
music and food in Puerto Rican culture that draws in the larger community.
The Hidden Musicians Response
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When I first read this assignment, my immediate thought was our discussion about what it means to be a “musician,” what can be at stake in calling someone one. The word “musician” has implications—it conjures notions of talent (which, for some, could mean having to be classically trained) as well as levels of professionalism. In particular, one thought stuck out to me—when Andy met Peter Beardsley, Beardsley told him that he did not consider electronic organs musicians. Then what does he consider the people who play them? Are those people musicians or are they merely operators of a piece of machinery? Many Estey aficionados are quick to point out that the real and better organs are those that are mechanical and not electronic, and I feel like this sentiment rings true for lots of organists and organ lovers. I think it will be interesting to further investigate how the definition of musician changes when it comes to what they are playing. Finnegan also discusses the role of professionalism vs. amateurism, and local musicians vs. traveling musicians. Finnegan argues against the stigma that people have against local musicians, saying that even though they are a minority in a community, their performing engages many other people, and has “many implications for urban and national culture more generally” (6). Many of the people Andy and I are working with are hardly what most would consider professional (though many of them were classically or formally trained)—the majority of the organists I’ve encountered have been substitutes for churches and are usually local students or people past the age of retirement who play the organ as more of a hobby. These people, though they may not be considered professional musicians to many, are contributing an important service to their communities by playing for and taking part in rituals (weddings, funerals, church services, graduations, etc) and keeping the Estey name from completely being forgotten.
Finnegan discusses the role of classical music in communities and how it is represented. And, while there is a belief among some that classical music is the only real, “serious” music, it tends to be underrepresented in the Pioneer Valley. Few classical performances (choirs, orchestras, symphonies, etc) come to this area, and the church and the organ are sometimes the only way that the classical genre gets represented—this becomes clear to me in that I find myself going to similar places and hearing similar pieces during my field work. Hymns and famous organ pieces (like Bach’s “Toccata and Fugue in D Minor”) are obvious staples for organists, but are classical pieces that most listeners would be hard-pressed to find elsewhere. Finnegan explains that in Milton Keynes, most genres had a performance outlet, but classical music lacks that, and is therefore confined to more private performances. The same goes for the Pioneer Valley, and without the Estey soundscape, these performances will only continue to dwindle or get shoved into the dark.
The people involved in the Estey soundscape are a diverse group, and the way in which they are situated within the soundscape and within society varies. As I mentioned earlier, the organists themselves are usually non-professionals—they have other careers and tend to view playing the organ as more of a hobby or a community service. The community of organists is where the most variability exists—they range in age (from student to senior), education, and in general, have different interests and reasons for being an organist. The audiences that listen to Estey performances are also quite diverse. Esteys are found in different churches, so audiences range in age, class, education, and creed. There are also listeners who aren’t even aware that they are listening to this particular type of organ, and are therefore engaging in a soundscape without even being fully conscious of the fact. Those that take a great interest in Esteys (maintenance people, enthusiasts, historians like those working in the Estey Organ Museum) tend to be more of a homogenous group. On the whole, the people Andy and I have encountered thus far typically seem to be white, middle-to-upper class, of a Christian denomination, and over sixty years old. That is, of course, not to say that there aren’t exceptions to this, but we have yet to come across one. As Finnegan says,” nor can music be explained as the creature of class divisions or manipulation,” and it’s true. This music is something created by and involves many. I look forward to meeting more people relating to this community and seeing how their personal histories led them to participate in this soundscape, and if there are any distinct similarities between cases. In talking about classical music, Finnegan describes the way that the participants are not always a part of an assumed high-culture, elite class, and those involved in the Estey soundscape reflect this notion.
What the Estey soundscape and its participants do for their society is create a sense of togetherness. While it is true that some of the participants are very similar, there are some definite variations within the community, which, without the soundscape, might not have ever been combined otherwise. There are some genres of music or styles of performance that are gendered or predominately dominated by a certain sex, but the organ soundscape differs in that most organists and enthusiasts are equally male and female. The soundscape is primarily embedded in a religious context, seeing as how the organ is the primary instrument for a majority of church rituals, but it also plays a role in the social world at large. They are engaging in a musical community (and maintaining and telling a history) that is unique to this area. I believe the best way to describe the role of the Estey participants and the soundscape itself is to quote Finnegan: “Without these musicians the taken-for-granted accoutrements of religious worship and of the church’s social activities could not function—nor, in turn, would one of the main centers of local music continue to function” (210).
The Hidden Puerto Rican Musicians of the Pioneer Valley
Finnegan has plenty to say about local music in The Hidden Musicians, as evidenced by the
systematic, piece by piece, and lengthy structure of the book. While not everything applies of
course, parts of her observations are particularly apt for our work with Puerto Rican music in
The early discussion of the distinction between professional and amateur musicians is
the first point that hits home. I’ve never heard the Santiagos call themselves musicians, much
less professionals. And yet, very appropriately, they don’t describe themselves as amateurs
either. Ismael’s been playing since he was a young boy (a common trend, it seems) and has
played on stage with professional musicians. Adding to the confusion of which moniker to use,
the family band Grupo Canela can be hired to play at events. The Santiagos completely confuse
any distinction between professional and amateur or non-professional. They make money off
their music but only occasionally and have produced an album but play most often at their
restaurant as a impromptu mix of whoever is around. They are undoubtedly musicians and
professionals (both in the monetary and quality senses), but, at the same time, they are also just
a family band simply making music and keeping alive their culture. In the process, the musical
members of the Santiago family blur the line in exactly the ways Finnegan discusses in the
second introductory chapter.
Victor Rios of Holyoke told us a similar story. Back in his heyday, he made his living
playing as a musician in various Puerto Rican bands in and outside of the Valley. Now semi-
retired, he no longer plays gigs very often but still plays with his family during holidays and
celebrations. He also plays for himself everyday. Its increasingly clear that when playing music
is part of your culture, the line between amateur and professional quickly fades into the
Much of the music-making of both Victor Rios and the Santiagos seems to be focused on
the process rather than the product. Finnegan focuses “on musical practice rather than musical
works” (p. 10) because she wants to get at music’s cultural side. This is exactly what music-
making itself represents for Victor and the Santiagos. The process of getting together with their
friends and family—whether Friday nights at the family restaurant or ‘caroling’ around the
neighborhood during the holidays—is more important than exactly what they’re playing. Of
course, it only helps that much of what they play is traditional folk music invoking their
homeland. For those we’ve talked to, Puerto Rican music is an established pathway (to use
Finnegan’s word) to connect back to family, friends, and the island.