and blog

Submitted by Jeffers L. Engelhardt on Monday, 11/23/2009, at 5:58 PM

Very great website and blog. Entirely relevant to our work this semester.

Singing and Polishing in Mater Dolorosa parish

Submitted by Phil D. Dupont on Monday, 11/16/2009, at 4:33 AM

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.

Sacred Harp and Society

Submitted by Deidra M. Montgomery on Sunday, 11/15/2009, at 8:15 PM

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

Submitted by Theo S. Freddura on Sunday, 11/15/2009, at 4:48 PM

 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

Submitted by Deidra M. Montgomery on Sunday, 11/15/2009, at 12:28 PM

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

Submitted by Thomas R. Sibley on Saturday, 11/14/2009, at 6:48 PM

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

Submitted by Katherine A. Beyer on Friday, 11/13/2009, at 2:05 PM

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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

Submitted by Thomas R. Sibley on Friday, 11/13/2009, at 12:49 AM

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 Valley.
         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.

Musicking and Jibaro Historical Background Blogs

Submitted by Ashley N. Soto on Tuesday, 11/3/2009, at 5:06 PM

[I didn't realize I couldn't upload 2 files at a time/don't know how to do it/got confused, so I'm just pasting both.]


             Ritual, reality, and relationships are the Three Rs of Small’s discursion.  Disguised as Grupo Canela, the Santiago family is a living example of these ideas.  After a hard week at work, Santiago’s Family Restaurant sets off the weekend with fun and relaxation.  Every Friday night, the owner and father Ismael, son Gego, daughter Beatriz, percussionist Pinchi, and other family members and bystanders provide the music for customers to enjoy.  People who go to Santiago’s on a Friday night are not just going for the food, as delectable as it is, but expect to get a free show while at it.  In retrospect, the way my heart sank to find a desolate Santiago’s on the rainy Saturday night that Tom and I visited shows that I too assimilated into this mindset that associated Santiago’s with simultaneously consuming food and good music.   This Friday night ritual has begun to sink so deeply into my weekly routine that a Friday night without Santiago’s involved seems unnatural—and this is only after two months.  I can only imagine what this ritual means for people who have been living and been involved in it for the past ten years that the restaurant has been around. 

            Walking into the restaurant brings about this aura that makes you feel right at home, even if you aren’t Puerto Rican.  It’s like walking right onto the island: home for some, vacation for all.  The gloomy Massachusetts weather is masked by this ever-present memory of Puerto Rico that covers the walls, rings in your ears, and tickles your nose.  By embodying what it means to be Puerto Rican, Santiago’s Family Restaurant keeps people in touch with their roots.  Ismael’s nephew John shared his dilemma in being Puerto Rican.  In school, he was never Puerto Rican enough to be Puerto Rican or light enough to be considered White, but the restaurant gives him this sense of comfort with the Puerto Rican inside him.  He truly believes that this restaurant, an icon representing Puerto Rico outside the island, is his connection to his heritage.  He feels at ease being able to play the clave with his family and an honor to occasionally play the congas, considering that Pinchi is the best at it.  This fine-line between the myth and reality of Santiago’s as a connection to Puerto Rico is blurred when the parties involved are invested and whole-heartedly believe in this idea.

            John and Caucasian waiter Scott like to joke around about their identities and claim to be stuck in each other’s bodies, as John enjoys listening to country music and Scott listens to reggaeton and anything related.  Scott was even branded his own nickname “White-a-Rican”—a name I’d always associated with him until I learned on my last visit that his name is actually Scott—and feels this connection with Puerto Rican culture through his relationship with the Santiago family.  The name of the restaurant itself gives an indication of the role it plays with each other and the community.  The family is the musician, the cook, the waiter, the waitress and everything in between that consummates into Santiago’s Family Restaurant, which they then share with the community as an embodiment of an iconic Puerto Rican family.  Eating at the restaurant feels like home because the larger Puerto Rican family fostered by the restaurant is a direct reflection of the family that runs it.  This constant ritual of Friday night music and food that takes everyone back in time creates this relationship with each other that would have never existed had Santiago’s Family Restaurant not been opened ten years ago.  The reality of this ritual relies on the relationships that ensue by becoming a part of this Friday night jam session and food fest.

            Small’s Three Rs could never be more relevant and more applicable than in the case of Santiago’s Family Restaurant.   As the family continues musicking, the Three Rs will continue to cycle and intertwine—and it doesn’t look like they’ll stop musicking any time soon.


Jibaro Historical Background

            Grupo Canela, an extension of Santiago’s Family Restaurant in Westfield, MA is a Puerto Rican band that’s known for playing jibaro music.  This music dates back to the 1800s and was created by the mountain people of Puerto Rico, where the word “jibaro” translates to “People of the Forest” in the Taino, or Arawakan, language (2).  During Spanish occupation in Puerto Rico, the government prohibited schools, newspapers, and books and deliberately prevented the jibaros from any intellectual advancement that could potentially present a threat to its establishment(1). Hence, jibaros were by default poor and ignorant with sole experience in day labor (1). 

The jibaros were not allowed to leave the plantations without receiving permission from the owner.  The government had such a hold on the jibaros that they were required to keep libretas, or notebooks, that strictly outlined their daily activities.  In these libretas, the jibaros were required to document their every action, from work to expenses to issues of morality.  The ironic part of all these decrees was that jibaros were considered “free” laborers.  In theory they were free, but in practice, jibaros were feudal serfs.   In his essay “The Day Puerto Rico Became a Nation,” pro-independence activist Juan Antonio Corretjer writes about the Liberation Army that consisted of slaves and laborers and cites the event that catalyzed Spain’s abolition of the notebook system: On September 23, 1868, members of the Liberation Party stacked up all the libretas and lit them on fire in the center of the Lares Plaza.  That was the end of the constant surveillance represented by the libretas, but that by no means ended the oppression experienced not just by jibaros but by all Puerto Ricans. (1)

Even so, the music played by the jibaros emitted a sense of pride in their national identity, in being Puerto Rican.  This music, along with bomba, parrandas, and other forms, has helped shape the cultural heritage of the Puerto Rican people.  Jibaro music is said to have evolved from the trovador music of Andalusia, an autonomous community of Spain, that was brought by soldiers, farmers and artisans in the late 1500s.  From the Spanish influence offered by trovador music and African and indigenous music styles that existed on the island was born jibaro music.  The cuatro, a guitar developed by jibaros, is the national instrument of Puerto Rico and is characteristic of a jibaro ensemble.  This instrument is still thriving today, as William Cumpiano has customers from all over the globe buying cuatros made at his guitar workshop situated in Northampton, MA.  The most basic jibaro ensemble consists of a cuatro, a guitar, and a guiro, but it is also common to see bongos, congas, maracas, and a cow-bell in jibaro ensembles.  There are four jibaro music styles: cadena, caballo, seis, and aguinaldo, and these styles are often categorized based on the poetic structure of the lyrics.  Cadena and caballo lyrics usually follow a copla format that rhymes ABAB or ABCB, and the seis and aguinaldo lyrics follow the decima format, which consists of a ten line poetic structure that originates from medieval Spanish poetry. (3)

            To think that this music is not just preserved but still thriving today in Puerto Rican communities such as the one in Westfield is pretty amazing.  The fact that the Santiago family and Grupo Canela keep this ongoing tradition reflects their attachment to and true pride for the Puerto Rican roots, and by virtue of the fact that William Cumpiano has ongoing sales of the cuatro shows that this attachment and pride is not exclusive to the Santiago family.


1)   Ed. By: Wagenheim, Kal & Jimenez de Wagenheim, Olga.  The Puerto Ricans: A Documentary History.  Updated and Expanded Edition. Markus Wiener Publishers: 2002.

2)   El Boricua: Un Poquito de Todo.  “What is Jibaro?” <> Accessed October 29, 2009

3)   Gleason, David G.  “La Parranda Puertorriquena: The Music, Symbolism and Cultural Nationalism of Puerto Rico’s Christmas Serenading Tradition.”  2003: David Gleason.  Accessed October 28, 2009.


The Notorious Gillie Smalls- Musicking/History

Submitted by Theo S. Freddura on Friday, 10/30/2009, at 5:49 PM

     I have observed many of Smalls concepts of Musicking while conducting my field work with Gillie.  Gillie has a specific relationship to his music which helps to explain the world he lives in in a ritualistic manner. His body movement, facial expressions, emotions, and language help to actually feel the music he is creating. It makes the viewing experience that much more interesting and an active process of Musicking. Watching him pace out the tempo with his foot creates a relationship of power that could represent the long journey he has traveled in his life or the long journey still ahead. I would really notice his connection to the music when he would close his eyes and tuck his shoulder into specific notes on the guitar.  This action displayed a passionate connection to his music that could represent a similar relationship to how Gillie feels about nature or his son. He seems to drift off into a place of happiness and tranquility where he has an ideal relationship with himself and his surroundings. Gillie also has a relationship to the culture of the music he is performing.  Gillie's lifestyle and culture play a very important role in how he creates and performs his music.  Gillie is a Rastafarian that lives in the woods and it shows in his music.  The sounds of horses, cows, and chickens are used as the intro to Gillies latest album.  Gillie also has a relationship to the area that he Musicks in.  Gillie is proud he lives on a dirt road and that he can be one with nature. He can play his music all night without disturbing the neighbors and he can live by his own principals when he is at home.  He creates a Reggae sanctuary at his house in which he is able to express the relationships that connect his world to his music; ultimately constructing Gillies reality.

     Ritual is also a very important concept that arises during my fieldwork with Gillie.  Gillie is a artist that has been performing roots and rubba dub reggae for over 30 years. He has been performing this ritual of Musicking on a regular basis for more than half of his life. I have not got too in depth with Gillies daily life, but I would imagine one of the first thing he does everyday is perform music and pay his respects to Jah.  Roots Reggae music is a ritual in itself.  Roots is a specific style of conscious spiritual Reggae music that praises Jah and promotes peace and unity while speaking on issues dealing with poverty, social problems, resistance to Babylon, oppression and repatriation. So, by performing roots reggae music, Gillie is taking part in a ritual that promotes his lifestyle and culture. Gillies specific relationships to the music makes the ritual unique to him.

     My field work also relates to Smalls concepts of arbitrariness and iconic resonance. Gillie makes use of an acoustic guitar that is universally arbitrary and has no specific meaning and cannot be specifically linked to one meaning. The guitar becomes iconic once Gillie uses it to represent Reggae music. When Gillie plays the guitar he is playing a specific style and sound that represents the rituals and relationships of Reggae music in regard to the acoustic guitar. The guitar only becomes iconic when it is used to play a specific style and represent specific values.  The use of arbitrariness and iconic resonance also plays into the appearance of Gillie.  The appearance of Gillie also plays on the concept of arbitrariness and iconic resonance. Dread locks are closely associated to the Rastafarian movement and therefore create a iconic resonance to anybody that is aware of the movement. Dread locks then represent a spiritual journey. Dread locks may represent being unclean and dirty to somebody that is totally oblivious to the Rastafarian culture or may mean nothing.

     Reggae music is a genre of music that was created in Jamaica in the 1960's. Reggae developed from ska music and rocksteady music.  The term Reggae is said to have been derived from the word "rege" or "ragged" according to the Dictionary of Jamaican English. While Bob Marley is said to say the word Reggae is derived from the Latin word "regi" which means "to the king". Reggae music was directly influenced by traditional African and Caribbean music, as well rock and blues, and predominantly ska and rocksteady music. Reggae music has many different styles and can be categorized into many different sub genres. Reggae music includes roots reggae, dub reggae, rubba dub reggae (a combination of roots and dub), rockers reggae, lovers rock reggae, dancehall reggae and hip hop inspired fusion reggae.

     Reggae music usually uses the drum and bass as key parts of the musical composition.  The drum and bass are called the "riddim" and are used as the backbone of the music. Reggae music also makes use of guitars; electric and acoustic, to generate rhythm. Keyboards and pianos are usually used to double the guitar rhythm and add extra notes or riffs to the composition.  Horns are very popular in Reggae music and are often used for playing introductions and counter-melodies. Vocals in Reggae music usually involve lyrical themes of love, religion, social consciousness, unity, the Caribbean, criticism of politics and Babylon.

    Roots Reggae music is a sub genre of Reggae that was started in the slums of Kingston Jamaica's "trench town". Roots Reggae deals with the life of the rural, poor ghetto suffers and is considered a spiritual music that gives thanks and praises to Jah (God).  Roots Reggae promotes peace and unity while speaking on issues dealing with poverty, social issues, oppression, repatriation and resistance to Babylon and the politics of Western Civilization. The "Golden Age of Reggae" is said to be the 1970's when Roots Reggae was at full swing with legends such as Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Horace Andy, and Burning Spear and groups such as Black Uhuru, Steel Pulse, and The Wailers where leading the way.  Roots Reggae is strongly connected to the Rastafarian lifestyle and promotes the spiritual following of the Rastas.  Roots Reggae is a positive style of Reggae music that gives praises to the most high, Jah, and represents the voices of the poor and oppressed all over the world. Roots Reggae is a very powerful form of music that closely tied to the Rastafarian culture.

Two Histories: Migration and the Cuatro

Submitted by Thomas R. Sibley on Friday, 10/30/2009, at 2:02 PM

The Santiago Family Restaurant has been in Westfield, Massachusetts for just over 10 years
now. Ishmael Santiago and his wife, Carmen, opened the restaurant and still run it to this day
with the rest of their family. They moved from Puerto Rico to the Pioneer Valley in 1967, when
Ishmael was just 18 and only a year after their marriage.
        Although the Pioneer Valley might seem an odd place to immigrate, the migration of
Puerto Ricans to the Valley—mostly Hartford, Springfield, and Holyoke—began as early as the
first World War. Their immigration was made possible by the United States, in order to allow
them the “privilege” of being drafted for the war, suddenly declaring all Puerto Ricans
temporary citizens. Those who weren’t drafted were driven to emigrate by the grim conditions
of poverty and starvation in Puerto Rico. They were drawn to the US, and in particular the
Valley, by the need for cheap labor in the tobacco farms and mill towns of Massachusetts. As a
result of this migration at the beginning of the 20th century, the oldest Puerto Rican communities
in the United States are in Holyoke and Springfield. The Santiagos and many others simply
followed in the footsteps of thousands of Puerto Ricans decades before them.

The cuatro—meaning “four” in Spanish—was originally a four-stringed instrument roughly
fashioned in the mountains and hills of Puerto Rico by the Taíno natives, European misfits, and
runaway slaves who escaped to the interior starting in the 16th century to get away from the
Spanish colonists at the coasts. These peoples formed the social class in Puerto Rico called the
jíbaros, who lend their name even today to the style of music they produced.
        As the three cultures of the jíbaros combined over the centuries, the Spanish necessity of
stringed instruments to perform the Catholic mass remained. The cuatro and other supporting
instruments were made to meet this necessity. Traditionally, the cuatro is carved out of a single
piece of wood, as this was the only method to produce them in the hills of Puerto Rico. Their
original four-strings mimiced the Spanish instruments at the time, and they were tuned
identically. The cuatro, however, also found its role outside of the mass in the form of décimas
and other strictly rhyming verse forms. It was used to play the melody backing a traditional
troubadour’s singing in a musical ensemble.
        As Puerto Rico moved into the 19th century, the jíbaros started to integrate into the
Spanish society that had flourished and the towns that were popping up. With the intermixing
of these cultures, the jíbaros started to hear the new Spanish sounds of classical guitars and
other popular instruments which had gained more strings. Eventually this was translated into
the cuatro form we know today with five pairs of ten metal strings, tuned to the same intervals
as the classical Spanish guitars that were popular in the 1800s.

History of MD/HC/Catholic church in Holyoke

Submitted by Phil D. Dupont on Friday, 10/30/2009, at 12:43 PM


The history of the Catholic church as it is relevant to my project begins in the 1960’s with the Second Vatican Council (Vatican II).  This was a 3-year event in which the pope and bishops of the world recreated the practices and rituals of the Catholic Church.  The most commonly cited changes were the abandonment of Latin in favor of more accessible languages, and the positioning of the priest facing towards the parishioners, instead of towards the altar as before.   Much of the music that is used in the liturgy was written after Vatican II, and to my ear it fuses a classical, pre 20th-century and modern styles of composition. 

            Holyoke was originally founded as a prosperous mill town.  Many immigrants worked there, and they brought their churches and their priests with them.  Holy Cross’s parish was Irish; Mater Dolorosa’s Polish.  There were also a few French (ie, Québecois) churches.  The (historically) recent influx of Puerto Rican immigrants to the city has necessitated the creation of Our Lady of Guadeloupe.  In the 1980’s, one of the French churches burnt down, and Holy Cross assimilated many families from that Parish.  There was also an influx of new Polish immigrants at about the same time following the breakup of the USSR. 

            Holyoke has been in steady economic decline, and the 2010 census is expected to report a nearly 50% drop in population (from 60,000 to 35,000) over the last 10 years.  This economic decline is present in Springfield too.  In response to this, declining attendance at Mass, the expenses of keeping churches open and heated and up to code, the Springfield diocese announced in summer of 2008 that they would be closing certain churches in the diocese, and merging various parishes together.  The specifics of the plan were announced this August.  Although many churches will be fully merged by the end of this November, the diocese gave Holyoke parishes up to two years to sort out the details of the various linkings.    

Small Response

Submitted by Phil D. Dupont on Friday, 10/30/2009, at 12:43 PM

As I am envisioning my project right now, my “theoretical angle” is to consider individual elements of musicking (and “sounding” too — incorporating nonmusical sounds and silences) that happen in the church not only as self-contained (What effect does this hymn have on you?  What are the words of the Eucharistic prayers?), but also as part of a longer composition that is the entire Catholic Mass.  This meta-composition [word-in-progress] has its own structure, its own building of tensions and releases, and is more than the sum of its parts. 

The mass is very overtly a site of “exploration, affirmation and celebration of values”, especially for the parishioners.  Most of their participation consists of singing hymns and reciting prayers, which in their text evoke Small’s “idealized relationships” — in this case, primarily with God and Jesus Christ.  There is no clearer example of this than the Nicene Creed that is recited in unison by the congregation, from memory, after the homily:

“We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, 

eternally begotten of the Father …

For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven: 

by the power of the Holy Spirit 

he was born of the Virgin Mary, and became man.

For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;

he suffered, died, and was buried.

On the third day he rose again in fulfillment of the Scriptures;

he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.

He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,

and his kingdom will have no end…     

Obviously, simply reciting the prayer does not indicate or confirm belief.  Thus, for the non-Catholic, participation in this ritual may be limited only to exploration in a different values system, without confirming those values in actual practice outside of mass.  I think that for the regular churchgoer and avid Catholic, the recitation of this prayer affirms her beliefs, and allows her to celebrate her faith with her parish.

            That is the optimistic, Smallian view.  On the other hand, it’s possible that after years of reciting these words every week, after learning them by rote for confirmation, the prayer has become a routine and, like old paper left in the sun, has lost much of its vibrancy and meaning.  Even after attending masses for only a month, I myself feel that way about the Lord’s Prayer, though as a strong non-Catholic my experience is certainly very different than that of those brought up in the church.  I do recite the Lord’s Prayer (“Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name …”) with the congregation, but after a short time the words have begun to be less symbolic than they first were in September.  This is something to investigate further.

            The Roman Catholic mass is also a great example-in-practice of Small’s statement that “You will believe in the myth only if you enjoy the ritual, and you will enjoy the ritual only if you believe in the myth.”  The declarations of faith that are recited as prayers or sung as hymns are the Catholic myth, and it is unquestionable that those for whom they have great personal meaning will enjoy the ritual of mass far more, through the process of exploring, affirming, celebrating, etc. 

It is more interesting to look at the converse: You will believe in the myth only if you enjoy the ritual.  Part of the myth of Catholicism — in addition to possessing certain moral values and believing certain facts about the origins of certain historical figures and documents — is going to mass weekly.  Church attendance, and the participation in the ritual of mass, is part of what defines a Catholic to be a Catholic (and also/especially, what defines a Mater Dolorosa parishioner to be a Mater Dolorosa parishioner).  So attending mass is both a ritual of being Catholic, and part of the myth/belief system.  And by participating in E.A.C.-type activities (presuming that celebration is indicative of enjoyment), the myth itself is affirmed and enjoyed.