Music and the Nature/Culture Paradox

Submitted by Grace F. Donahue on Friday, 1/28/2011, at 2:31 PM

The question of how I situate myself in the beginning of this course could be answered by imagining two very distinct strands of interests in my life that have come full circle around me in the past year. My earliest and clearest memories are of people, music and what could be called “nature”. In effect, from a very young age I have been steeped in the material that gives form to the culture/nature paradox in anthropology. Although I do not currently play any instruments, I have been listening and engaging with music in many ways throughout my whole life.

A Different Kind of Audience

By Ioanida Costache ’12

For the past three weeks a group of string players have been working with Professor of Music David Schneider on a chamber music project designed to get classical music out of its traditional settings of classrooms and concert halls.  With Schneider on clarinet, a string quartet composed of UMass alumnus Ben Van Vliet, me on violin, Hana Kommel ’10 on viola and local cellist Wayne Smith prepared a range of pieces to bring to a different kind of audience.

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A Taste of Music in the Pioneer Valley's Puerto Rican Community

To anyone unfamiliar with the Pioneer Valley (and this includes many college students here), it might seem out of place that Puerto Rican folk music could thrive in the area. But it does, and the large Puerto Rican populations spanning from Hartford to Holyoke support many local musicians playing traditional melodies. Victor Rios, shown in our documentary below, made his living for years playing Puerto Rican music as a full-time musician in the Valley.

"The Connection Between Sound and Place"

By Katherine Duke '05

Throughout her college years, Deidra Montgomery ’10 has been meeting up with other enthusiasts to raise her voice in a singing tradition called Sacred Harp. Now she’s conducting a formal study of her fellow singers. “I’m looking at who the Western Mass [Sacred Harp] community is, who makes it up and what a regular singing is like,” she says. Phil DuPont ’12 has been attending three Catholic Masses every week, at two different churches in Holyoke, Mass., listening to the differences in the songs and prayers at English- and Polish-language services. The singings and the churches are just a few examples of “Pioneer Valley Soundscapes.”

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