Vol. 1, No. 1, Fall 2022
From the Editors
We are excited to bring these works together to represent the growing presence of audiovisual research in ethnomusicology. Filmmaking has been part of many ethnomusicologists’ work, including Hugo Zemp, Steven Feld, and Amy Catlin-Jhirazboy, as well as related folklorists/documentarians like Les Blank, Alan Lomax and Pete and Toshi Seeger. Over the past ten years, lower-cost trends for digital camera equipment and editing software have enabled a bona fide “ground-up” revolution in film production worldwide, and we are beginning to realize the artistic and intellectual results of this revolution within ethnomusicology. With interest in applied ethnomusicology on the rise and with grassroots activism responding to daily political crises on a global scale, the possibilities for ethnomusicological film-making are growing exponentially.
This journal gives a home to such scholarly explorations of music and our lived worlds, works that leverage the critical capacities of the media to do what print cannot do alone. This inaugural issue of the Journal of Audiovisual Ethnomusicology presents several ways of bringing the study of music in culture to film. The six films are spread across peer-reviewed features and a “discussions” section.
Marco Lutzu’s Santeros immerses in religious practices related to the universe of Cuban religiosity. The general practice of Santería comes into detail through the experience of Yuliet, a spiritist who has been practicing this religion since she was a child, and Alain, a musician consecrated to the oricha Aña. Through these practitioners, the film reveals the preparation and performance of the ceremony and contextualizes the secular life in the city’s daily life, showing the interior of the houses, the streets, and customs, elements that evoke an experience that contributes to socially situating the religious universe addressed.
Michael B. MacDonald’s Ark: A Return to Robson Valley mixes documentary festival footage from 2009 and a fictional story about Kelci and Diana’s experience at the 2019 Robson Valley Music Festival. The two characters provide a realistic and affective portrayal of festival participation. The film illustrates the phenomenon of “worlding” at festivals, particularly ones with roots in hippiedom and back-to-the-land movements. It contributes to MacDonald’s more extensive articulation of “cineworlding” (MacDonald 2023) and uses filmmaking as a creative research methodology.
The filmography of music in Afghanistan is so limited that any serious addition is meaningful, especially today when the country is in yet another phase of its long turbulence. George Mürer’s Rauf and Azim offers a glimpse into the musical lives of a pair of Hazara, an ethnic group that has only limited visibility in scholarship and the media representations of the country and one that has particularly suffered from political instability over the last forty years. Having fled Afghanistan repeatedly, they reveal the impact that life in exile has on their music-making as they discuss everything from highly detailed dambūra technique to the political violence facing musicians in Afghanistan.
Juan Castrillón’s Visitors renders two events from his ethnomusicological research that lie beyond ordinary human perception, such as the sonic appearance of Yuruparí ancestors at night and the resonance of non-human discourses heard by Cubeo people of the Northwest Amazon around a sacred pond located at the Cuduyarí river in Southern Colombia.
Jennie Gubner’s Domingo en Plaza Almagro (Sunday in Plaza Almagro) uses footage from a single day of a festival to evoke a sense of musically-created “neighborhoodness,” an urban imaginary tied to tango scenes in Argentina. Additionally, the Co-Editor-in-Chief Frank Gunderson and Gubner’s discussion of the film highlights how cinema can create sensory worlds that print scholarship cannot. In it, Gubner offers sound advice to anyone interested in multimedia scholarship.
The “Discussion” section is a place to highlight films by ethnomusicologists that have circulated online and have been featured at festivals. We hope that carving out space to discuss these works will bring attention to practices and principles that help define audiovisual ethnomusicology. The discussion of Peter Ian Crawford’s Mola’a Revisited: Reef Panpipes (2017) between the journal’s Co-Editor-in-Chief Ben Harbert and the filmmaker-scholar brings out the practicalities of working with communities with whom we become familiar over many years of collaboration and yet continue to bring unexpected musical practices.
We hope all the films in this journal challenge, expand, inspire, and interrelate. Borrowing from Chilean filmmaker Raul Ruiz, film can act like “a land mine: it explodes among these potential films [our fragmentary memory] and sometimes provokes chain reactions, allowing other events to come into being” (2005: 79). As ethnomusicologists continue to expand on how, why, and what we study, we hope this journal gives a new home to alternative critical ways of doing ethnomusicology.
We are grateful to the Society for Ethnomusicology for supporting and advising this expansion of our scholarly platform, especially SEM Executive Director Stephen Stuempfle and SEM President Tomie Hahn, both of whom assisted with generous encouragement, counsel, and support. We are grateful to our editorial team (Isobel Clouter, Rose Satiko Hikiji, Maria Mendonça, and Dario Ranocchiari) for their tireless efforts in putting this issue together.
Kurt Baer, Program Specialist in the SEM Office helped us in sorting out web-hosting issues, and Eloise Owen at Georgetown University put in the hard work of designing our web presence here. Thanks also to the many peer-reviewers to took the project seriously and offered thoughtful feedback to our many submissions.
Benjamin J. Harbert
Marco Lutzu, University of Cagliari, Italy
Michael B. MacDonald, McEwan University
George Mürer, Hunter College
Juan Castrillón, University of Pennsylvania
Jennie Gubner, University of Arizona
Benjamin J. Harbert with Peter Ian Crawford
Frank Gunderson with Jennie Gubner
Benjamin J. Harbert with Peter Ian Crawford
MacDonald Michael B. 2023. CineWorlding: Scenes of Cinematic Research-Creation. New York: Bloomsbury.
Ruiz, Raúl. 2005. “For a Shamanic Cinema.” In Poetics of Cinema. Paris: Dis voir. 73–90.