Sound production as a cultural practice

Recording studios in the Northern Region of Malawi

  • Piotr Cichocki University of Warsaw

Abstract

Referring to a notion of cultural practice understood as a constitution of social identity and meaningful everyday performance, this paper questions the practice of music production outside the technological centers of the global North. The author traces relations between the global standards of studio work and the case of “record culture” in Mzuzu, Malawi. On a tangible level, the production of sound and music in Mzuzu is bricolage, a creative combination of varied devices and means within an economy of scarcity.
However, sound production in its intangible dimension reveals itself as a practice of mediation between material and immaterial spheres. Spatially, it combines local aesthetics with globally unified technologies. This mediation gathers different temporalities (old, “tribal” rhythms and digital sounds) with cosmologies (i.e. invocation to holy ghosts with gospel music, in contrast to local possession cults). Moreover, people embody many of these practices as opposed to expressing them discursively. As an embodied practice, the production contains social, non-discursive memory while, at the same time, it has a potential for construction of social worlds. Hence, sound production constitutes a sense-making practice that establishes relations between musicians, listeners, and other social actors.

 

NB: The article contains sound examples. In order to listen to embedded audio files, you must first download the pdf file and then open it with Adobe Acrobat.

References

Biakolo, E. (1998). Categories of cross-cultural cognition and the African condition. In Coetzee, P.H., & Roux, A.P.J. (Eds.), The African Philosophy Reader, (pp. 1-14). London: New York: Routledge.

Certeau, M. de, Giard, L., & Mayol, P. (1998). The practice of everyday life. Volume 2: Living and cooking. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Cichocki, P. (2013). Sieć przyjaciół. Warsaw: University of Warsaw Press.

Cichocki, P. (2018). Wybrane aspekty społecznego kr żenia dźwi ku w Tanzanii i Malawi. Wybrzmienia etnograficzne. LUD. Organ Polskiego Towarzystwa Ludoznawczego i Komitetu Nauk Etnologicznych PAN, 102. https://doi.org/10.12775/lud102.2018.15

Cichocki, P. (2019). Production of sound, production of knowledge. Seismograf (In Printing).

Cichocki, P., & Plińska, W. (2016). CARGO/(nie)materialność. Katalog; CARGO/(im)materiality. The Catalogue/ CARGO/, Warsaw: Asia Pacific Museum.

Cichocki, P., & Z bek, M. (2018). Introduction. In Cultural Shift in East Africa: Developments, Biographies, (Im)materialities (pp. 7-29). Iringa, Warsaw: University Dar es Salaam, University of Warsaw.

Clifford, J. (1990). Notes on (field) notes. In Sanjek, R. (Ed.), Fieldnotes: the makings of anthropology (pp. 47-70). Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

Comaroff, J., & Comaroff, J.L. (2006). Law and disorder in the postcolony. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. https://doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226114101.001.0001

Comaroff, J. L., & Comaroff, J. (2009). Ethnicity, Inc. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. https://doi. org/10.7208/chicago/9780226114736.001.0001

Connerton, P. (1989). How societies remember. Cambridge [England]; New York: Cambridge University Press.

Eisenberg, E. (1987). The recording angel: explorations in phonography. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Friedson, S.M. (1996). Dancing prophets: musical experience in Tumbuka healing. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Geertz, C. (1973). The interpretation of cultures: selected essays. New York: Basic Books.

Hannerz, U. (1996). Transnational connections: culture, people, places. London: New York: Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203131985

Hastrup, K. (1995). A passage to anthropology: between experience and theory. New York: Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203352250

Herzfeld, M. (2001). Anthropology: Theoretical practice in culture and society. Malden: Blackwell Publishers.

Kittler, F.A. (1999). Gramophone, film, typewriter. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Kun, J. (2005). Audiotopia. Music, Race, and America. Berkeley: University of California Press. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F002743210609300212

Larkin, B. (2008). Signal and Noise: Media, Infrastructure, and Urban Culture in Nigeria. Retrieved from http://public.eblib.com/choice/publicfullrecord.aspx?p=1169917

Latour, B. (1993). We have never been modern. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.

Latour, B. (2005). Reassembling the social: An introduction to actor-network-theory. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press.

Lévi-Strauss, C. (1966). The savage mind. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Lubkemann, S. (2002). Where to be an ancestor? Reconstituting socio-spiritual worlds among displaced Mozambicans. Journal of Refugee Studies, 15(2), 189-212. https://doi.org/10.1093/jrs/15.2.189

Malinowski, B. (1922). Argonauts of the Western Pacific: an account of Native Enterprise and adventure in the Archipelagos of Melanesian New Guinea. London: Routledge.

Marcus, G.E. (1998). Ethnography through thick and thin. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Meintjes, L. (2003). Sound of Africa: making music Zulu in a South African studio. Durham: Duke University Press.

Ol dzki, J. (1991). Murzynowo: znaki istnienia i tożsamości kulturalnej mieszkańców wioski nadwiślańskiej XVIII-XX w. Warsaw: University of Warsaw Press.

Peletz, M.G. (2013). A Syariah Judiciary as a Global Assemblage: Islamization and Beyond in a Southeast Asian Context. In Boddy J., Lambek M. (Eds.), A Companion to the Anthropology of Religion, (pp. 489-506). Hoboken: John Wiley and Sons.

Pink, S. (2001). Doing visual ethnography: images, media, and representation in research. London; Thousand Oaks: Sage. http://dx.doi.org/10.4135/9780857025029

Rice, T. (2014). Ethnomusicology: a very short introduction. New York: Oxford University Press. https://doi.org/10.1093/actrade/9780199794379.001.0001

Sanjek, R. (Ed.). (1990). Fieldnotes: the makings of anthropology. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. https://doi.org/10.1002/1520-6696(199207)28:3%3C274::AID-JHBS2300280319%3E3.0.CO;2-K

Scales, C.A. (2012). Recording culture: Powwow music and the Aboriginal recording industry on the Northern Plains. Durham: Duke University Press.

Serres, M. (1997). The troubadour of knowledge. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

Siegel, J.T. (1998). A new criminal type in Jakarta: counter-revolution today. Durham: Duke University Press.

Sterne, J. (2003). The audible past: Cultural origins of sound reproduction. Durham: Duke University Press.

Stoller, P. (1994). Embodying colonial memories. American Anthropologist, 96(3), 634-648. https://doi.org/10.1525/aa.1994.96.3.02a00110

Stone, R.M. (1997). Garland Encyclopedia of World Music Volume 1: Africa. New York: Garland Publishing.

Thornton, R.J. (2008). Unimagined community sex, networks, and AIDS in Uganda and South Africa. Berkeley: University of California Press. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9655.2009.01589_16.x

Turkle, S. (2008). Inner history. The Inner History of Devices, Cambridge: MIT Press.

Vail, L. (1989). The creation of tribalism in Southern Africa. London: Currey.

Znaniecki, F. (1927). The Object Matter of Sociology. American Journal of Sociology, 32(4), 529-584.

Published
2020-01-22
How to Cite
Cichocki, P. (2020). Sound production as a cultural practice. SoundEffects - An Interdisciplinary Journal of Sound and Sound Experience, 9(1), 60-80. https://doi.org/10.7146/se.v9i1.118246