This article tracks down Speranța’s still-vibrant words, her favourite expressions, her aesthetic choices as well as her epistemological options as an ethnomusicologist. What were the foundations of her personal ethnomusicology? What made them original and at the same time anchored in the scientific panorama of the late 2000s?
Having had the chance (like others, no doubt) to work very closely with her, and in absolute confidence, I will try to understand what constituted the main object of her studies, even if, de facto, the theoretical bases of our great friend were rarely explicit in and of themselves; a praxis replaced them, nourished by a very beautiful intuition. However, her words, which I endeavour to reinterpret, remain in the ears of all those who knew and loved her.
Everyone knows that she worked on peasant musics (in the geographical sense of the term). But this object of investigation is actually quite vast and not very well defined. There is in Speranța’s work an intuitive reading grid – which the following lines will try to uncover – that mobilized her energy and constitutes the logic of her publications.
This article comprises a discussion of five publications by Speranța Rădulescu that employ significant portions of text from archival interviews and in-person conversations with lăutari (professional, traditional, male Romani musicians in Romania). I examine how, in these writings, the practices, mechanics, and thinking of lăutari are presented in their own words. They include a cluster of four articles written in the mid-1980s, during the communist period, and a book (Chats about Gypsy Music) that was published in 2004, fifteen years after the Romanian Revolution. The five publications offer fascinating portraits of Romani musicians and music-making. In them lăutari respond with candor, humor, and insider wisdom to Rădulescu’s questions, expounding upon a broad array of topics related to their own music-making as an occupation and the traditional music for which they are known. These topics include the taraf (traditional ensemble in which lăutari perform) as it functioned in the 20th century, the apprenticeship of lăutari, their instrumental specialization, contracts and payment for their performances, and, as Rădulescu puts it, “what ‘Gypsy music’ is”. Based in large part on what lăutari themselves reveal about their profession and artistry, Rădulescu embellishes with context, clarification, and interpretation as she elaborates on their discourse.
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