In this paper, I pay tribute to Speranța Rădulescu by discussing two fundamental aspects of the ethnomusicological research that Speranța cultivated throughout her career: the recording of oral tradition musicians and analysis of their repertoire.
How do these two dimensions of our profession evolve when examining the question of musical emotion? In my analyses of rural music from Transylvania (Romania) and Pernambuco (Brazil), I focused on multimodal recordings and on the analysis of “expressive microvariations” (see Alf Gabrielsson, “Expressive Intention and Performance”). In the first case (Transylvania), I applied multi-track and motion capture technologies to measure the asynchronization between a violinist and a bracist (three-string viola player) based on the analysis of their gestures. In the second case (Brazil), multi-track recordings and automatic onset detection algorithms allowed us to analyze the micro-deviations in time (microtiming) in a group of five percussionists performing Maracatu de baque solto. The empirical study of these parameters reveals playing strategies that may differ subtly from those used by performers of music of written tradition.
Many ethnomusicologists consider that their “field” recordings should also convey knowledge about the social and cultural context that lies beyond the immediate acoustic trace. But how exactly does one represent a “field” in an audio recording? And what is the relation between how music sounds in the ethnomusicologist’s recording, and how people on the “field” want it to sound? I will address these questions by comparing Speranța Rădulescu’s recordings of the brass band from Zece Prăjini with other recordings of the same ensemble. What “field” do the ethnomusicologist’s recordings reflect?
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