Please join us on Thursday, April 23 for a presentation and discussion with Lauren Eldridge. The talk is entitled “Racing Genre: Choral Performances of an Authentic Haiti.” Please find an abstract below.
As always, we will meet at 4:30pm in Goodspeed 205. Our workshop is open to the public and all are welcome.
Racing Genre: Choral Performances of an Authentic Haiti
Art music composed by people of Haitian descent has a long legacy throughout the diaspora, but several recent performances have recently fired the imaginations of listeners, challenging them to consider their relationship to Haiti. This presentation examines the performative tensions that arise within these spaces, and in the discursive zone between two mutually constitutive genres: mizik klasik and foklò. Highlighting the role of these genres in two performances of “N’ap Debat,” a choral composition by Sydney Guillaume that holds as its subject the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, I argue that musicians and their audiences are engaging in complex contests of meaning regarding the authenticity of the music and the identities of those present. They are, in this sense, both “racing” against genre and “racing” the actual genres by deploying an array of social strategies to recompose both nation and self. Mizik klasik (roughly, “classical music”) encompasses Western European-style art music. Foklò denotes a wide range of expressive practices that include depictions of Haitian history and Vodou. Since the early twentieth century, composers of mizik klasik have incorporated references to foklò into their work. Meanwhile, the principal patrons of foklò have been cultural elites trained in mizik klasik. The performances reviewed in this presentation, one in Michigan and one in Mirebalais, challenge auditors toward more nuanced understandings of authenticity. By racing (against) genre, musicians and their audiences take part in a performance at the crossroads of group identity and self.