EthNoise!

The Music, Language, and Culture Workshop

October 29: Lynn Hooker

Join us on 10/29 at 4:30pm in Rm. 205, Goodspeed Hall. Lynn Hooker, Associate Professor of Hungarian Studies at Indiana University, will introduce her paper (download paper here using listserv-circulated password). Laura Turner, Graduate Student in Ethnomusicology at the University of Chicago, will serve as discussant.

 

“Hungarian Gypsy Musicians as Laborers in the Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries”
Abstract:

With a few exceptions, the common understanding of Hungary’s Gypsy music tends to emphasize its “traditional” aspects, highlighting its “pastness” (Appadurai, Korom, and Mills 1991: 21). This understanding resonates with a genre heavily weighted with nostalgia, which Budapest journalist Imre Déri defined in 1912 around “the old patriarchal relationship between the Gypsies and the gentlemen-merry-makers” that he already saw as receding into the past (Sárosi 2012: 104). Two important problems arise from this approach: it obscures the role of actual musicians in the music they play, dismissing them as mere “tradition bearers” (Bohlman 1988: 71-72); and it ignores the ways that “the problem of pastness itself changes as the modes of cultural reproduction change” over the course of the twentieth century–“as traditions become mass-produced, as cultural artifacts become commodified, as intimate performances become available to large audiences” (Appadurai, Korom, and Mills 1991: 22). According to some Hungarian tradition-based narratives, these changes constitute decline, yet despite the many dramatic social and economic changes of the period, Gypsy music thrived in the twentieth century until its collapse in the aftermath of the change of regime.

This presentation examines Hungarian Gypsy music through a different lens: instead of tradition, it revolves around the issue of musicians’ labor. Documents and personal interviews with musicians reveal some of the tensions over how their performance was commodified, whether in the intimate “traditional” setting of a restaurant or private event or in the new contexts of the stage, recording, or broadcast. It also touches on some of the performance ramifications of new institutional frameworks and audience expectations in the twentieth century, from the rise of radio and film through the transformations wrought by state socialism to the decline of the industry since 1989.

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