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09. Teodoreanu

09. Teodoreanu

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MUSICAL-INCANTATIONAL VALUES OF “MEANINGLESS SPEECH” WHILE SHOEING: A CASE STUDY

*
NICOLAE TEODOREANU

ABSTRACT During a fieldwork campaign conducted in Roşia Montana, as part part of a research team, I had the opportunity to witness the ox shoeing process which allowed us to observe some surprising aspects of this technique. The blacksmith – helped by the ox owners – uses apart from the direct commands meant to fulfill the concrete operations of the shoeing process, another type of language, seemingly meaningless, consisting in several onomatopoeic formulae, affectionate names addressed to those attending the work, and also a set of nonsensical words. The reason for these formulae could be the intention to release the tension of hard work, to spend the time and, last but not least, to calm down the animal. Listening to these consecutively uttered phrases that make use of numerous repetitions and unpredictable shifts one can hear a kind of unintentional hypnotic “music” as if belonging to an incantational primitive dance. The musicological analysis of the relationship between these different types of verbal structures allows us to grasp several mechanisms of this type of secondary language. Keywords: ox shoeing, phatic communication, unintentional music, soothing function, musical articulation.

RESEARCH CONTEXT

This paper represents an aspect of the ethnological and folklore research on the oral, immaterial elements of blacksmithing, conducted by a research team of the “Constantin Brăiloiu” Institute of Ethnography and Folklore1. In the summer of 2011 we had the opportunity to watch an ox being shod in the village Ţarina, Roşia Montană. Our witnessing the whole process led us to some ethnographic remarks regarding the working techniques but also regarding some anthropological aspects,
* This study includes some results of an ethno-folkloric acoustic research, carried out within a CNCSIS project, program ideas, exploratory research, “Men and irons. The real and imaginary portrait of the blacksmith in the Romanian society, from pre-industrial era to consumption society” code Id_1183 1 Jiga Iliescu, Laura, Cuvânt înainte (Foreword), in Jiga Iliescu–Teodoreanu–Bercovici 2011: 6–7. REF/JEF, 1–2, p. 135–141, Bucureşti, 2013

dance. . music. 2 Eliade 1992. because of its redundant character the text can be analysed from a musical perspective at the level of sentences and phrases utterance. Needless to say that ox shoeing is an endangered craft in a world dominated by technology and globalization and especially in an area such as Roşia Montană whose future depends on political decisions regarding the devastating and irreversible future chemical exploitation of its gold ores. It was similar to a trance state. The idea of recording this phenomenon with multimedia systems proved to be very useful for approaching this side of orality which doubles a manufacturer’s work.g. but not from a sacred perspective but from a profane one.2%). We start from the fact that the text offers very few elements for a philological analysis as it does not follow any of the rules of folk poetry or prose. as if defining a special territory out of the mundane world. PRELIMINARY REMARKS The present study is based on an intuitive thought of the researchers witnessing the shoeing: this process which lasted an hour and 15 minutes was a kind of consecrating that space and time. A blacksmith’s work entails some stereotypical gestures while doing somehow “dreary” yet complex tasks. the “waking up” was somehow sudden. We do not know whether our remarks are generally relevant for shoeing but it is certain that they are elements of a certain type of folkloric mentality conditioned by this trade. a psychological collective anaesthesia induced by deep concentration marked by ceaseless speaking sometimes technically necessary but sometimes useless.8%) and of “meaningless speech” (about 76. In this area the blacksmith Constantin Boia was shaping this collective experience both through practicing the craft but also through the sounds and words he was uttering. as it is not about any of the categories usually included in folklore. At the end of this experience. This is certainly not a traditional folklore inquiry. folk texts. It was a quasi-hypnotic state in which the redundant meaningless speech became a sort of involuntary music with incantational values. namely sentences with no concrete communicational purpose. However. The speaking part consists of working orders (23. in Mircea Eliade’s terms2. but about some aspects of the interaction between the participants – people and animals – which mirror a speechless communication belonging to the oral culture mechanisms.136 Nicolae Teodoreanu 2 such as the relationships between the blacksmith and the owners of the animal and between man and animal. e. everybody relaxed and people seemed to return to their “ordinary life”. This study intends to use the means of philological and musical analysis in order to clarify our first intuition.

These structures are in fact adjustments of the “meaningless speech” to fit a well-known tune. Micuțule (Little Guy). music psychology proves that one can find in spoken language some musical elements.I. The sonorous background of our conversation consists of different natural noises: bird chirping. whoaaaa! Whoa. insect buzzing. dear. They are also addressed to the people present. . being somehow similar to the imperative ones but lacking concrete meaning. you’ll be in big trouble. Hold it like this! Leave it. − The table below shows how the four types of structures are performed in the first quarter of the text. Ionică. which are hardly noticeable. That’s it. mum. transcribed by Monica Beatrice Bercovici. See also Teodoreanu 2010: 230–231 5 A. my son.3 Musical-Incantational Values of “Meaningless Speech” ANALYSIS 137 Without doubt the text recorded during shoeing is neither compact nor meant to be music. These are addressed to and aim at calming the animal. as shown in the work of musicologist and psychologist Ghizela Suliţeanu3. The blacksmith starts especially from affectionate names (B) and goes on to whistle which turns into humming or even singing. Ion. The new element of our study is the level of analysis which is no longer the acoustic “parameters” – duration or pitch – but time structure (an area much “slower” than the rest4). Understood? If not. uttered many times in different forms and contexts: Onomatopoeic formulae. This type of structure does not have the clarity of a complete tune but it definitely is consciously sung. if you don’t obey. you’ll be in trouble. We are going to use for our further analysis audio and video recordings of shoeing. − D. in terms of rhythm or melody.E. WS750011. Nonetheless. C and D are presented 3 4 Suliţeanu 1980: 115–154.F.. Eliminating all these sounds we get the transcript of the text5 stored in the Institute’s Archive. Stop there. Musical formulae. we perform a further reduction which eliminates the imperative structures used for direct orders (as well as the words of the other participants). of informative-communicative type. Then. whoap!” Affectionate names. For example: “My dear. mum. B. hold it well. especially to the owners of the animals who help the blacksmith. I’ll beat you up!” There is a fourth category of structures which appear only few times. A mobile phone rings at a certain moment of the recording. Such approach definitely has an experimental characteristic. These are addressed to the people present. For example: “And do your job properly.” There are three distinct types of structures more or less stereotypical. The text is doubled by shoeing noises made by hammering or by picking up and dropping tools. My dearest dear!” More complex formulae. Ioane. Little Guy. such as: “Lift it a bit. the level of musical articulation. The formulae A. wind blowing. mum. For example: “Whoap! Whoa. Take this. influenced by repetitions and contrasts.

We’ll finish right away. whoap. whoaap! Whoa. Ioane.. Understood? If not. My dear.138 Nicolae Teodoreanu 4 synoptically in the columns. my dear!! Whoap.]. Little Guy. dear little one. Ioi. whoap! Whoaap. whoap. mum. if you don’t obey. whiip! [hissing] And do your job properly. My dear one. reminds us of the “variation” form encountered by C. based on the unpredictable sequence of these 4 elements. dear. mum. my dear! whoap. whoap! [. you’ll be in big trouble. whoap! Whoap. mum. my dear! My dearest dear! Oh. whoaap! My dear all. My little. mum. my son. Ioane! Little guy. whoap! whoap. whoap. whoap. Summarizing the type of formal articulation and not considering the variations of the formulae. whoap. whoap. my dearest all. The resulting form. mum. Don’t be afraid.. My dear. dearest dear. mum! Oop! My dear all! My dearest dear! My little one. My dear all. my dear! Whii. Cheer up. whoap. mum [. Brăiloiu in the mourning songs . whoaap! Whoap. Ionică. My dear. Ioane. whoap! B My dear all. mum. Ion! Make sure it doesn’t move! D [whistling] Whoap. cheer up. C Look after him. you’ll be in trouble. we have come up with the following structure for the whole recording (the underscores represent the “interludes” corresponding to the informative-communicative parts which we have eliminated): _AB_CCBABDBAB__B_B_ABDB_A_CCA__C_B_CAB_B_B___B____B _C_A_BB__B_B_BCAB_CB_CB_BABACB___CBCB_BAC_AB_ABCABCAC BC_C_CCBCBBACACBC__CB_BC_BC__ABBCBDDBC_BC_C_B_BABCBDC. Our dearest. My dear. hoap. whiip! Whee. whoaap! Sit there. I’ll beat you up! Whoa. whoaap! That’s it. Ionică. my My little one. The columns show the variants and the rows show their temporal relations: A Whoa.. My Should work hard. whoap. My dearest dear.] Whoap.. mum. My little one.

return back to them. From the distribution point of view. the affectionate ones and on more elaborate C structures. then it becomes more scarce. In other words. probably when the tranquillity is restored and it only needs to be maintained. the sung. The blacksmith’s speech is supported by B structures. 6 Brăiloiu 1981: 199. . with only one exception. meaning passing from affectionate names to the discursive complex ones and back. of characters % Relations No. B is superior to C as number of occurrences (46% to 32%) but slightly inferior to C as number of characters (43% to 46%). which have the character of “an improvised melopoeia. The table also shows the relations between the formulae. Therefore. hummed or whistled structures are derived from the affectionate ones and. Element D seldom appears at the beginning but is often used at the end. of occurrences % A 19 18 448 11 AB 13 16 B 49 46 1741 43 AC 7 8 C 34 32 1840 46 BA 10 12 D 5 5 Total 107 100 4029 100 BD 4 5 CA CB DB DC Total 10 12 16 19 3 4 1 1 83 100 BC 19 23 One can notice the massive presence of structures B and C. considering their occurrences and the number of characters: Formulae No. with no definite architecture” 6. The D structures (which are sometimes repeated) is always preceded by a B structure (5%) and followed by either a B (4%) or a C one (1%). The musical formulae appear sporadically. of occurrences % No. being very rarely used. Element C is more and more spread towards the middle of the text. The most frequent are BC (23%) and CB (19%). The onomatopoeic formulae A rank third (18% and 11%) and the musical formulae which could not be approached from the number of characters point of view rank last.5 Musical-Incantational Values of “Meaningless Speech” 139 performed in Oaş. the onomatopoeic formulae used to calm down the animal at the beginning are gradually replaced by more complex structures. one can notice that element A is quite present at the beginning but it is almost abandoned towards the end where it is replaced by elements B and C. It corresponds to a free indeterminate musical form which proves the structural-musical inventiveness starting from a limited musical material. The table below offers a statistical approach to the frequency of the 4 elements. The explanation for the difference between the number of occurrences and the number of characters lies in the fact that C structures (more complex speech) appear more seldom but are longer than B structures (the affectionate ones).

By this. an apprentice who helps with the animal or hands out the right tool. The sonorous fluid flows and the uttered words could be replaced by others.] And the animal will be more patient if we talk.F. but that use existing channels simply to keep them open and usable. Trying to find out the reasons for it.8 Therefore. no information. conventional information aiming at maintaining and consolidating the relationships between people. There is a certain pressure on both people and the animal.140 Nicolae Teodoreanu INTERPRETATION 6 If we talk about a transfer from an uttered text to music.I. [they all laugh] I can make them talk.] I am engaging in what Jakobson (see below) calls phatic communication. Within this context the fact that something is said is more important than what is said. This type of redundant verbal discourse. considered syntactically and non-semantically7. Relationships can only exist through constant communication”. 7 8 Eco 1982: 23. it is a non-informative form of communication between performers and between them and the animal itself. But there are no communication problems to solve. There are several people witnessing a blacksmith shoeing: the owners of the animal. there is more to it than that. ‘cause time passes faster and more easily. The blacksmith has to maintain a certain communication relationship with all these people. If you don’t say anything to it. Fiske 1990: 14.. WS750012. it will listen and it’s not afraid.. without changing the meaning. this fact is based on the similarities between a redundant speech and musical language. they speak only if you ask them things.E.. [. But I don’t like just sitting there.] I speak with them too. it jumps and … Did you notice that I kept shouting to it [. In this regard. You can’t just stay there. thus time seems to pass faster when they talk. In fact..]. of course. 9 A.. It’s easier this way... it does not require exchange of complex information and is long and boring. If we don’t say a word. with musical structural values belongs to what Roman Jakobson called phatic communication conveying minimum. time passes and we can’t even tell when. The latter is scared while the former are careful and tensed because they are trying not to go wrong. What I am doing in saying ‘Hello’ is maintaining and strengthening an existing relationship. . it doesn’t understand what’s there and it feels lonely and sad”9.. transcribed by Monica Beatrice Bercovici. John Fiske wrote: “Saying ‘Hello’ in the street is sending a highly redundant message. [he laughs] There are some [people] who don’t talk very much. faster. [. This tension is diminished by ceaseless talking. he refers to acts of communication that contain nothing new. [. we notice the following aspects: A blacksmith’s work is simple and monotonous. These three aspects are confirmed by the blacksmith in the following dialogue recorded right after shoeing: “I enjoy talking. like a fool and not talk to each other. it moves and thrashes about..

We can easily imagine that together with blacksmithing will also disappear this type of traditional informal social behaviour. In Opere II [Works. It could also be a certain form of ritualizing the work. 195–280. . Suliţeanu. part of a mentality type which is precious but not easily noticeable. Teodoreanu. The Place of Folklore among World Musics]. London: Routledge Taylor and Francis Group. in fact it targets the human subconsciousness and the animal’s psychic. which doubles a traditional craft. he. Ghizela 1986: Cîntecul de leagăn [The Lullabies]. vol. Umberto 1982: Tratat de semiotică generală [Treatise of General Semiotics]. Fiske. Introduction to the Immaterial Universe of Blacksmithing. The work is done collectively. Bucureşti: Editura Ştiinţifică şi Enciclopedică. Monica Beatrice Bercovici 2011: Oameni şi fiare. vol. VII. In Opere V [Works. V]. Bucureşti: Editura Muzicală [first published in 1938 in „Grai şi suflet”. In „Anuarul Institutul de Etnografie şi Folclor <Constantin Brăiloiu>” (Bucureşti: Academia Română) 21: 229–240. Jiga Iliescu. Nicolae Teodoreanu. the latter aspect being responsible for the fluidity of the discourse. BIBLIOGRAPHY Brăiloiu. Eco. Bucureşti]. 19–130. Studies and Documents] Bucureşti: Curtea Veche. he. Laura. repetitive musical structural articulation. Mircea 1992: Sacrul şi profanul [The Sacred and the Profane]. after half an hour: “He. Suliţeanu. II]. Bucureşti: Editura Academiei Republicii Socialiste România. not a sacred one but a psychological one. New York. Although we did not have the opportunity to check these facts with other blacksmiths. Bucureşti: Editura Muzicală.7 Musical-Incantational Values of “Meaningless Speech” 141 After a first analysis one can notice that the hypnotic aspect is given by the circular. The blacksmith noticed us long after we had arrived. Nicolae 2010: Vârstele sunetului. Bucureşti: Editura Muzicală (first published in 1959 in Paris: “Encyclopédie de la Musique Fasquelle”). which follows an indefinite sequence of elements and their variation. 10 Suliţeanu 1986: 13–14. Bucureşti: Humanitas. he. Everything is articulated in a certain slow rhythmic cadence which alternates the percussion sounds of the hammer with composed talking or singing and with pauses. we do believe that this is a “traditional” oral socialising practice. ceaseless and meaningless talk has here a certain soothing function for both the people and the animal. Eliade. Just like in the case of the lullabies whose determining function is to make children sleep10. Brăiloiu. attentively. Constantin 1981: Bocete din Oaş [Mourning Songs in Oaş]. Introducere în universul imaterial al făurăriei [Men and Irons. the external factors not being able to disturb it: the mobile phone or our arrival there while they were working. Therefore. which controls the gestures. he! May you be struck with good luck! I didn’t think that… I thought you wouldn’t come! My dearest dear!” At a closer look one can see that this state of collective anaesthesia is not at all accidental but deliberate. Constantin 1969: Folclorul muzical [Musical Folklore]. and the speaking rhythm and tone. he. Ghizela 1980: Psihologia folclorului muzical [The Psychology of Musical Folklore]. John 1990: Introduction to Communication Studies. Locul folclorului între muzicile lumi (I) [The Ages of Sound. the uttered speech is only apparently addressed to human consciousness and rationality.

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