Soundscapes from the Americas: Ethnomusicological Essays on the Power, Poetics, and Ontology of Performance, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Soundscapes from the Americas

Ethnomusicological Essays on the Power, Poetics, and Ontology of Performance, 1st Edition

By Donna A. Buchanan


210 pages

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Dedicated to the late Gerard Béhague (1937-2005), whose pioneering work in Latin American music, popular culture, and performance studies contributed extensively to ethnomusicological discourse in the 1970s-1990s, this anthology offers comparative perspectives on the evolving legacy of performance ethnography in socio-musical analysis. President of the Society for Ethnomusicology from 1979-81, editor of its journal, Ethnomusicology, from 1974-78, and founder and editor of the trilingual Latin American Music Review from 1980 until his death, Béhague also established the ethnomusicology graduate program at the University of Texas at Austin in 1974, thereby influencing the training and thinking of dozens of the field’s practitioners. Among these are the volume’s eight authors, whose contributions reflect the heritage but also contemporary trajectories of Béhague’s scholarly concerns. Prefaced by an essay outlining key developments in the ethnography of performance paradigm, the volume’s seven case studies portray snapshots of musical life in representative communities of the Americas, including the southwestern and Pacific United States, Puerto Rico, Bolivia, Chile, Cuba, and Ecuador. Situated in milieus ranging from the indigenous festivals of the Andean highlands, to the competitive public gatherings of poet-singers in post-Pinochet Chile, to the Puerto Rican dance halls of the Hawaiian islands, these studies pose anthropological inquiries into the ontology of performance practice, the social power of poetic performativity, and the experience and embodiment of sound in place.


’The ethnography of musical performance is so fundamental to contemporary ethnomusicology that it is like the air we breathe. Buchanan’s introduction offers a new window to the genesis of this approach and its broad reach, and then points us to the next steps forward. The articles that follow explore the politics of performance and the power of performativity in relation to history, subjectivity, and specific events through a series of vibrant case studies from across the Americas. Of special interest to Latin Americanists, Americanists, and ethnomusicologists in general, this book both explains and exemplifies why the ethnography of performance has become foundational to the ethnomusicological project.’ Thomas Turino, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA

About the Author

Donna A. Buchanan is associate professor of music and anthropology and director of the music ensemble 'Balkanalia' at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, where she teaches courses in ethnomusicology and the musical cultures of the Balkans, Russia, and Eurasia. Her scholarly interests include the implication of music in cosmology, sound ecologies, and relations of social power and identity.

About the Series

SOAS Studies in Music

SOAS Studies in Music is today one of the world’s leading series in the discipline of ethnomusicology. Our core mission is to produce high-quality, ethnographically rich studies of music-making in the world’s diverse musical cultures. We publish monographs and edited volumes that explore musical repertories and performance practice, critical issues in ethnomusicology, sound studies, historical and analytical approaches to music across the globe. We recognize the value of applied, interdisciplinary and collaborative research, and our authors draw on current approaches in musicology and anthropology, psychology, media and gender studies. We welcome monographs that investigate global contemporary, classical and popular musics, the effects of digital mediation and transnational flows.


Editorial Board

Professor Kwasi Ampene

University of Michigan, USA

Professor Linda Barwick

University of Sydney, AU

Dr. Angela Impey

SOAS University of London, UK

Professor Travis A. Jackson

University of Chicago, USA

Professor Noriko Manabe

Temple University, USA

Dr. Moshe Morad

Tel Aviv University, IL

Professor Suzel Reily

Universidade Estadual de Campinas, BR

Professor Henry Spiller

University California - Davis, USA

Professor Martin Stokes

Kings College London, UK

Professor Richard Widdess

SOAS University of London, UK

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
MUSIC / General
MUSIC / Ethnomusicology
MUSIC / Genres & Styles / International