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The Kommission für Volksdichtung International Conference: Street Music and Narrative Traditions
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5/23/2017 to 5/26/2017
When: Tuesday, May 23, 2017
Where: University of Palermo and the International Puppet Museum
Contact: Luisa Del Giudice

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“Street music” refers to a multitude of event typologies evolving in time. During the Middle Ages, musicians and singers participated in forms of popular drama and began to formulate styles and techniques of performance in part derived from the ancient tradition of aoidoi and rhapsodes, persisting through evolving forms, themes and, in some cases, instrumentation. (The use of stringed instruments and, latterly, button and piano accordions, to accompany song may be considered a constant feature in many cultures over the centuries.) Other elements which contributed to the evolution of street-performed narrative song are the introduction of printed song sheets, which enhanced income through the sale of broadsides and chapbooks reproducing song texts and later by the invention of sound reproduction which represented for street performers, or cantastorie (story singers), an added income stream from the sale of vinyl discs, audiocassettes, and compact discs. Other forms of narrative street music include songs and dances which, in various regions, persist on the occasion of religious celebration, Carnival, or seasonal ritual (e.g., New Year, May Day) thus delineating a repertoire of dramatized musical forms embracing song, instrumental music, and recitation. Correlating with such themes are social and political actions where song and sound provide a primary function on symbolic and communal planes.  Increasingly today, musicians, singers, and performers in general, are assured a means of communication with their audiences and heightened impact through the “virtual public square” of social networks.  In these contexts, “street music” may refer to a rich and varied range of historical and contemporary forms.

Suggested topics for presentations include:

  • Street performers between tradition and modernity
  • The marketplace:  from broadsides to CDs
  • Sacred dramatic and musical genres
  • Profane dramatic and musical genres
  • The music and soundscapes of urban political action
  • Musical, narrative performance, and MP3s on the “virtual public square”
  • The revival of musical narrative

Proposals on other topics relating to ballads, folk and popular song are also welcome. Papers are welcome in the three official languages of the KfV (German, French, English).

Conference’s organizing committee: Sergio Bonanzinga, Professor of Ethnomusi­cology, University of Palermo (Department of Culture and Societies); Luisa Del Giudice, Ph.D. independent scholar (Los Angeles), past president of the Kommission für Volksdichtung (KfV), Founder-Director of the Italian Oral History Institute; Thomas A. McKean, current president of the KfV, Director of the Elphinstone Institute; Rosario Perricone, Director, International Puppet Museum “Antonio Pasqualino” (Palermo).

Optional Excursions: Saturday, May 27, a visit to the Valley of the Temples and Archeological Museum of Agrigento. Sunday, May 28, a trip to watch the Saint Cross feast in Casteltermini (near Agrigento), with the street performance of the sword-dance called Tataratà.

Submission:  Send a title with abstract (maximum 250 words) and brief bio-bibliography to the Conference organizers:

The Kommission für Volksdichtung / Gruppo di Studio del Canto Popolare / International Ballad Commission:

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