Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Background info for Encuentro workshop participants


We will create together a processional performance titled "Hemispheric Casserole."
We want to reflect on the popular anti-austerity push-backs we are seeing throughout the hemisphere. 
In our retelling of the story, the audience is led through a hemispheric transmigration of a melody, the melody in our case being the music of the “casserole,” the public sonic performance of banging on pots and pans.

The narrative of the piece was adapted from a story by I.L. Peretz, called The Transmigration of a Melody. The full text of this story, in Yiddish and English, can be found here:

http://ia700306.us.archive.org/.../nybc209367/nybc209367.pdf pages 234-265


As a musical thread, we will use an Uruguayan murga by Araca la Cana, called "Mientras Escriba y Cante."  A recording of this song can be found here: 

--> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G2YEPzC6mAY
Here is some background information about murgas, compiled by Jenny Romaine:
Murga is a form of popular musical theater performed in Uruguay and Argentina during the carnival season. Murga groups operate in the Montevideo and Buenos Aires carnival. Though to a lesser extent than in Montevideo, the Argentine murga is more centered on dancing and less on vocals than the Uruguayan one.  Uruguayan murga has a counterpart in Cadiz, Spain, from which it is derived: the chirigota.  Over time, the two have diverged into distinct forms.

The murga is performed by a group of maximum of 17 people, usually men, in the months prior to Carnival, which takes place from late January to early March in Uruguay. Each group will prepare a musical play consisting of a suite of songs and recitative lasting around 45 minutes. This suite will be performed on popular stages in the various neighborhoods known as toblados throughout the carnival period.  Groups also vie against each other in an official competition. 

Lyrical content is based on a particular theme chosen by the group which serves to provide commentary on events in Uruguay and elsewhere over the proceeding year.  Consequently, murga lends itself well to being used as a form of popular resistance.  For example, during the dictatorship in Uruguay during the 1970s, groups like Araca la Cana became known for their left-wing tendencies, subversive commentary and oppositional stance. 

A traditional murga group is composed of a chorus and three percussionists. This is the type of murga performed on stages; the singers perform in polyphony, using up to 5 vocal parts.  Vocal production tends to be nasal and loud with little variation in volume.  The percussion instruments derived from European military bands are bombo, redolante, and platillos.  Two most important pieces of the performance are the opening song (the saludo) and the exit song. 

These get played on the radio during the carnival period; some of them, such as the Saludo Araca la Cana 1937 are cherished by Uruguyans as cultural icons…

Murgistas dress in elaborate colorful jester-like costumes.  Staging is sparce, with minimal use of props.  Singers tend to be foregrounded, with percussionists at the back or off to the side of the stage.  Musical styles and rhythmic structures have been incorporated into Uruguayan popular music. 

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