SINGING BOUNDARIES: TOWARD AN UNDERSTANDING OF VOCALITY AND THE PERFORMANCE OF IDENTITIES IN THE CANT VALENCIÀ D'ESTIL
Pitarch Alfonso, Carles A.
Provine, Robert C.
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The cant valencia or cant valencia d'estil of Valencia is one of the four main living monodic expressive song traditions of Spain. Comprised of non-metric cant d'estil and metric albaes songs mostly used in street serenades, it features a distinctive vocality characterized by a highly-projected, clear, inflected, and flexible voice as well as two melodic styles, of which the more ornamented cant requintat developed at the turn of the twentieth century. I take a historical, theoretical, and ethnographic approach to this Valencian vocal genre and explore the ways in which vocality can help us to understand it better. After examining the origins of the cant valencia and the antiquarian, journalistic, folkloristic, and (ethno)musicological approaches to it, I probe the notion of vocality in a transdisciplinary way: drawing on ethnomusicological theory, anthropology, folklore, semiotics, and other disciplines I show its significance for the development of a musical anthropology of the voice productively based on the ethnographic exploration of the iconicity of style and of two sets of central vocal issues: on the one hand, identity, gender, authority, and sonic histories and geographies; on the other, acoustemology, interpellation, and transcendence. Vocality not only expands usefully the scope of vocal or singing style by encompassing larger bodily-dependent traits of the human voice as central or salient means of aesthetic and ethical production of meanings, but also acknowledges its pre-eminent position in the hierarchy of musical values, since the material/textural qualities of (vocal) sounds iconically shape our first sonorous perceptions and identifications and are thus paramount for communication. I make a first approach to vocality and the performance of collective identities in the cant valencia by showing that its modern stylistic development is linked to two diachronic frameworks: the moments of modern radical situational change in Europe and the construction of Spanish national identity. I also explore how issues of interpellation and transcendence bear on the formation of personal identities of the cantadors d'estil, the specialized cant valencia singers. I show that an emically-informed, etic approach to vocality can afford an understanding of how people can create their own history and affirm their own collective or personal identities in response to larger social processes.