SINGING STORYTELLERS – Every region of our world has its unique singing storytellers. Griots, kobzars, troubadours, ashiks, gusle players, sean-nós and seann-nòs singers, bards and epic singers, these men and women of narrative traditions around the globe play a variety of complex roles in their communities and cultures. Bards are multifaceted social agents. They are genealogists, historians, spokespersons, activists, diplomats, musicians, praise singers, healers, advisors, wordsmiths and professional performers. Their movements, sounds and practices transmit cultural information between people and places and across time, but these aspects of their creative expression have not remained static. They have changed, but their early designs have not vanished.
While bards and their practices have long been the focus of study for ethnomusicologists, more recent studies are scarce. An edited collection inspired by the engagement of scholars, artist-practitioners and diverse partners at the Singing Storytellers Symposium (October 2014, Cape Breton University) will integrate cross-cultural content, carefully established contexts and critical analyses on the lives, music and verbal artistry of bards in our world.
The editors, Lillis Ó Laoire (National University of Ireland, Galway) and Marcia Ostashewski (Cape Breton University), invite submissions for the Singing Storytellers collection (anticipated publication 2016, McGill-Queen’s University Press). These may be reworked presentations from the Singing Storytellers Symposium, or they may be novel submissions from any experts in the field. Academic papers will be interwoven with contributions from artists, the latter of which the editors have been compiling in the past few months.
We ask that contributions focus on specific aspects of contemporary practice and significance, rather than addressing broad conceptual frameworks. (The introduction, written by the editors, will address major issues of history and framework.) Contributions might address (but are not limited to) the following themes and questions:
- Scholars of language, culture, history and memory across diverse disciplines all study singing storytellers’ verbal art. What can scholars of music, sound and performance practice contribute to the study of singing storytellers?
- Who are today’s singing storytellers – today’s bards? What do their songs sound like? What stories are they singing, and with what aims? What roles do today’s bards play in arts and culture, history and memory, health and wellbeing, faith and belief, politics, economics and other realms? What are the roles of contemporary bards in our rhizomic 21st century sociability (including the internet and the vast social networking it facilitates)?
- Since the words of this art form may be as important as the music, how do issues of language and translation factor into the contemporary practices of bards? Here, we consider translation as a cultural practice, as a logistical necessity and as a rich metaphor for the way that sung poetry metamorphoses history, narratives, characters and places into sound.
- What occurs in performances of singing storytellers in terms of vocal production, and all that entails, the physical production of sound and affect, and so on?
- What are the resonances of historical texts and performance practices in contemporary performances? How do contemporary bardic practices engage with, evoke and represent the past? A tension between the pull of nostalgia and the lure of the novel has been observed in contemporary bardic practices. Is nostalgia a limit or a tactic? Other tensions exhibited in contemporary bardic practice include competing understandings of authenticity. Does authenticity come from the deep past, or does it originate in a practice of referencing contemporary phenomena? What understandings arise amidst these tensions, and how do they inform practice and/or cultural theory?
- How do travel, mobility and migration either enable or constrain production, performance and subjectivities? What travels with a bard, and what does not? How does a bard’s music fit into new, diasporic sociocultural milieux? Musicians, music, capital, ideas and epistemologies are all in motion, but they flow at different rates and along different circuits. Music may travel more broadly and freely than musicians. What of the transmission of affect in these practices, both in microperformative contexts and also in a wider sense?
- Much scholarly literature on bards and their practices focuses on the text, but what about orality and aurality? The singing of stories involves singing and other utterances – as well as listening. What comprises singing in a given bardic practice? And why are these stories sung? What is the role of music in these practices? What about performativity? What about embodied performers engaging with embodied listeners? Paralinguistic richness? And what about all of the ephemeral gestures surrounding and inflecting the text, which tend to elude the fixity of a transcript?
- What enters the archives? And what can this volume do, in both print and multimedia formats, to expand the possibilities for transcribing the practice of bards?
Please send abstracts of intended contributions by June 15, 2015 via email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Call for papers – Singing Storytellers Edited Collection.” Abstracts of no more than 450 words should include the title, the author(s’) name(s) and institutional affiliation(s) and contact details. Abstracts should clearly state the aims of the paper, the methodology used, the theoretical orientation, including literature, and the findings and conclusions. The editors will ask the authors of selected papers (max. 10,000 words) to submit their completed contributions no later than October 1, 2015. The manuscript will be submitted to McGill-Queen’s University Press in January 2016.