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Genealogies of sense and sound: Home recordings and Greek American identity

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This article examines the diverse ways that four generations of an extended Greek American family of musicians have employed recording technologies to explore their migrant subjectivity. Focusing on an Ottoman-era collection of handwritten sheet music and home-made audio recordings on reel-to-reel tape from the 1950s to 1970s, I explore the ways that people’s interactions with these materials have enabled the preservation and transmission of family repertoire, style, and both musical and social memory. Drawing on the work on Robin Bernstein, Georgina Born and Nadia Seremetakis, I highlight the performative agency embedded in these scores and reels, and reveal that, beyond mere archives of musical activity, they are sonic and material sites of emotional valence, nodes for the mediating of personal and musical relations, and a means of engaging the body to craft both a sense of family and a recognizable family sound. These musical archives enter into dialogue with other aspects of the Anatolian Greek community’s material culture to reveal past musical practices, shape contemporary ones, produce ideas and memories about the musicians who made them, and interrogate the meaning of ‘home’ and ‘family’ in the immigrant context.
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Keywords: Asia Minor; Lesvos; agency; ethnomusicology; home recordings; materiality; mediation; transcription

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Harvard University

Publication date: April 1, 2016

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  • The Journal of Greek Media & Culture is an interdisciplinary peer-reviewed journal that aims to provide a platform for debate and exploration of a wide range of manifestations of media and culture in and about Greece. The journal adopts a broad and inclusive approach to media and culture with reference to film, photography, literature, the visual arts, music, theatre, performance, as well as all forms of electronic media and expressions of popular culture. While providing a forum for the close analysis of cultural formations specific to Greece, JGMC aims to engage with broader methodological and theoretical debates, and situate the Greek case in global, diasporic and transnational contexts.
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