The music that comes from the cold. Inuit arts, songs and dances
by Jean-Jacques Nattiez
The Presses of the University of Montreal. 486 p. 85 €
Fruit of a prolonged experience of circumpolar cultures combined with a penetrating knowledge of the codes and practices of music, the work of musicologist Jean-Jacques Nattiez dazzles by its form as by its content. With a pen that is both precise and flexible, enriched with still and animated images, sounds, maps and glossaries, he invites you to take a historical, cultural and musical journey through the vast area stretching from Siberia to Greenland: there where the music of the Inuit manifests itself.
Support for shamanic practices, an element of social competition, simple playful jousting, and, today, markers of identity, women’s throat songs or men’s drum dances, which are the emblematic forms, constitute the heart of this analysis. scrupulous and fervent. It benefits from the extreme editorial quality of the book, which is extended by many digital extensions accessible on the Université de Montréal website. And how not to be sensitive to the science and talent of the “reporter” of this secular culture which, in addition to the rigors of its natural environment, was abused by the material and spiritual violence of the “Qallunaat” (the non-Inuit)?
Material or immaterial traces
We note in particular the meticulousness of the sources mentioned and the precision of the subtlety of the arguments put forward. They demonstrate the extreme loyalty of the “penholder” to his numerous predecessors and collaborators whom he never fails to mention but, above all, to the animate or inanimate “subjects” of his ethnographic investigation. Thus respect for all forms and spellings of words, all locations…
But we will also appreciate the breadth of the subject which questions these material or immaterial traces. The nuances related to geography or history thus identified do not exclude applying an encyclopedic intelligence to their interpretation (that of the semiologist in particular) and recalling the variants and invariants that animate all artistic expression: “When the environment culture changes, the meanings associated with techniques and gestures also change,” the author points out in conclusion. Reconciling the particular and the universal, history and the present.
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