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Voicing, Listening, and Public Feeling: from fado to canção de protesto in Lisbon, Portugal

Colloquium Muziekwetenschap
Lila Ellen Gray

October 16, 15:30-17:00
Universiteitstheater, Nieuwe Doelenstraat 16, room 3.01

For many participants in Lisbon’s fado worlds, the term fadista refers to both one who sings and one who knows how to listen; through listening one enters into the affective, poetic, and performative sound world of fado, mind, body and soul. In Lisbon’s fado scenes, speech and song, performances of the everyday (like telling a story), heightened performances (like getting up to sing a fado during an amateur fado session), and mediatized performances, interanimate one another. Listening can also be considered as a type of performance signaled on its own continuum of markedness, by its own rituals and repetitions.  This continuum of the voice sounding and its relationship to forms of public listening and public feeling as manifest in the Portuguese musical genres of fado and canção de protesto (or protest song), forms the focus of this presentation.  The first part of the presentation draws on ethnographic research I conducted on fado performance and reception in Lisbon, Portugal during the first decade of the 2000s, some of which is the basis for my book, Fado Resounding: Affective Politics and Urban Life (Duke University Press, 2013)This research spanned diverse and overlapping Lisbon sites and social worlds (museums and archives, professional fado venues, tourist restaurants and small amateur bars, fans of the late fado diva Amália Rodrigues) but it is primarily grounded in ethnographic work on amateur fado practice and sociality. The final section of the talk draws on a portion of my current research, which examines the musical and cultural responses to the financial crisis in Portugal, focusing on a re-emergent register of voicing (and participatory listening) through the highly politicized genre of canção de protesto. I position this in relation to the stereotypical complaint register of the fado voice, historicizing these registers, while asking questions about their labors and viabilities in the present.