Stumbling with/over Scripts: Vignettes

Daniel Kodzo Avorgbedor
2003 Oral Tradition  
Isn't it doubly stimulating to read about "oral tradition" and "orality" by entrusting it to the print medium? Acts associated with media of communication surely reflect the ontological status of the verbum: plural voices, pluralistic voicing, and the inevitable symbiosis of routes and genres. Yes, this is the primary constitution of the "oral," no matter in which specific (?) discipline we locate or discourse it. Ethnomusicology, my primary field of specialization, has long claimed "the study
more » ... claimed "the study of music of oral tradition" for itself by ignoring "others." Well, as scholarship and the production of knowledge in various spheres of life have intensified and diversified, we are constantly reinventing ourselves, tongues, and the field of ethnomusicology. In my high school days, I learned the songs of the Beatles and Temptations mainly through their sheet music, the printed matter (and also through "afternoon jumps" or dance sessions). In actual fact, some girlfriends brought the scores to me to play on the piano for their enjoyment. In our field methods and techniques, we (that is, investigator, informant, objects/subjects of the study) probe and respond, employing the primordial oral means. A few of us are preoccupied with the study of "new art music" by Chinese, Japanese, Australian, Korean, African, and African-American composers; not so much because of the perforce and persistence of orality, but because the boundaries, materials, tools, and hypotheses of the contemporary ethnomusicologist are resilient and voluptuous. The glare and lure of the oral are now often overshadowed by the multivocal nature of the objects of study, and by the increased momentum of the production of knowledge (and quality, of course) on what were formerly assumed to be predominantly oral musical traditions. O.K., let's agree for a while that the music culture of the Anlo-Ewe, for example, is predominantly oral. To what extent can we apply the old canons about oral traditions? My father was the "bookkeeper" for his performing and social groups. He had attended adult (night) education classes in his late youth and could read and write in his local language. He wrote and read records of defaulters, etc. Then there was his close friend,
doi:10.1353/ort.2004.0004 fatcat:mgrv2fagfnenlf67ulxhktukcm