Frederick Moehn awarded Klaus P. Wachsmann Prize
Prof. Dr. Frederick Moehn's article, "A Carioca Blade Runner, or How Percussionist Marcos Suzano Turned the Brazilian Tambourine into a Drum Kit, and other Matters of (Politically) Correct Music Making," published in the journal Ethnomusicology last year (53: 2), was awarded the Klaus P. Wachsmann Prize for Advanced and Critical Essays in Organology at the Society for Ethnomusicology meeting in Los Angeles last November.
The prize recognizes "a major publication that advances the field of organology (the study of musical instruments) through the presentation of new data and by using innovative methods in the study of musical instruments." The nomination pool for the biennial award includes articles from the past three years.
Last year, Prof. Moehn won the Jaap Kunst Prize from the Society for his article, "Music, Mixing, and Modernity in Rio de Janeiro," published in Ethnomusicology Forum in 2008.
This article focuses on the career of Marcos Suzano, a percussionist known especially for innovations in performance and recording practices on one of Brazil's most popular instruments, the pandeiro (a tambourine descended from North African frame drums via the Iberian peninsula, but in Brazil utilized in a variety of musical contexts with West and Central African influences). In the early 1990s Suzano developed a distinct method of playing this instrument that he felt better captured aspects of Afro-Brazilian rhythmic priorities as exemplified in the drumming of the Candomblé religion. He then amplified his pandeiro and brought it to the foreground of the pop music recordings and performances in which he participated. Subsequently, he began to incorporate digital technologies and production methods into his practice, greatly extending his range of sounds but remaining connected to the physical performance of acoustic instrumentation. I find in this musician’s talk and biography anopportunity to correlate musical practices to specific articulations of power and politics. Moreover, I highlight how metaphors of gendered and sexualized modes of conduct frame local interpretations of how this "Blade Runner"-like personage brought percussion out of the background of the pop music mix (where it had been but a "perfume"), or the way he associated his emphasis on bass frequencies with the commanding, sometimes aggressive orixá Ogum, or with the "strong" and"vigorous" sounds of maracatu drumming and rock guitars. Suzano'sapparent fetishization, mastery and domestication of his electronic gear -- and even the way he spoke about the music industry and the political sphere -- led me to the following conclusion about this setting: "Once disarticulated from authoritarian regulation of civil society and the body, those aspects of masculinity associated with power and control could take on new resonances." The article thus speaks to my interest in advocating a fundamentally interdependent, mutually constitutive view of race, gender, class, national identity, musical sound, and mediation, while it reveals a dynamic interdependence between acoustic and electronic instruments, on the one hand, and the performing, emergent subject on the other.