Folklore core faculty member Doug Blandy has been appointed Vice Provost of Academic Affairs. He has also partnered with professor emerita Kristin Congdon of the University of Central Florida to lead the re-launch of ChinaVine (www.chinavine.org). Traditional and contemporary Chinese art and culture is finding life on the Internet, thanks to a collaborartion to preserve China’s culutral heritage for a new generation. The project is a team effort among the University of Central Florida (UCF), the University of Oregon (UO), Shandong University of Art and Design, Beijing Normal University and other partners in the USA and China. Through ChinaVine, the group is sharing Chinese customs, art, and folk culture using modern technology.
Lisa Gilman, Director of the Folklore Program and Associate Professor of Folklore and English, has been awarded a teaching and research Fulbright Award for the 2012-2013 academic year. Supported by the Fulbright, Prof. Gilman will teach at the University of Mzuzu in Northern Malawi and pursue her new book project “Our Culture is Dying: Dance and the Politics of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Malawi.” This project investigates UNESCO’s efforts to preserve Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) in Malawi, the government’s cultural policy, and everyday people’s perspectives about cultural preservation. It explores international-level discourse about ICH and very localized discourse to yield insights into the intricacies of power dynamics within Malawian communities as people define their cultural practices, struggle with lack of resources, and negotiate cultural change in relationship to globalization and national and international initiatives. Through teaching and research, she will also contribute to the documentation and preservation of Malawian traditional cultural practices.
Dorothee Ostmeier has been invited to participate in the international “Grimm Kongress” at the University of Kassel, Germany, in December 2012. It will celebrate the 200th anniversary of the publication of the Brothers Grimm first volume of “Children’s and Household Tales.” Ostmeier’s lecture is entitled “Politics of the Marvelous: National Identity and Utopia in Selected Works of the Brothers Grimm.” She will discuss the Grimms’ complex concept of “Poesie” and its political, literary, judical and philosophical connotations, demonstrating their syncretic perspectives towards modernism and anti-modernism, reality, and magic.
Phillip Scher will be in Barbados during the spring term, on a grant from the Wenner Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research. He will be continuing his project on the politics of historic preservation and world heritage.
Carol Silverman‘s book Romani Routes: Cultural Politics and Balkan Music in Diaspora was published by Oxford University Press in 2012. She received a 2012 UO Summer Stipend for Humanities and Creative Arts Faculty and also published the article ”Producing Sexuality, Music, and Emotion: Gendered Balkan Romani Dilemmas” in the French journal Etudes Tsiganes. Silverman delivered nine lectures this year, including invited presentations at the Inaugural Romani Studies Conference, University of California, Berkeley; Opre! A Symposium on Romani (Gypsy) Musics and Cultures at New York University; Musical Margins in the Balkans Conference, University of Chicago; the Gypsy Lore Society, Graz, Austria; and at University of Ljubljana, Slovenia, Northwestern University and Western Washington University. She also gave papers at the annual conferences of the American Folklore Society and the Society for Ethnomusicology. In the spring she is conducting research in Macedonia; she also continues to perform and teach Balkan music and work with the NGO Voice of Roma.
During the fall and winter of 2012, Daniel Wojcik’s research on apocalyptic and millennialist beliefs was highlighted in various publications in association with the December 21, 2012 prophecy date (the alleged end of the Maya calendar), with articles appearing in the Oregon Quarterly, “12/21/2012: Doomsday or Deliverance?” and ”Music for the End of the World” and Cascade Magazine, “The End of the World as We Know it (Again),” among others. In December 2012, Wojcik conducted fieldwork among pilgrims who travelled to the ancient Maya pyramid at Chichén Itzá, and he will publish his findings in Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions (Volume 17.2).
Room 142 in the Music building is a typical classroom—chairs, podium, and projector—the perfect venue for lectures. But on Monday nights from seven to nine, it undergoes a magical transformation into a world of fast-paced Balkan folk music. This is Dr. Mark Levy’s Balkan Folk Music Ensemble, a two-credit class open to musicians of all types and talents. Dr. Levy is an ethnomusicologist and teaches in the School of Music and Dance.
“It gets fast. Just do what you can,” he adds, and demonstrates the difference between a simple riff and riff played with ornamentation.
When he asks the students to copy him, the room erupts into a euphonious outbreak of guitars, violas, violins, clarinets, and other wind instruments. A wide variety of musicians (from beanie-wearing, long haired, undergrads with electric guitars to clean-cut, preppily-dressed grad students) are joined together in a circle.
Suddenly a student has a question about the cultural origin of the 1-2-1-2 pattern.
“Verse break, verse break,” Levy explains and then opens the floor to conjectures about other possible origins.
“Well, the dancers want to dance,” a student chimes in.
“We’re doing this in a superficial context, because normally this music is really improvised. They’ll begin a certain way and then just go off,” Levy explains, and the group launches into a faster-paced version of the song. This time they throw in some stops to keep the phrasing unique and refreshing.
In between songs, students practice scales and strumming patterns. “One of these weeks we will have a singer,” Levy promises.
The sound of Bulgarian music spills out the hall, under the expert guidance of Dr. Levy, who himself is playing clarinet during the session. Exiting the classroom and stepping back into the hall, one feels as if he has just left a different world—but one that anyone can return to, Monday nights from 7 to 9 PM in classroom 142 of the Music Building.
Whatever Happened to Zulay? An Otavaleña’s Journey
In this interview, Sharon Sherman, Professor Emerita of the Folklore Program and English Department, tells us about her new film:Whatever Happened to Zulay: An Otavaleña’s Journey. The film will be screened April 12, 2012, at 7 PM in 115 Lawrence Hall.
Tell us about the film.
It’s hard to summarize. Whatever Happened to Zulay is a film that brings the story of Zulay up to the present. A film was made about her twenty years ago by Jorge Preloran. The current film includes the original filmmakers and Zulay reuniting in her home in Quinchuqui, Ecuador. Whenever Preloran showed his film, people always asked him: “what happened to Zulay? What did she do with her life?”
She had gone back and forth many times (from Los Angeles to Ecuador) and endured criticism from her community. She had to make a decision about where she would live. LA had greater opportunities for making a living, but Ecuador had her family, the land that she loved, and participatory celebrations…she did ultimately go back to Ecuador.
What is important about this film?
The film shows Zulay’s choices in a globalized world. What became her sense of identity? What kind of role did she assume as a cultural leader and as a mother? Basically the film looks at a remarkable woman who went through many life changes, and had to decide whether to be traditional or not. On a gender level, she’s not traditional for her society. On a cultural or folkloric level, she is traditional, and she wants everyone in her society not to lose traditions.
Here’s a person who’s gone through cultural change and made a decision to stay in a village, build a casa from the ground up, and become a travel agent; she did a lot of amazing things. The film addresses tradition and innovation, being transnational, and living in between worlds.
In many ways this film is very feminist because it deals with gender issues, cultural change and ethnicity, folk architecture and religion. At the center of the film is the celebration of Inti Raymi, which is a celebration of the summer solstice. The scenery is gorgeous, the clarity is astonishing. The sky is so blue. It’s like paradise.
On top of it all, the film is also explicit that it’s a film and a constructed reality. It shows me sitting at the computer with Zulay saying “this should stay in,” or “do you think this should stay out?”
How do you feel about the editing process?
I think that it’s the most creative part of making a film. You’ve already shot it. Whatever shots you need, you either have them or you don’t. Or, you can go back and get them if you’re in the field. You have to find out where it cuts together well. You want everything to follow certain kinds of aesthetic rules for editing.
The more abstract it is, the less of these rules you have to follow, because then part of the appeal is that you’re breaking rules. Dogtown and Z Boys is an example. When you’re editing, you feel like you control the world. Your own world, because it’s a world that you’ve created. It’s probably all anyone’s ever going to see on the topic, so you run into all kinds of issues about ethics and “reality,” especially when you’re dealing with people’s lives.
Tell us about the subtitle: An Otavaleña’s Journey?
Because it’s Zulay’s life journey at different points in her life. We’re all on journeys. Everyone’s life is a journey. “Journey”…it’s a real pop word ever since Joseph Campbell. I wanted to get the word Otavalo in the title partly so that if people were searching online for anything about Otavalo they would find it, because the film does say a lot about the culture.
How did you decide to make this film?
We were in Los Angeles sitting at Jorge Preloran’s. We were over there for dinner, and he’s telling me about how he and Mabel (his wife) were going to go back and see Zulay, and that he wants to take a bunch of stills of her because he was writing books about the people he had filmed. He looks at me and says “I have such a great idea. Why don’t the two of you (my husband Steven and I) come down, and you can make a film.” The idea was to shoot a film about Zulay and Inti Raymi. We said, “We’re in.”
We went and started to film Preloran making his book. But after the first day we realized that the film had to go in a different direction. Zulay was very interesting, the location was phenomenal, the casa was amazing. I thought, this is going to have to be about the effect of the first film and her experiences as an independent woman.
Is it necessary to see Preloran’s Film before seeing this one?
I’m hoping not, because the first one is two hours long! It was completed in the eighties. The first hour is more about the culture. The second hour is about Zulay going to LA….she goes back and forth from LA to Ecuador, has a wonderful relationship with the Prelorans…they become like another set of parents to her. She likes LA but misses her country, the land, the harvest, celebrations—things that most of us don’t give as much focus to in many of our lives in the U.S.
How did you know Jorge Preloran?
From UCLA. He was my professor and mentor. While getting a degree in folklore, I also went to film school. I learned how to make films from Jorge. He was a master filmmaker who created sixty films. We kept in contact through the years.
How did the house become such a prominent part in the film?
I think the house grows, and so does Zulay. I see them in a kind of a metaphoric relationship. She’s constantly growing and becoming more successful. She starts out by building a little room.
Did the Spanish language present itself as an issue?
It was a very big issue, because all of them [Jorge, Mabel, and Zulay] spoke Spanish as their native language. It turns out everyone spoke English [also] but no one told me that. Zulay understood everything we were saying in English. I didn’t ask that [we should speak English]. I didn’t know how good Zulay’s English was until much later. I had Mabel communicate the gist of what was going on, and then finally had someone translate everything after I came back from Ecuador. But I couldn’t really edit the footage. When you’re editing, you cut sentences. You have to know, for example, if you’re cutting the verb off. I got a grant from the Center for the Study of Women in Society to bring Zulay here, and we did all the interviews on the camera in English. Then I had what I needed and we included Zulay’s daughter Paula and her life.
I had so much material I was buried in it. 22 hours of Zulay’s home movie footage, all the hours I had shot in Ecuador and in Eugene.
It’s not that I never studied Spanish. But I was not and am not fluent. But that’s on my list, because I just think everyone in the United States should speak Spanish. I would be ready to move to Ecuador for half the year. The weather is gorgeous. To me it’s just an idyllic life in the Andes. When I make the Spanish version of the film, I hope to be able to show it in some places in South America.
It’s especially important in South America because Jorge is in it, and a lot of people knew who he was, and he was the major documentary film maker in Argentina. When he died, they put it out on the AP wire. It made the news in the Oregonian, the Los Angeles Times…everywhere. The Smithsonian has a website devoted to his work.
People know who he is. So there’s that. People’s respect for him is very deep. And I think a lot of people would like to see this film. I only hope I can continue one of his stories in a way that speaks to people on many levels. As is true of all of us, Zulay’s life is very complex.
Dr. Sherman’s film will be shown April 12, 2012, in Room 115 of Lawrence Hall