Making Music in the Polish Tatras: Tourists, Ethnographers, and Mountain Musicians

Making Music in the Polish Tatras: Tourists, Ethnographers, and Mountain Musicians

Making Music in the Polish Tatras: Tourists, Ethnographers, and Mountain Musicians

Making Music in the Polish Tatras: Tourists, Ethnographers, and Mountain Musicians

Synopsis

Challenging myths that mountain isolation and ancient folk customs defined the music culture of the Polish Tatras, Timothy J. Cooley shows that intensive contact with tourists and their more academic kin, ethnographers, since the late 19th century helped shape both the ethnic group known as Gorale (highlanders) and the music that they perform. Making Music in the Polish Tatras reveals how the historically related practices of tourism and ethnography actually created the very objects of tourist and ethnographic interest in what has become the popular resort region of Zakopane. This lively book introduces readers to Gorale musicians, their present-day lives and music making, and how they navigate a regional mountain-defined identity while participating in global music culture. Vivid descriptions of musical performances at weddings, funerals, and festivals and the collaboration of Gorale fiddlers with the Jamaican reggae group Twinkle Brothers are framed by discussions of currently influential theories relating to identity and ethnicity and to anthropological and sociological studies of ritual, tourism, festivals, globalism, and globalization. The book includes a 46-track CD illustrating the rich variety of Gorale music, including examples of its fusion with Jamaican reggae.

Excerpt

This book is a work of ethnography. Like all ethnographies it is a collaborative project relying on the generous contributions of many individuals and effectively having numerous co-authors. These contributors include the many musicians, dancers, and community members in the towns and villages in or near the Polish Tatras who endured my presence, questions, cameras, microphones, and so forth. Thank you. My gratitude and debt extends to individuals in Górale diaspora communities, especially in Chicago and Toronto. I also wish to express sincere gratitude to my teachers, to my students, and to my family and friends who have contributed in material, intellectual, and unfathomable ways to this book. You know who you are; thank you.

My fascination with the people and music identified with the Polish Tatras began in Chicago, Illinois, when in 1989 I first met individuals who identified themselves as Górale or Tatra Mountain Highlanders. At the time I was working for the Illinois Arts Council as a folklorist and ethnomusicologist researching what that state agency called “ethnic and folk arts.” Meeting Poles in Chicago is not surprising—the windy city hosts a large population of Poles second only to Warsaw. What surprised me about the Polish Górale I met was their desire and ability to retain a distinct regional identity as Tatra mountaineers even when so far removed from their beloved mountains. One of the ways many Górale expressed their identity was through a vigorous music and dance quite distinct from any music that I was familiar with at the time. and yet the music resonated with another genre associated with mountains—American old-time stringband music with real and nostalgic links to the Appalachian Mountains. Górale violin styles featuring angular melodies that are pushed and pulled rhythmically within strongly articulated meters remind me of American old-time fiddle styles, a comparison first suggested by some of the Górale violinists I met in Chicago. Actively playing old-time music at the time on the banjo and guitar, perhaps I was aesthetically prepared to like Górale music, a music that seems either to attract or repulse listeners, leaving little room for ambivalence.

In Chicago the first Górale musicians I met included prymista . . .

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