1- Intersensorial Listening to Hula Ku‘i Songs: A Phenomenological Approach - Kati Szego, Memorial University of Newfoundland

10:30 AM, Saturday 25 May 2019 (2 hours)
Lunch   12:30 PM to 01:30 PM (1 hour)
This paper presents the results of a phenomenological study of Hawaiians’ listening practices carried out in the early 1990s. In that study, I asked young Hawaiians to listen to hula ku‘i songs and to monitor their consciousness during that process; they then wrote about what they experienced viscerally, emotionally, imaginatively. The turn toward the senses in anthropology has inspired debate on the relationship between the senses and suitable models for their investigation. Howes argues that experience of the five traditionally acknowledged sites of human perception are culturally shaped and differentiated; each sense is thus amenable to separate analysis. Alternatively, Ingold argues for human beings’ experience of sight/sound/touch/smell/ taste as a “unison” (2000); this interrelationship calls for holistic methods of inquiry. In this paper I pursue two objectives. First, I query the role that research participants’ writings can have in ethnomusicological practice. What can we learn when we invite people to inscribe their musical experience? Using the case of Hawai‘i—where the colonial legacy of literacy has served as a form of empowerment—I argue for alternative modes of accessing research participants’ subjectivities. Second, I offer a reading of young Hawaiians’ autorepresentational documents. They revealed hula ku‘i songs’ capacity for calling forth meanings that are embodied through perception and imagination, and that cross multiple modalities of sense experience. I characterize hula ku‘i songs as “kinetic songscapes” that capacitate listeners’ co-constitution of audition and kinesis. Kinetic songscapes are equipped with a set of gestural instructions that are realized by gendered Hawaiian bodies.
Memorial University of Newfoundland
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