Music and (post)colonialism : the dialectics of choral culture on a South African frontier
KeywordsChoral music -- South Africa -- History
Blacks -- South Africa -- Music -- History and criticism
Bokwe, John Knox, 1855-1922
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AbstractThis thesis explores the genesis of black choralism in late-nineteenth-century colonial South Africa, attending specifically to its dialectic with metropolitan Victorian choralism. In two introductory historiographic chapters I outline the political-narrative strategies by which both Victorian and black South African choralism have been elided from music histories. Part 1 gives an account of the "structures" within and through which choralism functioned as a practice of colonisation, as "internal colonialism" in Britain and evangelical colonialism in the eastern Cape Colony. In chapter 1 I suggest that the religious contexts within which choralism operated, including the music theoretical construction of the tonic sol-fa notation and method as "natural", and the "scientific" musicalisation of race, constituted conditions for the foreign mission's embrace of choralism. The second chapter explores further such affinities, tracing sol-fa choralism's institutional affiliations with nineteenth-century "reform" movements, and suggesting that sol-fa's practices worked in fulfilment of core reformist concerns such as "industry" and literacy. Throughout, the thesis explores how the categories of class and race functioned interchangeably in the colonial imagination. Chapter 3 charts this relationship in the terrain of music education; notations, for instance, which were classed in Britain, became racialised in colonial South Africa. In particular I show that black music education operated within colonial racial discourses. Chapter 4 is a reading of Victorian choralism as a "discipline", interpreting choral performance practice and choral music itself as disciplinary acts which complemented the political contexts in which choralism operated. Part 1, in short, explores how popular choralism operated within and as dominant politicking. In part 2 I turn to the black reception of Victorian choralism in composition and performance. The fifth chapter examines the compositional discourse of early black choral music, focussing on the work of John Knox Bokwe (1855-1922). Through a detailed account of several of Bokwe's works and their metropolitan sources, particularly late-nineteenth century gospel hymnody, I show that Bokwe's compositional practice enacted a politics that became anticolonial, and that early black choral music became "black" in its reception. I conclude that ethno/musicological claims that early black choral music contains "African" musical content conflate "race" and culture under a double imperative: in the names of a decolonising politics and a postcolonial epistemology in which hybridity as resistance is racialised. The final chapter explores how "the voice" was crucial to identity politics in the Victorian world, an object that was classed and racialised. Proceeding from the black reception of choral voice training, I attempt to outline the beginnings of a social history of the black choral voice, as well as analyse the sonic content of that voice through an approach I call a "phonetics of timbre".