7. Dancing the Landscape: Music, Place, Collective Memory in a Highland Bolivia Pilgrimage

Cultural Mapping and Musical Diversity - Britta Sweers

Thomas Solomon [+-]
University of Bergen
Thomas Solomon, Ph.D., is Professor in the Grieg Academy-Department of Music at the University of Bergen, Norway. He has previously taught ethnomusicology and popular music studies at New York University, University of Minnesota, and Istanbul Technical University. He has carried out ethnographic research on music, place, and indigeneity in highland Bolivia, and on place and identity in Turkish rap music and hip-hop youth culture in Istanbul. His publications include articles in the journals Ethnomusicology, Popular Music, European Journal of Cultural Studies, and Yearbook for Traditional Music, as well as numerous chapters in edited volumes.


Drawing on data from fieldwork in highland Bolivia, this chapter explores how music may mediate between human society and the physical landscape. Every year during the celebration of the Feast of the Holy True Cross on May 3, indigenous people living in rural communities surrounding the colonial-era town of Chayanta in the Bolivian Andes perform a pilgrimage to the town. During the pilgrimage the men of the communities play continuously on panpipes. The music of the panpipes enables movement, in the form of dance, through the culturally defined landscape of the pilgrimage route. Specific places along the pilgrimage route, each having distinct geographical features, are also marked as sacred spots through the performance of a distinct repertoire of tunes performed only at those places, defining them as nodes in a large-scale sacred landscape saturated with meaning. Musical performance during the pilgrimage thus enables coordinated sociality in and across culturally defined landscapes, inscribing group identity on the physical features of the land. The chapter argues that music can be understood as a mediator that gives human agency a physical, sensuous form – sound waves traveling through air, land, and people’s bodies – embodying ideas about the relationship between natural geography and social identity.

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Solomon, Tom. 7. Dancing the Landscape: Music, Place, Collective Memory in a Highland Bolivia Pilgrimage. Cultural Mapping and Musical Diversity. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. Mar 2020. ISBN 9781781797594. https://www.equinoxpub.com/home/view-chapter/?id=35830. Date accessed: 21 Nov 2019 doi: 10.1558/equinox.35830. Mar 2020

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