7.Dancing the Landscape: Music, Place, Collective Memory, and Identity in a Highland Bolivia Pilgrimage
Thomas Solomon [+]
University of Bergen
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.