What might we make of Rahic’s recent work in which he dances across the canvas to apply paint, but refuses to produce images or representations of Pangcah dance or dancers?
First, we might think of Rahic’s work as showing us ways that we can talk about musical practices in contexts in which these practices are absent or, alternately, as demonstrating a way around systems of representing musics in academic contexts. How could we develop new ways of interacting with musics once our usual means–transcribing, identifying structural or formal elements of music or physical gesture, engaging in comparison–are not allowed, when music might resound but is not heard? In cases in which we might not be able to listen but have only traces of musical practices? In cases where we might be able to participate but not engage in representation?
In terms of semiotic processes, Rahic’s work concerns indices—traces, co-presences, and participation—rather than producing and circulating iconic features of Indigenous dance or dancing Indigenous bodies. In a sense, the rejection of iconicity challenges ethnomusicology, which like its neighboring discipline, anthropology, often employs iconicity as a means of interpretation in which cultural forms are placed within categories of similarity and difference.
Here one might think of an ongoing shift in ethnographic work toward descriptions of our positionality, of affect and transduction. These kinds of work build from an awareness that our listening derives from habits and stances that are socially conditioned within structures of power and knowledge; alternately, they focus on the ways that shifts from one medium to another are also shifts in scale and possible modes of listening.
But I think that there is more going on here.
I would like to suggest that Rahic’s use of malikoda as method presents an even greater challenge for ethnomusicologists to reflect on how our engagement with musics might develop greater responsiveness, not just to the ways that Indigenous aesthetics first require us to admit that we might not know what we are listening to, but also to rethink what constitutes responsible participation. I look forward to discussing this question with those who attend the ICTM meeting at Donghwa this coming month–but also with more of you here on this blog or elsewhere.