Joseph Antonia Emidy: Encounters, not Silhouettes

Joncus, Berta. 2018. 'Joseph Antonia Emidy: Encounters, not Silhouettes'. In: American Musicological Society Eighty-fourth Annual Meeting. San Antonio, TX, United States 1 - 4 November 2018. [Conference or Workshop Item]

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Abstract or Description

Unsettling Accounts: Slave Histories, Transatlantic Musical Culture, and Research through Practice

This panel explores ways that new compositions and arrangements can make lost music part of our historical imagination. The participants look at two types of music identified with enslaved people: the lost works of the African, Joseph Antonia Emidy (1770-1835) and the Portuguese modinha (c.1780-1820). Performances by Tunde Jugede and Žak Ozmo, along with positon papers and discussion, will illuminate a transatlantic music witnessed above all in artefacts, traditions and accounts. The panellists propose two solutions for bringing such repertories out of the shadows: writing or arranging music to narrate history, and explaining how this music illuminates sources that inspired it.

Emidy’s music and Portuguese modinhas lie between orality and archives. The Guinean Emidy shared the fate of millions of west Africans: he was captured as a child in Africa, sold to Portuguese traders and transported, in his case to Brazil. But unlike most slaves, Emidy then travelled to Europe and became a professional violinist in Lisbon. His musical excellence led to his second enslavement, from 1790, when the English frigate captain Sir Edward Pellew, seeing a black man in the opera band, ordered Emidy’s kidnapping and impressment as the ship’s fiddler. In 1795 Emidy was freed in Cornwall, where he became a locally renowned composer. No notation survives; we know of Emidy’s output only through British notices after 1795. Unlike Emidy’s works, modinhas survive as scores. Possibly invented by the Brazilian mixed-race poet Domingos Caldas Barbosa (1740–1800), the genre came to be cultivated by several Portuguese composers. But scores don’t capture how modinhas might have been executed, according to apposite evidence. Combining Brazilian, West African and art song traditions, modinhas require the integration of all three for their reinvention.

Transatlantic music-making bound together three continents that its creators moved between. The panel presentation is structured to ‘sound’ this lost music – that is, explore its depths and properties – through performance and scholarly debate. The panel opens with ten minutes of Jugede’s music, created as part of his research into Emidy. Two position papers then follow. The first presenter, Jugede, introduces audiences to Emidy’s extraordinary journey and explains how Jugede and his collaborators interpret Emidy’s legacy by combining creative practice with primary source reports. For Jugede, recording becomes a means to extend oral traditions and to bring Emidy’s music back into a transatlantic cycle. In the second position paper, Berta Joncus identifies clashes in reports about Emidy’s music during and after his lifetime, linking these contradictions to contemporary biases, and proposing ways to reconsider Emidy’s impact. The discussion is then thrown open to the floor for 15 minutes: what is the potential for using 21st-century music to tell music history? Ozmo will then, over twenty minutes, perform a selection of modinhas, interlacing these songs with explanations of his archival sources and their shortcomings, and clarifying the modinha’s impact outside Portugal. A concluding debate, chaired by Naomi André and with input from Michael Veal, will summarize findings and encourage audience feedback on new ways to conceptualize transatlantic musical culture.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)

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2 November 2018Completed

Event Location:

San Antonio, TX, United States

Date range:

1 - 4 November 2018

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Date Deposited:

22 Mar 2024 17:28

Last Modified:

23 Mar 2024 00:13


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