Paper short abstract:
In communities where animals are also sometimes persons, how might we understand how people come to know animals through song? This paper asks how analyses of singing as epistemic practice can be extended to non-human persons, and how this contributes to conventional academic dialogues.
Paper long abstract:
Among the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in First Nations of Yukon, Canada, singing to animals is a common occurrence. This paper will examine how such musical practices at the human-animal interface can be considered ways of knowing animals, and further, of coming to know them as partners, friends, and even family. Conventional ethnomusicological and anthropological research has explored song as a means of forging, maintaining, and negotiating social relationships amongst human beings, and as a way of knowing each other. In contexts where animals are also sometimes persons, where they are sentient, intentional, emotional beings, how might we understand how Indigenous hunters/fishers and performers come to know animals through the practice of singing? In exploring this question, I will draw from 12 months of ethnographic fieldwork with the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in exploring the role of music in human-animal relationships in the context of both expressive culture and land and water-based subsistence practices. This research analyses singing as a practice of knowing animals as persons in its use as a means of calling in, expressing emotion, and giving thanks to animals. This paper will aim to demonstrate how an analysis of singing as epistemic practice can be extended to non-human persons, and how such an analysis contributes to conventional anthropological and ethnomusicological dialogues.
Knowing by singing: song, acoustic ecologies and the overflow of meaning