Sonic ethnography

Identity, heritage and creative research practice in Basilicata, southern Italy

By Lorenzo Ferrarini and Nicola Scaldaferri

Sonic ethnography


  • Paperback

Book Information

  • Format: eBook
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-5199-5
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £0.01
  • Published Date: November 2020
  • BIC Category: Anthropology, TRAVEL / Europe / Italy, PHOTOGRAPHY / Photoessays & Documentaries, MUSIC / Ethnomusicology, SOCIAL SCIENCE / Anthropology / Cultural, Italy, The arts / Folk & traditional music, Society & social sciences / Social & cultural anthropology, ethnography, Society & social sciences / Anthropology
  • Series: Anthropology, Creative Practice and Ethnography


Sonic ethnography reveals how sound plays a central role in the performance of local identities in the southern Italian region of Basilicata. By exploring the soundscape of tree rituals, carnivals, pilgrimages, informal musical performances, and sound archives, the book focuses on the relational and experiential aspects of sound that momentarily bring together acoustic communities. It provides an innovative take on an area that has been studied by Italian and foreign scholars starting from the 1950s, in which these classic studies have become one of the forces at play in the local politics of heritage. Through a combination of text, colour photographs and sound recordings, Sonic ethnography makes a compelling argument for taking sound seriously as a crucial component of social life and as an ethnographic form of representation. With an afterword and a soundscape composition by Steven Feld.


1 When the trees resound: towards a sonic ethnography of the Maggio festival in Accettura
2 Soundmasks in resounding places: listening to the Campanaccio of San Mauro Forte
3 Sonic devotion and sonic control: struggles for power over a festival soundscape
4 Sounds and images of nostalgia: the revival of Lucanian wheat festivals
5 Voices across the ocean: recorded memories and diasporic identity in the archive of Giuseppe Chiaffitella
6 Doing research in sound: music-making as creative intervention
7 Photographing as an anthropologist: notes on developing a photo-ethnographic practice in Basilicata
Afterword by Steven Feld
Listening Guide

Audio tracks:
Soundscape composition - Accettura 2005 - Tuesday (17 May) by Steven Feld

1 The saint and the tree
2 Rhythms in the dark
3 "We came a long way."
4 Dancing with wheat
5 Memories from a loyal companion
6 A musical journey with my zampogna


Lorenzo Ferrarini is a Lecturer in Visual Anthropology at the University of Manchester

Nicola Scaldaferri is Associate Professor of Ethnomusicology at the University of Milan

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