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Memory Eternal: Liturgy and History in the Medieval Mediterranean

a talk by Sean Griffin, Junior Fellow

Wednesday, October 18, 5:15 pm
Haldeman 125

In the early middle ages, the Byzantine Empire possessed a technology of immense political value. It offered protection from invasion and inspired wonder and admiration among foreigners. Highly trained specialists, sequestered in secluded compounds, oversaw its execution and made vows never to speak of its secrets to the enemy. The technology was widely believed to be an invincible weapon and the Romans often turned to it in times of war. Those who beheld it in action marveled at the beauty, but feared they might be 'consumed like wax or grass.' Contemporaries were in awe of this 'fire that burned the unworthy,' but it was not the famous 'Greek fire,' nor were the specialists who guarded it soldiers. The experts were priests and monks, and the political technology they safeguarded was the divine liturgy of the Byzantine church.

Consider the list of items that were typically imported into newly converted lands along the empire's western and northern peripheries: churches, monasteries, a professional clergy, church books, icons, relics. Precisely the things required for performing the liturgy. The princes in Rus, Monrovia, Bulgaria, and Serbia spent vast sums to install a very real, very material imperial Roman technology throughout their realm. But what, exactly, was the purpose of this technology? What did the rites actually do that made these rulers willing to invest and keep investing in them? Were they strictly a means of communicating with God and the saints, via the intercessions of the clergy? Or was something else, far more mundane and subversive, also taking place when early medieval men and women attended the divine services?


Constellation of Sounds | ConstelaciĆ³n de Sonidos
Songs and Stories from the Migrant Songbook

Saturday, October 21, 7:00 pm
House Center B (The Cube)

Join acclaimed East Los Angeles-Veracruz son jarocho ensemble Cambalache, author and MacArthur Fellow Josh Kun, and Dartmouth Professor of Music William Cheng, for a special night of songs, stories, and musical scholarship. Based on Camblache's songs about immigration, gentrification, and memory and Kun's research and writing on music and immigration, this collaborative hybrid performance has been assembled especially for this one of a kind evening.

Cambalache (from a Spanish word that means exchange), is a group of musicians from East LA., who play son jarocho music from Veracruz, Mexico, popular on the Gulf Coast, a cultural region shaped by indigenous, African, and Spanish culture. Cambalache promotes traditional Son Jarocho music that draws the audience in to participate in their performances in the spirit of the fandango, a traditional celebration based on music and dance. Cambalache was founded in 2007 and is led by Cesar Castro (Master Luthier Sonero and Jarocho from Veracruz, Mexico).

Josh Kun is an author and editor of several books about music, Los Angeles, and the US-Mexico border, most recently The Tide Was Always High: The Music of Latin America in Los Angeles (UC Press, 2017). He is Professor in the Annenberg School of Communication and the Department of American Studies and Ethnicity at USC and is the winner of a 2006 American Book Award and 2017 Berlin Prize. He is a 2016 MacArthur Fellow.

William Cheng is Assistant Professor of Music at Dartmouth College and formerly a Junior Fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows. He is the author of Just Vibrations (U Michigan Press, 2016) and Sound Play: Video Games and the Musical Imagination (Oxford UP, 2014), and coeditor of the new Music & Social Justice series via U Michigan Press.

     * sponsored by the Society of Fellows





Last Updated: 10/11/17