vendeur ambulant à Naples

Avent -4 : Singing/Speaking. Yezidi and neapolitan cases

Il souffrait moins, mais il s’affaiblissait. Alangui tout au long du jour sur son lit, sur son divan, sur son rocking -chair, crayonnant sans fin au dos d’un bristol l’indistinct motif du tapis d’Aubusson, il divaguait parfois, pris d’hallucinations. (La disparitioin, Georges Perec, 1969, p. 9).

The very close relationship between speech and song makes it sometimes difficult to draw a clear dividing line between these two categories. Some utterances are considered liminal. We will give you two very different examples from the archives of the CREM and the MMSH.

This post was published / Ce billet est paru le 16 février 2015 sous cette URL / under this URL : /singingspeaking-yezidi-andneapolitan-cases et il a heureusement (une seule visite comptabilisée en mars) été archivé par un passage de la  Wayback-Machine  du 6 mars 2015 / It was hardvested on 6 march 2015 (only one visit this month)  :


The first case study conducted by Estelle Amy de la Bretèque presents a practice of melodised speech among the Yezidis in Armenia. Always associated with feelings of loss and self-sacrifice, melodized speech which the Yezidis call “words about” (kilamê ser) can be heard in ritual contexts (such as the funerals) but also in daily life conversations. It resembles a chant: an indefinite number of syllables and words are uttered on a limited range of notes. This monotonous or singsong intonation in speech is a liminal form between music and language and considered locally not as song, but as speech. Nonetheless, these utterances differ semantically from normal daily speech, poetically as well as in the specific treatment of pitch. The analysis of the formal and performative characteristics of the kilamê ser shows how this specific use of speech constructs a sonic space where emotions are shared. Beyond individual catharsis, melodised words transform absence into presence, and integrate death to the life of the community. Her archive can be heard on the CREM sound archives, TELEMETA

The research on the singing/speaking voice detection is in progress in the french national multidisciplinary project DIADEMS (Description, Indexation, Access to Sound and Ethnomusicological Documents 2013-2016). And the 23rd colloquium of the International Council for Traditional Music will be devoted to this specific topic: “Between Speech and Song: Liminal Utterances” It will take place in Nanterre University, on 20-22 May 2015. You are welcome!

Naples en 1950

The second example is chosen in Italy where Olivier Feraud conducted fieldwork in the Quartieri Spagnoli, a popular area of Naples between 2005 and 2008. He gives us a cross-analysis of “public voices” like merchants cries and domestic remote communications. Insisting on anthropological pertinence of observing and using sound as an ethnographic document, this study highlights connexions between ways of « living in », social relationships and sonic environments. Listen to the music of the calls to sell the fish in neapolitan, deposited on the MMSH sound Archives:

Crieuse de tombola, marchande ambulante à Naples en 2017

Enquête n°3210, enregistrée par Olivier Féraud à Naples, le 31 décembre 2007

Appel chanté aux tomates et aux tagliatelles d’un marchand ambulant à Naples en 2008 : Nguaghiatill’e’ tagliariell’, a’ dui sord o’ ruot !

Enquête n°3204, enregistrée par Olivier Féraud à Naples, 2008.

Informations complémentaires :

Olivier Féraud is laureat from art school of Nice Villa Arson (France). He studied  ethnomusicoly (Nanterre University), and holds a Phd in social anthropology (EHESS, Paris). He ‘s now ethnographer for AMTA (Riom, Auvergne), musician and medieval instruments maker.

Estelle Amy de la Bretèque is an anthropologist, ethnomusicologist and musician. She conducted field research in Azerbaijan, Turkey and Armenia. In 2014, she started to work as a post-doctoral research fellow at the CREM/LESC-CNRS for the ANR DIADEMS (Description, Indexation, Access to Sound and Ethnomusicological Documents), working on « singing/speaking » distinction. her site : 

Authors : Joséphine Simonnot, Aude da Cruz Lima, Véronique Ginouvès, Estelle Amy de la Bretèque, Olivier Feraud

Crédits photographiques : British Library digitised image from page 322 of “Usi e costumi di Napoli e contorni descritti e dipinti. Opera diretta da F. de Bourcard”, 1853. British Library’s catalogue: 000432394 (physical copy) and 014846936 (digitised copy) – Numbers are British Library identifiers, public domain. Photographie dans les années 1950 d’un marché napolitain, pas de photographe connu, pas de droits précisés.

Citer ce billet
Ceux qui passent à la phonothèque (2020, 21 décembre). Avent -4 : Singing/Speaking. Yezidi and neapolitan cases. Archives de la recherche & Phonothèque. Consulté le 25 février 2024, à l’adresse

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