Smithsonian Latino Center

Robin Morey Picks Apart California’s Cultural Soundscape

Robin Morey
Robin Morey

Hi everyone, thanks for checking in on my #lmsptakeover! My name is Robin, and I’m currently working on my Master’s degree in anthropology at Columbia University in New York City. For my LMSP practicum, I have been working at the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage (CFCH). I am working with curator Sojin Kim on Sounds of California: Music and Migration, a CFCH project in collaboration with the Alliance for California Traditional Arts and Radio Bilingüe. This project was based off the work of ethnomusicologist Sidney Robertson Cowell who travelled through California in the late 1930’s recording the music of various ethnic groups that had settled in the state. Our Sounds of California project hopes to capture a similar sonic snapshot of California today.

Sounds of California was also a program at this year’s Folklife Festival, which featured a wide range of narrative sessions, workshops, and performances by artists from across the state. So far during my practicum, I’ve been reviewing audio and video documentation from the Festival to create short media pieces that make Festival presentations more accessible. I’ve mostly been working with materials from Ray Guzmán, AKA MixteKo, an artist based in the San Joaquin Valley. Ray Guzmán is a dancer in Grupo Nuu Yuku, a dance troupe that performed the traditional Danza de los Diablos de San Miguel Cuevas at the Festival. Outside of the group, Ray is also a rapper, rhyming trilingually in English, Spanish, and Mixteco to bring awareness to issues concerning his community (check him out on SoundCloud: MixteKo!). At CFCH we’re in the process of creating a short video about Ray’s community engagement, and how he bridges the divide between traditional and contemporary music.

Ray Guzmán resting after Danza de los Diablos (Prayoon Charoennun)

In my academic career, I’ve done a lot research on music, but I’ve had very little experience actually working with audio and video media, and putting together Ray’s video has been much more work than I would have ever imagined. I started by listening through all of the recordings of his performances and narrative sessions and making transcriptions. From here, we had to decide which sections to include in our video and begin the editing process. We then add the finishing touches, like adding subtitles, overlaying music tracks, and adding special effects. After so much work, it’s very rewarding to see a finish product. I definitely learned a lot from the CFCH video team (thanks Lexi!).

Learning how to edit with video intern Lexi
Putting together an audio blog with music clips (Maya Potter)

Aside from Ray’s video, I also worked on sound and video blogs for other Sounds of California performers like Latin Jazz percussionist John Santos and Afro-Cuban sacred music singer, Bobi Céspedes. Look for my video and sound clips on the Smithsonian Folklife Festival Facebook page and the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage website! Thanks for joining me for my #LMSP2016takeover!

Follow the #LMSP2016 Fellows via instagram @smithsonian_lmsp @slc_latino, the Smithsonian Latino Center Facebook page or via twitter @SLC_Latino