Encoding song: faithful defiance in Mexican Mennonite music making

Klassen, Judith Marie (2008) Encoding song: faithful defiance in Mexican Mennonite music making. Doctoral (PhD) thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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Abstract

Between 1922 and 1926, over 7,000 Old Colony Mennonites left Canada to settle in northern Mexico. In addition to prioritizing religious education, rejecting "technology," and maintaining Low and High German as their vernacular and worship languages, respectively, this pacifist religious group practiced nonconformity by proscribing particular forms of song practice. This meant the singing of lange Wies ("long way" or "long melody") in worship, and the forbidding of musical instruments in public and domestic spheres. While musical prohibitions have lessened in recent years, instrument use, genre choices, and performance styles remain contentious. -- The Mennonite colonies in northern Mexico are currently comprised of Old Colony, Kleine Gemeinde, and Evangelical churches. Despite their shared Anabaptist heritage, diverse - and sometimes conflicting - understandings of what it means to “be Mennonite” among these churches have meant that for Old Colonists, “worldly” influences have not only come from beyond their communities, but from within the Mennonite colonies themselves. -- This dissertation is grounded in research conducted in Mexico in 2006, and explores how analyses of song repertoire, performance style, social interaction, and the assigning of musical meaning might inform understandings of Mennonite faith communities. Narratives of covert musicking in conserving domestic spaces, defiant song practices among Old Colony youth in the more public Singstunde (“singing hour”), and careful musical decisions made by evangelical Mennonites in their efforts to “share the gospel” with conserving Mennonite neighbours, demonstrate that essentialist depictions of Mexican Mennonites, emphasizing conservative values and resistance to change, frequently cloud efforts to the contrary from within Mennonite colonies themselves. -- Building on past research that has emphasized the didactic function of song among non-conformist religious communities, and engaging diasporic theory to emphasize the agency of conserving Mennonites within these communities, this study demonstrates that devout belief and defiant song practice are not mutually exclusive. Further, by examining the overlapping roles of church community and family in the performance of faith, it expands models for religious experience that rely on individual-collective dialectics. Finally, by engaging ethnography in relation to Mennonite song practice and belief, this study complicates the easy polarization of evangelical and conserving faith experience.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral (PhD))
URI: http://research.library.mun.ca/id/eprint/9142
Item ID: 9142
Additional Information: Includes bibliographical references (leaves 340-353)
Department(s): Music, School of
Date: 2008
Date Type: Submission
Geographic Location: Mexico, North
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Mennonites--Mexico, North--Songs and music; Mennonites--Mexico, North--Religious life and customs

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