chapter  2
22 Pages

Radio texture: between self and others

ByJo Tacchi

In 1967, Needham was struggling with the “problem” of where, in the categorical processes of anthropology, to place what he saw as the clear link between percussion and transition, i.e. the use of drumming or other percussive sounds in the ritual contexts of rites de passage. Trying out a few approaches, which included an attempt to define both percussion and transition in broad terms, he found it difficult to assimilate two apparently distinctive, yet conjunctive “primary, elementary, and fundamental features: 1) the affective impact of percussion, 2) the logical structure of category-change” (Needham 1967: 612). The problem was that empirically, he saw the connection, yet theoretically, they resided in “disparate modes of apprehension”; the emotional and the rational (ibid.). Needham was asking why the noise of percussion was so widely used to communicate with spiritual powers, with the “other world”. Needham found it difficult, in the face of a lack of analytical terms and ideas around sound within anthropology, not only to frame his problem, but also to analyze it in more depth.