Adriana Helbig teaches two Pitt courses on music made in prison

By | November 17, 2022

Nelson Mandela as soon as mentioned, “Nobody actually is aware of a nation till he has been inside its prisons.” And, Adriana Helbig may add, till they hear the music that comes from these prisons.

Helbig is chair of the music division on the College of Pittsburgh and teaches two programs that look at music made by prisoners throughout the US, all over the world, and right here in western Pennsylvania.

Jail Sounds analyzes the connection between sound and incarceration. Artistic ethnomusicology research musical genres from sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, Mexico, Jap Europe and the Caribbean and takes place in a singular setting – a classroom with 12 undergraduate college students from Pitt and 12 males incarcerated at Fayette State Correctional Facility in La Belle, 50 miles south of Pittsburgh.

The programs are a part of Pitt Jail Training Challenge, an interdisciplinary community of Pitt school that teaches courses at Fayette, Laurel Highlands, and Somerset state prisons. Modeled on the worldwide Inside-Out programThe Pitt Challenge brings incarcerated college students and Pitt college students collectively for engaged and knowledgeable dialogue.

Helbig earned a Ph.D. from Columbia College in ethnomusicology, an instructional subject that research music in its social, historic, and cultural contexts. Ethnomusicology not solely describes the structural parts of music, however delves into how music is utilized in society and what it means to those that play and listen to it.

Since becoming a member of Pitt’s Faculty of Music in 2008, Helbig’s analysis and educating has included world music, international hip-hop, music and incapacity, Roma music, and other people research. minorities and migration. An avid piano and accordion participant, she has additionally carried out scholar ensembles of Carpathian music and American Bluegrass. His first e book,Hip Hop Ukraine: Music, Race and African Migrationexplored how hip hop turned a serious car for social change in Jap Europe. She co-edited “Hip Hop on the Fringe of Europe: Music, Company and Social Change” with Milosz Miszczyński and his “ReSounding Poverty: Romani Music and Growth Support” is due out on Oxford College Press in 2023.

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Adriana Helbig.

NEXTpittsburgh: Many readers could not understand how a lot American roots music is related to prisons or outlaw themes.

Adriana Helbig: 1000’s of blues, shouts, and work songs have been collected within the Thirties and Forties from inmates of Southern prisons like Parchman Farm and Angola State Jail. There have been a long time of people ballads about outlaws, from Jesse James and Billy the Child to Woody Guthrie’s “Fairly Boy Floyd.” It is nonetheless an incredible custom of songwriting in Mexico with narcocorridos composed about modern drug lords. Actually, it’s in all international locations and always. Now we have music created by inmates in Soviet gulags and Nazi dying camps. Consider nearly any basic opera you have heard. Most have a jail scene, the place the hero or heroine sings a serious tune, a tune reflecting on how they received right here.

NEXTpittsburgh: I keep in mind the album “Johnny Money at Folsom Jail”.

Helbig: And “BB King, lives within the Cook dinner County Jail;” “Jerry Garcia and John Kahn, reside at Oregon State Penitentiary;” “Black Uhuru Stay at Soledad Jail;” “The Intercourse Pistols, Stay at Chelmsford Prime Safety Jail” and plenty of extra which have been launched on main file labels and reached huge audiences. Within the Jail Sounds course, we determine the precise roles music performs in jail and the way music serves as testomony, protest, reminiscence and launch.

NEXTpittsburgh: So, “jail sounds” embody extra than simply songs?

Helbig: One of many first stuff you discover in a correctional setting is the sound. Prisoners orient their day by sound…footsteps, touches, voices, alarms…sounds that hint a routine or its disruption. College students make in-depth research of this setting. And the way folks on this setting discover their peace by means of music.

NEXTpittsburgh: How did you provide you with the thought of ​​including these classes to the Pitt music program?

Helbig: In the course of the preliminary section of the Covid-19 pandemic, I used to be unable to journey overseas to conduct ethnographic analysis. I took a part-time place as a Lyft driver in Pittsburgh to develop my strategies of working within the subject. I liked doing that, it was so revealing. I acquired a number of common riders who had incarcerated relations and buddies. We had conversations concerning the jail and the tradition there. I noticed that there might be a category on a type of modern music that touches on social justice, poverty and entry to training.

NEXTpittsburgh: You have been educated as a classical pianist. When did your musical orientation shift from efficiency to analysis?

Helbig: After finishing my undergraduate levels in Music and German at Drew College, I studied piano on the Vienna Conservatory in Austria. I seen road musicians enjoying on the entrance and was intrigued. They have been Roma musicians who had come to Vienna to flee the Balkan wars of the Nineties. I made a decision that I now not simply wished to play Beethoven. I wished to review the music of our time and its influence on our society. And that is the essence of ethnomusicology.

NEXTpittsburgh: Fairly a drastic change!

Helbig: Actually, it had been creating for a very long time. I grew up in New Jersey, however my grandparents have been political refugees from western Ukraine. My mom ran a journey company that helped Ukrainians in North America discover relations within the Soviet Union and Ukraine. Numerous the music I performed as a child was written in focus camps and jail camps – heavy, heavy stuff. My piano trainer’s husband had been in a WWII camp, and she or he taught me repertoire that had been banned by the Soviets and Nazis.

As I received older I noticed what these songs stood for and that I had been raised with individuals who had gone by means of great trauma and nonetheless expressed that of their music. It turned a kind of religious journey for me.

NEXTpittsburgh: Because the Russian invasion of Ukraine earlier this yr, you may have been producing youtube movies concerning the music that Ukrainians made throughout this era.

Helbig: In Ukraine, music is resistance; it’s used to get by means of the following issue. I’ve shared tales of musicians I do know, translating for the media to assist them perceive what Ukrainian music means in instances of battle.

Music at all times has a objective, it is leisure, certain, however it’s a launch from one thing else.

There’s a very highly effective musical story that you could have heard of. When the Ukrainian fighters have been trapped for 3 months within the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol, considered one of their fight medics was a younger lady, Kateryna Polishchuk. She sang every day to maintain her spirits up and recorded movies that have been shared on social media all over the world. They nicknamed her “Ptashka”, the Songbird of Mariupol. She has simply been launched within the latest prisoner trade and is again in Ukraine.

NEXTpittsburgh: Why would you advocate somebody take a course in ethnomusicology, even when they weren’t majoring in music?

Helbig: I’ve by no means met a scholar who doesn’t like music, no matter his tutorial subject, no matter whether or not he performs music himself. Right this moment’s know-how provides us entry to music from everywhere in the world which helps us study different cultures.

If you wish to take the following step and ask your self the place does this music come from and what does it imply, ethnomusicology does. It provides a voice to those that are silenced, girls, minorities, incarcerated. A musician with only one phrase can do lots to attach with everybody. Ethnomusicology helps us uncover how and why.