The Sound of Semana Santa: The Meaning of Music for the Religious Experience of Participants of the Processions during Semana Santa in Antigua, Guatemala
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"The subject of this fieldwork-based anthropological research is the meaning of music (marchas fúnebres) for the religious experience of participants (cucuruchos) in the processions during Cuaresma and Semana Santa (holy week) in Antigua, Guatemala. Semana Santa commemorates the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is preceded by Cuaresma, a period of forty days meant for change, ayuno (abstention) and reflection. The tradition of Cuaresma and Semana Santa in Antigua is characterized by many practices connected to all events that take place during this time: Miercoles de Ceniza, via crucis, child activities, velaciones, services, concerts, the acto de Traslado y Unición, and, most importantly, the twelve to nineteen hours processions which concern the main expression of Cuaresma and Semana Santa. During this time the carrying in the elaborate processions therefore is the central practice of the devote Antigüeños. A procession consists of carrying the icons of Jesus and Mary on large, wooden, decorated platforms (the andas) through the streets of Antigua. Participating men carry the icon of Jesus, participating women carry Mary. On each street corner the carriers are alternated with new cucuruchos. The meaning of the processions in Semana Santa coincide with the day and meaning in the story of the Pasion and the devotional essence of a procession concerns an acercamiento, a coming closer, to God. The processions comprise many material aspects, such as the processional parts and the sensorial elements: the Bible-referring, evangelizing, decorated andas with the icon of Jesus or Mary; the instruments of the tsijolaj (flute) and tambor (drum) which symbolize the beginning of the procession; men dressed as Roman soldiers; the pasos, images that depict passages of the way of the cross of Jesus Christ; the people who incense with the incienso, waving an iron instrument back and forth, hereby dispersing the scented smoke; the filas consisting of the cucuruchos dressed in their purple or black-white tunics who accompany the procession and walk in rows on both sides of the street; the adorno, the decoration of the anda; the alfombras, colorful carpets made of sawdust, flowers and vegetables, covering the processional streets as an offering for the icon that will pass over; and the banda, the marching band that accompanies the procession by playing marchas fúnebres. The meaning of the marchas fúnebres for the religious experience of the cucuruchos places material culture and experiencial aspects at the center of religion. The practices form the experiences of the cucuruchos, experiences influenced by the above described material culture of the processions. Participation in the processions results in emotional and religious experience, and the centrality of materiality, practices and experience therefore defines the tradition of Cuaresma and Semana Santa as an expression of lived and material religion. The music constitutes a fundamental component within the lived and material tradition of Cuaresma and Semana Santa. As one of the material-sensorial aspects, it addresses the senses and mediates religious lived experience. This musical effect exists by various characteristics of the marchas fúnebres: the specific style, the religious meaning and the capability of evoking emotions. Firstly, the style is characterized by minor scales, the cuadratura (the counting in four), a solemn rhythm and a mournful, heavy, melancholic sound. The marchas are played by percussion and wind instruments: the timpani, bombos, redoblante, platos, lira, piccolo, clarinets, trumpets, euphoniums, trombones and sousaphones. Secondly, the marchas have an important meaning in the lives of the Antigüeños. The music is associated with the religious time of Cuaresma and Semana Santa and the meaning of música sacra is of a religious nature because marchas are connected to life passages of Jesus Christ and dedicated to icons or religious experiences. Thirdly, the style of the music and its religious meaning are connected to the practice of carrying, which results in the evocation and strengthening of emotions. The ability of the marchas to move the cucuruchos emotionally is based on an extra-musical reference to memories. Every cucurucho has his/her favorite marcha, which can be related to official marchas of churches and to memories of past experiences of Semana Santa, often connected to family members. Many cucuruchos have been cucuruchos almost their whole life, by having been raised with the tradition. The marcha played by the banda for the cucurucho carrying in the street of his turno (turn) evokes personal and family memories, which lead to strong emotions. This combination of memories, emotions and music forms part of the religious experience. The experience of cucuruchos is characterized by various elements. The reason of participation is based on devotion, conviction and identification with the procession and icon, with the central purpose of penitence. The experience, although physically challenging, is considered as beautiful, because the experience is defined as a religious experience. On the moment of carrying a communication with God is established and in this devotional feeling and moment, while carrying the anda as if it were the cross of Jesus, confessions, prayers, gratitude and penitence are expressed. Within the experience of cucuruchos, the music plays several roles aimed at several effects. The marchas provide the solemn character of a procession, with the optical effect of Jesus walking with the cross and a facilitation of advancement for the cucuruchos. Moreover, the music supports the evangelizing message and transmits, evokes and strengthens emotions, which causes spiritual states of mind (reflection, identification, inspiration, contemplation) in the cucuruchos. Ultimately, the music is a spiritual guidance which moves the cucuruchos closer inside the participation of the religious activity. The marchas strengthen the religious experience through the acercamiento towards the communication with God. This acercamiento functions by the process of aesthetic mediation. The marchas fúnebres, as one of the fundamental material-sensorial elements and processional parts address the senses of the cucuruchos on the moment of carrying, thereby mediating and intensifying divine communication. In this process a mix of profound emotions and feelings is aroused. While the nature of emotions depends on life situations, many cucuruchos feel peace, love, tranquility, serenity, inspiration, gratefulness, satisfaction, devotion and most importantly alegría (joy/happiness). In conclusion: as one of the sensorial elements and processional parts, the music concerns the material culture that by the engagement of the senses mediates emotions and lived religious experience."