Collections > Electronic Theses and Dissertations > A Fickle Soundscape: The Fisherman’s Feast in Boston’s North End

The sounds the Italian-American community in Boston uses to celebrate the Fisherman’s Feast enact one of the most impressive spatial transformations. In this thesis, I present the results of my field research I conducted between 15 and 21 August 2016 in Boston’s North End during the annual religious feast worshiping the Madonna del Soccorso (Our Lady of Help), which dates back to a sixteenth-century tradition from Sciacca, Italy. I contextualize this southern Italian cultural practice within new geographies, focusing on the symbolic transformations occurred and the role of sounds, musical included, in defining cultural hybridizations and new places of cultural identity related to the country of origin. I classify these sounds into nine specific categories based on their function or on their nature: sounds of transition; sounds from the Renaissance era; sounds from the Italian opera; sounds from the Neapolitan tradition and 1950s-60s Italian pop music; sounds tied to the Italian military and fascist tradition; sacred sounds; sounds of motor coordination; sounds from 1950s American pop music. My central question is: “How does this community select its sounds?” I argue that feast’s participants strategically concern themselves with survival, adaptation, and domestication of space, as well as creating an alternative space to overlap onto the everyday space of the North End. A space of negotiation, contact, and interface that pertains to mythic village of origin, in Sicily, and the North End, which still today is perceived as a “new” space, even after 106 years.