Bookshelf Spotlight: Music in Southeast Asia

Featured Books

* Austronesian Soundscapes: Performing Arts in Oceania and Southeast Asia (AUP – IIAS Publications)
* Songs for the Spirits: Music and Mediums in Modern Vietnam
* Dangdut Stories: A Social and Musical History of Indonesia’s Most Popular Music
* Sounding the Center: History and Aesthetics in Thai Buddhist Performance (Chicago Studies in Ethnomusicology)
* The Burmese Harp: Its Classical Music, Tunings, & Modes (Northern Illinois University Monograph Series on Southeast Asia, No. 1)
* Healing Sounds from the Malaysian Rainforest: Temiar Music and Medicine (Comparative Studies of Health Systems and Medical Care, Vol 28)

Austronesian Soundscapes: Performing Arts in Oceania and Southeast Asia (AUP – IIAS Publications)

By Birgit Abels
Amsterdam University Press, 2011

In Austronesia-the region that stretches from Madagascar in the west to Easter Island in the east-music plays a vital role in both the construction and expression of social and cultural identities. Yet research into the music of Austronesia has hitherto been sparse. Drawing together contemporary cultural studies and musical analysis, Austronesian Soundscapes will fill this research gap, offering a comprehensive analysis of traditional and contemporary Austronesian music and, at the same time, investigating how music reflects the challenges that Austronesian cultures face in this age of globalization.
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Songs for the Spirits: Music and Mediums in Modern Vietnam

By Barley Norton
University of Illinois Press, 2009

Songs for the Spirits examines the Vietnamese practice of communing with spirits through music and performance. During rituals dedicated to a pantheon of indigenous spirits, musicians perform an elaborate sequence of songs–a “songscape”–for possessed mediums who carry out ritual actions, distribute blessed gifts to disciples, and dance to the music’s infectious rhythms. Condemned by French authorities in the colonial period and prohibited by the Vietnamese Communist Party in the late 1950s, mediumship practices have undergone a strong resurgence since the early 1990s, and they are now being drawn upon to promote national identity and cultural heritage through folklorized performances of rituals on the national and international stage.

By tracing the historical trajectory of traditional music and religion since the early twentieth century, this groundbreaking study offers an intriguing account of the political transformation and modernization of cultural practices over a period of dramatic and often turbulent transition. An accompanying DVD contains numerous video and music extracts that illustrate the fascinating ways in which music evokes the embodied presence of spirits and their gender and ethnic identities.
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Dangdut Stories: A Social and Musical History of Indonesia’s Most Popular Music

By Andrew Weintraub
Oxford University Press, 2010

A keen critic of culture in modern Indonesia, Andrew N. Weintraub shows how a genre of Indonesian music called dangdut evolved from a denigrated form of urban popular music to a prominent role in Indonesian cultural politics and the commercial music industry. Dangdut–named onomatopoetically for the music’s characteristic drum sounds “dang” and “dut”–is Indonesia’s most popular music, heard in streets and homes, public parks and narrow alleyways, stores and restaurants, and all forms of public transportation. Despite dangdut’s tremendous popularity in Indonesia and other parts of Asia, it has seldom received the serious critical attention it deserves. Dangdut Stories is a social and musical history of dangdut within a range of broader narratives about class, gender, ethnicity, and nation in post-independence Indonesia (1945-present). Quoted material from interviews, detailed analysis of music and song texts, and ethnography of performance illuminate the stylistic nature of the music and its centrality in public debates about Islam, social class relations, and the role of women in postcolonial Indonesia. Dangdut Stories is the first musicological study to examine the stylistic development of dangdut music itself, using vocal style, melody, rhythm, form, and song texts to articulate symbolic struggles over meaning. Throughout the book the voices and experiences of musicians take center stage in shaping the book’s narrative. Dangdut was first developed during the early 1970s, and an historical treatment of the genre’s musical style, performance practice, and social meanings is long overdue.
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Sounding the Center: History and Aesthetics in Thai Buddhist Performance (Chicago Studies in Ethnomusicology)

By Deborah Wong
University Of Chicago Press, 2001

Sounding the Center is an in-depth look at the power behind classical music and dance in Bangkok, the capital and sacred center of Buddhist Thailand. Focusing on the ritual honoring teachers of music and dance, Deborah Wong reveals a complex network of connections among kings, teachers, knowledge, and performance that underlies the classical court arts.

Drawing on her extensive fieldwork, Wong lays out the ritual in detail: the way it is enacted, the foods and objects involved, and the people who perform it, emphasizing the way the performers themselves discuss and construct aspects of the ceremony.
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The Burmese Harp: Its Classical Music, Tunings & Modes (Northern Illinois University Monograph Series on Southeast Asia, No. 1)

By Muriel C. Williamson
Northern Illinois University – Southeast Asia Publications, 2000

The arched harp, traditionally the most prized instrument of the Burmese royal court, may be the only harp tradition still alive today in Burma (Myanmar). Williamson, the leading Western authority on the Burmese harp and its music, explores the history of the instrument and the connection of its music to the harp’s oral teaching tradition.
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Healing Sounds from the Malaysian Rainforest: Temiar Music and Medicine (Comparative Studies of Health Systems and Medical Care, Vol 28)

By Marina Roseman
University of California Press, 1993

Music and dance play a central role in the “healing arts” of the Senoi Temiar, a group of hunters and horticulturalists dwelling in the rainforest of peninsular Malaysia. As musicologist and anthropologist, Marina Roseman recorded and transcribed Temiar rituals, while as a member of the community she became a participant and even a patient during the course of her two-year stay. She shows how the sounds and gestures of music and dance acquire a potency that can transform thoughts, emotions, and bodies.
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