Bookshelf Spotlight: Folksongs, Tradition, & Memory

Featured Books

* Calling Back the Spirit: Music, Dance, and Cultural Politics in Lowland South Sulawesi
* Colonial Counterpoint: Music in Early Modern Manila
* I Will Send My Song: Kammu Vocal Genres in the Singing of Kam Raw
* Songs for the Spirits: Music and Mediums in Modern Vietnam
* Thai Classical Singing: Its History, Musical Characteristics, and Transmission

Calling Back the Spirit: Music, Dance, and Cultural Politics in Lowland South Sulawesi


by R. Anderson Sutton
Oxford University Press, 2002

Calling Back the Spirit describes how, in the face of Indonesian and foreign cultural pressures, the Makassarese people of South Sulawesi are defending their local spirit through music and dance. The book examines the ways performers in this corner of Indonesia seek to empower local music and dance in a changing environment.

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Colonial Counterpoint: Music in Early Modern Manila


by D.R.M. Irving
Oxford University Press, 2010

In this groundbreaking study, D. R. M. Irving reconnects the Philippines to current musicological discourse on the early modern Hispanic world. For some two and a half centuries, the Philippine Islands were firmly interlinked to Latin America and Spain through transoceanic relationships of politics, religion, trade, and culture. The city of Manila, founded in 1571, represented a vital intercultural nexus and a significant conduit for the regional diffusion of Western music. Within its ethnically diverse society, imported and local musics played a crucial role in the establishment of ecclesiastical hierarchies in the Philippines and in propelling the work of Roman Catholic missionaries in neighboring territories. Manila’s religious institutions resounded with sumptuous vocal and instrumental performances, while an annual calendar of festivities brought together many musical traditions of the indigenous and immigrant populations in complex forms of artistic interaction and opposition.

Multiple styles and genres coexisted according to strict regulations enforced by state and ecclesiastical authorities, and Irving uses the metaphors of European counterpoint and enharmony to critique musical practices within the colonial milieu. He argues that the introduction and institutionalization of counterpoint acted as a powerful agent of colonialism throughout the Philippine Archipelago, and that contrapuntal structures were reflected in the social and cultural reorganization of Filipino communities under Spanish rule. He also contends that the active appropriation of music and dance by the indigenous population constituted a significant contribution to the process of hispanization. Sustained “enharmonic engagement” between Filipinos and Spaniards led to the synthesis of hybrid, syncretic genres and the emergence of performance styles that could contest and subvert hegemony. Throwing new light on a virtually unknown area of music history, this book contributes to current understanding of the globalization of music, and repositions the Philippines at the frontiers of research into early modern intercultural exchange.

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I Will Send My Song: Kammu Vocal Genres in the Singing of Kam Raw


by Hakan Lundstrom
University of Hawaiʻi Press, 2007

An ethnomusical presentation of one person’s vocal performance of rather highly varied sets of words, manners of performance, and the use of these competences in communication with other singers. Although this orally transmitted form of singing is unique to the Kammu of northern Laos, it is related to a much larger complex in Southeast Asia and thus will be of interest to a wide group of musicologists.

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Songs for the Spirits: Music and Mediums in Modern Vietnam


edited 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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Thai Classical Singing: Its History, Musical Characteristics, and Transmission


by Douglas Ezzy
Ashgate Publishing, 2003

Thai classical singing is a genre that blossomed during the golden age of music in the royal court at Bangkok during the nineteenth century. It took a variety of forms including unaccompanied songs used for narration in plays, instrumental music that was used to accompany mimed actions, and songs of entertainment accompanied by an instrumental ensemble. Today, Thai classical singing is found widely outside the court, and its influence is evident in many traditional songs.

This book is the first in English to provide a detailed study of Thai classical singing. Dusadee Swangviboonpong discusses the historical background to this long-established genre, the vocal techniques that it employs, the contexts in which it is performed, the degree of improvisation that performers use, the setting of texts and the methods used to teach the songs. Teaching methods still tend to focus on oral transmission, although there have been recent attempts by the Thai authorities to standardize the way singing is taught and practised. These controls are, argues the author, a threat to the the variety in style and approach that has characterised this music and kept it alive.

The book features transcriptions of Thai classical songs and a glossary of Thai terms, so making it a useful introduction to the genre.

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