Webinar: Songs of Love and Loss: Crafting Buddhist Poetry in Early Modern Cambodia
Date and Time: March 23, 2023 | 6:30 am HST
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From at least the seventeenth century, Cambodian writers have been composing vernacular Khmer poems for recitation in Buddhist rituals. Chanted with haunting, highly melismatic melodies, individual songs in this genre may take up to three hours to perform in dusk-to-dawn ceremonies of healing, remembrance, and consecration. Drawing on translations from the speaker’s recent book, Until Nirvana’s Time: Buddhist Songs from Cambodia, this talk highlights the aesthetic and affective dimensions of the four primary types of sung Buddhist poems in Cambodia: retellings of the Buddha’s life, expressions of filial gratitude, meditations on the process of dying, and aspirations for future bliss. Poems across these four categories reveal how early modern authors wove intimate reflections on love and loss into a broader doctrinal and ritual framework for the end of life. The talk will also feature live demonstrations of the intricate vocal styles that have shaped the performance and reception of Khmer Buddhist verse over the past four centuries.