Sunday, March 6, 2011

Books on Music in Asia

These are books that explore little known facets of music in Asia:

Songs For The Spirits: Music And Mediums In Modern Vietnam by Barley Norton. Songs for the Spirits is the first in-depth study of the Vietnamese practice of communing with music and performance. During rituals dedicated to spirits, a band of musicians perform an elaborate sequence of songs for possessed mediums who carry out ritual actions, distribute blessed gifts to disciples and dance to the music's infectious rhythms. An accompanying DVD contains numerous video and music extracts. With bibliography and index.

Modern Noise, Fluid Genres: Popular Music In Indonesia, 1997-2001 by Jeremy Wallach. What happens to "local" sound when globalisation exposes musicians and audiences to cultural influences from around the world? Jeremy Wallach explores this question as it plays out in the eclectic, evolving world of Indonesian music after the fall of the repressive Soeharto regime. Against the backdrop of Indonesia's chaotic and momentous transition to democracy, Wallach takes us to recording studios, music stores, concert venues, university campuses, video shoots, and urban neighbourhoods. Integrating ground-level ethnographic research with insights drawn from contemporary cultural theory, he shows that access to globally circulating music and technologies has neither extinguished nor homogenized local music-making in Indonesia. Instead, it has provided young Indonesians with creative possibilities for exploring their identity in an increasingly interconnected world. Includes a CD of Indonesian popular music 1997-2001.

Music In Central Java: Experiencing Music, Expressing Culture by Benjamin Brinner. Based on extensive fieldwork this in-depth study of music in Central Java includes details of contemporary gamelan music. The music context, social roles, and the ongoing international interest in gamelan music and its leading musicians are discussed. It also discusses the theatrical and musical aspects of Wayang Kulit. With black-and-white illustrations, glossary, bibliography index and a 78-minute CD.

Musicians From A Different Shore: Asians And Asian Americans In Classical Music by Mari Yoshihara. Musicians of Asian descent have unusual prominence in concern halls, conservatories and classical music competitions. Mari Yoshihara, Professor of American Studies at the University of Hawai'i, looks into the reasons for this phenomenon. She shows how a confluence of culture, politics and commerce after the war made classical music a staple in middle-class households. With notes, bibliography and index.


P'ungmul: South Korean Drumming And Dance by Nathan Hesselink. Composed of a core set of two drums and two gongs, p'ungmul is a South Korean tradition of rural folk percussion. Steeped in music, dance, theatre, and pageantry, but centrally focused on rhythm, such ensembles have been an integral part of village life in South Korea for centuries, serving as a musical accompaniment in the often overlapping and shifting contexts of labour, ritual, and entertainment. The first book to introduce Korean drumming and dance to the English-speaking world, ethnomusicologist Nathan Hesselink's P'ungmul offers detailed descriptions of its instrumentation, dance formations, costuming, actors, teaching lineages, and the complexities of training. Hesselink also evaluates how this tradition has taken on new roles and meanings in the 20th and early-21st centuries, investigating the interrelated yet contested spheres of history, memory, government policy, grassroots politics, opportunities for musical transmission, and performance practices and aesthetics. With colour and black-and-white photographs, notes, bibliography and index.

Kammu Songs: The Songs Of Kam Raw by Hakan Lundstrom and Damrong Tayanin. The songs or music of the Kammu upland people of the borderlands of Laos, Yunnan and Thailand remain a huge part of their traditional culture. Substantial ethnomusical research has gone into this presentation of the songs of Kam Raw (b. 1938) a Kammu from northern Laos who followed his family tradition as a singer at ceremonial occasions or local celebrations. The words and tones are translated into phonics and into English. With references and discography.

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