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Music Recordings and Films of Bali, 1928 - 1930s

Music Recordings and Films of Bali, 1928 - 1930s

Colloquium with Dr. Edward Herbst, Udayana University

Wednesday, November 10, 2010
12:00 PM - 1:30 PM
10383 Bunche Hall
UCLA Campus
Los Angeles, CA 90095

Photo: Legong dancers Ni Cawan, Wayan Rindi and Wayan Sadri circa 1930

In 1928 the German companies Odeon and Beka made the only recordings in Bali published prior to World War II. This diverse collection of avant-garde and older instrumental and vocal styles appeared on 78 r.p.m. discs but quickly went out of print. The acquisition of 108 of these recordings from diverse archives including UCLA and Indonesia’s Museum Nasional comes at a time when the last artists of that generation are available as links to the creative and cultural currents of the 1920s. Additional finds include film documentation of 1930s Bali by Colin McPhee, Miguel Covarrubias and Rolf de Maré with Claire Holt.

This presentation will detail challenges of accessing archives; aesthetic and ethical approaches to dissemination through emerging media; and strategies for grass-roots repatriation via publication of a series of five CDs. A crucial element involves dialogue with elderly and younger artists, composers, village performers, indigenous theorists and scholars. One sociopolitical issue arising from this unprecedented perspective is that aural evidence undermines some cultural hegemonies by demonstrating diverse regional innovations in music and dance, helped and hindered by two instincts affecting inter-village and inter-institutional cultural politics: ‘masilur’ sharing, cooperation and ‘jengah’ competition. Collaborative ethnographic methods have led to re-interpretation of cultural history and creative process. One such topic is the influence of Lombok’s (Muslim) Sasak traditions on Balinese vocal music. Another involves how one song recorded in 1928 relates to the unearthing of a tragic royal romance—expunged from historical accounts—presaging the fall of the kingdom of Klungkung in 1908.

Edward Herbst’s most recent publication is the multimedia CD, Bali 1928: Gamelan Gong Kebyar of Belaluan, Pangkung and Busungbiu. His article and archival film excerpts can be accessed at http://www.arbiterrecords.com/. He is a 2010-11 Fulbright Senior Specialist teaching at Bali’s Udayana University Cultural Studies Department. Herbst’s book, Voices in Bali: Energies and Perceptions in Vocal Music and Dance Theater was published by Wesleyan University Press in 1998. He made his first visit to Bali in 1972 while working toward a B.A. at Bennington College, spending one year studying gendér wayang in Teges, gong–smithing practices and acoustics in Tihingan, Klungkung, and the inter–relationship between gamelan and dance-theater. He studied with the late I Nyoman Kakul, master of gambuh, baris, and topéng, while living with his family in Batuan. In 1980–81, Herbst spent fifteen months on a Fulbright-Hays focusing on vocal music performance, gamelan and dance–theater. He was commissioned by Sardono Kusumo’s experimental Indonesian dance theater company to collaborate as composer and solo vocalist on Maha Buta in Switzerland and Mexico as well as Sardono’s film, The Sorceress of Dirah, in Indonesia. After receiving a Ph.D. in Ethnomusicology from Wesleyan University he returned to Bali for four months in 1992 (funded by the Asian Cultural Council) to complete research for a book. His current research and repatriation project has been funded by the Ford Foundation.

Cost : Free and open to the public.


Sponsor(s): Center for Southeast Asian Studies