Memorial Universitys Music, Media and Place Research Centres (MMaP) 2012-13 lecture series wraps up next week.
Sean Williams, of Evergreen State College, will present Crossing the Divide: Hinduism and Islam in Sundanese Music during the final lecture in MMaPs Music, Media and Culture Lecture Series.
The event gets underway on Tuesday, March 19, at 7:30 p.m., in the MMaP gallery on the second floor of the St. Johns Arts and Culture Centre. Everyone is welcome; admission is free.
The Sundanese people of West Java, Indonesia, are known in that nation as conservative Muslims. Yet their musical forms (more than 200 genres) defy that label; many of the main genres lean heavily on Hindu and animist stories, traditions and musical materials. In the genre of tembang Sunda the most aristocratic of any genre in the region a combination of influences from different eras in Sundanese history connect contemporary Muslim musicians and audience members with their Hindu and animist past.
Comprising a large zither, small zither, bamboo flute, and singer, the tembang Sunda ensemble is intended for an intimate audience of insiders. They know the words, they understand the context, and most of them are singers or musicians themselves. Because tembang Sunda is considered a powerful link to the rural past, the urban Islamic conservatism of its audience is suspended during an evenings performance. This sense of simultaneous suspension and engagement creates a type of sacred space that lasts for most of the night. The lecture will feature two songs; one explicitly Hindu in content, and another specifically Muslim. By examining the two songs in context, Dr. Williams will explore the ways in which the music can transcend boundaries of space, time, and religion.
Dr. Williams was born and raised in Berkeley, Calif. She attended the University of California in Berkeley for the BA in classical guitar performance, then received her MA and PhD in ethnomusicology from the University of Washington. She has taught at the University of Washington, Columbia University, and the Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash.
Dr. Williams has travelled (and lived) extensively in Asia and Europe, particularly Indonesia, Ireland, and Japan. Some of her interests include music, cultural studies, social justice, liminality, religion (particularly Buddhism and Islam) in connection with music and languages. Her books include Bright Star of the West: Joe Heaney, Irish Song-Man (with Lillis Ó Laoire), Focus: Irish Traditional Music,The Garland Handbook of Southeast Asian Music (with Terry E. Miller), The Ethnomusicologists Cookbook and The Sound of the Ancestral Ship: Highland Music of West Java. She has also published articles in journals Asian Music, Current Musicology, The World of Music, The Yearbook for Traditional Music, The New Hibernia Review and Béaloideas: Journal of the Ireland Folklore Society and performs on many musical instruments.