Songs for the Spirits
Music and Mediums in Modern Vietnam
Publication Year: 2009
Published by: University of Illinois Press
Table of Contents
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Any study based on field research is inherently collaborative, and this book would have been inconceivable without the generosity of numerous mediums and musicians who welcomed me into the world of mediumship and shared their experiences and...
Note on Vietnamese Language
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Modern Vietnamese is written with a romanized script called quoc ngu (lit. “national script”). This script was initially devised by French and Portuguese missionaries in the seventeenth century and became the predominant script from...
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The DVD features video extracts of mediumship rituals and folklorized performances of spirit possession. It also includes audio examples of chau van, revolutionary chau van, neotraditional compositions, and ca tru. It can be played on a DVD...
Introduction: Encountering Mediumship
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This book explores the music of Vietnamese mediumship. It attempts to convey the aesthetics of mediumship music, chau van, and its ritual role. Chau van is performed throughout spirit possession rituals, len dong, in which a medium is possessed by a succession..
1. Mediumship, Modernity, and Cultural Identity
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This chapter provides a historical perspective on mediumship and its music from the colonial period through the cultural revolution to the reform era. The history of mediumship is marked by resilience, despite continued criticism in the name of modernity...
2. Experiencing Spirit Possession
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The fascination with spirit possession in academia has spawned numerous theories that attempt to explain the phenomenon. Janice Boddy’s review of the literature points out that “spirit possession research has been characterized by a fundamental...
3. Songs for the Spirits
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The sequences of songs or “songscapes” performed by chau van bands create a continually changing sonic environment in which spirits are immersed and their presence is articulated.1 Songscapes have a temporal as well as a spatial dimension...
4. The Musical Construction of the Spirits
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This chapter examines the role of music during len dong. It begins with a consideration of rituals conducted without a chau van band. This is followed by a more detailed investigation into how the aural invocation of the spirits relates to possession...
5. Musical Creativity and Change
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In October 1996, I started to study chau van with Pham Van Ty. In the first few lessons I learned instrumental phrases on the moon lute. The format of the lessons consisted of Ty demonstrating instrumental phrases (luu khong) for songs and me repeating...
6. Engendering Mediumship
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Traversing gender is integral to len dong. When possessed by male spirits, female mediums become prestigious scholars, fierce warriors, playful princes, and naughty boys. They wear male tunics, perform vigorous military dances with swords and spears...
7. Ritual and Folklorization in Late Socialist Vietnam
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Cultural change has been as dramatic as economic change in late socialist Vietnam. In the realm of mediumship, market capitalism and higher levels of prosperity have most noticeably impacted upon the material conditions of rituals. Contemporary...
Epilogue: Thanking the Spirits
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A few weeks before I was due to leave Vietnam, Doan insisted she hold a hau ta or “thanking ritual” on my behalf. Hau ta are usually held one hundred days after initiation. They can also be arranged at other times when the expression of thanks to...
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Page Count: 280
Publication Year: 2009