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Voices in Bali

Energies and Perceptions in Vocal Music and Dance Theater

Edward Herbst

Publication Year: 1997

A scholar and trained performer of Balinese vocal music and dance, ethnomusicologist Edward Herbst brings unique talents to bear in this provocative book. The lessons of his Balinese masters enable him to offer fresh insight to this culture's aesthetics and cultural elements. Appropriating John Cage's effective style of "mixing theory, anecdote, context, philosophy, and humor," Herbst crafts an accessible body of work, compelling in substance and form. By merging the "Balinese concept of place-time-context with Cage's concepts of structure, method, and form, [Herbst] returns to the critical issue of what scholars and intercultural artists are doing, and 'what' is their 'object' under study." Undergraduates and scholars in fields as varied as theater studies and anthropology will find this book and companion CD (in print editions) an important resource not only for its knowledgeable treatment of Balinese culture, but as an example of a more personal and engaging style of scholarly discourse. The ebook edition includes embedded audio.

Published by: Wesleyan University Press

Series: Music Culture


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pp. iii


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pp. iv


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pp. vii

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pp. ix-xii

The title of this book, Voices in Bali: Energies and Perceptions in Vocal Music and Dance Theater, should prepare the reader for the polyphony of the text itself. Not one voice, or energy, or perception is present here, but several: the voices, energies, and perceptions of Balinese teachers...


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pp. xiii-xvi

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pp. xvii-xxii

The key concepts constantly echoed amongst my Balinese artist friends are perkembangan 'creative flowering', kesenangan 'pleasure', menjiwai 'transmitting spirit', masolah 'characterization', pengalaman 'experience', nusup 'penetration', desa kala patra 'place-time-context', and bayu sabda idep...

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A note on language and orthography

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pp. xxiii-xxiv

My research was conducted in the Indonesian language, supplemented with Balinese, without the use of interpreters. Translations of text from Kawi or Balinese to Indonesian were made with the consultation of various Balinese colleagues, credited in my introduction and in the text...

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A note on musical notation

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pp. xxv

I have chosen to devise a new staff for my musical transcriptions, rather than using either the standard Western staff or Javanese kepatihan 'cipher notation'. Western notation is useful for indicating irregular rhythms, semi tones, and generally to convey vocal melodies to non-Indonesian...

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Désa kala patra: place-time-context

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pp. 1-4

Diverse are the voices, energies, and perceptions, within and relating to performance, that Balinese people have shared with me. And, to be sure, ever more varied, even contradictory, are those which I have not experienced or witnessed. This book will suggest various ways of approaching...

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Aji nusup 'lessons in penetration': the désa kala patra of experience

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pp. 5-24

The underlying, implied meaning of this lullaby has to do with magic and protection from witchcraft. Rivers are a common place for dangerous spirits to congregate. Masui wood, besides being used medicinally, wards off malevolent sorcery. A dull knife also repels harmful spirits as, of course...

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Vocal qualities

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pp. 25-37

One quality of the standard dalang and panasar voice is suara ncah 'broken, shattered, fragmented', a quality that might be described superficially as coarse or hoarse. One can be relaxed with this style, but it is generally believed that this is achieved only after a training period entailing much forcing...

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pp. 38-56

Tembang macapat are the songs used in arja and other performance genres such as Basur,1 topeng prembon,2 and sparingly in wayang. The verb nembang means simply "to sing," but tembang generally refers to a specific poetic form called sekar alit, sekar macapat, or pupuh...

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Masolah: the désa kala patra of spirit

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pp. 57-70

Masolah is the kinesthetic and spiritual desa kala patra of a character. It may be translated simply as "characterization" or used in everyday Balinese conversation to mean "to perform." Amongst dalangs, it can refer to the movement or dance of a shadow puppet. But, masolah in its fullest...

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pp. 71-86

Panasar and kartala are the half-mask comic narrator/philosophers of topeng and other dance dramas. The performers' lower lip and jaw are not covered by the mask, enabling them to vocalize. Attendants to the ratu, 'king, prince' or to a prime minister, these two brothers, or close cohorts...

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Désa kala patra within performance

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pp. 87-96

A Balinese character or dancer is said to "come out" from the curtain or gateway to perform, and to "enter the curtain" to exit. This contrasts with Euro-American performance in which a character makes an entrance to perform. The Balinese terms suggest the notion of coming from somewhere...

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Perkembangan: spontaneity and the flower of désa kala patra

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pp. 97-102

Balinese artists initially consider the desa kala patra of an event or situation in terms of the larger context of performance; including the people, histories, and environment at hand. This may determine the genre chosen or the particular story or scenario. But performers also continually refer...

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pp. 103-110

In discussing the mystical and pedagogical implications of nusup 'penetration' and the desa kala patra of experience, a friend offers the analogy of Bali being a small boat and Jakarta a big boat. For circumnavigating a harbor, being small gives freedom of movement and diverse possibilities...

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Désa kala patra of the arts in contemporary Bali

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pp. 111-120

Like everyone else around them, Balinese and other Indonesian artists are observing and discussing the rapid changes taking place in their culture. 1While everyone "values" the arts, and Indonesian performing arts are certainly a popular commodity in the world arena, shifting contexts...

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Intrinsic aesthetics: désa kala patra within performance, continued

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pp. 121-133

Some contemporary Indonesian artists and scholars have been finding themselves in the position, not just of trying to understand and react as individuals, but of having to legislate and respond in a systematic manner to the effects of intense societal transformation upon traditional arts...

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Bali--no longer--unplugged: electronic technology, amplification, and the marginalization of presence

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pp. 134-141

When I returned to Bali in 1992, I was struck by how loudspeakers, tape recorders, radio, and television are rapidly transforming kinesthetic, kinetic, and spiritual realities. Performance of gambelan, dance drama, wayang, and ritual religious activity is mediated nowadays...

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Further penetration: "branching out of Bali" into other interpretive modes

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pp. 142-144

As we consider the human organism in its musical ecology the nature and manifestation of sound, we can distinguish three spheres of articulation.1 State of consciousness is intrinsic to the first sphere. Form is intrinsic to the second sphere, as it deals with differentiation of emanations from distinct states; it is in this sphere...

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Penetrating what, where, and how

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pp. 145-162

"When" is perceived in the small dimension of time (the body and its immediate relations), and is really a temporal aspect of "where," which is sensed in time and space, at once. The greater dimension of time has to do with relativity and energy-reflected in qualities, ways, and overall tones...

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pp. 163-170

Almost fifteen years ago, Clifford Geertz wrote the passage above in his now well-known essay "Art as a Cultural System" (Geertz 1983: 99). When I first read it as a graduate student, it brought about what seemed like an epiphany of understanding and insight, and defined for me what the field...

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Notes to Companion Compact Disc

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pp. 171-178

All recordings were made by Edward Herbst in 1980 and 1981 on a Sony TCD-s stereo cassette recorder, except selections 12 and 19, which were recorded by Herbst in 1972 on a Tandberg II mono reel-to-reel recorder, and selection 4, recorded by I Made Bandem in 1977 with a Nagra stereo...


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pp. 179-184


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pp. 185-190


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pp. 191-198

E-ISBN-13: 9780819573285
Print-ISBN-13: 9780819563163

Page Count: 218
Publication Year: 1997

Edition: Audio CD.
Series Title: Music Culture