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  • Gender Wayang Music of Bapak I Wayan Loceng from Sukawati, Bali: A Musical Biography, Musical Ethnography, and Critical Edition by Brita Renée Heimarck
  • Meghan Hynson (bio)
Gender Wayang Music of Bapak I Wayan Loceng from Sukawati, Bali: A Musical Biography, Musical Ethnography, and Critical Edition. Recent Researches in the Oral Traditions of Music, 12. Brita Renée Heimarck, ed. Middleton, WI: A-R Editions, 2015. xv + 167 pp., full score, instrumental parts, + CD. ISBN 9780895798121, 0895798123 (paperback), $175. Set of 2 parts (sangsih, polos), $36.00.

Through scholarly text, a CD, and a critical edition of nine transcriptions in individual parts and full score, this multifaceted work documents the life and repertoire of the renowned gender wayang (Balinese shadow theater music) musician and pedagogue from Sukawati village Bapak I Wayan Loceng. In addition to a biographical account of Pak Loceng's life and detailed information on his distinct musical style and the shadow play tradition in Bali, this edition offers compelling theoretical perspectives on musical biography, musical ethnography, and transcription. Heimarck's theorizing of these topics, along with her critical look at the role of the ethnomusicologist, form the foundation for a new definition of the field of ethnomusicology contained in this work. This definition is then employed as a structural unifier for the edition, making this book a valuable contribution to studies of Balinese music and the field of ethnomusicology in general.

In chapter 1, "Theoretical Framework and Musical Biography," Heimarck problematizes the theoretical emphasis of recent ethnomusicological studies, stating that "in many ways the discipline of ethnomusicology has shifted from an initial focus on the music and culture of various traditions to a theoretical focus that is more concerned with how different case studies can illustrate the usefulness of a given theory, regardless of the extent to which the theory does or does not illuminate the musical culture" (3). In response to this, Heimarck's edition represents a serious attempt to balance musical ethnography, musical content, and an overarching theoretical framework in such a way that all three components strengthen and illuminate one other. This goal is reflected in the revised definition of the field of ethnomusicology that Heimarck proposes in this work. By expanding on Alan Merriam's three-part model from The Anthropology of Music (1964), Heimarck gives this new definition: [End Page 161]

Ethnomusicology consists of research and publications concerned with musical content or sound grounded in a specific context (historical, biographical, conceptual, and/or cultural), shaped by a broader theoretical framework.


This simple yet holistic definition is timely, as it offers a balanced approach to the influx of overly theoretical and often dehumanizing research that has begun to proliferate in the field of ethnomusicology. It reminds scholars to cultivate a methodology that places equal weight on ethnographic description, musical content, and theoretical interpretation, all of which are necessary to conduct an informed exploration of a musical tradition and analyze it within the context of broader societal changes. It is a difficult task to define what we do as scholars, and I applaud Heimarck's efforts to reestablish the importance of the early pillars of our discipline and balance them with the increased emphasis placed on theoretical objectives.

The efficacy of this new definition becomes evident as Heimarck employs it as a tripartite organizing principle for her edition. The remainder of chapter 1 continues to tackle the theoretical component of Heimarck's work by examining the topic of musical biography. Through an account of Pak Loceng's life, Heimarck shows how studies of musical biography can help clarify the relationship between individuals, village traditions, and broader societal changes, probing how a musical genre might inform a musician's biography and, conversely, how a biography might inform a musical genre. Through this analysis, the significance of biographical data is theorized, and approaches that may be deemed "theoryless" are positioned as being equally important to a theoretical approach. This entire chapter is a theorization of Heimarck's new definition and an argument for musical biography as an inextricable part of how we provide insight into cultural transformations, trends, and social and political happenings intertwined with the performance complexes we study.

In chapter 2...


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