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Mar 8, 2017 at 7:00 pm

Distinguished Lecture Series: Henry Spiller


Wednesdays@7 presents: Distinguished Lecture Series: Henry Spiller

Heavy Metal Bamboo: How archaic bamboo instruments became modern in Bandung, Indonesia

Henry Spiller, UC Davis

In 2009, nine people suffocated at a death metal concert featuring local metal bands in Bandung, Indonesia. In response, some Bandung-based metal musicians began to reconsider their wholesale adoption of global “heavy metal” values and musical style. In a quest to inject local Sundanese values of community and cooperation into their musical practice, they hit upon the idea of reviving archaic rural bamboo musical instruments— karinding (mouth-resonated lamelophone) and celempung(idiochord tube zither)—as a means to reconnect to their Sundanese past.

This lecture examines how Bandung musicians create localized, alternative modernities by putting old bamboo instruments to new uses. I introduce two case studies: Karinding Attack (“Karat”), a group of metal musicians who play their death-metal-inspired compositions on village bamboo instruments, and Galengan Sora Awi (“GSA”), a neighborhood-based group of musicians who play a variety of traditional Sundanese musical styles on bamboo instruments of their own invention. I explore how both groups have modified traditional bamboo musical instruments and styles to promote decidedly global modern values: the noisy timbres and diffuse pitches associated with distorted amplified guitars, the rejection by some countercultural groups of modern, sterile, mass-produced, manufactured goods in favor of do-it-yourself (DIY) technologies, the fostering of renewable resources, conservation, and the cleanup of urban environments, and the promotion by the Indonesian government of local and regional traditions.

Bamboo’s versatility—which in the past enabled Sundanese individuals to solve many pressing everyday problems—continues to empower them to face the challenges of modern life. Bamboo’s association with the rakyat—everyday people—and bamboo music’s association with Sundanese/Indonesian principle of gotong royong (mutual aid and cooperation) are further attractions for modern Indonesians eager to adapt local values to global contexts.

Henry Spiller is an ethnomusicologist whose research focuses on Sundanese music and dance from West Java, Indonesia. His books include Gamelan: The Traditional Sounds of Indonesia (ABC-CLIO, 2004) and Erotic Triangles: Sundanese Dance and Masculinity in West Java(Chicago, 2010). His most recent book, Javaphilia: American Love Affairs with Javanese Music and Dance (Hawaii, 2015), was awarded the Society for Ethnomusicology’s Bruno Nettl Prize in 2016. Spiller’s current project, based on fieldwork conducted in Bandung, Indonesia, with the support of a Fulbright Senior Scholar award, investigates music made with bamboo musical instruments. He earned his BA (music) from UC Santa Cruz, an MM (harp performance) from Holy Names University, and the MA and PhD (ethnomusicology) from UC Berkeley. Currently he is professor of music at UC Davis, where he is the once and future department chair, teaches world music classes and graduate seminars, and directs the department’s Sundanese gamelan ensemble.

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Date and Time

Mar 8, 2017 at 7:00 pm


Conrad Prebys Music Center Recital Hall

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Meghan Roos    858-534-6503


Faculty, Staff, Students, The General Public

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Talks and Lectures