It has been an incredibly productive year for the Songs of Memory Project since the first Newsletter, February 2011.
It seems that each chapter in the development of the Songs archives and collections, since its origin in 2005, has its own theme: fieldwork and filming in remote villages of Laos, Burma, China, and Thailand; logging hundreds of photographs, recordings, and journal notes; editing educational films; writing and producing the Songs of Memory book and compact disc; designing two distinct photo exhibits; amassing collections of musical instruments and textiles; and finally launching the Songs of Memory exhibition at the Jim Thompson Museum in Bangkok and the Chiang Mai Arts and Cultural Center.
Victoria in the field, in Thailand, Laos and Burma
This year’s theme has been focused on preparing the Songs exhibition to travel to other venues around the world, and the year’s rhythm has changed from vivace to andante. It took time and care to photograph and record every item from the collections of instruments and textiles to create a detailed inventory. Each piece was then tagged, listed, wrapped, and boxed – all in all, there are 52 boxes! At last, the moment arrived. . .
A Selection of Hats from the Songs of Memory Textiles Collection
The Songs of Memory Project is privileged to have been invited to its first international exhibit at the East-West Center Gallery in Honolulu, Hawai'i, running 13 May – 9 September 2012. What a pleasure to introduce the music and culture of the mountain peoples of SE Asia to Hawaiian audiences.
Victoria attended the opening with two friends and colleagues from northern Thailand, Aju Jupoh, an Akha musician, and Chi Phatthaphraiwan, a Karen musician. Both proved to be extraordinary ambassadors in representing their culture, as well as inspiring musicians. Together we gave presentations to groups of university faculty and students, senior citizens, grade school students, and the general public, with additional curator walks by Victoria. Thank you, Aju and Chi for sharing your passion with the people of Hawai’i. Warm thanks, too, to the EWC team for giving us this amazing opportunity and for graciously preparing all so beautifully for our visit: Bill Feltz, Michael Schuster, Karen Knudsen, Lynn Najita, and Eric Chang. Aloha and Mahalo.
Songs of Memory Multimedia Exhibition at the East-West Center in Hawai'i
East-West Center Brochure
East-West Center Flier
East West Center
Hawaii Public Radio: Interview with Victoria
It was an immense honor, while there, to meet Dr. Barbara Smith, Professor Emeritus of Music, a seminal figure at the University of Hawai'i, who has been central to the cultural life of this state and to the validation of its multi-cultural heritage. It was a wonderful bit of serendipity to learn that there is a link between us, in the grand tradition of oral culture, as Dr. Smith was the professor of several of my musicology professors at the University of Michigan.
From Hawai'i, Victoria traveled to the mainland to visit museums from California to New York, delighting in the extraordinary collections of SE Asian artifacts that grace their halls. Special thanks are given to the directors and curators of the following institutions for so graciously receiving me during my visit.
1. Asian Art Museum - San Francisco, California
2. Fowler Museum - Los Angeles, California
3. Bowers Museum - Santa Ana, California
4. Musical Instrument Museum - Scottsdale, Arizona
5. Museum of International Folk Art - Santa Fe, New Mexicao
6. Field Museum - Chicago, Illinois
7. Rubin Museum of Art - New York City, New York
On a personal note, it was lovely to visit old friends and make new ones, who have similar passions about traditional culture, in San Francisco and Los Angeles. Thank you to all for sharing your warm hospitality. And what a joy it was to visit with dear friends, family, and students in sweet home Chicago, after a four-year absence. I treasure our connection and am deeply grateful for your warm affection and welcome.
Other Highlights from this past year:
Enormous appreciation goes to the following academics for their kind consideration in becoming mentors to the Songs Project during its next phase of development. I look forward to consulting with them as I continue to create a series of Educational Films in the coming year.
* Chayan Vaddhanaphuti, Ph.D., Professor, founding Director of the Regional Center for Social Science and Sustainable Development (RCSD) Chiang Mai University, Thailand
* Yves Defrance, Ph.D., Ethnomusicologist, Professor, University of Rennes, France; President of the French Society of Ethnomusicologists
* William Klausner Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, Chulalongkorn and Thammasat University, Thailand; Founding President of the James H.W. Thompson Foundation
* Kjell Muller Skyllstad, Ph.D., Musicologist, Professor Emeritus, University of Oslo, Norway; Professor, Chulalongkorn University, Thailand
* Prasit Leepreecha, Ph.D., Professor, Chiang Mai University, Thailand
Speaking engagements on the power of music and the role of traditional music in communities of the Golden Triangle have been given at:
Royal Geographical Society, Hong Kong, (30 May 2011)
East-West Center, Honolulu, Hawaii (17 June 2012)
Radio Interview, NPR Hawaii
Articles and Photos
In the past year, articles and photos by Victoria have appeared in:
Asian Art Newspaper (February 2012) – “Songs of Memory Museum Exhibition”
Asian Geographic Read (Issue 1 2012) – “Courtship in the Mountains”
American Suzuki Journal (Volume 40.1) – “Oral Tradition and the Suzuki Method”
Asian Geographic Junior (No. 14 Issue 5/2011) – Photograph
Special Recognition to Donors
The Resonance Project is honored and incredibly grateful to have received a donation from The Cecilian Singers, a Hong Kong Choir performing repertoire from Mozart to world music, which presented their annual Christmas Concert on 7 December 2011, as a fund-raising event in support of the Songs of Memory Project.
Mimi and Bud Frankel, dear friends from Chicago, who are highly active in the American Refugee Committee (ARC) and the Chicago-Casablanca Sister Cities Committee, among many other projects, have been devoted sponsors of the Songs of Memory Project since its inception. Through their Frankel Family Foundation, they have recently rededicated their belief in the work with a very generous gift. Fondest thanks to you both.
Leslie and David Bosch attended the "Patterns, Passages & Prayers" photo exhibit at Tamarind Village in 2010 as tourists and were so moved by the culture of the traditional communities in this part of the world, that they decided to return to Chiang Mai for a year as residents, so that they might explore the region and peoples for themselves. They have become wonderful friends and neighbors. Now immersed in tribal culture, Leslie and David have witnessed the fragility of these traditions that are so quickly vanishing and see the value in documenting and preserving this way of life.
Bosch Family Matching Grant Challenge
Based on their belief in Victoria’s archival work and her commitment, Leslie and David Bosch have offered to support the project by establishing the Bosch Family Matching Grant Challenge, the intent of which is to help Victoria’s project in its next phase of development – specifically to raise funds to complete the Music of the Golden Triangle Educational Films and Documentary.
To this end, The Bosch Family Grant Challenge is currently seeking sponsors (businesses, philanthropic foundations, NGOs, and individuals) to get involved. During the challenge grant period from 26 December 2011 - 15 September 2012, the Bosch Family will match, dollar for dollar, incoming grants totaling—and limited to—$5,000. A donation of $5 becomes $10, $50 becomes $100, $250 becomes $500. Contributions of any size are welcomed. Every gift you make has an impact.
This documentary film project has been approved for participation in the International Documentary Association’s (IDA) fiscal sponsorship program, which allows contributions to make use of its 501(c)(3) status. This means your generous donation is tax deductible in the United States. IDA letter of endorsement
To help support the Educational Films to completion, please consider getting involved. Your participation is greatly appreciated. Donations can be made through the IDA. Donate Here
Heartfelt thanks go to Leslie and David Bosch and to all of the individuals and organizations who have to date participated in supporting the Educational Films through the Bosch Matching Grant Challenge. Their names and their comments are listed on the home page of the Music of the Golden Triangle website: www.TribalMusicAsia.com
Upcoming Archival Work, 2012 – 2013
At present, a series of approximately 20 educational films is in the process of being created. Now being developed from 250 hours of footage, the Music of the Golden Triangle Educational Films represent in-depth, one-hour documentaries based on individual tribal groups, which capture a single ceremony in its entirety. The Educational Films offer the essence of these celebrations in a condensed format, featuring extended footage of music, rituals and other aspects of traditional daily village life. Visit the Educational Films page at http://www.tribalmusicasia.com/films.php
In the coming year 2012, Victoria Vorreiter will specifically be working to complete films that she has shot and edited, to which she will add translations and researched narratives. Six of these films can currently be seen in the traveling Songs of Memory museum exhibition: Lahu Shi Harvest Festival (Myanmar/Burma), Mien Wedding (Thailand), Akha Nuqui Women’s New Year (Laos), Karen Harvest Festival (Thailand), Lisu Shae Shae New Year (China), and Hmong Baby Healing Ceremony (Laos).
In the future, a one-hour documentary film, ‘The Music of the Golden Triangle and the Cycles of Life,’ will be produced, formatted for public television, which will highlight the rarely seen ceremonies that connect traditional peoples to their ancestors, their deities, and each other through ancestral music and rites.
It is with deepest sorrow that I relate news of the passing of Paul (Sai Lone) from Keng Tung, Shan State, Burma, on 5 June 2012. Paul was a dear friend, the most wonderful colleague, and a knowledgeable and skilled guide. Able to speak six tribal languages, Paul was beloved by all with whom he came into contact, whether it was the traditional peoples living in the Shan Hills who called him ‘teacher,’ the foreigners he expertly helped to navigate, the NGOs he aided in implementing medical, educational, and water projects in the villages, members of his Tai Yai (Shan) community, or his large, loving family. He was a dear soul who traveled this earth with a true heart, great integrity, and the most marvelous stories. Every path I walked in my fieldwork, every photograph I took, and every documentary I filmed in the mountains of Burma were accompanied with Paul at my side. An important part of this project is due to Paul, “the big tiger” as he called himself, with his dedication, knowledge, and friendship. It has been my great good fortune that he entered my orbit. Thank you so much, Paul.
Paul (Sai Lone)
* Top Photograph Caption:
Calling Spirits, Festival of the Hunt
Shan State, Myanmar/Burma, 2005
“For the Eng villagers who inhabit the Shan Hills near Keng Tung, Myanmar, the full moon of the first month is the occasion to honor spirits of forests and mountains, so that they may be granted good fortune during the hunting season. Young Eng women launch this three-day festival of chants, trances, prayers, and supplications, by beating percussion instruments with deep, metallic timbres that reverberate off mountain walls, summoning nature spirits from far and wide.
In Eng culture, it is customary for both men and women to blacken their teeth with sap from the ironwood tree, a practice distinct from the more common act of chewing betel nut, which acts as a stimulant. The Eng believe this black essence not only protects their teeth, but also is a sign of beauty, for ‘only dogs have white teeth.’” Victoria Vorreiter.
Thank you for your interest in the traditional culture of SE Asia and the Songs of Memory archival project. Until the next newsletter, wishing you a safe journey, Victoria.