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Sounding the Center

History and Aesthetics in Thai Buddhist Performance

Sounding the Center is an in-depth look at the power behind classical music and dance in Bangkok, the capital and sacred center of Buddhist Thailand. Focusing on the ritual honoring teachers of music and dance, Deborah Wong reveals a complex network of connections among kings, teachers, knowledge, and performance that underlies the classical court arts.

Drawing on her extensive fieldwork, Wong lays out the ritual in detail: the way it is enacted, the foods and objects involved, and the people who perform it, emphasizing the way the performers themselves discuss and construct aspects of the ceremony.

336 pages | 63 halftones, 1 line drawing, 1 table, 1 compact disc | 6 x 9 | © 2001

Chicago Studies in Ethnomusicology

Anthropology: Cultural and Social Anthropology

Asian Studies: Southeast Asia and Australia

History: Asian History

Music: Ethnomusicology

Religion: South and East Asian Religions


"The most compelling aspect of the book, for me, is the ethnographic description. Whether she is describing performances of the ceremony, the elaborate preparation of food and floral offerings, conversations with practitioners, or even her own learning process, Wong writes with a sure eye for color and detail."

Margaret Sarkissian | Ethnomusicology

"This book provides a new perspective to the study of music in mainland Southeast Asia by connecting music and dance with social structure and history of Thai society. . . . [The book] not only provides new insight into the role of music in contemporary Thai society, it also serves as a useful reference for corresponding research in other areas of mainland Southeast Asia."

Giovanni Giuriata | The World of Music

Table of Contents

List of Figures
Preface: Attending a Ritual, Thinking about Ritual
Conventions and Orthography
1. Men Who Become the Deity: The Thai Body in Performance, The Thai Body as History
2. Performing Wai Khruu Ritual
3. Knowledge and Power in Thai Culture: Teachers as Hermits
4. Sounding the Sacred
5. Inscribing the Wai Khruu Ritual: Two Written Accounts
6. Inheritance and Nationalism: The Social Construction of Wai Khruu Rituals in Bangkok
7. The Wai Khruu as a Gendered Cultural System
8. Conclusions: Thoughts on Change
A. Glossary of Terms Used
B. List of the Naa Phaat Repertoire Used in the Wai Khruu Ritual
C. The Deities of Thai Court Performance
D. Thai Instruments Mentioned in the Text
E. CD Contents
F. Guide to Commercial Recordings

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