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Distributed for National University of Singapore Press

Tall Tree, Nest of the Wind

The Javanese Shadow-play Dewa Ruci Performed by Ki Anom Soeroto - A Study in Performance Philology

Javanese shadow puppetry is a sophisticated dramatic form, often felt to be at the heart of Javanese culture, drawing on classic texts but with important contemporary resonance in fields like religion and politics. How to make sense of the shadow-play as a form of world-making? In Tall Tree, Nest of the Wind, Bernard Arps explores this question by considering an all-night performance of Dewa Ruci, a key play in the repertoire. Thrilling and profound, Dewa Rucidescribes the mighty Bratasena’s quest for the ultimate mystical insight. 

The book presents  Dewa Ruci as rendered by the distinguished master puppeteer Ki Anom Soeroto in Amsterdam in 1987. The book’s unusual design presents the performance texts together with descriptions of the sounds and images that would remain obscure in conventional formats of presentation. Copious annotations probe beneath the surface and provide an understanding of the performance's cultural complexity. These annotations explain the meanings of puppet action, music, and shifts in language; how the puppeteer wove together into the drama the circumstances of the performance in Amsterdam, Islamic and other religious ideas, and references to contemporary Indonesian political ideology. Also revealed is the performance’s historical multilayering and the picture it paints of the Javanese past.

Tall Tree, Nest of the Wind not only presents an unrivalled insight into the artistic depth of wayang kulit, it exemplifies a new field of study, the philology of performance.

656 pages | 250 halftones | 6 1/2 x 9 1/2 | © 2016

Asian Studies: Southeast Asia and Australia

Culture Studies

Literature and Literary Criticism: Dramatic Works

Music: Ethnomusicology

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"Never before have I seen a performance which is essentially visual and auditory successfully turned into something on the printed page. A remarkable work."

M. C. Ricklefs

“An extraordinary, rich volume in which Ben Arps develops and explicates a new field of study: a philology of performance. The principal purpose of this book is to demonstrate what a philological manner of investigation can offer to the study of performance. Arps’s study, however, is no mere defence of philological practices but instead, in presenting and illuminating a ‘reformed philology’, points towards a revisioning of philological methodology as a whole.”

Journal of the Humanities and Social Sciences of Southeast Asia

“The book . . . can be read not only by those who want to broaden their knowledge of wayang but also by all those unfamiliar with the tradition of Javanese shadow theatre. . . . Arps opens new perspectives for research in theatre studies. It is not only extremely valuable for all who study wayang and anyone interested in art and culture of Java, but also for all scholars, critics and theatre historians seeking new ways of speaking and writing about the theatre.”

New Books Asia

Table of Contents

  1. The puppeteer, the event, and the play
  2. Philology, performance, and wayang theory
  3. A Philology of performance
  4. The Edition
  5. The Annotation
Ki Anom Soeroto Performs Dewa Ruci
List of Symbols and typographic conventions
First Part-Patjĕt nĕ
Audience in Astina
Inside the Palace
The chancellor gives instructions
The giants on Mount Candramuka
In Astina
Second Part- Pathĕt sanga
In the hermitage of Sapta Arga
Pĕrmadi meets the demons
Third Part- Pathĕt manyura
Audience in Amarta
The Serpent
The meeting with Dewa Ruci
Durna goes after Bratasena
List of abbreviations used in the annotations and Appendix II
Annotations to Ki Anom Soeroto performs Dewa Ruci
  1. The streaming audio, the CD set, and this book
  2. Dramatis personae and topnyms

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