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Cultures Of Asian Music: India, China, Indonesia


Clockwise: Dr. Barbara Rose Lange, Bingyao Liu, Dr. Sastry Vedam, Dr. Stephen Slawek, and Dr. Indira Viswanathan Peterson

Asia is the home of rich, ancient musical traditions. In this panel presentation focusing on iconic instruments, musicians and scholars demonstrate and discuss the distinctive attributes of Indian, Chinese, and Indonesian music, as well as their interlinked histories and their contributions to world music. Moderated by Professor Indira Peterson, the panel discussion will illuminate the Indian veena, played by Dr. Sastry Vedam, the yangqin (a Chinese hammered dulcimer), played by Bingyao Liu, and the gender barung (an instrument in the Javanese gamelan ensemble), played by Professor Stephen Slawek. Dr. Slawek will be joined by Professor Barbara Rose Lange in providing ethnomusicological perspectives.

About the Panelists

Bingyao Liu is a Music major and Ethnomusicology minor at Mount Holyoke College. She spent her life before college in Hunan, China and has been playing the yangqin (Chinese hammered dulcimer) since she was six. She plays in the Klezmer Ensemble and sings in the Glee Club. In 2016, she started the Chinese Music Ensemble at Mount Holyoke College and has performed with the ensemble at various cultural events since then.

Dr. Barbara Rose Lange is an Associate Professor of Ethnomusicology at the Moores School of Music, University of Houston. Since the early 1990s she has studied the music of Hungarians and Roma (Gypsies). She has also conducted research on youth and the avant-garde in Texas. She has held Fulbright, IREX, and Mellon fellowships. She is author of the book Holy Brotherhood: Romani Music in a Hungarian Pentecostal Church. She currently researches experiments with folk music in Bratislava, Budapest, and Vienna.

Dr. Stephen Slawek is a professor in the ethnomusicology program at The University of Texas at Austin. He specializes in the musical traditions of South Asia and has secondary interests in Southeast Asian music and American popular music. His publications draw upon extensive field experience and personal studies of performance practice in India. He has authored Sitar Technique in Nibaddh Forms (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1987) and, with Robert Hardgrave, Jr., co-authored Musical Instruments of North India: Eighteenth Century Portraits by Baltazard Solvyns (Delhi: Manohar Publishers, 1997). Professor Slawek has served as a member of the Council of the Society for Ethnomusicology, as Second Vice-President, as a member of the Board of the Society for Asian Music, as editor of Asian Music, the Journal of the Society for Asian Music, and as Chair of the Ethnomusicology Committee of the American Institute of Indian Studies. A senior disciple of the late Pandit Ravi Shankar, he has an international reputation as an accomplished performer on the Indian sitar. In addition to teaching undergraduate courses on Asian music and graduate seminars in ethnomusicology, Professor Slawek directs the Indian Classical Music Ensemble and the Javanese Gamelan Ensemble.

Dr. Sastry Vedam is currently a faculty member in the Department of Radiation Physics at University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. He has resided in the Houston area since 2006 and originally hails from Chennai. He was introduced to Carnatic music, specifically the veena, at the age of 8. He received formal training from three different gurus, with his most influential musical development under Vidwan Sri R Pichumani Iyer. While in India, he was a regular participant in several music competitions, winning several awards along the way. He also was selected as a junior grade artiste and performed at the All India Radio, Chennai Station, between 1990-1993. During his undergraduate years at the Manipal Institute of Technology, he was actively involved with The Society for the Promotion of Indian Classical Music and Culture Among Youth, and served as its student president between 1993-96. Upon moving to the USA in 1997, he continued performing in concerts and classical dance arangetrams in the Washington DC and Richmond, VA metro areas. He continues his musical education through Skype sessions with seniors in Chennai and around the world.

About the Moderator

Dr. Indira Viswanathan Peterson is Professor of Asian Studies, Emerita, Mount Holyoke College. She specializes in classical literature in Sanskrit, Tamil and Marathi; and South Indian religions, cultural history, and performing arts. She has also focused on translation, comparative literature, and European-Asian culture contact. She has published widely on these subjects. Peterson is also an amateur vocalist in the Karnatak musical tradition. She has performed, lectured, and led conferences on classical Indian music and dance worldwide, including at the National Gallery of Art (U.S.A), The National Museum of India, the Music Academy (Madras), and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Peterson’s major publications include: Poems to Shiva: The Hymns of the Tamil Saints (1989), Performing Pasts: Reinventing the Arts in modern South India (2008, with Davesh Soneji), Arjuna and the Hunter (2016), and George Michell and Indira Peterson, The Great Temple at Thanjavur: A Thousand Years. 1010 – 2010 (2010). Nearing completion are the biography Scholar-king of Tanjore: Serfoji II and Indian Modernity, supported by a Guggenheim Fellowship, and Drama, the Court, and the Public in Early Modern India, a monograph on the multilingual dance dramas of the Thanjavur Maratha court.

About the Classical Arts Society of Houston

Classical Arts Society of Houston (CAS), founded in 1993, the Classical Arts Society of Houston is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting and maintaining the rich heritage of the classical performing arts of India. 2017 marks a special milestone for CAS, as it celebrates 25 years since its inception. The organization started by creating an annual music festival in the Houston area honoring the 18th century composer Sri Tyagaraja, which it continues to do to date. CAS also presents leading artists of Carnatic music through its Spring and Fall Music Festivals. While CAS continues to serve the community in its support of the Indian classical performing arts, it is also now interested in the wider horizon of world classical music. CAS is honored to collaborate with Asia Society to present Cultures Of Asian Music: India, China, Indonesia. Though the area of focus for CAS has been the world of South Indian Classical or Carnatic music, in this age of globalization, CAS is eager to create an opportunity for exposure and understanding of other classical music traditions. This panel discussion on the music of the neighboring Asian countries of India, China, and Indonesia, is a first step.

Major support for Performing Arts and Culture programs comes from Nancy C. Allen, Ellen Gritz and Milton Rosenau, the City of Houston through Houston Arts Alliance, and the Anchorage Foundation. Generous funding also provided by AARP, The Clayton Fund, Miller Outdoor Theatre, New England Foundation for the Arts, and through contributions from the Friends of Asia Society, a premier group of individuals and organizations committed to bringing exceptional programming and exhibitions to Asia Society Texas Center. This program is presented in collaboration with the Classical Arts Society of Houston.

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