Meeting : "Hmong Songs of Memory : Secular and Sacred Music in Laos and Thailand”.
Tuesday, 9 January, 2018.
A Talk by Victoria Vorreiter.
the millennia, the Hmong have developed an astonishingly rich culture
as they migrated from their source in the far reaches of northern China
along mountaintops that flank the great rivers of Southeast Asia,
finally finding sanctuary in the foothills of Vietnam, Laos, Thailand,
and Myanmar, and further to the four corners of the world.
traditional people living close to the earth—keenly attuned to the
rotations of the sun and moon, the cycles of seasons, and the wheel of
life—the Hmong have created a complex, all-encompassing belief system
rooted in animism, where every entity in nature possesses a soul and
the universe is organized by supernatural beings, both benevolent and
malevolent. Frequent rites, ceremonies, and festivals are performed
throughout the year to maintain harmony between the world of man and
the realm of spirits.
medium propelling these rites is music, which springs from a vast
repository of songs, chants, invocations, and instrumental pieces that
chart the human experience. Enacted by the keepers of the bardic
tradition—the master Hmong musicians, shamans, headmen, matriarchs and
patriarchs—this vibrant soundscape pervades daily life as it does
sacred rites. For a culture that historically has no literary
tradition, music also serves as the most enduring channel for
transmitting everything the Hmong know about their inner and outer
lives, linking the first ancestors with present generations and beyond.
Victoria Vorreiter, an American researcher, photographer, and filmmaker, highlights the
music, ceremonies, and culture of the Hmong of Laos and Thailand
through Hmong Songs of Memory: Traditional Secular and Sacred Hmong
Music, a dynamic presentation enhanced by photographs and recordings,
which complements her in-depth book and film of the same name.
life in music has taken several forms in search of the heart response
to melody and rhythm. Trained as a classical violinist, she has
performed professionally and taught at universities and music schools
around the world. These experiences propelled her to explore and
document the cultural importance and primal power of music embedded in
creating her first film, The Music of Morocco and the Cycles of Life
(2002), Victoria moved to Southeast Asia, where she has spent over a
decade documenting the ancestral music of highland communities in Laos,
Myanmar, Thailand, and China. This has given rise to the Songs of
Memory (2009) and the Hmong Songs of Memory (2016) archival
projects—books, films, recordings, and multi-media exhibitions that are
brought to life by vivid photographs, musical instruments, artifacts, and textiles.
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