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Archive for May, 2011

Dear Reader,

Thanks for coming to my blog. I must be honest and say that I have no idea on what a good blog should sound like, but I figured if I practiced a bit, it might end up being something very enjoyable to read!

As I am writing this, I am still on the airplane (although, posting it will be at a later time as there is no internet in the air here). I will be in Bali in an hour an a half and cannot wait to step off the plane, feel and smell the air, stretch my legs on Balinese land and give the biggest hug to my girl Leslie!

The flight has been fantastic… long, but fantastic. Cathay Pacific is really a great airline and I’m very impressed with all aspects of the flight. It is clean, roomy, awesome service, good food… ok, I’ll go on. Free haagen dazs icecream. Unlimited snacks, juices and coffee tea – self or full serve. Free unlimited wine and a selection of other spirits. I even enjoyed their safety presentation… and this opinion was not altered because of the free wine, in fact I didn’t even have any! *how could she be this excited? what has she been doing?*

The one thing, however, that I was puzzled by at first was after take off -at 2:45am- being served baked salmon with white wine butter sauce, mashed potatoes and broccoli, prawn salad, icecream and tea. At three in the morning? It finally dawned on me that we would be arriving to Hong Kong at 6AM and they were managing things as if we were already in that time zone. How clever! It was actually very helpful in the end because when I had breakfast, it felt like it was really that time.

Near the end of the first flight while stretching my legs, I met a new friend from Pakistan who was going to visit his family after being away from them for six months. Ifti is a lovely man, a male nurse who is trying to convince his family to move to Vancouver for a better life. He had a layover in Hong Kong also so we passed the few hours checking out the airport together and having some really horrible milk tea. Apparently I am very docile (!! some of you will laugh !!) and have a beautiful smile! Thanks Ifti!

Aside from my socialization, on both flights I managed to get a lot of reading done and have already learned some very interesting things about Balinese vocal aesthetics and teaching methods from a wonderful book called Voices In Bali by Edward Herbst. I have only gotten through the first few chapters as there is a lot to process but I have a few things I’d like to share.

Regarding some very raw aesthetics and sound production, one thing I found of particular interest was their hardcore approach of disciplining of the vocal folds. Apparently when singing dalang and panasar (two genres of music and poetry expression) it is encouraged to sing in a very “suara ncah” style which literally means “broken”, “shattered” or “fragmented”. This is a very coarse sound that is often achieved by singing full volume towards the ocean waves until the voice becomes hoarse. How horrifying would that be for a classical vocalist to hear! I am intrigued…

The spiritual aspect is also very drawing and satisfying to read about. Their ideal of musical purpose and performance is much of what I think we lack in Western world. In fact, it was very eye opening to read of a questionable ethical decision by a westerner to reproduce and distribute a recorded performance of her Balinese teacher to her students in North America. The Balinese singer did not feel violated because her song and voice were shared, but because that it was shared in the wrong context. How that song is conveyed, performed and taught in context with the present moment is what the music is about. Desa kala patra in English means: place, time, context. This is an extremely important aspect of Balinese vocal music, and music in general. The singer enters the style but also how the style enters the singer.

The intent of the song is more important than understanding and conveying every single word. It is the mood. The ambiance, how spirit transforms itself into form. Accepting each moment as a springboard for more creative flowering, “perkembangan”.

It is an understatement to say that there is so much to learn, but there is, and I am excited to meet one of my teachers here in Bali. A friend of both Leslie’s and mine Sudi – his dad is an amazing singer and performer of many different styles. Leslie has met with him already and informed me that he is looking forward to working with me. I can’t wait! I also can’t wait to get off the plane in half an hour. The first thing we’ll be doing in Obud after dropping off my stuff is getting a massage. It is very cheap here and my body is extremely sore. Ah life.

Bali, I already am in love.

Will write again soon! Thanks for reading 🙂

Sincerely,
Chelsea

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Dear Reader,

I realize that there is a good chance, no one is actually reading this yet, but wanted to get a few words in despite the insane day I had and what time it is presently. Tomorrow I will be leaving for my first mini-research trip.

I also realize that while I’ve started writing, I’ll need to make clear why I am writing anything at all! I am a musician, a student, a lover of life (most days) and I am just embarking on a new journey of graduate studies in Ethnomusicology. I finished my Bachelors of Music in classical voice, have taken a year off and now am back, thirsty for more – and more meaning that this is a big world of music and I intend to get my hands dirty in it!

This journal is to help me process what I encounter as a scholar, a musician and a human being interacting with other cultures through music – and also to keep my family and friends posted on what I’m up to, no matter where I am in the world.

This first segment will be Bali, Indonesia. I’ll be there for three weeks learning how to do field research and making contacts with the help and expertise of one of my best friends and fellow Ethnomusicologist, Leslie Tilley. She has been there several times for research and is an amazing person to learn from and have by my side. I know that three weeks isn’t a long time to do any major studies but I will get some good ideas about how to approach my own major research trip next summer, plus, I will get a survey of vocal instruction and learn some new interesting things about the voice, which is the whole point!

I do not have much else to tell you at this point other than that my suitcase is packed. I realize that I may not feel that way when I wake up, but I’m thinking positively at 1:30 in the morning!!!

Perhaps it would be a good idea to get some rest now, seeing as my flight will last for 21 hours. My Grandma’s 90th birthday is tomorrow night so I have booked my flight for after our celebration. 2:45am I will be on a plane to Hong Kong, then to Denpasar, Bali. Can’t wait!

Goodnight. Sweet dreams of warm breezes and fantastic music.
Chelsea

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