The Music of Laos
It doesn't get much more roots than this selection from the truly extraordinary Anthology of World Music. The Anthology consists of 50 records that were made from ethnomusicological field recordings between 1968 and 1987. The collection was explicitly designed to capture some fragment of the thousands of musical cultures that comprise the roots of world music. Descriptive scholarly commentary from the original recordings are included with these digital remasters. Although there is a substantial amount of textual information, the notes are hardly satisfying. The commentary that is provided along with The Music of Laos barely scratches the surface, offering just enough information to orient the listener to a mysterious range of sounds.
The Music of Laos belongs to a wider lineage of Asian music recordings. According to Alain Danielou, several of the songs are exemplars of early Indian styles that have long since been transformed in India. Other pan Asian connections include the incredible mouth organ, or khene, which was adopted by the Chinese. Apparently the Chinese version, known as the chang, was taken to St. Petersberg in the 18th century, where its principles were used in the creation of the European open reed instruments from which the harmonium, accordion, and harmonica are derived. Associations between musical styles in Laos and the Himalaya are also discussed. The concluding track, a segment from an all night presentation of the Ramayana, dramatizes the complex intersection of musical cultures evident in Laotian music.
These recordings are essential for the collector of more traditional world music. The ability to appreciate their value depends upon a real familiarity with the culture and contexts that produced them. The music contained in the Anthology was not designed for world markets. There is no attempt to tap into global musical sensibilities in order to bridge the distance between cultures. It is the listener who must learn the language and transcend these barriers. The Music of Laos represents genuine diversity, mysterious and sometimes perplexing difference. Enjoy! - Joshua Levin
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