Printer Friendly

Polynesian Sound-Producing Instruments.

The study of organology and the classifications of musical instruments has in recent years occupied an increasingly marginal position both in the anthropology of material culture and in ethnomusicology proper. This reflects a shift both in theoretical orientations and in ethnographic practices. In light of these shifts, as well as the current critical and reflexive trends toward examining how disciplines and discourses of knowledge and power are constructed, a general book reviewing the nature of musical instrument taxonomy is most welcome. Yet while Kartomi's monograph provides some of the necessary synthesis and exemplary literature review essential to such an exercise, it doesn't take up the critical historical challenge provided by writers from Foucault to Fabian to analyze the ideological character of taxonomic representations. Nor does it take up, from more recent critical work, the nature of taxonomies vis-a-vis the historical project of making museums, collections, and displays of cultural objects.

The book's first three chapters sometimes come close to some of these matters, reviewing the nature of instrument classification in relationship to various ideas and concepts about music emergent in different cultural moments. Kartomi also reviews the impact of ethnoscience, folk systematics, and research on indigenous methods and procedures of classification, largely siding with the intellectualist side of the argument as promulgated by French and American ethnographers and linguists.

The remainder of the book is taken up with useful scholarly summaries and restatements of approaches to instrument classification, organized in two sections. The first considers 'societies oriented toward literary transmission' (China, India, Tibet, Java, Greece, Arab countries, Medieval Europe, 19th and 20th century West). In these reviews Kartomi uses a great variety of sources to establish the historical dominance of downward classification (tree diagrams) based on modes of playing technique and materials morphology, intersected to degrees by cosmology, gender, class. The section ends with good chapters reviewing the emergence of the widely used method of Sachs and von Hornbostel in this century, as well as the challenges provided by recent work on upward classification of European folk instruments. The final (and much shorter) section discusses 'societies oriented toward oral transmission' (Mandailing and Minangkabau of Indonesia, drawing nicely on the author's own fieldwork. T'boli of the Philippines, Kpelle of Liberia, 'Are'are of Solomon Islands, Karelian-Finnish).

These reviews are quite interesting for what they reveal about alternative and extended modes of transmitting and organizing classificatory knowledge. One only wishes that the discussion actually developed the argument (following, say Ruth Finnegan's lead) concerning the intersections of orality and literacy and their impacts on varieties of concept classification. In fairness, Kartomi's last chapter attempts to summarize a great variety of issues, but it does not, in the end, evaluate the substantive materials in light of claims about cognitive impacts of literacy.

Moyle's book is a 64 page museum-shop style catalogue intended for the general public. It contains 41 illustrations, both contextless and in-context photographs, of reasonable or bland quality, and a terse text, whose introduction reviews the musical results of sea voyaging contacts in Polynesia, and presents a summary of the role of instruments in dance accompaniment and the prominence of speech, chant, sung and recited poetry in Polynesian religious and ceremonial expression.

Chapters that follow overview the variety of percussion (slit drums, sounding boards, jew's harps, rattles, gourd drum, body percussion), wind (conch signalling, panpipes, nose flutes, end-blown flutes, trumpets), and stringed (mouth bow) instruments. The last of these also has a succinct statement about the introduction of the guitar and ukulele in Polynesia and the local development of alternate tunings and playing techniques. The book is appended by a list of museums with Polynesian instrument collections, and of further readings (mostly limited to the author's own writings).

STEVEN FELD University of Texas
COPYRIGHT 1993 University of Sydney
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Feld, Steven
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jun 1, 1993
Previous Article:Hawke's Law: The Politics of Mining and Aboriginal Land Rights in Australia.
Next Article:Kitawa: A Linguistic and Aesthetic Analysis of Visual Art in Melanesia.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2017 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters