Myanmar MusicMusic of Myanmar
How is Myanmar melody? Ours may be a bit worrying for those who are only used to the West. However, I think if you hear this a few listens - and the Myanmar folklore and traditional records in the Ethnic Folkways Library offer good samples - you'll find that we're actually a fully evolved piece of work.
From a historical point of view, the tradition of Myanmar is at least fifteen hundred years old. We know from a spellbinding account in a China chronicles of the year 802 AD that our bowls and composers were already perfect for them back then. In order to begin with the basics, let's first analyse our Burma gamut.
It' s the same as your own tonal range, but with this distinction that the 4th and 7th note are both "neutral", so that the tone sequence is different. Manufacturers of our early musical instrument did not take care of the coincidences in an onectave. But our soundtrack modulates from the tone to the domination, from B flat to G flat and often from the tone to the sub-dominance - B flat to F flat and back again.
As we do not have the chrome scales, our score may seem a little shallow for westerners. Developing harmonies has given tremendous deepness to the West's work. Since our guitars were not suited for harmonies, our tunes have instead evolved a complex of purely tune-pattern. Your enjoyment of playing your own songs comes from walking into the depths with a chord.
Rhythmical burmesian musical system may have been defined by the character of our speech, which is not accentuated but tonally. Myanmar's rhyme is more dependent on the diagrammatic order of the words, with certain tones returning at certain points. Frequently the vocalist holds a few small tocs and a small mallet.
Most common in our times is a single duplicate or a single four-stroke. However, a player must never get out of rhythm. As far as I know, the composite period was never used in our work. If we turn to the most widely used tools today, we must give the charming boat-shaped drum, the thirteen-string Sung Cauk, a place of honour (see table 23 in the artwork).
Burma's band is known as the Sing. The group consists of the pictorial puttowaing where the player sits in his drumming circuit, a ring of bells ( "Kyee waing"), the large puttma-beat, bowls, bobbins and brass organs like the hné (like an oboe) and the pawwé (a whistle made of bamboo).
Singing is the accompaniment to our plays (zat pwès), our ceremonial dance (nat pwès) and others of the many festive events that animate Myanmar people. Although Buddhism has sometimes scorned it as sensually attractive, we Myanmar people must be one of the most music-loving people in the underworld.
Traditional tunes are very much in vivid form in our towns, where some interesting percussions are particularly well-loved. As a rule, scientists classify our classic repertoire into six major genres, most of which are on the Folkways album.
However, I must not take the chance of wearing you out with too many oddly named ones and will only say that these classic pieces are usually hymns that range from plain texts to formal praises of the kings or kingly cities and festive hymns written in worship of Lord Buddha.
A major event in the annals of Burma's musical and cultural heritage was the second invasion of Siam by King Hsinbyushin in 1767. Artisans, entertainers, musicans, performers, dances and many hundred people have been importing from Siam to Burma, and they have enriched our people.
Our theatre has seen new lives and new shapes, our classic dancing is much nearer to that of Siam than that of India, and one main character of our classic tune, Ayuthia (Side I, Volume 3 and Side II, Volume 8 ), is named after the ancient Thai capitol, Ayuthia.
The years after this Thai "invasion" were marked by a notable man called U Sa, a true Leonardo da Vinci who was a writer, player, playwright, military, diplomatic and politician. During a long life he has created and adapted new literature, drama and music, and over two hundred of our best tunes are his.
A further important source of classicism comes from the Mons; their fine tunes were long ago kept in a special mahagita. After all, some of the cleanest and oldest types of our traditionally played musical styles are conserved in the conciliatory rites of nature ritual. These ghosts from the ancient animistic cultures were greeted in Buddhism, as Dr. Htin Aung explained in his essays, and the peasantry still honour them with sticks, or by hung a small pieces of chocolate cake with a blanket of scarlet and chalk on the royal posts of the manor, to which sacrifices of fruits or boiled paddy are made with dance and so on.
What has happened to Burma's musical life since the impact of foreign influences on us was enormously increased by broadcasting and film? But on the other hand - and I am afraid they are many - let me introduce the opinions of my much adored and academically scholarly colleague Ko Thant of Mandalay.
He is contemptuous of our Myanmar instrument because it lacks the accuracy of the West. With their raw instrumental skills, our Myanmar performers reach an exceptional level of virtuosoism - they are the slave - and reach the most delicate shades as they move from one tone to the next. Because they do not just hear from a musical composition, but rather from their memories, our artists recreate the musical experience every time they perform, with full freedom for the expressiveness of their own work.
Co Thant enjoys the rigorous disciplines of the West African band and denounces freedom for all people. All of us are not aware that this really doesn't play a role, that the goal of occidental sound is a connection whose goal is a harmonic fusion, while ours is a mix, the joy of the artistic mix of sound.
The Burmese listen to the overall effect of everyone, the Burmese to the personal effect of each and every part in the group. Accompanying the vocals in our style does not mean a harmonious backdrop to the vocals, but a relationship inatterns. Within and out of the frame of musically and melodically times that the instrument offers, the vocals weave a different, related design and a different sense.
Co Thant claims that soundtrack is an "international language" and that we should let ourselves be overwhelmed by occidental instrumentation and tunes so that our musician speaks the same kind of style of music our fellow musicans do. Since we already have an improvisational approach to our own style of playing, do we really need modern West German jazzmusic and pop-rock?
There was an old-fashioned man from Burma who was seen by a TV-broadcaster. "This is Johnny, the Myanmar yodeller," the seller said, "the audience worships Johnny; the new trends in Myanmar banding, you know. They' re with me you're beautiful and Isle of Capri with Myanmar words and even the old favourites like Good King Wenceslas - that's a canard of a melody - and Come to the Savior, don't make any retard.
" It was at this point that the old man from Burma passed out. Good contemporary plays still exist in Burma, and a number of pop song styles from our own folklore have become heroes. In order to keep our old score - as little of it has been recorded - we have recorded the best classic tracks and folksongs.