Work & Context
From 1963 to 1982, Jacques Brunet, a former concert pianist now musicologist, made a series of recordings of Southeast Asia's traditional music. Starting in Cambodia, the sessions rapidly spread to the neighbouring countries: Laos, Thailand, Burma, Malaysia and Indonesia. Helped by meetings made during previous campaigns, consecutive harvests gradually mapped out the first significant musical cartography of these countries at a time of cultural renewal, which took place between the suspension of artistic activities due to the hardships of the Second World War (or the troubles leading to independence) and the arrival of mass tourism during the mid-seventies. This latter phenomenon contributed to an acceleration in the evolution of local traditions leading to a notorious change in the musical life of these countries.
Strictly speaking, Jacques Brunet's work was not the first attempt to create a musical encyclopaedia of this part of the world (this was done by the German firm BEKA und ODEON in its 1928 recordings), but it was the first to be duly appropriate to its subject, in several ways. First, it drew from the systematic ethnomusicological researches led by Dutch and Canadian specialists (mainly Jaap Kunst and Colin McPhee); second it was helped by musical institutions devoting themselves to the collection and study of the World musical cultures (such as the International Institute for Comparative Music Studies and Documentation in Berlin) that were hosting and financing field works; and last but not least, it used recording tools now allowing the local musical activities to be fully documented in their own time frame. The newly acquired independence of Southeast Asian countries provided a favourable addition with the creation of local recording companies starting to publish many disks that were to become precious landmarks for conscientious field researchers.
When the author started making his recordings, only a few easily available records devoted to this part of the world were in existance (not counting those made by "sound hunters" and other collectors of "ambient sound" - whether these sounds came from a touristic context or another context). There were probably not more than ten genuine "music" records in existance and most of them were the results of a single attempt with no follow-up. Some of these are shown in a special page.
Some ten years later, the Western public had access to a qualitatively different ensemble encompassing large sections of lengthy works spanning several sides of a 33-RPM LP, a rather extensive collection of the musical treasures of a Javanese palace and a significant musical account of a Balinese local ceremonial tradition.
Furthermore, Jacques Brunet's productions, like some of his fellow ethnomusicologists, distinguished themselves by extended cover notes (where knowledge coming from the best musicological sources of the time merged with information gathered with an acute ear from local musicians), and by a plentiful iconography that took full advantage of the possibilities offered by the unmatched quality of the LP album format.
Production & Techniques
The discography can be divided in two parts, the albums produced by French national institutions (Radio France-Ocora) or international bodies (UNESCO) and those financed by private companies (like CBS records, Galloway records or Playasound). Some of these productions had a European multilingual distribution as shown by this Philips album Bali : Musique de cour, musique de banjar.
Another noticeable and sizeable part is the attempt at a general discography of Southeast Asia by the label Galloway Records which, in two years time, trying to rocket free from economic constraints, issued twenty six 33-rpm LPs covering half a dozen countries, including 19 from our selected area. Unfortunately, this amateur's dream quickly vanished, its French producer having ceased all activity. Later, this failure led to several new LP editions that stopped rapidly, such as the three records of the Playasound label and the one in the UNESCO collection. One had to wait for the arrival of the CD medium for a significantly larger part of the pieces published on vinyl records to become available.
On the technical side, the author organized his recordings by taking great care of the locations of his microphones (two Neumann KM74 or two Schoeps CMT46). He did not hesitate to rearrange the settings and start another take if the musicians or himself were not happy with the results. The tape-recorders used were first a mono Nagra III (with Sennheiser mikes) and, from 1970, a stereo Stellavox SP7. Obviously, these technical and aesthetic choices were fit to the type of music chosen by Jacques Brunet, mostly taking place during pre-arranged circumstances like ceremonies, concerts, shows or planned recording sessions.
Approach & End product
This is an attempt to gather all the records about Indonesia and Malaysia issued by Jacques Brunet. The starting point was the author's collection and personal memory. A relevant base was also found in a discography compiled by Alain Swietlik, for example the one for the AFRASE. All the covers were scanned and we typed in all the information relevant to establishing the original sessions. These were then checked and completed with the help of Jacques Brunet, who had to go back to his field notes. Records issue dates were completed with the help of Alain Swietlik. In order to create the indexes, we have used various sources, including the scorebooks of Javanese traditional repertoire by Mloyowidodo and Gitosaprojo.
We provide you with 4 lists sorted out differently and 4 indexes allowing one to easily retrieve an orchestra, a gamelan, a group who played in one of the recorded pieces, a composition (under an analytical list) or a person (musician or otherwise) who took part in the session. All these lists allow, with one click, to display the detailed record of an album. When a digital reissue exists under CD format, this page includes a link going to its related CD page.
Bibliography & Links
Exploring for Nonesuch Robert Brown, in Seleh Notes Vol.10 N°3, London June 2003, p. 12-14
Essai de Discographie Indonésienne Alain Swietlik, in Archipel n°19, Paris 1980, p. 93-117
Discographie de l'Asie du Sud-Est Alain Swietlik, AFRASE Paris 1997, 174 p.
Lokananta: A Discography of the National Recording Company of Indonesia 1957-1985 Philip Yampolsky, Center for Southeast Asian Studies, University of Wisconsin, 1987
The Roots of Gamelan, 1928 recordings reissue notes by Edward Herbst 1999
Music of Indonesia Series, The new Folkways collection by Philip Yampolsky 1999
Magnificent Obsession: The Discographers, An essay by Jerry Atkins 1990
Attention: All the pictures shown in the discography, including the covers (the original rights of which belong to their respective producers), have gone through a restoring digital process. Their rights, unless explicitly mentioned, are reserved. They cannot be used without authorization.
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