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Title: Modernising traditional musical culture : a case study of contemporary piphat ensembles in Phayao Province, Northern Thailand
Author: Amaro, Tat
ISNI:       0000 0004 7652 2841
Awarding Body: Durham University
Current Institution: Durham University
Date of Award: 2018
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In the North of Thailand, known as Lanna, dynamic musical change is an inevitable corollary of people’s needs to adapt to new social and musical preferences. In Phayao Province, where this research is focused, contemporary piphat ensembles have long been developing, particularly through the uptake of Western musical instruments and tuning system, applying electronic equipment and computer karaoke, and transforming Lanna repertory. This thesis explores how the refashioning of traditional music has become the very foundation of creativity in live performance. Nowadays, Phayao’s piphat musicians all direct their artistry towards the provision of modern mass- media influenced entertainment, even as they sustain their traditional roles of performing at funerals, fon phi spirit dance ceremonies and temple festivals. In these contexts, their music helps give form to the attendee’s experiences, sometimes promoting solemnity and, at other times, stimulating revelry. In this thesis, based on empirical data acquired using personal engagement, participant observation, interviews, and filming, I chart the successes and hardships that the Phayao province piphat ensembles have experienced in the face of changing social, economic and aesthetic contexts, and argue that adaptability has been the musicians’ key to continued relevance. This adaptability relates not only to the music-making itself but also to the social networks that support it. In Phayao, the piphat musicians are ceaselessly re-negotiating complex patterns of alliance and rivalry, seeking to make their interactions and business dealings run smoothly. While collaboration has ensured the survival of piphat, competition has sometimes ignited fierce conflict, and this study also shines light on these dynamics. Furthermore, undertaking a detailed analysis of original transcriptions, this thesis explains how the piphat musicians balance tradition and innovation in their artistry, re- interpreting older repertory from Central Thailand and Lanna by adding tertian harmonies and new instrument-specific roles, and playing favourites from the lukthung pop repertory – taking piphat far beyond its original musical and social limitations.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available