The Making of the Musical World - A Story in Sound - Andrew Killick

The Making of the Musical World - A Story in Sound - Andrew Killick

Southeast Asia: Distant Connections, Local Sounds

The Making of the Musical World - A Story in Sound - Andrew Killick

Andrew Killick [+-]
University of Sheffield
Andrew Killick has been teaching and writing about the world’s music professionally since 1998. His passion for all forms of music has led him literally around the world, including studies at the University of Edinburgh, the University of Hawaii, and the University of Washington, periods of fieldwork in India and Korea, and teaching at Illinois State University and Florida State University before taking up his current position at the University of Sheffield in 2003. Originally trained as a classical pianist, he also plays the Korean gayageum zither and an English bagpipe, the Northumbrian smallpipes. His academic publications include two books on Korean music topics, about twenty refereed journal articles and book chapters, and substantial contributions to the Garland Encyclopedia of World Music and the Continuum Encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World. In his spare time he likes to compose “rounds” in a wide variety of musical styles.


The theme of Western classical music’s connections with Asia is further explored through the case of the Javanese gamelan orchestra that performed at the 1889 Exposition Universelle in Paris, inspiring some European composers to write pieces modeled on gamelan textures and scales. Debussy’s piano piece Voiles (Veils) is examined for its use of both pentatonic and “whole-tone” scales, which, taken together, might suggest the Javanese scale slendro with its five roughly equal intervals. Since “equidistant” scales, in which all the intervals are the same size (including the whole-tone scale and the “chromatic” scale of twelve semitones) can have no clear tonal center, the gamelan influence is thus seen to have contributed to the shift in twentieth-century classical music away from functional harmony to the composition of “atonal” music. Gamelan music is then studied in its home context, including its role in a distinctive form of musical theater, wayang kulit shadow puppetry. The Javanese gamelan is briefly compared with other forms of gamelan and other music based on similar principles from different parts of Indonesia, notably Balinese gamelan gong kebyar and the so-called “monkey chant” kecak. The fact that the stories presented in wayang kulit and kecak come from Hindu epics, while Indonesia has a Muslim majority, reflects successive waves of cultural influence from South Asia, yet the musical techniques are uniquely Southeast Asian. The comparison is then extended to other parts of Southeast Asia, such as Thailand and Vietnam, where some similar principles are found (including equidistant scales) while connections to the Chinese cultural sphere are reflected for instance in the use of free-reed mouth organs. The cultural character of Southeast Asia as a meeting place of diverse local and foreign elements is finally stressed by considering some effects of European colonization and the evidence of remote historical connections between Indonesia and distant East Africa, where some similar instruments are found.

Notify A Colleague


Killick, Andrew. Southeast Asia: Distant Connections, Local Sounds. The Making of the Musical World - A Story in Sound. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. p. Sep 2024. ISBN 9781781793411. Date accessed: 27 Sep 2021 doi: 10.1558/equinox.27331. Sep 2024

Dublin Core Metadata