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what should indigenous music sound like / 原音和音樂風格問題

 i'm in taitung with S. he's playing a couple of clips of recently composed music for me, both very different in style. as he plays the music, he makes a couple of bamboo cups and a bamboo container for millet wine. his students will need both to serve important guests at an upcoming performance. the first track he plays is largely ambient, with a variety of electronic loops framing a vocal track, itself processed through a vocoder and looped. i've heard the track before. the first time, a group of S's friends, also Amis, were sitting around eating lunch. one of them, who lives in taipei, called it "Amis Lounge Music." I thought, yeah, it does sound like what Amis Lounge would sound like


But S seems a bit embarrassed with this commensuration, at least when it's just me at his place, watching him make the bamboo cups. He says, "let me put on something more 'indigenous'." The song's lyrics describe a bell, complete with a refrain featuring onomatopoetic vocables. It's about stopping to pick fragrant herbs for someone along a mountain road, the bell jangling as one walks. I ask S why the song is more "yuanjhumin" (indigenous). S says that other people tell him that. What's their definition, then? Why? He is not completely sure. It might be the lyrics or the arrangement


By contrast, this song does resemble what many audiences in Taiwan have come to think of "yuanjhumin music": acoustic instruments dominate in the mix, along with the vocal track; the arrangement employs electric guitar very subtly to build mood rather than as a solo or even rhythm section instrument. On the whole, the arrangement has many qualities of the "folk" music of 1970s taiwanese campus songs or the 1960s U.S. folk revival music. Like Biung, who has felt frustrated with the reluctance of people to accept his music as both pop and yuanjhumin, S's assessment of this song as "more yuanjhumin" reflects what has become a generic restriction: yuanjhumin musics should, in this description, belong either to the "world" or "folk" categories

Yet this assessment leads me to wonder. The "Amis Lounge" music is a piece completely in Amis language with mostly vocables--a feature of traditional Amis musics. The melodic contour of the lounge piece similarly follows traditional musics, as does S's voice production on the track. In spite of vocoder, drum machine, and ambient feel, then, the lounge track is in some ways closer to traditional musics than the track S describes as "more yuanjhumin." Why is that? 

Acoustic folk is the dominant form, perhaps even an important marker of yuanjhumin music to most taiwanese listeners. How might one track the history of this construction of yuanjhumin music?


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