Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Pat's ICTM Study Group Symposium ...

Every other year, Pat's academic society, the International Council for Traditional Music (ICTM), holds its general meeting somewhere in the world.  Last year, it was in St. John's, Newfoundland (Canada), and next year, it will be in Shanghai, China.

In the "off years" when ICTM doesn't have its big bash, individual "Study Groups" of the ICTM hold their regional symposiums at appropriate locales.  Pat belongs to the "Performing Arts of Southeast Asia" Study Group (PASEA), and currently serves as its chairperson.  This "off year," the PASEA Study Group is having its regional symposium in Manila, the Philippines.  Because ICTM and PASEA hold their meetings at interesting and exotic places, I try to tag along with Pat as her official briefcase carrier and bodyguard.

The view (right) from the elevator lobby of our floor shows the approximate location of the venue for Pat's conference.  The low black wall at the middle of the photo shows the beginning of the original Spanish walled city ("Intramuros").  The Filipinos endured 400 years of Spanish colonial rule (remember Magellan?), 45 years US colonial rule, and 4 years of brutal Japanese occupation (in World War 2).  Check out the Wikipedia writeup of the Intramuros here.

The symposium venue in Manila is the building belonging to the Philippines National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA).  View a Google Map here.

 Pat, with members of the "executive committee" of the study group, worked with the local organizing committee in Manila and spent the better part of a year organizing this conference via e-mail and a site visit.

The venue is smack in the middle of the Intramuros noted above, and is two doors down from the lovely, 17th century San Augustin Church, the oldest church left standing in the country.  Read up on San Augustin Church here.

The local organizing committee, headed by Dr. Felicidad (Faye) Prudente of the Philippine Women's University, was wating to register us on the opening day.

Soon the registration line was humming with activity as more and more participants arrived to check in and sample the morning coffee...

It's a time to catch up with old friends and professional colleagues.  These scholars and grad students, all specialists in the performing arts of SE Asia, get together only once every year or two ...

In a while, the conference opening session begins.  Faye Prudente welcomes the participants, and introduces the deputy director of the NCCA, who will address the scholars and open the conference.    Faye and Pat have known each other since they were Ph.D. candidates together at Ann Arbor way back when ...

The Deputy Director takes over the podium and welcomes the assembled scholars.  She is especially happy that so many performing arts specialists are here, yadda, yadda, yadda, and good luck with the conference.

Then Pat takes the podium and lays down the ground rules: the presenters get 20 minutes AND NO MORE, with few minutes for Q&A.  She promises horrible consequences for those who deviate ...

Thus admonished, Dr. Elizabeth McLean Macy of Chapman Univ. and UCLA chairs the first session and introduces the speakers.  She will time and moderate the first set of speakers.

First up is Dr. Margaret Sarkissian of Smith College in Massachussetts.  She talks about the music of the Portugese community in Melaka (Malaysia).  Pat and I have known Margaret since she was doing her field research there in the early 1990's.

 All this while, the audio-visual crew is observing from their station, and trying to get the auditorium's audio system to work off the signals from the speakers' Macs and PCs.  Unfortunately, the system isn't communicating very well with the speakers' machines ...

Next up is grad student Celia Tuchman-Rosta of the U of Calif at Riverside, reporting on her Ph.D. research among classical dancers in Cambodia.  At conferences like this, students get valuable feedback from professors and colleagues about their research topic, approach, and results.

Finishing up this session is Dr. Clare Chan of the Sultan Idris Education University in Malaysia.  She talks about evolving musical styles among one of the aboriginal peoples in the mountainous areas of Malaysia.

And now it's lunchtime.  This cycle of three to four speakers, followed by a tea/coffee break or lunch, then on to more sessions, will continue for the six days of the conference.  Lunch is at Barbara's, a fancy restaurant a few buildings away.  The conferees will not starve this week ...

In the every-other-year conference of the ICTM, there are multiple sessions at each time period, and you pick and choose which to attend.  In the "off-year" Study Group symposia like this one, there is only one session per time period, and everybody attends.  (Except Yours Truly, who uses the NCCA's excellent broadband to work on his PC in the lobby.)

At the end of each grueling day of sitting through the talks, the participants are treated to some entertainment.  The first evening, (Thurs) we were bused to the Philippine Women's University, where we watched a performance of the Philippine National Folk Dance Company.

Photography was strictly prohibited, so of course I sneaked in a few photos.  I got caught and had to quit before I could set the camera properly for  decent flash-less photos.

On Friday evening, the Philippine Madrigal Singers were giving a concert next door at the San Augustin Church.  Apparently it's rare to catch them in Manila, as they are usually on international tour.  Their singing was beautiful!

On Saturday, the symposium participants had a whole-day break from the proceedings.  We went on a bus tour to the town of Tagaytay, about two hours' drive from Manila, for lunch and a relaxing afternoon on a ridge overlooking Taal Lake.

Before returning to Manila, we watched a troupe of fire walkers in the nearby town of Alfonso walk over a bed of glowing coals.  The girl in the photo is doing her thing over coals.  Then the long bus ride back to Manila, exhausted.

Sunday was the day Pat gave a talk on how puppet movements in the Malaysian shadow play relate to audience expectations and que musician actions. (Or something like that.) The videos and audio tracks embedded in the slides worked fine.  (Thanks, Nick Vasquez!)
Two friends also gave talks.  Dr. Moh'd Anis Nor from the U of Malaya talked about the Zapin dance, and Dr. Jacqueline Pugh-Kitingan of U of Malaysia Sabah talked about sport and musical tradition. The ensuing Q&A session became lively and amusing.  Anis and Jackie are both long-time friends of Pat.

The evening entertainment for the Sunday sessions was a performance of traditional songs and dances from a village in the Kalinga province in the Philippines.  I felt a bit sorry for these folks because the air conditioner was on full blast as they performed...

The "entertainment" for Monday was a bit different!  Australian dancer Alfira O'Sullivan gave a fun, hands-on workshop for the participants in children's dances from Aceh province in Indonesia.  Alfira's mother is from Aceh.  (Aceh, if you recall, was devastated by the 2004 Asian Tsunami.)

So today is Tuesday, the last day of the conference.  We've just had lunch, and the final session of talks is underway as I write this.  After that session, it will be the closing session where Pat and her committee members tie up various loose ends, summarize the findings of this meeting, and close the meeting.  She will also get the conferees to start thinking of the various themes for the talk sessions to be held at the next symposium in 2014.  The 2014 meeting may be in Bali (Indonesia), Kota Kinabalu (Malaysia), or even in Laos somewhere.  Stay tuned!