“Rethinking the History of Indonesian Music”
a Conference made possible by the Henry Luce Foundation

“Rethinking the History of Indonesian Music”
Ann E. Pitzer Center
  • Free to attend—and lunch will be provided—for those that pre-register for the conference. Please submit your registration by Thursday, November 3rd.
  • For those unable to attend, we will livestream the conference beginning at 9:20 am. Please note that interaction is not possible over the livestream.

About the Conference

For the conference “Rethinking the History of Indonesian Music” eight scholars will present 30-minute papers, followed by 10-minute prepared responses from local respondents, on topics related to the broad subject of music history in the geographical area currently identified as the Indonesian archipelago. The conference is part of a broader Luce Foundation project titled “Toward a Music History of the Indonesian Archipelago,” which will take place over two years. With this open approach, the conference seeks to explore topics of indigeneity, colonialism, the evolving artistry of modern gamelan, and the rethinking of Indonesian history.

Preceding the conference, the Bay Area’s rock-gamelan fusion group Purnamasari will give a concert Friday, Nov. 4, at 7:00 pm in the Ann E. Pitzer Center.

Conference Schedule

9:00       Coffee and Registration

9:20       Introductions by
             ​ Profs. Anna Maria Busse Berger and Henry Spiller of UC Davis

9:30       Panel I – Chair Juan Diego Díaz (UC Davis)

9:30       Sandeep Ray (University of Nottingham, Malaysia)
              “Choral singing and the Japanese Occupation of Java”

10:10     Emilie Rook (University of Pittsburgh)
              “A Missional Legacy: Musik Inkulturasi and the Production
              of Localized Catholic Hymnals in

10:50     Coffee Break

11:15     Panel II – Chair Gillian Irwin (Gamelan Sekar Jaya)

11:15     Anna Maria Busse Berger (UC Davis)
              “Jaap Kunst and the German Missionaries in Nias”

11:55     Dustin Wiebe (UC Davis)
              “‘Divine’ Ethnomusicology: Jaap Kunst in Flores”

12:35     Lunch

2:00       Panel III – Chair Sarah Maxim (UC Berkeley)

2:00       Bernard Arps (Leiden University, Netherlands) 
              “The Issue of the Javanese Church Hymns”

2:40       Henry Spiller (UC Davis)
              “‘I am in no way surprised that the Javanese
              can listen to it all night long’: A 19th-century Dutch
              missionary on Javanese music”

2:50       Break

3:15       Panel IV – Chris Reynolds (UC Davis)

3:15       Sebastian Klotz (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin)
              “Missionaries as phonographic mediators”

3:55       David A. Hollinger (UC Berkeley)
              “The Heathen in His Blindness? Missionaries,
              Empire, and Anti-Colonialism”

4:35       General discussion and concluding remarks.

About the Luce Foundation Project

Starting in the 16th century and continuing until World War II, Christian missionaries to the Indonesian archipelago took an interest in indigenous music. Up until now the source materials have been difficult to find, scattered and ignored, but UC Davis professors Henry Spiller and Anna Maria Busse Berger have received a major grant from the Henry Luce Foundation’s Asia Program to investigate these sources and make these materials more accessible.

Spiller said: “It has been ignored because it was collected by missionaries and considered biased, but that’s throwing out the baby with the bathwater. We’re not trying to redeem the missionaries, but to make the priceless information they collected available to all interested parties.” The professors will focus primarily on work done by Dutch and German missionaries in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, although there are reports by Portuguese Jesuit missionaries dating to the 16th century.

The award to the College of Letters and Science’s Department of Music professors provides funding for research, two conferences, and a post-doctoral fellowship, which has been filled by Dr. Dustin Wiebe. 

Most European missionaries were trained to learn about the languages of the places they were posted, and as an outgrowth of that, some began documenting music. This was boosted with the founding in 1900 of the Berlin Phonogramm-Archiv, which provided sound-recording equipment and training to missionaries and travelers.

The Henry Luce Foundation seeks to enrich public discourse by promoting innovative scholarship, cultivating new leaders, and fostering international understanding.

Ann E. Pitzer Center, Davis, CA

“Deep Dive Into Indonesian Music”
by Jeffrey Day, College of Letters & Science

As part of an ongoing study stretching from Davis to Germany and across the many islands of Indonesia, the UC Davis Department of Music is holding a second conference on Indonesian music. “Rethinking The History Of Indonesian Music” on Nov. 5 brings together scholars from around the globe


Professors Receive Grant to Explore Indonesian Music Archive
UC Davis College of Letters and Science

UC Davis music professors Henry Spiller and Anna Maria Busse Berger have received a major grant from the Henry Luce Foundation to look at source material collected by German missionaries in Indonesia during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

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