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Billeri, Francesca (2019) Interrelations among genres in Khmer traditional music and theatre : Phleng Kar, Phleng Arak, Lkhaon Yiikee and Lkhaon Bassac. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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This dissertation focuses on the interrelation and adaptation of musical and extramusical song features among the Cambodian genres of phleng kar, phleng arak, lkhaon yiikee and lkhaon bassac. My research starts from my master’s study on phleng kar, the traditional wedding music. Through my MA research, it appeared that selected songs from the phleng kar repertoire share and exchange musical and ritual features. In this study I considered how these songs were used in other genres and what this could tell us about the social and musical interrelationship of these musics. My research aims to discuss the concept of genre classification from the emic perspective of the Cambodian pratictioners showing how they talk and think about their music; and to explore the kinds of culture-specific markers employed by Khmer musicians to distinguish their genres. Cambodian music traditions outside the iconic genre of classical dance have received little attention in scholarship. This study provides the first systematic analysis of the genres in question whose repertoire and musical features, to my knowledge, have never been studied. Ethnographic research carried out over ten months in different provinces of Cambodia and Phnom Penh using a combination of audiovisual recording, interviews, and participant observation provided me with three case studies which illustrate: songs sharing the same title with different tunes; songs with same title and similar tunes; and songs with a different title but similar tunes. To these case studies I then applied transcriptions, using staff notation, and analysed musical and extramusical parameters to consider the exchange of musical features and performance analysis following some scholar’s model (Marett 2009; McKinley 2002; Seeger 1987) to consider the ritual context. This study shows how classification and categorization of genres, even when genres overlap, reflect sociocultural aspects and are attached to a set of musical and extramusical components.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses
Supervisors Name: Nick Gray
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 09 May 2019 09:56

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