Gavin Douglas: Professor of Ethnomusicology and Adjunct Professor of Anthropology, UNC Greensboro
According to the seventh Buddhist precept, participation in musical events in the Theravada Buddhist world is deemed inappropriate for devote laity and those who have taken monastic vows. However, in practice, the life of lay Buddhists and monks is filled with sculpted sound. In this talk, I will examine this precept among the activities of Buddhists in Myanmar. In addition to many Buddhist inflected traditions that are recognized as music (zat theatre, thachin gyi, dhamma gita), there are numerous others situation where sound is musically organized to further Buddhist goals (paritta chants, prayers, sermons, bells and gongs to mark ritual moments). Interviews with Burmese monks, devote laity, instrument makers, and musicians documented by audio and video reveal many contradictory interpretations of the seventh precept. For Buddhist scholars, I aim to highlight the significant and largely unacknowledged role that sculpted sound plays in Buddhist practice. For music scholars, I will reveal sonics domains that have previously generated little attention.