Talk | Dr Ivan Polunin - The Unknown Asian Ethnomusicologist

Talk | Dr Ivan Polunin - The Unknown Asian Ethnomusicologist
by Dr. Joe Peters

Date: Thursday, November 17, 2016
Time: 7.00pm - 8.00pm 
Venue: NUS Museum 

Dr. Ivan Polunin (1920-2010) is an unknown ethnomusicologist here in Southeast Asia. He was a permanent resident of Singapore (calling it home for almost 60 years) who served the medical profession at the National University of Singapore (1952–1980). A man of many talents and skills - medicine, film, photography, ancient ceramics, botany, the humanities, political science, music and his special interest, fireflies, on which he did extensive field research. His importance to ethnomusicology first emerged in the 1970s when he published field-recording tracks under the Kalimantan Expedition of the Folkways Label.

The talk will open with a brief description of ethnomusicology before placing Dr. Polunin’s work in the context of Singapore and Asia, as well as many other parts of the world where he did fieldwork. The Ivan Polunin Multimedia Lab (IPML) is where this tape collection is housed. It complements other musicological work in this region, particularly by Dr. Tran Van Kee (Vietnam), Dr. Jaap Kunst (Indonesia) and Dr. Jose Maceda (Philippines). The IPML collection contains 296 tapes of audio recordings and a further 168 tapes that are related to 16mm film. It is the latter tapes that are unique because of the 16mm film. Work is ongoing as there are many other unclassified tapes too. IPML will also have a new documentation format called Timeline Music Annotation Library (TMAL). This talk is organised in conjunction with <“There are too many episodes of people coming here...”> which features Dr. Ivan Polunin’s 1958 film Sails off Singapore.

About the speaker
Dr. Joe Peters holds a Masters in Music from the University of the Philippines and a PhD from the University of Western Australia. He served NUS in a dual career in Music and AV-IT spanning many decades. These skills are now combined into an integrated music education pedagogy, which he teaches in the Straits and Mekong Basin as a consultant musicologist. He was a student of Dr. Jose Maceda. He is currently the Singapore Liaison for ICTM (International Council for Traditional Music), the UNESCO arm for ethnomusicology.

About the exhibition

<“There are too many episodes of people coming here...”> builds on the previous exhibition’s interest towards the textuality of exhibitions, bringing in additional materials by artists Charles Lim, Dennis Tan and Zai Kuning as a means to rewrite and open up newer points of departure. Each work or project may be considered in its own right and contexts, or may be read simultaneously as episodic units of meaning. This inclusion of newer materials by the aforementioned artists generates a new complexity for the exhibition, but at the same time points to the very conditions of the exhibitionary medium.

Image Credit: Ivan Polunin Multimedia Lab


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