DER Documentary

'Are'are Music and Shaping Bamboo

'Are'Are Music and Shaping Bamboo launch preview watch a preview

by Hugo Zemp
color, 141/33 min, 1979

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'Are'are Music (color, 141 min, 1979) - launch preview watch a preview
A fascinating documentation of the traditional musical culture of the 'Are'are people of the Solomon Islands, in the South-Western Pacific. The three LP records published after a first one-year field-research in 1969-70 were a "phenomenal surprise" (Garfias) as they revealed a completely unknown music (outside of the Solomon Islands) of an exceptional beauty and complexity in its instrumental and vocal polyphonies. It seemed to the researcher an absolute necessity to document visually what had been published on sound recordings, showing in detail all the playing techniques, body movements of performers, and spatial coordination of music ensembles and dancers. The documentary consists of a comprehensive inventory of all the twenty musical genres of the 'Are'are people and is structured according to native classification, along with explanations by master musician 'Irisipau.

Shaping Bamboo (color, 33 min, 1979) - launch preview watch a preview
For the 'Are'are people of the Solomon Islands, the most valued music is that of the four types of panpipe ensembles. With the exception of slit drums, all musical instruments are made of bamboo; therefore the general word for instruments and the music performed with them is "bamboo" ('au). This film shows the making of panpipes, from the cutting the bamboo in the forest to the making of the final bindings. The most important part of the work consists in shaping each tube to its necessary length. Most 'Are'are panpipe makers measure the length of old instruments before they shape new tubes. Master musician 'Irisipau, surprisingly, takes the measure using his body, and adjusts the final tuning by ear. For the first time we can see here how the instruments and their artificial equiheptatonic scale—seven equidistant degrees in an octave—are practically tuned.

Both films have been previously issued as the Society for Ethnomusicology Audiovisual Series no. 1

“The film is a splendid introduction when seen once through, but it is far more profitable to see it again and again with the aid of the printed analytic materials, of course... In sum, Musique 'Are'are is both a tour de force and a marathon.” — Peter Crowe, Ethnomusicology, 31(2), 1987
“It is difficult to resist superlatives when considering the entire volume of Hugo Zemp's 'Are'are work over the years....('Are'are Music and Shaping Bamboo) are a model of thoroughness, imagination, and cohesiveness, and will remain valuable even beyond their considerable eminence as ethnographic documentation of this particular culture.” — Robert Garfias, Ethnomusicology, 40(1), 1996
“[Zemp's work on the 'Are'are, including the films] is the single most detailed documentation to date of any Melanesian music world... I can think of very few projects that deserve such praise.” — Steven Feld, Oceania, June 1997

Film Festivals, Screenings, Awards
Klaus Wachsman Prize, Society for Ethnomusicology, 1985 for Shaping Bamboo

Related Resources
Study Guide (PDF)
Article: “Local sounds documented in DVD”, Lawrence Foanaota, Solomon Star, November 12, 2012

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