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Songs from the Second Float

Songs from the Second Float: A Musical Ethnography of Taku Atoll, Papua New Guinea

Richard Moyle
Copyright Date: 2007
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  • Book Info
    Songs from the Second Float
    Book Description:

    This book, based on fieldwork spanning a decade, gives a comprehensive analysis of the musical life of a unique Polynesian community whose geographical isolation, together with a local ban on missionaries and churches, combine to allow its 600 members to maintain a level of traditional cultural practices unique to the region. Takü is arguably the only location where traditional Polynesian religion continues to be practiced. This book explores the many ways in which spirit activities impact on both domestic and ritual life, how group singing and dancing give audible and visible expression to a variety of religious beliefs, and how spirit mediums relay songs and dances from the recent dead. Takü’s community is well able to articulate the significance of their own strong performance tradition, and this book allows expert singers and dancers to speak passionately for themselves on subjects they understand intimately. Musical ethnographies from the Pacific are rare. Like Moyle’s earlier landmark volumes on Samoan and Tongan music, and also his trilogy on Australian Aboriginal music, this work will be of immense value to Pacific studies and will assume a place among the recognized staples of ethnomusicological research.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6438-5
    Subjects: Music, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Illustrations
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xviii)
  5. Preface
    (pp. xix-xxiv)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    This book is a musical ethnography of a Polynesian outlier, Takū, an atoll lying off the east coast of Bougainville, politically incorporated in Papua New Guinea but having more cultural affinities with the other outliers far to its southeast, all but one of which is located outside Papua New Guinea. The work arose from a request in 1994 from the island’s chief (the Ariki) and council for a tangible means of documenting its performance traditions, in the first instance for the benefit of high school students living away from the island for up to five years and considered to be...

  7. Chapter 1 Geography and History
    (pp. 9-46)

    Takū, a coral atoll some 200 kilometers east of Bougainville in the political territory of Papua New Guinea (maps 1, 2), lies 157°1'12" east longitude and 4°45'12" south latitude.¹ In contrast with much of the rest of Papua New Guinea, Takū is a Polynesian outlier and has cultural and historical links with a loose chain of similar atolls stretching southeast through Solomon Islands and Vanuatu toward Polynesia proper. Two of the atoll’s immediate, inhabited neighbors—Nukuria, 160 kilometers to the west, and Nukumanu, 315 kilometers to the east—are also outliers. Almost circular in shape (map 3), the atoll consists...

  8. Chapter 2 Takū Society as the Locus for Musicking
    (pp. 47-110)

    Singing on Takū occurs not at the level of spectacle or theater for the benefit of an audience, but as an introspective expression of the values and beliefs that allow its residents to function as a community in both domestic and ritual modes. Operating at the levels of family, patriline, and linked kindred, social clustering and the occasions for that clustering are identified, endorsed, and exalted through musicking, and these expressions are further enhanced through dancing. This clustering and its occasions are identified in this chapter.

    Takū is a part-foraging, part-farming community, dependent on the reliable availability and abundance of...

  9. Chapter 3 Religious Contexts of Music
    (pp. 111-139)

    Information on Takū’s religious practices survives in both historical descriptions and contemporary usage.¹ As in the past, much of daily life today is imbued with the supernatural, and this mirrors and confirms to a degree the egalitarian nature of social relations on the atoll. The two activities that occupy the greatest amount of time—the survival pursuits of gardening and fishing—also attract the greatest attention fromaituandtipunaspirits, whose representatives are believed to be equally accessible to each adult and may be invoked for personal assistance.

    The structure of Takū’s religious system has parallels in its social...

  10. Chapter 4 Processes of Takū Music
    (pp. 140-173)

    Human composition is an active and conscious process. Either spontaneously or on the request of another resident, a composer (the numbers of males and females are approximately equal) starts bymānatu tonu(focusing) on a given theme, from which first the poetry and then the melody are developed. In theory, anyone is free to go to a recognized composer and suggest a particular idea, poetic phrase, or theme for a new composition. The following account, by Nūnua Posangat in 1994, is typical:

    Sieki [the former Pure] asked me to compose atukifor [the canoe]Hauvaka. I sat down and...

  11. Chapter 5 The Nature of Takū Song
    (pp. 174-211)

    In earlier sections of this book I have favored the term “singing” over “song” to emphasize the social significance of the activity over the artifact, but this is not to suggest that local residents speak only in general terms about the elements that constitute a song or that there exist no aesthetic preferences. And although performances are not normally intended for any audience beyond themselves, this does not mean that the creation, rehearsal, and performance of songs is treated casually or in any way limited to events of little significance or confined to purposes of entertainment. Specific concepts and preferences...

  12. Chapter 6 The Nature of Takū Dance
    (pp. 212-267)

    As one of the expressive arts, dancing occupies a unique position. Nūnua’s statement here indicates that the nature, duration, and timing of the specific actions of dance are linked in a form of artistic dependency to the singing of the song poetry; dance constitutes an extension into the visual realm of musical elements in the aural realm. There can be no dancing without singing. At first glance it may appear that the verbal terms of aesthetic judgment and the spontaneous emotional responses of an audience are evoked by dance alone, and certainly substandard performers are singled out for immediate ridicule,...

  13. Conclusion
    (pp. 268-274)

    On a technical level, Takū’s musicking is the act of marshaling voices to sing in unison and linking dance actions to those voices in a manner that produces synchronized sequences of movement. These performance characteristics, together with an expectation of proficiency from all participating individuals, constitute a form of egalitarianism, a behavioral principle that permeates Takū culture as a whole and promotes community survival. This principle is temporarily put aside, but not compromised, when the community joins to acknowledge individual achievement through events such as competitions.

    Some elements of Takū’s musical style are shared among other outliers, but some appear...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 275-288)
  15. Glossary of Takū Terms
    (pp. 289-292)
  16. Bibliography
    (pp. 293-300)
  17. Index
    (pp. 301-306)
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 307-312)