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Music school gift includes
instruments, books, art, artifacts, property
Mitchell, Arts Editor
photo to enlarge
by L. Brian Stauffer
of the largest gifts to the U. of I. School of Music
to date includes a veritable treasure trove of instruments
from Indonesia, India, Turkey, Afghanistan and elsewhere;
an extensive library of recordings and books; Balinese
paintings; museum-quality artifacts from around the
world; and various properties.
Ill. — The School
of Music at the University of Illinois has long been home to one
of the nation’s top ethnomusicology programs. Now, a major gift
has increased the size and brilliance of the school’s star on
the world music map by several orders of magnitude.
The multifaceted package – one of the largest gifts to the music
school to date – originates from the estate of Robert E. Brown,
the ethnomusicologist credited with coining the phrase “world
music.” Brown, who received his Ph.D. from the University of California
at Los Angeles and taught at Wesleyan University and San Diego State
University, died in November 2005.
The gift to the U. of I. music school includes a veritable treasure
trove of instruments from Indonesia, India, Turkey, Afghanistan and
elsewhere; an extensive library of recordings and books; Balinese paintings;
museum-quality artifacts from around the world; and various properties.
Most notable among the properties is a seven-acre educational compound
in Bali called “Flower Mountain.” The site, located in Payangan,
in the hills near the town of Ubud, includes rustic dormitory-style
accommodations, rehearsal halls and performance spaces, a library, kitchen
and dining facilities, and adjacent rice paddies.
It also comes equipped with several gamelan orchestras. The Indonesian
equivalent of the Western symphony orchestra, a gamelan consists of
percussion and string instruments, metallophones of all shapes and sizes,
gongs, chimes and drums.
The gamelans at the Bali site are in addition to three others that arrived
at Illinois recently along with Indian sitars, vinas and tamburas, Turkish-Arabic
takhts, African drum ensembles and scores of other instruments and artifacts
in a 55-foot tractor trailer.
photo to enlarge
E. Brown is the ethnomusicologist credited with coining
the phrase “world music.”
Also moving to Illinois
as part of the gift is the Center for World Music, originally founded
by Brown in Berkeley, Calif., and most recently located at San Diego
State. At its new home in the U. of I.’s Levis
Faculty Center, it will be known as the Robert E. Brown Center for
World Music, and will be administered by an executive director to be
“This gift will have a profound impact on the things we do here,”
said Karl Kramer, the director of the U. of I. School of Music. The
center will “quickly establish the university as the world leader
in this area” and will “contribute to the drive (on campus)
to improve understanding of social diversity and work towards the integration
of American society at large,” he said.
“We have one of the finest music schools in the nation, and Dr.
Brown’s generous gift is a wonderful complement to its activities,”
said Richard Herman, the chancellor of the Urbana campus. “As
our campus becomes increasingly global, the Bali site – as well
as Dr. Brown’s other gifts – will offer a unique opportunity
for our students, faculty and others to study, create and learn about
Details of how the center, the Bali property and other items will be
put to use to benefit the school most are still unfolding.
“When you get a gift of this magnitude, with so many tentacles
reaching out in so many potential directions, the worst thing you could
do is to immediately begin planning and sifting and managing it to the
nth degree,” Kramer said. Instead, the music school director expects
a more complete program and plan for the acquisition will likely evolve
over four to five years.
One thing is certain, he said: “The music education and ethnomusicology
faculties will be heavily involved. And, of course, we will want to
get input from the executive director as well.”
photo to enlarge
space is used by native Balinese musicians on Flower
Kramer does have
a few other directions and goals in mind. Chief among them is a desire
to keep alive, and build upon, Brown’s own legacy, which included
fostering cross-cultural understanding through music appreciation and
participation, particularly among young people.
“One of the principal goals of the center would be to integrate
non-Western – and perhaps vernacular – music traditions
into the curriculum of music education majors, who after graduation
typically teach at public schools and community organizations in Illinois
and elsewhere throughout the United States,” he said. “This
would add to their experience in Western music a component of musical
and cultural diversity that would, in the long run, provide an inestimable
service to the music programs in Illinois and elsewhere.
“Ultimately, I would like to develop and implement a revolutionary
degree program specifically geared toward preparing teachers in world
music studies that would be recognized and be appropriate for public-school
Kramer and others – both in the school and across the campus in
a variety of international programs and studies units – also are
enthusiastic about the variety of possibilities associated with the
gift, including research, performance, study abroad, and community outreach
opportunities. One avenue ripe for exploration, Kramer said, is the
Bali site’s potential for study and research trips as well as
“cultural tourism” excursions for visitors from the U. of
I. community and elsewhere.
“Bob’s mission in life was geared to the experiential side
of music – from authentic enjoyment to participation,” said
Charles Capwell, a U. of I. ethnomusicologist who specializes in Indonesian
musical traditions. Capwell, who had known Brown since 1967 and first
visited him at “Flower Mountain” in 1994, was one of a number
of individuals who helped convince him that his collection and center
would have a solid, supportive home at Illinois.
Capwell said personal connections to colleagues at the U. of I., such
as himself and professor emeritus of ethnomusicology Bruno Nettl, were
important to Brown, as was the U. of I. music school’s reputation
as a leader in the field.
“The tradition of ethnomusicological scholarship at the U. of
I. is very strong and widely recognized,” Capwell said, noting
that the center’s location at the university will not only cement
that reputation for scholarship, but allow the school to expand in areas
previously not possible, due to a lack of resources.
“We have one of the strongest groups of people in our discipline,
but we have not had a program involving performance that is as strong
as at other institutions, such as UCLA,” Capwell said. “We’ve
always had performance, but more as an adjunct activity. This will strengthen
our position in terms of performance at large, and among people in a
variety of disciplines.”
photo to enlarge
by L. Brian Stauffer
U. of I. ethnomusicologist Bruno Nettl was among the
Illinois faculty members instrumental in helping the
U. of I. obtain the collection.
change the identity of the school,” Nettl added.
Capwell has brought a succession of three Javanese musicians to the
U. of I. to teach gamelan performance in the style of the central Javanese
courts while they studied for master’s degrees at Illinois. During
1999-2000, the last year of the program, he also led 13 students on
a study tour to “Flower Mountain” in 2000 as part of a campuswide,
Ford Foundation-supported program called “Revitalizing Area Studies:
“The students had studied Balinese musical performance at the
U. of I. with a Balinese teacher, I Ketut Gede Asnawa, the semester
preceding the trip, and continued their studies with him in Bali that
summer,” Capwell said.
Asnawa, who most recently was on the faculty of the University of Missouri
at Kansas City, will return to the U. of I. this fall as the new center’s
first faculty appointment. Asnawa will lead three sections of Balinese
gamelan, which will be open to U. of I. students as well as interested
“One of the most important concepts associated with this gift
and new center,” Kramer said, “is that we will have native
musicians teaching native music.”
Furthermore, he emphasized, the sizeable collection of instruments included
in the gift will be tuned, reconditioned as necessary, but above all,
put into service.
“These instruments are meant to be taught and and to be played,
and that’s what we’re going to do with them,” Kramer
said. “This is not a museum by any stretch.”