Aural Archipelago: Profile Music Europalia 2017


Aural Archipelago is a multi-media ethnography project by Palmer Keen, an American ethnomusicologist based out of Bandung in West Java, Indonesia. Starting as a small, curiosity-driven field recording project, Aural Archipelago has blossomed into one of the most extensive surveys of traditional music in Indonesia ever undertaken, an exploration of the state of music, ritual and tradition in 21st century Indonesia. For more than four years, Aural Archipelago has taken Palmer to all corners of Indonesia, from recording ancient trance ritual in West Java to harvest festivals in Timor.

Remarkably, this work has been undertaken entirely solo: armed with curiosity, fluent Indonesian, and a digital recorder, Palmer strikes out to areas rarely visited by foreigners, using his vast knowledge of Indonesian musical traditions to take him to parts unknown, where he has documented dozens of musical traditions many of which have never been heard by outsiders.

The centerpiece of this project is, a multi- media portal to this important work. Presenting itself as a subversion of elitist ethnomusicological practices where field recordings are collected and locked up in restricted archives, Aural Archipelago operates under a philosophy of free access, with all audio-visual materials and text available for free online.

Aural Archipelago is ready to be taken from the internet to public spaces: theaters, galleries, and institutions. The multi-media materials that form the heart of Aural Archipelago – hi-fidelity recordings, high definition video, and photos – will share the stage with Palmer in an audio-visual lecture presentation based off of the theme of ritual.