A grant to UC Davis will support a collaborative effort to study Indonesian music as it was recorded and documented by German missionaries in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The two music professors and musicologists, Henry Spiller and Anna Maria Busse Berger, hope to better understand the “interplay between indigenous traditions, missionary influences and other agents of musical change” and make the materials more widely accessible.
Starting in the 16th century and continuing until World War II, missionaries in Indonesia took an interest in indigenous music of the archipelago. Their documentation has been largely hidden and dismissed, but UC Davis professors Henry Spiller and Anna Maria Busse Berger have received a major grant from the Henry Luce Foundation’s Asia Program to investigate these sources and make these materials more accessible.
The award to the College of Letters and Science’s Department of Music professors will provide funding for research, two conferences and post-doctoral fellowships. Titled “Toward a music history of the Indonesian archipelago,” the project will last from fall 2019 to spring 2021.
“This material has been difficult to find, scattered and ignored,” Spiller said. “It has been ignored because it was collected by missionaries and considered biased, but that’s throwing out the baby with the bathwater. We’re not trying to redeem the missionaries, but to make the priceless information they collected available to all interested parties.”