Exhibition: 'Musical Instruments: Sounds of the Asia Pacific'

East-West Center Gallery

John A. Burns Hall
1601 East-West Road
Honolulu, HI 96848
United States

This exhibition features Asia Pacific musical instruments from the Ethno musicology Instrument Collection at the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa. The collection has been acquired over the past 70 years, initially established by Professor Barbara B. Smith, and continues today under the supervision of Professor Ricardo D. Trimillos. This collection is an invaluable resource for the community because the instruments are meant to be utilized rather than to be displayed as museum pieces. Many of the instruments in the collection are used in the various musical ensembles at the university including Indonesian gamelan (traditional ensemble comprised primarily of metallophones and gongs) and Japanese gagaku (ancient court music), as well as Hawaiian and Tahitian dance, koto (Japanese zither), Chinese, Korean, Okinawan, and Philippine ensembles. The collection is comprised of nearly 2,500 instruments from across the globe.

Professor Barbara Smith first came to Hawai‘i in 1949 intending to teach Western classical music but found herself surrounded by musical cultures from across Asia and the Pacific. Her exploration into those musics led her to begin acquiring instruments from non-Western musical traditions and establish a graduate program in Ethnomusicology in 1960. By 1970, the instrument collection had become so large that a catalog of instruments was established. Through the years, instruments have been donated by ethnomusicologists, graduate students who traveled to carry out studies and fieldwork, visiting performers who preferred to leave their instruments rather than ship them home, and others who have donated family heirlooms. The East-West Center has showcased many of the Music Department’s Asia Pacific ensembles and performers from the region. Many of the instruments displayed reflect performances presented by EWC or locally-based ensembles. Others are highlighted as unique and notable for their beautiful craftsmanship, history, or an interesting element of charm or surprise.

This exhibition also features costumes, masks, other performing arts materials, photographs, sound examples, and video to assist in understanding the fuller cultural context of the instruments. Music in the Asia Pacific region is closely associated with dance, theatre, and/or other cultural practices and this exhibition underscores these relationships. The instruments are displayed in three sections: Pacific Islands, East Asia, and South & Southeast Asia.

This exhibition is dedicated to Professor Barbara B. Smith as part of the year-long celebration of her 100th birthday.

Gallery Admission is free. Gallery closed on Saturdays and February 16,17, and April 12. Parking is normally free and ample on Sundays. Free school & group tours available.

The EWC Arts Program is supported in part by Aqua-Aston Hospitality, The Hawai‘i Pacific Rim Society, Friends of Hawai‘i Charities, Barbara B. Smith, Richard H. Cox, Jean E. Rolles, EWC Arts ‘Ohana members, Jackie Chan Foundation USA, The Arthur Goodfriend Intercultural Fund, and other generous donors.

Wednesday, 04 March, 2020

Other Dates For This Event:


Eric Chang

Phone: 8089447177
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