top of page

Another Metaphor of Traditions in Transition: From a Mission in Taekwondo to a Transmission in Thai Traditional Music

Paper Presentation
26 August 2021
11:30 - 12:00 hrs (GMT+7)

Thanapol Setabrahmana



Dneya Udtaisuk


There are two perspectives when it comes to protecting or preserving traditional arts. One is to preserve it as if to freeze time, while another is to keep it practical and applicable to real life. While those who reconstruct authenticity aim to protect, collect, and document all that the artform has been in the past, those who search for new identity and authenticity focus on how it should proceed and survive over time. Taekwondo, a traditional martial art that adapts and improves validity and reliability in scoring, has not only set a ground rule but has spurred international understanding and cooperation. This martial traditional art survives through transition, although with scarification in consecutive transformations. Practitioners of traditional arts must navigate between conservative preservation and global acceptance, and between subjective values and objective standards. Achieving balance between the two poles is even more challenging when disruptive societies work against authenticity.

It is wise to be aware of and ready for the many social and cultural changes of the 21st century so that we can plan what should be done. Some adaptations or changes in the transition of tradition may involve loss, while others may offer new advantages. Information technology and social media are creating new possibilities, ranging from online studios to open webinars. However, compared to in-person interaction, the values of  sensitivity, compassion, kindness, and a warm sense of caring can be compromised in the online environment.  Despite the challenges, the unique traditional characters in Thai music, such as Thai notation and Thai pitch-and-tone vocal syllables, for example, can transition smoothly and remain relevant. Thai notation is a great teaching tool for notation due to its simple format and syntax. It is a user-friendly and versatile system that can be used for many kinds of music. The Thai pitch-and-tone vocal syllable, called “Noy”, is a subtle vocal syntax representing the pitch and, at the same time, different tones for each performing technique. Its applicability proves how aural transmission intertwines with the written mode of transition.

Drawing on the examples of Taekwondo and Thai traditional music, this paper proposes a guide to help practitioners of all traditional arts navigate transition in the 21st century.

bottom of page