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Classical Music: Its Meaning in the Southeast Asian Context

Plenary Speaker
9 September 2015

The term Classical music, in general, brings various connotations depending on the culture and context. The word Classical itself is used to describe a musical style or as a period of time in Western art music. The term “Classical music” is commonly referred to as a term for a genre of music art that spansthe course of time from the 11th century to the present day or serious music following long-established principles rather than a folk, jazz, or popular tradition. 

However, the definition of Classical music in Southeast Asia ranges widely. Applied in the Southeast Asian context, classical music has connotations of “sophistication, high value, and being representative of the best of a culture” (Miller & Williams, 2007). While it is still arguable what genres fit the classical category, there are several traits that “classical” music is thought to have in common. Among these traits is the prominent role of musical instruments, the extensive repertoire that requires the undivided attention of the musicians and its association with aristocracy. 

This panel discussion will discuss the term classical music in the Southeast Asian context, how the term is applied to certain music in Southeast Asia and the genres that are categorized as classical music for the various Southeast Asian countries. Examples will be drawn from Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, Cambodia and Singapore among others.

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