The Siamese Music ensemble was formed in the mid 1950’s by Boonyong Ketekong who was considered to be the greatest master of Piphat (the Thai percussion orchestra) repertoire. Together with his younger brother Boonyang Ketekong, they formed the “Katekongdamrongsilp” orchestra with an aim to maintain the highest standard of performance of the greatest masterpiece of Thai music, as well as performing Boonyong’s own compositions.
In 1982, the ensemble expanded its horizons by beginning experiments with combinations of Thai and Western instrument. The experiment attempt brought in a new member of the group, Bruce Gaston, an American musician who had extensive experience with modern music as well as having studied Thai music with Boonyong for many years. The ensemble later changed the name to “Fongnaam” and subsequently, the English title of “Siamese Music Ensemble” was adopted because of increasing performance outside Thailand.
The ensemble has since achieved wide acclaim, not only because of its unique ability to maintain the highest standard of performance of ancient Thai music, but also for its bold effort in creating new world which had almost been forgotten while the same time broadening the appeal of Thai music through modern instruments and techniques.
The Siamese Musical Ensemble’s philosophy is not just an attempt to present rare treasures of the past, but, rather to create a bridge between the dim past and present. The open-ended nature of Thai music system encourages a type of composition which strives the continuity rather than conflict with the heritage.
We say “strives for the continuity” because it is not always the case that we achieve such continuity. Herein lies the interest in our programs: to experience the evolution and sometimes the eruption out of ancient Asian mist, safe and exotic though they may be, into the present “real world”. Thus we present in our programs music in which digital instruments (computers, sequencers) combine with an analogue instruments (tape recorders, synthesizers) to expand the Thai orchestra repertoire and create new forms which confront the problem of man making music with machines, not just developing a more flexible and subtle relationship between “real time” and “out of time” structure, but more importantly discovering ways in which the ancient Thai ethos can humanize the modern technology from out of expression with which we feel ourselves compelled to experiment.
Anant Narkkong Drums, Bamboo Instruments, Seung
Prasarn Wongwirojruk Ranad-thum
Kaiwan Kulavadhanothai Keyboard, Gong, Moon-shaped bell
Lerkiat Mahavinijchaimontri Vocalist, Saw sam sai, Saw U, Saloh
Somneuk Sang-arun Pii Java, Pii Nai, Pii Jum, Khlui
Kriangkrai Wareewat Drums
Tossaporn Tassana Ranad-ek
Theodore Gaston Sound System
Siamese Music Ensemble