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Robert E. Brown (1927-2005)

Ubud-based Australian Writer, James Murdoch, Fondly Recall the Distinguished Ethnomusicologist Professor Robert E. Brown Who Died November 29, 2005.


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(12/19/2005)

Until recently, Bali might have been a minor footnote on the remarkable career of Bob Brown But in the last decade he established and built a stunning music school and research center in Payangan, Bali, up in the hills from Ubud, to which many hundreds of international students, teachers and performers came to participate in Brown's energized programs, led by top local musicians and dancers.

He died last week after a short illness, leaving his entire estate in the hands of the international organization he founded, The Center for World Music. Indeed, he coined the title "world music" which has become a firm part of the international concert, festival and record scene. The news is that The Center for World Music will continue his work in pan-music activities from the center in Payangan.

He was one of the last surviving students who studied with the legendary Canadian/American composer Colin McPhee (A House in Bali, Music in Bali, A Club of Small Men in books, and in music, the now well-known musical composition "Tabuh Tabuhan").

With him indeed has gone a library of stature, and a rare vision of the similarities and the differences of most of the world's musics.

During WWII he joined the Navy, and then attended Cornell University and UCLA, where he majored in music. He attracted grants from the Fulbright and Ford Foundations and undertook field research in India.

Subsequently he was attached to a spate of US universities, and especially at Wesleyan University and San Diego State University. The music of Indonesia and of India remained his major loves throughout his life.

He produced a number of key recordings of Indian classical music and Javanese and Balinese gamelan for the Nonesuch label (now re-issued) and worked on the Voyager Golden Record of Javanese Court Gamelan, with Carl Sagan, a record that is expected to survive in outer space for millions of years.

In Bali, he initiated in 2002 the annual Payangan Festival in Bali, which featured rare forms of Balinese music, dance and theater, but also music from Africa, India, The Middle East and Turkey, and Europe. He also formed Turkish marching bands which delighted the Balinese.

For 2006, he was planning a major festival featuring the music and dance of India. His gentle and persuasive personality enabled him to raise the strong enthusiasm of the Heads of his village, which had been musically dormant for a long time. Payangan had been a powerful cultural force in the 19th century.

His vision and energy and knowledge will be much missed in Bali, and elsewhere.

- James Murdoch, Sayan, Bali



James Murdoch, is an Australian writer based in Ubud. His latest books include

- " Ramli! The Heart of Sutra."

- "Peggy Glanville-Hicks: a Transposed Life"

- "Ubud is a Mood: The Unknown Ubud"

- And intorductions for the re-issuance of "A Club of Small Men" and "A House in Bali" by Colin McPhee.


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