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Buddhism, Bodies and Machines - the Sound Systems of Thailand (Phetchabun 2016- 2019)


Author: Prouteau, Pierre
Under the direction of: Sabine Trebinjac and Dana Rappoport
Paris 10 University
Langue française Texte français

Keywords: Ethnomusicology, Thailand, Sound system, Buddhism, Thailand, Ethnomusicology, Molam, Folk music, Amplified music - Social aspect, Rites and ceremonies, Traditional music, Religion.


Read the thesis.


This thesis focuses on the study of sound systems in the province of Phetchabun, located at the borders of the northern, northeastern and central regions of Thailand. The use of sound systems, an electro-acoustical apparatus investing extremes registers of sound and sound effects (reverb, echo, distortion, ubiquity), is there generalized. It is used on a daily basis and for the numerous rituals, broadcasting as loud as possible different sound contents so as to be heard by, and gathered, the maximum amount of people. In studying perception, the variety of the machines – musical, liturgical, audiophile, as well as ritual and state-implemented – this thesis intends to decipher the functions of sound system. Why using it ? What have its incorporation and generalization changed in the Thai sound culture ? The tools of ethnomusicology, anthropology of music and sound, as well as methods of anthropology of Buddhism and ritual will be put to use. If sound systems transform, its generalization also indicates its relevance to the sound world that welcomes it. They are thus integrated into a vernacular media and sound theory that preexisted that favors a propagation logic called here “maximalist” – the more, the better ; the loudest, the better. Following this logic, the sound system has the possibility to, not only immerge individuals in sound, but to dissolve them in a single collective body of listeners : it extends community proportionally to the length of sound radiation emitted. The State makes good use of this function through a national “sound body” consisting in a centralized grid of sound systems heard every day and everywhere in the country. Sound power is also proportional to the social status of the user. But there are deeper motives at stakes ; mostly sensible when mythical space-times are being recreated, or when archetypal vibratory shapes as mandalas are manifested in sound. A quest of the ultimate sound undertaken by all social classes and through sound systems is ongoing in Thailand.