Songs of Memory Pyan Sawvq, Akha Peu Sau Girl playing the Mae Lii Mae Lo

July 2013 Newsletter
If a village has no music,
How can it be called a village?
 - Akha Saying
  Pyan Sawvq, Akha Peu Sau Girl
Playing the mae lii mae lo
Ban Sammakeesae, Phongsali, Laos
December 2012

One cycle of seasons—from harvesting, celebrating, to planting anew—has passed since the last Newsletter, July 2012.  Much has happened during this year, as the Songs of Memory continues to unfold. Though activities have been focused on research and writing, the project moves into the world in wonderful, unexpected ways.

The Bosch Matching Grant Challenge was initiated by Leslie and David Bosch, to support the next phase of the Songs of Memory Educational Films. Running from December 2011 through September 2012, the Challenge garnered $17,670. As an independent filmmaker and researcher, this gave the project an incredible, indispensable boost.
I remain overwhelmed and grateful to the many friends, old and new, who believe in this archival work and supported it with their generous gifts. In acknowledgement of all donors, a listing of names and comments is included on the home page of Most of all, I give thanks with full heart to Leslie and David, dear friends and intrepid world travelers with a deep appreciation for traditional culture, for their constant faith and encouragement. Thank you all so very much for your support.

Through this grant, I was able to purchase computer equipment to help my archival work, on the road and in the studio. It has provided the means to travel for a month in northern Laos for fieldwork, and the funds to compensate transcribers, translators, graphic artists, and guides.

Educational Films

Victoria filming the Eng Fertility Festival
Keng Tung, Myanmar/Burma, October 2005
After creating many museum and photo exhibitions these past few years, it was time to return to completing the Educational Films, a series of documentaries based on individual tribal groups, which capture a single ceremony in its entirety.

Since 2005, a number of films have been shot and edited, six of which appear in the Songs of Memory exhibition. What now remains is to give them fine transcriptions in the local language, translations in English, and researched narratives. This has been my focus for the past year, specifically in the Hmong and Akha films.

In fall 2012, I was fortunate to work with two native speakers—Chanxailue Moua, a White Hmong from Laos, and Aju Jupoh, an Akha Ulo from Chiang Rai—who spent intense days transcribing, in the native language, the lyrics of songs and sacred rites I had documented.

Their efforts allowed me to return to Laos, in December, with these transcriptions, to work on translations with the people whom I filmed in Luang Nam Tha and Phongsali Provinces. Detailed translation work has continued in Chiang Mai for the past months with Chuseng Lo, an American of White Hmong descent.

Excerpt from the Hmong Deaw Educational Film
Soul-Calling Ritual for Baby Ja Khong (aged ten months)
Performed by Shaman Shia
Ban Nam La, Luang Nam Tha District, Laos

Shaman Shia (2005) Shua and Ja Khong (2005) Shua, Mother (2005)
His three ju (souls), his seven dua (shadows),
If one of them, dejected, fell
Into the wind, into the clouds,
Or anywhere else,
Get up now and come home.

If one, dejected, likes to pick wilting flowers,
Or deadly flowers,
If one, dejected, falls into Zu Ngong’s (Spirit of Death)
Place of weaving hemp (to make funeral clothes)
Place of weaving cloth and making paper (to retrieve the Book of Life),

Yeng goua (divination horns) will call you back.
Ya goua (divination horns) opens the door widely to welcome you.
Come to this house, Ja Khong, come!
Come stay with mother and father!
Shaman Shia and Ja Khong
December 2012
  Hmong Deaw Musician and Son
Across the road from Shia’s hut (Dec 2012)

Excerpt from the Akha Peu Sau Harvest Festival Educational Film
Swing Festival Song Performed by Gae Nu
Huay Sang, Phongsali Province, Laos

Swing forwards and backwards.
If we don’t practice the Swing Festival,
The Akha tradition will not be complete.

If we don’t practice the Swing Festival
and the New Year Festival three times a year.

We are not celebrating the planting of new rice.
We are Akha, celebrating the Swing Festival after planting rice.
Akha Peu Sau
Mother and Child (2005)
  Aju Jupoh, translator, & Akha Peu Sau friends
Phongsali, Laos, December 2012

Following can be seen the variety of media from the Songs of Memory—film, photos, recordings, and instruments—that have been finding their way in the world.
1. Film Screening and Presentation
"Between Memory and Myth:
A Three-Day Mien Wedding in Thailand"
Traditional Arts and Ethnology Center
Luang Prabang
20 December 2012
2. Photo Exhibition
“Colors of the North:
Portraits from the Golden Triangle”
Lanna World Festival
4-7 March 2013
3. Photograph Acquisition
The Musical Instrument Museum (MIM)
Phoenix, Arizona

Photograph of Karen S’gaw musicians, playing the klo, bronze rain drum

4. Recording used as a Soundtrack
Voices of Witness – Narratives from Survivors of Burma’s Military Regime
Chicago Cultural Center
10 June 2012

Recording from Songs of Memory CD of Karen S’gaw singer and harpist
5. Recording used in the Soundtrack
“The Rocket” - Independent Feature Film, set in Laos (Red Lamp Films)
Winner: Best First Feature Award – Berlin Film Festival (February 2013)  
Winner: Best Narrative Feature: Tribeca Film Festival (April 2013)
Recording from Songs of Memory compact disc of Lahu Shi priests
“The Rocket”   Lahu Shi Priests, Chanting
6. Musical Instrument on Loan for exhibit:
“From Courtship to Kinship”

Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre
Luang Prabang, Laos
September 2011 – September 2013
Dzat, a Mien oboe,
performed at weddings

This year also saw the passing of Don Campbell, a pioneer in music and its applications in enhancing life. Don was a mentor and enormous inspiration to me, as I now explore the primal power of music in traditional cultures. Following is a eulogy, which I wrote for the American Suzuki Journal, Vol. 41 #1.
In Memoriam: Don G. Campbell
(1947 – 2012)

 “Music is more than what meets the ear.”
“The music world has lost an inspiring teacher and intrepid sonic explorer in Don Campbell, whose pioneering work extolling the transformative power of sound and music is now reverberating in homes, schools, universities, healing centers, and concert halls throughout the world.

Awakened by his early training in piano, organ, and voice as a small boy, his formal studies with renowned French pedagogues Nadya Boulanger and Jean Casadesus at the Fountainebleu Conservatory in Paris, and his association with aural researcher Alfred Tomatis, Don continued his life-long musical study by surrounding himself with classical, traditional, and sacred music from the four corners. 

His inquiry and research resulted in an extensive body of work, bridging age-old wisdom with cutting-edge scientific breakthroughs in sound, which has shaped the evolution of music therapy and music education.  A compelling speaker at presentations and workshops worldwide, his legacy will live on through his 23 books, DVDs, compact discs, the Institute of Music, Health and Education he founded in Boulder, Colorado, and Aesthetic Audio Systems, a multi-level program of music and sound used in hospitals to promote optimum healing. His internationally celebrated work, The Mozart Effect, examines the role quality music plays in integrating mind, body, and spirit, and its importance in early childhood education.

Don Campbell was a steadfast believer in the Suzuki Method, touching our community personally as keynote speaker and guest clinician at the National Suzuki Conference in Chicago in 1998.  Indeed, the first paragraph of The Mozart Effect recounts the story of Krissy, one of my Suzuki violin students who, as a premature baby, was only comforted by the violin concertos of Mozart. Krissy is thriving and performing the violin today – a beautiful case in point.”

Victoria Vorreiter
August 2012

Wherever in the world this may find you, “Mus laj fab mus dawb, mus toob fab mus zoo,” as Shaman Shia chanted, while in trance. “Travel north, may it be white. Travel south, may it be good.” 
With light, Victoria

The International Documentary Association (IDA) has accepted the Music of the Golden Triangle project in its Fiscal Sponsorship Program.
IDA Letter of Endorsement
Please consider supporting “The Music of the Golden Triangle” at the IDA site: