Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Pinnpeat and Mohori Ensembles in Cambodian Music

The many different styles of music within the Cambodian tradition are played by unique ensembles with their own instrumentation and repertoire. The ensembles focus on one of two basic types of music: religious and secular. The pinnpeat ensemble, which is composed of around ten wind and percussion instruments, specializes in religious music, or the music of the courts. This ensemble would accompany different religious ceremonies and court performances, such as dance. The most common ensemble for secular music is the mohori ensemble. The mohori ensemble is a largely string-based ensemble (with some percussion) that accompanies a vocalist, though the exact instrumentation varies with the repertoire. The mohori ensemble is not used in any religious context, and is meant purely for entertainment, performing often for banquets, folk dances, and specific concerts.
Wind and brass instruments have long been associated with court music. The marching band in the parade, the fanfare during the king's entrance, "Taps" being performed at military funerals, etc. There seems to be something grand, formal, yet deeply profound about wind/brass instruments and their music. Perhaps this explains why Cambodian court and religious music is performed by an ensemble comprised mostly of wind instruments, while the secular and folk music is played by stringed instruments, whose thick and swirly melodies connote a sense of freedom and fun.

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