Taxonomies of Taiwanese Aboriginal Musical Instruments

by Lancini Jen-hao Cheng

Institution: University of Otago
Year: 0
Keywords: Taiwanese aborigines; Formosan; Taxonomy; Musical Instrument; Organology; Indigenous
Record ID: 1300032
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/10523/5687


This research aims to discover the indigenous taxonomy systems of Taiwanese aboriginal instruments. This is a cross-cultural investigation providing a panoramic perspective on the musical instruments of Taiwanese aborigines (Austronesians). The term ‘musical instrument’ is used in its broadest sense to refer to all sound-producing instruments in this research. There are many reasons for undertaking this research. For example, until now, few people have known what forms of aboriginal musical instruments have existed throughout the island of Taiwan, and there has been little scholarly discussion about their indigenous names and classifications. The original contribution of the research is its ethnographic fieldwork component, which results in new information concerning indigenous instruments and taxonomic schemes from the opinion of 48 cultural insiders across 17 different aboriginal groups in Taiwan. The researcher’s approach is based on participant observation - by recording the musical activity in either traditional or contemporary contexts, and by interviewing cultural insiders about their traditional music. Also, the researcher analyses the instrumental form, function and meaning of aboriginal instruments across synchronic and diachronic development. The findings in this dissertation provide a new understanding of many unknown musical instruments from different aboriginal groups (e.g. Bunun, Kavalan, Pazih-Kahabu, Puyuma, Rukai, Sakizaya, Siraya and Tsou). This investigation also makes original contributions to extend the instrument type and the numerical entry of the Hornbostel-Sachs system of musical instrument classification. Moreover, this dissertation provides a link between Taiwanese aboriginal instruments and other Austronesian musical instruments. In summary, the many factors that influence indigenous taxonomies of Taiwanese aboriginal instruments include linguistic factors (onomatopoeia, overlapped radicals, and the verbalising affix), how they are played, the materials used in their construction, their performance contexts, as well as players’ gender, social status and religion.