Hmong Songs of Memory: Traditional Secular and Sacred Hmong Music

Paperback, 267 pages, 9x11, English
by Victoria Vorreiter
ISBN: 978-0-9981239-0-5

“As one of the most important initiatives to counteract the spread of cultural amnesia, Victoria Vorreiter’s Hmong Songs of Memory multi-media project deserves the highest recognition and support locally and globally. For the research community, her work points the way forward to a holistic methodological practice built on interdisciplinary partnership. This work is no doubt one of the most significant archives in recent musicological writings.”

The Hmong have developed an astonishingly rich culture over millennia as they migrated from their source in Northeast China, moving from mountaintop to mountaintop along the great rivers of China to the foothills of Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, and Myanmar, and, presently, to the four corners of the world.

An agrarian people keenly attuned to the cycles of seasons and the wheel of life, the Hmong have created a complex, all-encompassing belief system rooted in animism, where everything in nature possesses a soul and the universe is organized by supernatural powers. Frequent rituals, ceremonies, and festivals are performed throughout the year to maintain harmony between the world of man and the realm of spirits, be they benevolent or malevolent.

The medium propelling these rites is music, which springs from a vast repository of songs, chants, invocations, and instrumental pieces that chart the human experience. This soundscape pervades daily life as it does sacred enactments. For a culture that historically had no literary tradition, music also serves as the most powerful channel for transmitting everything the Hmong know about their inner and outer lives, linking the first ancestors with present generations and beyond.

The Hmong Songs of Memory book and ethnographic film offer the reader, viewer, and listener an absorbing multi-sensory experience to explore the age-old music, ceremonies, and beliefs of the Hmong. Vivid accounts of Hmong shamans, healers, ritual specialists, headmen, musicians, and villagers are brought to life by over 350 color photographs and an enclosed 75-minute DVD in Hmong and English.