Susan Pratt Walton is an ethnomusicologist with research interests in Javanese gamelan music, gender studies, life history studies, and performance studies (particularly performance genres of the Ramayana story in South and Southeast Asia). She has been studying, researching, and performing Javanese gamelan music since 1968, much of it in Indonesia, where she has conducted ethnomusicological fieldwork on five occasions in projects supported by Fulbright-Hays, Social Science Research Council, Luce Foundation, Mellon Foundation, and UM. She has become one of the foremost experts in Javanese solo female singing (sindhenan) and has performed with numerous gamelan groups in the US, Indonesia, England, Australia, and New Zealand. Her publications include a monograph on sindhenan, Mode in Javanese Music (for which she received the Louise Cuyler Award for Musicology at UM) , and several articles on the cultural significance of this vocal tradition, particularly how the gender of the singers impact their singing and how their style of singing reflects deep religious beliefs. She has also published translations from the Javanese of two major treatises on Javanese gamelan music. She is currently working on a history of Javanese female singing that shows how the transformations in the musical style of solo female singers have mirrored developments in Indonesian social, political and economic life. As Director of the University of Michigan Gamelan, she invited numerous Javanese musicians, puppeteers, and dancers to year-long residencies at UM and has produced several concerts involving almost 100 student dancers, actors, musicians and puppeteers in performances of traditional Javanese dance drama. Recently, she has turned her attention to Indian culture and plans to do research tol pava kuttu, shadow puppet theater from Kerala, in 2009.
In addition to her research in South and Southeast Asian cultures, she has become interested in racism and ethnicity, issues at the core of two of her courses: Arts and Ideas of Modern in South and Southeast Asia and Cultural Confrontations in the Arts. These two courses explore representative texts, performance, and/or visual images that address issues of identity, race, and representation. Arts and Ideas of Modern in South and Southeast Asia explores current racial/ethnic tensions in India, Thailand and Indonesia, in works of fiction and music. Cultural Confrontations in the Arts examines the artistic engagement and aesthetic responses of artists of color to contemporary American society, focusing on Asian –Americans, African-Americans and Latinos.
Reading and Performing Indonesian Gender (RC Core 100)
Javanese Gamelan Music, Beginning and Advanced (Ensemble 405/407)
Studying and Playing Southeast Asian Music (RC HUMS 256/Asian 280)
2007 “Aesthetic and Spiritual Links in Javanese Gamelan Music,” Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 65 (1): 31-41.
2004 “An Ancient Epic Critiques Modern Conflict: Javanese Dance-Drama at the University of Michigan,” RC News: University of Michigan Residential College Spring: 1, 7.
2004 “An Ancient Epic Critiques Modern Conflict: Javanese Dance-Drama at the University of Michigan,” The Journal of the International Institute (University of Michigan) 11(2-3): 10-11.
2003 Course Portfolio “Writing and Performing Indonesian Gender,” published on line at http://www.unl.edu/peerrev/participants/2003/waltonPfolio.pdf
2001 “Nyai Tumenggung Mardusari,” in New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, vol. 15, ed. Stanley Sadie (New York: Macmillan Publishers): 833.
1999 “Singing against the Grain: A Javanese Composer Challenges Gender Ideologies,” Women and Music 2: 110-22.
Mode in Javanese Music. Athens, Ohio: Center for International Studies, Ohio Univ.