Robert E. Brown Center for World Music (2007-present) | University of Illinois Archives

Name: Robert E. Brown Center for World Music (2007-present)

Historical Note:

The Robert E. Brown Center for World Music, a unit of the University of Illinois School of Music, is a nonprofit organization promoting understanding and appreciation of the world's performing arts, primarily through active study of their performance. The Center was established after the School of Music received a significant gift from the estate of Robert E. Brown, the ethnomusicologist credited with coining the phrase "world music." The gift to the University, announced in 2006, included Brown's extensive collection of instruments from around the world, among them complete Balinese and Javanese gamelan orchestras. Also in the gift was Brown's large library of recordings and books, as well as paintings and museum-quality artifacts from his private collection.

The Center's official opening took place in April 2008 with an international symposium on Canons in Musical Scholarship and Performance and four days of concerts and workshops featuring music and dance from Zimbabwe, South India, Bali, and Puerto Rico. Unofficially the Center had already been in operation since Fall 2006, when the School of Music invited the Balinese composer, performer, and teacher I Ketut Gede Asnawa to direct the Center's Balinese gamelan ensembles. In the Fall of 2007 the East-West Ensemble was created and consisted of a group of hand-picked students and faculty from the School of Music and the Department of Dance, as well as guest artists from Professor Asnawa's extraordinarily talented family. The ensemble, whose repertoire included old and new compositions in traditional Balinese idioms as well as new works combining gamelan with jazz and other Western compositional idioms, gave a series of concerts in Bali in June 2008. The ensemble's tour culminated in an invited performance at the Bali Arts Festival in Denpasar.

Between 2008 and 2009 the Center engaged three more artist-teachers: a renowned djembe master, Moussa Bolokada Conde, to teach the percussion music of the Mande people of Guinea (West Africa); Priscilla Tse, a graduate of the Chinese Music Conservatory in Beijing, to teach Chinese instruments; and the tabla virtuoso, Subrata Bhattacharya, from Calcutta. These artists continued to teach for the Center through 2010. In December 2011 the Center was moved from its temporary Levis Hall location to the School of Music, and its director, Philip Yampolsky, stepped down as its full-time administrator.

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