Historical Narrative, Synecdoche, and Pong Lang

Kurt Baer





This article examines two particular narratives about the Northeastern Thai musical genre pong lang [โปงลาง] that rely upon the rhetorical strategy of synecdoche – the substitution of a part of something for the whole – to link the pong lang ensemble with Northeastern Thai history and culture. In the first of these narratives, the history of the pong lang xylophone serves as a means to historicize the entire pong lang ensemble and contextualize it within Northeastern Thai history and culture. In the second, individual instruments within the pong lang ensemble serve as representations of different provinces of northeastern Thailand, allowing the pong lang ensemble to symbolize the Isan region. Although the pong lang ensemble and its associated genre of music are relatively new, people have employed rhetorical strategies, such as synecdoche, to highlight important connections between pong lang, Northeastern Thai history, and Northeastern Thai culture, helping to establish the genre as one of the most wellknown types of Northeastern Thai cultural performance. 


Keywords: Northeastern Thai music, pong lang, Thai traditional music, music and culture


(Published in Rian Thai: International Journal of Thai Studies, Volume 12/2019 (Number 1), Page 51-64)