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Judith Becker


Judith Becker received her degrees in Music and her Ph.D. from the University of Michigan. She is an authority on the music of Southeast Asia. She is a co-founder of the Center for World Performance Studies and was its first director. She also served as director of the Center for Southeast Asian Studies for six years. For most of her years at the University of Michigan, she has been director of the University gamelan ensemble, which she helped to establish in 1967. She has written numerous articles for publications such as The Galpin Society Journal, Ethnomusicology, Journal of Music Theory, Journal of Musicological Research, The World of Music, Asian Music, The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, The New Grove Handbook of Ethnomusicology, The New Grove Handbook of World Music, Leonardo Music Journal and The Musical Quarterly.

Becker is the author of three books, Deep Listeners: Music, Emotion and Trancing, Traditional Music in Modern Java and Gamelan Stories: Tantrism, Islam and Aesthetic in Central Java. She is the editor of Art, Ritual and Society in Indonesia and the three-volume set of translations entitled Karawitan: Source Readings in Javanese Gamelan and Vocal Music. These three volumes are the first substantial set of translations ever made of musical works written by Southeast Asian scholars and musicians.

Professor Becker has received numerous awards, grants, and Fellowships. In 1967 she was awarded the Charles Seeger prize by the Society for Ethnomusicology. Since then her research has been honored and supported by the Society for Ethnomusicology, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Smithsonian Institute, the Social Science Research Council, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the Fulbright Foundation, as well as grants from the School of Music, Theatre & Dance Faculty Research Fund, the Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies, and the Office of the Vice President for Research at the University of Michigan. She was the first recipient of Michigan’s John D’Arms Award for graduate student mentoring, and was awarded the Glenn McGeoch Collegiate Professorship of Music in 2000.

Professor Becker has conducted fieldwork in Myanmar (Burma), Indonesia, India and Sri Lanka.

Currently, her interest is in the relationship between music and religious ecstasy across cultures. She is exploring the common ground between the humanistic, cultural, anthropological approaches, and the scientific, cognitive, psychological approaches as she sees the bringing together of the two as among the great challenges of the field of ethnomusicology.



Deep Listeners: Music, Emotion, and Trancing, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2004.

Gamelan Stories: Tantrism, Islam and Aesthetics in Central Java. Tempe: Arizona State University Press, 1993. Reprinted in 2004.

Karawitan: Source Readings in Javanese Gamelan andVocal Music, vols. 1–3, J. Becker and A. Feinstein, eds., Ann Arbor: Center for South and Southeast Asian Studies, 1984, 1987, 1988.

Traditional Music in Modern Java, Honolulu: University Press of Hawaii, 1980.

Arts, Ritual and Society in Indonesia, eds. E.M. Bruner, J. O. Becker, Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Center for International Studies, Papers in International Studies, Southeast Asia Series, No. 53, 1979.


“Music, Trancing and the Absence of Pain,” Pain and Its Transformations: The Interface of Biology and Culture, eds. A. Kleinman, S. Coakley, E. Scarry and K. Shelemay. Harvard University Press. (in press)

“Music and Trance,” in L’Enciclopedia della Musica Einaudi, Turin, Italy, vol. 4. 2004.

“Anthropological Perspectives on Music and Emotion,” in Music and Emotion: Theory and Research, eds. Patrik Juslin and John Sloboda. Oxford University Press. 2001

“Listening Selves and Spirit Possession,” World of Music 42 (2) (2000) special issue on shamanism/ spirit possession, ed. Ron Emoff.

“Tantrism, Rasa, and Javanese Gamelan Music music” in Enchanting Powers: Music in the World’s Religions, ed. Lawrence E. Sullivan, pages 15–59. “Religions of the World.” Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Center for the Study of World Religions,1997.

“Music and Trance” Leonardo: Journal of the International Society for the Arts, Sciences and Technology 4 (1994) MIT Press.

“‘Aesthetics’ and the ‘Artist’ Universalism and the Court Arts of Central Java, l4th–20th centuries A.D. In Europe and the Orient. Canberra: The Humanities Research Center, Australian National University, 1994.

“Southeast Asia” (Chap. X III) in Ethnomusicology: Historical and Regional Studies, ed. H. Meyers. The Norton/Grove Handbooks in Music. New York & London: W.W. Norton & Company, 1993.

“Indonesian Music” in The New Grove Handbook of World Music. London: Macmillan Press, 1993.

“A brief essay on Claptrap, Turtles and Ethnomusicology”, Ethnomusicology, vol. 35, no.3, Fall, 1991.

“The Javanese court Bedhaya Dance as a Tantric Metaphor” in Metaphor: A Musical Dimension, ed. by J. Kassler. Sydney: Curency Press, 199l.

“Kalau Bahasa Dapat Diterjamahkan, Mengapa Musik Tidak?” (If Language Can be Translated, Why Is It That Music Cannot?). Seni Pertunjukan Indonesia (Indonesian Performing Arts) Tahun I, no. 1. Jakarta. pp. 14–25, 1990.

“Earth, Fire, shakti and the Javanese gamelan,” Ethnomusicology, Vol. 32, No. 3 (Fall 1988).

“Is Western Art Music Superior?” in Musical Quarterly 72 (1986).

Review Essay: Esthetics of Music by Carl Dalhaus in The Journal of Musicological Research 5 (1985).

Entries on Burmese music in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, edited by Stanley Sadie, London: Macmillan, 1984.

“One Perspective on Gamelan in America,” Asian Music 15 (l983).

“Aesthetics in Late 20th Century Scholarship,” The World of Music, Journal of the International Institute for Comparative Music Studies and Documentation (Berlin) in Association with the International Music Council (UNESCO) 25 (1983).

“Some Thoughts about Pathet,” International Musicological Society, Report of the Twelfth Congress– Berkeley 1977, Basel, London: Barenreiter, 1981.

“Indonesian Music,” Funk and Wagnalls Dictionary, New York: The Dun and Bradstreet Corporation, 1981.

“Hindu-Buddhist Time in Javanese Gamelan Music,” The Study of Time IV, ed. J.F. Fraser, New York, Heidelberg, Berlin: Springer-Verlag, 1981.

“A Southeast Asian Music Process: Thai thaw and Javanese irama,” Ethnomusicology 24 (1980).

“Sudostasien” (Music of Southeast Asia), Aussereuropaische Musik in Einzeldarstellungen, MGG, Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart, supplement, Kassel, Basel, Tours, London: Barenreiter, 1980.

“Time and Tune in Java,” The Imagination of Reality: Essays in Southeast Asian Coherence Systems, ed. by A.L. Becker and A. Yengoyan, Norwood, NJ: Ablex PublishingCompany, 1979.

“People Who Sing; People Who Dance,” What is Indonesian Culture?, ed. Gloria Davis. Athens, Ohio: Southeast Asia Series, No. 52, 1979.

“Kroncong, Indonesian Popular Music,” Asian Music 7 (l975).

“Western Influence in Gamelan Music,” Asian Music 3 (1972).

“The Anatomy of a Mode,” Ethnomusicology 12 (1969).

“Percussive Patterns in Southeast Asia,” Ethnomusicology 12 (1968).

“The Migration of the Arched Harp from India to Burma”,  The Galpin Society Journal 20 (1967).

“Music of the Pwo Karen of Northern Thailand”, Ethnomusicology 7 (1964).

(With A. L. Becker) “Response to Feld and Roseman,” Ethnomusicology 28 (1984): 454–6.

(With A. L. Becker) “A Musical Icon: Power and Meaning in Javanese Gamelan Music,” The Sign in Music and Literature, ed. Wendy Steiner, Austin, Texas: University of Texas Press, l981.

(With A. L. Becker) “The Grammer of A Musical Genre, Srepegan,” Journal of Music Theory 23 (1979).

Teaching at the University of Michigan

Professor Becker teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in ethnomusicology, Asian and Southeast Asian music, and Javanese gamelan.



Richard Wallis (research in Bali, Indonesia)

Patricia Matusky (research in Malaysia)


R. Anderson Sutton (research in Java, Indonesia)


Soedarsono (research in Java, Indonesia)


Jocelyn Guilbault (research in St. Lucia, Caribbean)

Felicidad Prudente (research in The Philippines)


Rene Lysloff (research in Java, Indonesia)

Mohd Anis Md Nor (research in Malaysia)


Deborah Wong (research in Thailand)


Dwight Thomas (research in US)


Kyra Gaunt (research in US)

Hyun-Kyung Chae (research in Korea)

Susan Walton (research in Java, Indonesia)


Michael Naylor (research in the Seychelle Islands)


Gernot Blume (research in US)

Marc Benamou (research in Java, Indonesia)


Tracey Laird (research in US)


Paula Survilla (research in Belorussia)


Lisa Jenkins (research in Scotland)


Tamar Barzel (research in the United States)

Kristina Benitez (research in the Philippines)


Christopher Joshua Tucker (research in Peru)

2007 co-chair

Michal Rahfaldt (research in South Africa)


Richard Wallis (1980) Editor-in-Chief, Garland Encyclopedia of Music

R. Anderson Sutton (1982) Professor, University of Wisconsin

Soedarsono (1983) Rector, Institute for the Arts, Indonesia

Jocelyn Guilbault (1984) Professor, University of California, Berkeley

Felicidad Prudente (1984) Professor, University of the Philippines

Catherine Tsai-Balaz (MA, 1988) Associate Professor, Chinese Culture University, Taipei, Taiwan

Rene Lysloff (1990) Associate Professor, University of California, Riverside

Mohd Anis Md Nor (1990) Professor, University of Malaysia

Deborah Wong (1991) Professor, University of California, Riverside

Marc Benamou (1995) Associate Professor, Earlham College, Indiana

Dwight Thomas (1995) Assistant Professor, Messiah College, Pennsylvania

Susan Walton (1996) Adjunct Professor, Residential College, University of Michigan

Hyun-Kyung Chae (1996) Dean, College of Music, University of Ulsan

Michael Naylor (1997) Associate Professor, Washtenaw Community College

Tracey Laird (1999) Assistant Professor, Agnes Scott College, Atlanta, Georgia

Paula Survilla (2000) Assistant Professor, Wartburg College, Iowa

Lisa Jenkins (2003) Assistant Professor, Pennsylvania State College, College Park, Pennsylvania

Tamar Barzel (2004) Assistant Professor, Wellesley College, Wellesley, Massachusetts

Christopher Joshua Tucker (2005) Post-doc, University of Chicago

Michal Rahfaldt (2007) University of Capetown, South Africa

Contact Information

Professor Judith Becker

School of Music, Theatre & Dance

410 Burton Memorial Tower

University of Michigan

Ann Arbor, MI


Office telephone: (734)763–3278, 764–0352

Fax: (734) 936–0996


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Photography Credits:

U-M Photo Services

Joe Welsh

Peter Smith

David Smith

Glen Behring

Tom Bower