The sound of traditional Thai ensemble music might be likened to a stream or river: the main current, the main melody, flow relentlessly onward surrounded by secondary currents that meander in and out of the main flow; here and there little eddies and swirls come suddenly to the surface to be seen momentarily, then to disappear as suddenly. There are no high points and no low points to the ear not educated to this kind of music; it flows onward in a steady non-differentiated band of sound, almost hypnotically, the various threads of seemingly independent melodies of the individual instruments bound together in a long, never-ending wreath like a Greek frieze that constantly repeats the pattern that decorates the top of a wall.     

Thai Traditional Music evolved in the many royal households. With the change in 1932 from an absolutely monarchy to a form of democracy, these great houses rapidly declined , and with the disintegration of the environment in which the court music flowered, the music, too, was to some degree abandoned. Since 1932 there has been an attempt on the part of the government and some private schools to maintain traditional music and, if not to elevate it to its former high state, at least to preserve it.

In the past, musicians were attached to the royal household and were highly respected. Today there is little opportunity for a traditional musician to perform, and he cannot make a living through playing-he must hold another job as well. Many Thais, however, have begun to learn and practice traditional music as a hobby or a vocation.

The music heard in Thailand today, aside from folk music in the rural districts, is mostly Western and Thai popular music. Occasionally Western symphonic and Thai traditional music are heard on recordings over the radio and on television and at public concerts given by the Department of Fine Arts. Some private schools, as well as the Department of Fine Arts, give shows for tourists of representative styles of traditional music and dance. But one cannot say that there is much traditional musical activity in Thailand despite the efforts of these groups to make general Thai public more music conscious.

From "The Music of Thailand" by David Morton


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