A Research Seminar on Music and Martial Arts

Martial Sound

Martial sound is how music is experienced as martial arts and martial arts are experienced as musicking.

On Thursday November 23rd, I introduced my concept of martial sound during the FUAIM Research Lecture at University College Cork, Ireland. This presentation was recorded, and you can view the video on my Youtube channel by clicking here. More details about the presentation are below.

Rhythm is essential in both music and martial arts. While there are many differences between these two areas, there are also interesting connections. Many martial arts around the world feature musical accompaniment. Scholars, however, have only recently begun to address this area, with work on Brazilian capoeira and Indonesian-Malay pencak silat leading the charge.

My research focuses on the percussion music of southern Chinese martial arts and lion dance, and is based on eight years of performance ethnography at a diasporic kung fu club in Toronto, Canada. According to my consultants, investigating this percussion separately from hand combat would be missing the point. They hear their gong & drum ensemble as a type of martial art, which suggests a distinctive way of thinking about humanly organized sound.

I propose the term martial sound for the musical aspect of hand combat, which encompasses not only music, but also “hearing” the rhythm of combat as musicking. Through considerations of embodied knowledge and heroic display, this seminar reveals martial sound’s intersections with kung fu and lion dance as an example for broader comparison. Far from glorifying violence, I engage with issues of resistance, community, and identity that are of pressing global concern.


Music and Martial Arts: Intertextuality in the Sounds of Diasporic Chinese Kung Fu.”

FUAIM Lecture
Thursday 23 November 2017

Ó Riada Hall
Music Building
Sunday’s Well Road
Cork, Ireland

Department of Music
School of Music and Theatre
College of Arts, Celtic Studies, and Social Sciences
University College Cork
National University of Ireland

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