Tune and Textile: Interrelatedness in the Music and Weaving Arts of the T’boli, Philippines

Manolete Mora


This article seeks to explicate the key concept for music called utom of the T’boli of Mindanao (Philippines) by way of analogy with T’boli design (b’teken) as found in their renowned t’nalak textiles. In so doing, basic aesthetic principles that are shared between the two different artistic domains are uncovered. My argument is that fundamental principles of T’boli weaving design are analogous with concepts of instrumental composition. In this context, the use of analogy to explain aspects of one artistic domain in terms of another is apposite because it resonates with the extensive use of analogy and metaphor within the cultural and social life of the T’boli. Moreover, as we shall see, the basic concepts and elements of weaving design are remarkably similar to those of musical composition. An understanding of the translatability between the two artistic domains, weaving and music, came from particular dialogues and interactions between the T’boli and myself during fieldwork. At the same time, it was also stimulated by a predisposition toward certain artistic and intellectual orientations in my own ‘‘Western’’ culture, specifically, those that embrace intermodal, intermedial, intertextual, and synaesthesic approaches and which, at a general level, resonate with T’boli practices that extend the meanings of words and concepts from one cultural domain to another. 


T’boli, music weaving, analogy, intermodal

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ISSN: 2012-0788