In 1988, David Blair Stiffler risked life and limb to document under-recorded cultural groups living lives of extreme isolation in the mountainous Philippine regions of Nueva Ecija, Aurora, and Luzon. These are the fruits of that expedition.
In the grand tradition of ethnographic recordings that made up the majority of Folkways' vast and significant catalog comes Music from the Mountain Provinces. By the mid-1980s, David Blair Stiffler was already a most-decorated recordist, with eight Folkways LPs under his belt. These are among the most obscure documents in the entire Folkways catalog and that’s quite a distinctive accomplishment, given the illustrious company in that discography).
His focus here to fore had largely been Central and South America, capturing sounds from largely-hidden rain forest civilizations, including the Palicour, Miskito, Arawak, Warrau, Cuna, Choco, and Pipil tribal and cultural groups. He would match this flair for the unknown and undocumented in his expedition to the Philippines. Although the works of Jose Maceda and Nicole Revel heavily documented much of the Philippines’ countryside inhabitants with a thorough and sober effort protracted over the decades. Stiffler brought his own panache into the equation, capturing gorgeous and revelatory moments from some of the archipelago’s least visited regions. Even without the harrowing tale of himself and his crew being taken hostage, contained within is a rare aural experience.
These masters, originally intended for release on Folkways, were shelved when Stiffler returned home to news of Folkways founder Moses Asch’sdeath. After the tragic event of last winter’s disastrous and deadly Typhoon Haiyan (or Yolanda), these documents are even more priceless.
“Our journals and recording equipment were ultimately confiscated and stolen by the MNLF rebels. We escaped with a single cassette, the clothes on our back, and our lives.”—David Blair Stiffler