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Faculty of Music


Chloe Alaghband-Zadeh
Research Fellow, University of Cambridge

‘Listeners' experiences of North Indian classical music in performance: how ways of listening are shaped by imagined histories, ethics and social status’

With this talk, I interrogate listeners’ experiences of North Indian classical music. At a typical North Indian classical concert, audience members can be remarkably active and noisy; music connoisseurs, or “rasikas”, are especially conspicuous, commenting out loud or gesturing whenever they hear something they like. Based on ethnography and interviews with musicians and music-lovers in Delhi, Mumbai and Pune, I explore what it means to listen in this context. I show how embodied listening practices are shaped by interrelated discourses about music, music history and about what it means to be a good listener; but I also show how they entail particular ways of experiencing musical sound, such that listeners orient themselves to certain features of the performance over others. Contributing an ethnographic study of North India to the diverse body of theoretical literature that has recently emerged on listening, my aim is to highlight the sociality of how people listen to music. I argue that ways of listening are weighted with meaning, value and ideology; that they are tied to issues of prestige, status and social class; and that they are a means through which individuals perform social identities.

Wednesday, 21 October, 2015 - 17:00 to 18:30
Event location: 
5.00pm, Recital Room at the Faculty of Music